How to figure out a 3-way switch wiring?

In my mother-in-law's house there were some very old wall switches that were 3-way. I needed to replace them for what safety reasons. So I picked up a couple of Leviton 3-ways from the HOME.
I replaced them connecting the red/white/black wires to the same terminals as the old one on both ends. Problem is - only one switch controls the power. Kind of defeats the purpose of the 3-way.
So, before I go crazy trying to figure this out with a meter and a long jumper wire I thought I would ask here for some guidance for an easier way to figure this out.
Anyone??? Thanks
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On 2/20/2012 6:38 PM, snipped-for-privacy@fdcx.net wrote:

You should always test the system after each switch replacement. This way you immediately know where you screwed up. At this point, remove both switches and disconnect the 3 wires from each and isolate them from each other. With a test lamp, pig tail socket, or volt meter, test all six wires, testing between each wire to ground. One of the six wires will be hot. That hot wire will go to the common terminal of one switch. The common terminal will be the odd colored one. The other two wires go to the remaining terminals on the switch in any order. Once this has been safely connected, check the three wires at the second location. One wire will be hot. That wire goes to either of the two same colored terminals of the second switch. Go back to the first switch and flip it. Now go back to the second switch and test the remaining two wires. One will be hot. That hot wire goes to the second of the two same colored terminals. The remaining wire goes to the common of this switch, and voila.
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Take a picture of each switch before disconnecting them. (Yeah I know that advice is a little late)

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On 2/20/2012 7:38 PM, Metspitzer wrote:

These days, with cheap digital cameras and cell phone cameras, I take pictures of everything, especially things I'm going to disassemble and reassemble.
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On 2/20/2012 7:06 PM, RBM wrote:

It was common practice in the electronic repair depot to have a notebook and a pen/pencil ready to draw a picture or diagram of what we were working on. A friend of mine had a big dry erase board on the wall next to his workbench. I now have to take a lot of pictures to Email to the service corporation we're doing service calls and installations for. ^_^
TDD
TDD
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On 2/20/2012 5:38 PM, snipped-for-privacy@fdcx.net wrote:

Look at the old switch. One screw will be a different color than the other two. You need to remember which wire was on that different screw. And put THAT wire on the black screw on the new switch. Position of the screws is irrelevant. Same on both switches. The "common" screw is the important one. The other two wires can be on either of the other two screws.
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Steve Barker
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A digital camera is the most important tool in the tool box. My Canon has saved my but more than once. ;-)
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Remember the TV show Flinstones, and their stone age camera was a bird in a box, that pecked out the picture with its beak? I've done that, but using a hand and pencil before digital cameras came out.
I agonized over spending the hundred bucks to buy a digicam. But, after I tried some things with it, I was (am) very glad I did. Money very well spent.
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .

You betcha!
...from carb rebuilding to electrical outlets that are hubs, the digital camera has been a lifesaver for CRS folks.
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Thanks for the quick responses guys. I know I should have used the phone/camera trick but isn't hindsight wonderful.
WIth this advise and diagrams I should be OK - Thanks again.
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On Mon, 20 Feb 2012 22:45:03 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@fdcx.net wrote:

Like RBM says. Just take both switches off and find the only 1 of 6 wires will be hot. Mark that wire with black tape and put that wire on the common. Put the other two wires on the other two terminals.
Go to the other switch and find the wire that never gets hot and mark it black and put it on the common. It is easier than it sounds.
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On 02/20/2012 11:32 PM, Metspitzer wrote:

Check ALL 6. Don't stop when you find hot. Some circuits aren't wired like they're "supposed to be".

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snipped-for-privacy@fdcx.net wrote:

Last time I messed with them, there was a diagram on the back of the box the switch came in.
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On Tue, 21 Feb 2012 06:09:55 -0600, "Mr. Austerity" <"PrintMo.Money "> wrote:

Unless the wires you took off were marked with the common a diagram is worthless.
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On 2/21/2012 6:09 AM, Mr. Austerity wrote:

if you have to look at a diagram, you probably should leave it alone and call someone.
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On Feb 20, 6:38pm, snipped-for-privacy@fdcx.net wrote:

Sounds like you have a traveler and a common reversed Remove both switches leave the wires exposed so you can get to them with a volt meter but not shorting to anything. Turn the breaker on. Measure from each wire to ground at each switch until you find one with 120 VAC on it. This will go to the common of one switch. Kill the breaker and wire in that switch. Turn power back on and check for 120VAC at the other switch, this will be a traveler. Toggle the first switch and check for voltage again at the position of the second for 120VAC. This will be the other traveler. Oh Yeah Turn off the breaker that feeds it before you start. BTW noticed I made no reference to the color of wire. You can never count on them being right. Yeah I left out some stuff to protect the fools. Use this with any 3 way wiring diagram and what I left out will be obvious.
Jimmie
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On 02/20/2012 06:38 PM, snipped-for-privacy@fdcx.net wrote:

Why would you replace wall switches just because they were old? Was there something leading you to believe that they were unsafe? I'm not a big fan of replacing stuff just to replace it.
That said...
the brass terminal on the new switches is the common, when you flip the switch it switches power between the two silver colored terminals. In one position it connects the brass terminal to one of the silver terminals; in the other position it will connect the brass terminal to the other silver terminal. (sometimes it's black for brass and brass for silver, but in any case, one terminal will be a different color than the other two; the different one will be the common.)
In each switch box, do you have one two wire cable and one three wire cable? And the white wires are all nutted together? If that is the case you have the easiest setup to diagnose. Shut off the power, disconnect both switches, and test for power. If you have power on the black conductor at one of the two two-wire cables you're probably golden. If you really want to thoroughly test then apply power to the *other* black conductor coming from a two-wire cable. The light should light. If that is the case then install the switches so that the black conductor from each two wire cable is landed on the brass (common) terminal of each switch. The red and black conductors of the three wire cable (it's the same cable, trust me) are your travelers, those land on the silver (not common) terminals and it doesn't really matter which one goes where. Turn the power back on, test, enjoy.
If you have a different configuration, given that I've described how the switches function, hopefully you can puzzle it through logically given some diagrams of possible 3-way wiring configs.
http://www.thecircuitdetective.com/3and4wyinfo.htm
I remember one house I lived in that had power feeding the ceiling box and two 3-wire switch legs dropping down to two different wall switches. That was fun to puzzle out, esp. since it was old dirty rag wiring (needed to peer real close to see color) and my landlord had had "his friend who's good with things like that" replace all the switches in the house... yeah. Of course I had to fix it because I couldn't abide living in a house whose lights had special instructions. Had to redo every damn 3-way in the whole joint.
good luck,
nate
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In typed:

Look it up on google or your fav srch eng
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