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How to wire a 3 way switch with video

Before you begin anything with a three-way, you must understand that in order for you to have a three-way circuit you must have three-way switches. They are not the same as a regular switch at all. And a four-way is very different again. But that’s on a different page.

When most DIYer’s think of installing a 3 way their brain starts to melt. The fact is it’s very easy. You just need to overcome all those extra wires. Look at the diagram below. You’ll notice we now have travelers. These are the extra ones. But wait, your 3-way switch has two extra screws. So basically, you just need to add those wires to those screws and both switches. Yea it’s that simple. 

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How to wire a 3 way switch

3 way switch install

However on each 3-way switch, you have a black screw, this is the special one. On the power coming in from the panel, you would connect that black wire to the one black screw. And on the other switch, you would connect the black wire coming from the light to that black screw. The black and red wires in that 14/3 wire would connect to the other two screws.

You connect all white wires together in each box. But of course, the light itself will need that white wire (neutral) to power up. All grounds are tied together and connected to each switch in the box it is in.

Very simple, don’t you agree now.

 

3 way

3 way wire diagram

3 way switch wiring diagram

3wayswitch_wiring_diagram

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2017 NEC – Switch – Neutral Connections [404.2] (14min:30sec)

This is very easy and common how to wire a 3-way switch

If you have Lutron dimmer you might want to read this PDF file.

How to wire a 3 way switch with video
4.1 (81.76%) 34 votes

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Comments ( 43 )

  1. Dominick Amorosso

    Thank you. Funny thing I was changing things on my site the same time you commented on this. They look good to me. I hope they are ok now?

  2. Subscribe to Askmediy Recently Asked Questions

  3. Heya just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the images
    aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers
    and both show the same results.

  4. Dominick Amorosso

    Yes three ways switches on both ends. There are a few ways to wire a three way. Not just the way I show. This is the comment section of the page you’re on. Use the question section to where you can post pictures. Top right “Questions”

  5. Hello
    I have stared at your diagram and can’t figure out how to make it work for my set up. In my garage, power comes into a junction box in the middle of the garage. From that junction box a cable goes to the front of the garage where the switch is, another cable goes towards the back of the garage with several outlets daisy chained. These are what our shop lights plug into. The switch turns the outlets on and off. I wanted to add a switch to the back of the garage where the door goes into the house (so I can turn the lights on when i enter the garage from the house). If I replace the current switch to a 3 way, I understand I would need to connect the two 3 way switches with 14-3. It makes sense to me how to wire the switch in the new location, but what about the switch in the old location–it does not have power coming in one way and going to a light. Will I need to connect both black and both whites to the terminals (the ones coming from the junction box and the ones going to the 2nd switch?). I wish I could draw you a diagram, but your contact doesn’t allow me to attach a picture.
    Thanks

  6. Dominick Amorosso

    Thank you so much for pointing that out. I have fixed that. I didn’t make the picture but I sure fixed that.

  7. Dominick –
    Thank you for the diagrams. One minor correction: In the top diagram – the diagram where the switches are labelled S1 and S2 – the wiring to the bulb is backwards. For safety, the hot wire should always go to the tip of the bulb, and the neutral to the threads of the bulb.
    MT

  8. Dominick Amorosso

    Always my pleasure. Let me know how you make out.

  9. I bought the switch yesterday from Lowes. The switch has “common” stamped on it where the dark screw is, so I know it is not a quality problem from the manufacturer. I will proceed with connecting my High to the dark screw, since you have seen this before. Thank you for your response and video.

  10. Dominick Amorosso

    That would really depend. I’ve seen that before. And how old your switch is. I remember seeing some funky older switches before.

  11. My three way switch has the dark screw (common) across from a traveler and the other traveler at the bottom of the switch where the common is in your illustration. Is this a difference in brands of switches?

  12. Hi Dominick, How would I wire 2 lights to 2 3 way switches? I have a light at the top of the stairs and a light at the bottom of the stairs. So i want to put a switch at the bottom of the stairs and at the top of the stairs. Thanks

  13. Dominick Amorosso

    It sounds like one of the switches is not wired right to where you’re allowing a low voltage to go to the light. A led as you know uses very little electric and just a little will give it some light. First make sure you wired the light correctly. Meaning the hot is on the hot side. Although the wires may be the right colors but it doesn’t mean they are right. Try switching them around maybe. And make sure if you have a ground on the fixture that it is connected.

