two-way switches and recepticals

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JK wrote:

the
correctly.
You have 4 possible combinations for the positions of the 2 switch toggles: up-down, down-up, up-up, down-down. Only one of those possibilities will get the light (or receptacle) to work. That's your symptom, right?
Referring to this page you should have already seen (you need Flash Player to view the animation):
http://home.howstuffworks.com/three-way2.htm
See the black and red wire going from switch to switch? Those are called travellers. Even if things are wired correctly, if either traveller is broken somewhere, the light (or receptacle) will work only when both switches are in a certain position, one of the four combinations listed above. It works when it sends current through the *unbroken* wire. If a contact which connects to either traveller is bad in either switch, same symptom.
If the wire going to the light (receptacle) is broken, it won't work whatever combination the toggles are in. Realistically, if you can't see why all of this is so, you will have a hard time diagnosing or repairing any further.
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You need two three-way switches. These switches don't have an "ON" engraved on them, and if yours does have this you will need to replace it. If both switches do not have the "ON/OFF" then they are not wired properly.
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JK, this is one of the most difficult electrical configurations possible. What makes this complicated is that there are 4 possible ways in which this circuit is wired. Here is a link that shows you the 4 possible wiring diagrams (ignore the information on 'X10' systems. http://home.howstuffworks.com/framed.htm?parent=three-way.htm&url=http://www.act-solutions.com/kingery06.htm
Caution: ALWAYS SHUT OFF THE BREAKER/ FUSE FOR THE CIRCUIT , AND test for voltage with either a voltmeter, tick-tester, or a neon tester BEFORE you open up any electrical box
The circuit will only work correctly if BOTH of the switches are truly '3-way' switches. When you look at the switch, a 3-way will have 3 screw terminals. Two terminals screws are the same color--these will be for the 'traveller' wires (usually black and red, but not always), the odd-colored terminal is for the common wire, (usually black or white with back tape applied).
I suspect that either one of your switches has been replaced by a regular switch instead of a '3-way', or the traveller wires have gotten switched around.
I can't tell your DIY ability from your post, JK. If you are not comfortable and do not have a good understanding of electrical theory, please call in an electrician.
If you want to tackle this yourself, buy a good book and do some research, as was suggested above.
I would recommend you try reversing the black/red wires at one switch, restore power and test both switches. If both switches do not control the light, then reverse the wires back. Go to the other switch and reverse the black/ red wires, and restore power/ test again.
If you still don't get this working, go to http://www.selfhelpforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f  and post your question with the exact configuration of every wire at each switch and the receptacle.
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Mr Fixit eh wrote:

the
http://home.howstuffworks.com/framed.htm?parent=three-way.htm&url=http://www.act-solutions.com/kingery06.htm
In case thay URL doesn't work, try this one:
http://www.act-solutions.com/kingery06.htm
Although there are more than one way to "wire" the circuit, they are electrically identical. In each case, the "hot" is connected to one or the other "traveller" by the first 3-wat switch, and the 2nd switch selects which traveller gets connected to the "switched hot," and switched hot feeds the load (light bulb or receptacle). All that's different is the placement of splices in each case depending on physical location of the components.
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In alt.home.repair on Wed, 02 Mar 2005 11:02:26 GMT Phisherman

BTW, I put in some lights and used the new NO and FFO switches. They work pretty much the same as the others.
Meirman -- If emailing, please let me know whether or not you are posting the same letter. Change domain to erols.com, if necessary.
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