Wiring for replacement light switch

I'm new to home repair, being an apartment dweller, so bear with me. I have a double switch for my lights, one being for the kitchen light (with one red, white, abd black wire attached to the switch), and the other for the dining room. Both switches reside under the same faceplate.
I did not see how the dining room switch was wired previously, so can't look at that to tell and don't want to do "whatever works" in fear of fire. Basically I have 2 back wires free and a white that attaches to it I imagine. I connected the two blacks to the terminals on the right side of the new switch, one on each screw. That didn't work. I'm assuming white is a ground that goes on that little screw on the left? ANy ideas?
Thanks.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Axster) wrote in

It sounds like you're replacing a 3 way switch. If 2 light switches can control the light, then you do need a 3 way switch. Here is a basic explanation.
http://www.electrical-online.com/howtoarticles/3&4WaySwitches.htm
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Is there another switch that will also turn the dining room light on and off? If so, you need to get a "3 way" wall switch at the hardware store. It will have terminals for all 3 connections, and it should have a diagram on the box. In general though, black wires always go to the brass colored screws, and white wires to the silver colored screws.

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Both switches that reside under the faceplate (Dining room and Kitchen) also have an alternate switch in another part of the house. It's odd in that the original switch only had two terminals - one on each side. My wife claims that black and white went under one screw and black on the other. She took it off before I could see.
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Axster wrote:

So tell her to put it back together.
(You need a "two way" switch, and all three wire are essentially black, the white wire should have black or red tape or nail polish on the end of the insulation but it never does) You know it's a two way switch because the toggle does not say "ON" (or "NO") and it should have 3 screws. If you're lucky, one of the screws is labled "C" or "Common". I can't tell you how to hook it up it though, because I don't know what wires you have.
Seriously, you buy the right switch (assuming it needs replacing) and get her to rewire it since she took it apart.
Best regards, Bob
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Yea, That E'll work, .....................lol

Best regards, Bob
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The way this is going the next post will be "I've rewired the switch but the circuit breaker/fuse blows every time we switch on!" or "When I turn on the new switch the light in (say) the dining room also comes on, but isn't very bright".
I'm all for 'doing it ourselves', but trying to teach someone, who isn't very bright, about basic circuit wiring like this could be dangerous and in this litigious world expensive!
It sounds like what is called in various locations either a 'two way' or a 'three way' (some people seem to say 'three', maybe because there are, typically, three wires involved in the hot side of things as compared to two and a single neutral wire and ground of simple single switch controlling a light circuit? Someone who knows what they are doing would probably sort it out in less that half an hour?
There are, occasionally, lighting circuits with THREE switches, one at each 'end' as it were and another special switch in the 'middle' that, as it were, reverses the hot-switched leads. This arrangement in a typical apartment is highly unlikely IMHO in this case?
But the info about white wire and red wire and black wire is just too confusing. And then saying " The white wire may be a ground that goes on a screw on the left"! WATCH OUT!!!! It may be a switched 'hot/live' or a neutral? And goes on the left of what?
Press item: "Tenant replaces light switch. Judge Judy says; liable for burnt wiring which caused $2000 smoke damage?". :-)
BTW the OP never says why the switch needed replacing in the first place! Maybe something else is faulty? Or the switch is being changed for cosmetic reasons?
I've even seen people try to fit a cheap store bought two wire dimmer/switch to a circuit that has other switches involved! And wonder why things don't work as before!
Take care! Please. Terry.
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Just how do you make this judgement call? I've stated I'm not very handy around the house, but for you to equate that with a lack of intelligence is pretty simplistic on your part.
I should have known better than to ask a question on a newsgroup. After using them for over 10 years, it seems I made the mistake of thinking I would avoid the trolls.
The next step would be pointing out my typos...
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I guess I'm confused with some saying I need a 3-way and a 2-way...
I'd get her to put it back together, but value my house (and life). The one that she took out had just 2 screws, one on each side. The house was built in 1976, so maybe these are outdated, since I've not seen any in the store like this.
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Axster wrote:

You can't put 3 wires on a switch with only 2 screws -- they won't fit.
I think you need to call an electrician.
Best regards, Bob
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Dear Axter
Getting this situation corrected is, among other things, a matter of good judgment. Sometimes good judgment dictates that it's better to have an expert to handle the job. In other words, if you aren't trolling us, you are in over your head. Seriously; people can get hurt. Next time, mark the wires first.
--
Best Regards
Anthony Straight
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