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Light box with three sets of wires on a three-way switch.

Customer Question
Appreciate help getting this new...
Light box with three sets of wires on a three-way switch. Appreciate help getting this new light fixture working. Thanks!
Submitted: 6 months ago.Category: Electrical
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Answered in 1 minute by:
1/1/2018
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago
Sam I
Sam I, Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 822
Experience: Maintenance Electrician, Electrical Contractor, Locomotive Electrician
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Hello, by the light box do you meant the box in the ceiling or wall that the light fixture mounts to? You have 3 sets of wires there?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Box in the ceiling has three sets of wires coming in. This box had been controlled by (I believe) two switches. The house is new to us, but older construction.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

ok, is this a replacement light going in? There wasn't an old light attached before?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
There was an old fan/light combo in place. Was rushed during take down and did not track the wires.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Is there a single black wire and a group of whites tied together?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Not at this point, no.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

ok, is it 3 sets of black, white, and bare copper?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Copper had been tied together in the box, so there are three pairs of white and black coming in.
Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Plus the two wires from the fixture.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

ok, do you have any kind of voltage tester?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
I have an outlet tester and a battery tester. That's it.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

what kind of battery tester?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Small radio shack testing unit for 1.5 to 22.5v batteries.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

ok, at you switch that controls that light, what wires are connected to the switch?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Will open and look.
Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Two switches. Each has a red, black, and white in same layout: Black top right, red bottom right, white bottom left.
Customer reply replied 6 months ago
There's a pigtail in the back of one switch with additional wires tied in.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

ok, so it is a 3-way switch set up.

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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

at the ceiling box is there a cable set that exits the box in the direction of the light switch?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Unfortunately not that obvious.
Customer reply replied 6 months ago
the two switches are on opposite sides of the room.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Unfortunately we will need a multi-meter to identify incoming power and the switch circuit. Not much we can do without that

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Are we talking a $30 unit or a $150+ unit?
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

An inexpensive $30 one would work fine

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Will go get one. Could you please write up the steps I'll need to take when I get back? Thank you!
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

ok, use electrical tape or a wire nut and tape aor cap the ends of each wire. Then turn power on and test, with you meter set on AC volts, between each black and white. Put the meter test probes into the wire nuts so they contact metal. Test between the pairs of black and white not from each black to each white. You are looking for the one that gives you 120 volts or around there.

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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Then turn power off. Set meter on ohms, 300 or 500 range, then take test probes and test the other 2 sets of black and white that are not the power. While the probes are on the black and white wire have someone flip the switch and look for a change. When you find one that changes drastically with the flip of the switch that is the switch circuit.

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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Then you will need to connect the one white from the identified switch set to the other two black wires - all three of those together with a wire nut. Then connect the remaining two whites and the fixture white together. After that connect the switch circuit black wire to the fixture black wire.

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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Let me know if you have any questions during the process

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Voltmeter showed 0.12 on one pair, 0.05 on another, and 3.2 on the third. No change with flipping wall switch.Assumed this was the power. Ohmmeter was similarly unclear, but took my best guess at interpreting what I saw and moved forward.
Light still doesn't work. A few other lights that appear to be in the same circuit continue to not work either.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

what settings were you using when you got those readings? Were you testing for power or ohms?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Ac volts for the first, ohms for the second. It's an auto-ranging digital multimeter.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

You didn't find anything with power first before you did the ohms test?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
As described: highest voltage was about 3.something. Assumed this was the power pair.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

you turned on the circuit breaker for this? You should be getting 120 volts. If not there is something wrong with the wiring or the test method

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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Any luck?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Not yet.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Did you have the meter set to AC volts and the circuit breaker in the on position when you tested for voltage?

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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Also are there 2 or 3 plugs for the meter test leads in the meter?

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Ac volts with circuit on. Three plugs for the meter. Black lead in black plug; Red in the right red (temp/ohm/mA/microA/V, max 400mA fused).
Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Set to volts, reads "ac", "V", and a number.
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Red lead should have a plug in the meter that has a "V". It's usually not the one that reads amps or mA

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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

ok, the right one for the red is the right one. That is strange

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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

With power off set the meter to ohms and press the function button until the speaker/sound icon is showing. test leads together and you should hear an audible tone. Test each set of black wires, black to white wire, and flip switch until that tone is heard or that tone goes out

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Customer reply replied 6 months ago
Found the switch wires by continuity testing. However, there appears to be no power to the circuit.
The wiring in the ceiling light box had sparked when the original fixture was removed, but the breaker never tripped (and still hasn't).
That breaker controls a number of lights/outlets in the house. Some have power, and some do not. So the power loss would be between the breaker and the light fixture, with a functional circuit splitting off before, and a non-functional circuit after. Am I correct?
If so, where should I look for the failure? Thanks!
Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago
Just to be sure. Go through the circuit breaker and lightly press the switch handles toward the off position. Sometimes when the trip they don’t go to the middle. If you find a loose one that pushes easily to the middle or off then press all the way to the off position and then to on.
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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago
Also your meter has a NCV option, with meter to OFF, press and hold the NCV and hold the top of the meter next to the black wires. If there is anything hot you will get a light or tone
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Electrician: Sam I, Electrician replied 6 months ago

Hello, did you have any luck with this?

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