  14. Mr. Dominick,
    I understand the basic wiring for a 3-way switch and your video helps to reinforce my understanding. My wife asked me to install new LED fixtures in the hallway. One is on a separate 2-way switch (works fine) and the other is connected to 3-way switches. However, I seem to be getting residual/inductive current; the fixture glows when switched-off. The power seems to be coming into the light and running into the switches. I can’t seem to segregate the residual current to keep the light from glowing. Any ideas?

  15. Dominick Amorosso

    Use my video adding a three way yo a existing one way.

  16. Dominic,great video, my problem is power source is at the light 1st {along with two 2 other wires supplyiny power elsewhere–how do I set up 3 way form light ??

  17. Thank you very much for your video on how to wire a three way switch. Very helpful
    Joe

  18. Dominick

    For a three way circuit it would. Both switches must be a three way.

  19. Would using 2 different switches matter? One is a reg switch on off and the other is a toggle. Would this make it not work right?

  20. Dominick

    Hi George, well without the proper testing of the wires to see what is what it’s really hard for me over the internet to help you. However watch my 3 way and 4 way switch videos. I’m they will be a big help.

  21. Dominick, my son thought he would help out in replacing the old fashioned up-down toggle on-off wall switches to the new fancy large fascia switches. Here in lies the problem. He and his mom went and bought the wrong type switch. (was supposed to be a 3-way switch) This for two places where they control power to (1) a light in the middle of a long hallway and (2) a light controlled by switches at top and bottom of staircase. They made the change without me being present so I couldn’t figure out the original wiring connections. After burning up a few circuit breakers I put a stop to their effort as I was afraid they could have done worse. When I went back to try and re-install the original switches till I get the correct ones, I noticed the wiring to be different and am trying to figure out the proper way of re-connecting the wires to the on-off switches. The circuit to the hallway uses 2 red wires and 1 black wire. The circuit to the staircase uses two red and two black wires. In both circuits there are no white wires connected to any of the switches. Your help would be immensely appreciated.
    Thanks,
    George

  22. Great video and diagrams! I’m retrofitting the wiring around my home and this was a life saver. Thanks man!

  23. Dominick

    The red should be terminated on the other side. meaning disconnected and capped off.

  24. I’m working in a home following someone else’s “beginnings”, relocations, wiring. It’s driving me crazy. Basically my problem at the moment…a wall was removed that had a 3 way switch on it, and the wire is in the attic now, but still attached to the other switch in the hall (it controls light on fan, and single pole in same gang box controls fan). The two switches in hallway were interconnected from a source (receptacle). I would like to get power back to the switch from the attic…my question is this, if I jump into a existing box in attic and only have black and white leads to connect to for power, what happens to my red wire going to the switch. I’m assuming I would tie the whites in with other white wires in existing box.

  25. Dominick

    Yeah sure it makes sense. However it will stilled be wire from the switches the same way. But in this video I only show one of the ways to wire a 3 way. Check my other video “How to wire a 3 way to existing one way” That may help clean things up a little.

  26. Enjoyed your video on the three way switch.
    Where I am still confused is…..isnt the wiring done differently depending on where the light is in relation to the switches?
    I mean, if there is the switch…then the light….then the switch….( light is between the two switches) isnt that wired differently than…..

    if there is the switch…..then the next switch……then the light…(light is at the end of the line)

    Hope that makes sense.
    thanks
    rich

  27. Dominick

    Need to know more. Where is the light ? where is the switch ?. Watch my “adding a three way to a existing one way video”

  28. I enjoy your movies, and the way you explain things. I have a 12/2 wire running to my out building and I want to hook up a three way switch to my light,could you tell me how to do this, thanks.

  29. Dominick

    Thank you. When you have wires in a box that I have no idea what they’re for it’s real hard to figure this out via these post. However, take both switches out. What wires do you have in the other box ? Let’s try this. Besides for travelers the whites / neutrals get tied together. The black screw would be one for power and the other switch for power out to the light. Or this could be all done from one switch having just the 3 wire running to the other switch.

    So lets say the wires you have in box one are all of them. A 14/2 is power in, 14/2 is to the light and the three wire of course is to the other 3 way. Take the black wire from the other 3 way and connect that to the black wire to the light. And the wire from the light to the white from the power and the black from the power to the 3 way in the box with all the wires.

    This should do the trick. Hard to explain without seeing it. Let me know

  30. Wondering what the difference would be when power source enters the middle switch. I understand the source and three wires using travelers as detailed in your video. So, I have three cables, two 14/2 and one three wire. I’ve connected source to the black and travelers as instructed as well as connecting the two white wires to each other. Now I have the two remaining wires from the cable going to the light. Where do I connect those? Do I connect the white with the other whites? Where would black be connected? Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge in an excellent video!

  31. Good video.

    Hot to black screw on switch is all you need to remember.

  32. Hey Dominick,

    Great videos, you give very good explanations in a simple manner easy to understand. I'm wondering if you could help me with something. In my bedroom, I have a light at the ceiling. Now, I have a first switch by the door that can turn the light on or off. I also have a second switch located by the bed that can also turn the light on or off, so that you could turn the light on as you walk in the room and turn it off once you're in bed. Only here's the weird part, when the switch by the bed is off, you can't turn the light on with the switch by the door. I wonder if it's a three way switch wired wrong or simple switches. I admit that I haven't opened the switches to see how it was wired. But in the case that those are normal switched, is it possible to replace them with 3 way switches with the existing wiring or do 3 way switches have to be thought of when the wiring to the light is done? Cause I really don't want to open my wall and do new electrical wiring.

    Thanks and great job on the videos!

  33. Hi I wouldn't think you'll find a junction box. I would start all over again and trace out each wire to see what they are and where they are coming from.

  34. ok so im just changing switches with new ones. did it one wire at a time so i didnt get wires mixed up. didnt work. i found your video. big help. now i see what my problem is. i have a 2 wire and a 3 wire in the first box like you said. black and white coming in. black white and red going to the other box. but no other wires going to the light? in the first box they have the incoming white and outgoing red together? incoming black to black screw. outgoing black and white as jumpers? how does that work? only thing i can think of is they either have a junction box in the attic or it works off the light somehow. i just had surgery so i cant get my ladder out to look. any ideas?

  35. I need more detail on what you're asking. If you're only looking to add a additional light then you would just connect your wires from the existing light and not the switch. If I have you right here.

  36. Hello Dominick,
    I was wondering if you can display a 2 way switch but add an add'l light off the switch. I currently have a 2 way switch in my hall with one light now but want to add add'l light , getting power off the one of the light switch. Thanks

  37. hey thanks for ur demonstration really help me alote ! im in trade school here in hawaii learning wana become an electrician but sometimes i dont get these instructors , but ur website and ur demonstrantion really help me alote . hope i can get some help from u to apply it in this field thanks .

  38. Hi Ed. Thank you so much. It's always nice to hear.
    Yes all grounds get terminated together and then grounded to the ground screw of the switch and the outlet or light fixture.

  39. Hey Dominic! – Quick question about your 3way switch wiring – I don't understand where the grounds go? Do ya take both of them and screw both to the green grounding screw on the switch or do ya wire nut them together and put them somewhere else? Can you help me out? BTW, thanks for youtubing! I've done SOOOO much around my house because of what you taught me through your videos. Saved a TON of money. Thanks again boss! Ed

  40. That is a great idea for a video. As soon as I can I make one. Thank you for your input. The easiest way to do what you want would be to install a remote control in the light. Otherwise you'll have to run a new wire from the switch to the light with a extra hot, known as a /3 wire.

  41. Hello Dominick:

    I enjoy watching your videos and reading your installation instructions but wish you had a video on installing a lighted ceiling fan with a dimmer switch.

    I would like to replace my current light in the ceiling with a ceiling fan that has a light.
    I have 1 switch on the wall that control the currently installed light but I would like to replace that switch with one that would independently control the new fan with light. Further, I would like to install a dimmer switch for the light.

    What is the best way to go about this, please?

    Thank you!

    Jay

  42. thanks Dominick for all your videos once apon a time i did no ab electrical cud of do it on my own i study it gain my certificate with no job just home i forget about how much i did love electrical , i just want to learn it over but i don't want to learn from scratch and I'm glad i see your website now i no i could go on youtube and watch listen understand and remember

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