How To Replace A 3-Way Switch In 6 Steps!

The ease of controlling the light from multiple places, such as the top and bottom of a stairwell, is made possible with a 3-way switch.

A three-way switch is one of two switches that regulate a single light or outlet and does not have the words On and Off stamped on it.

It seems like it should be referred to as a two-way switch, but its name is based on 3 terminal screws.

Replacing a 3-way switch is an easy job that anyone can do. It isn’t difficult to do, and it could be done in a few hours if you have the right tools and know-how. As a matter of fact, most DIY-ers can easily repair their 3-way switches using items they have around the house.

This can save you money in the long run since there’s no need to call an electrician if your switch doesn’t work as it should.

In this article, I will show you how to replace a 3 way switch with tools in your house.

How To Wire A 3-Way Switch?

Now, it’s time to dive into how to wire a 3-way switch. Just follow the steps I have provided, and you should be ready.

StepsEstimated Required Time
Locate The 3-Way Switch5-10 minutes
Turn The Power Off5-10 minutes
Open The Wiring30-60 minutes
Configure The Wiring30-60 minutes
Install The New 3-Way Switch60-120 minutes
Test The Appliances5-10 minutes

Step 1: Locate The 3 Way Switch

Required Tools

  • Insulated gloves.


  • Look for a three-way switch setup consisting of two switches connected to and operate a single light fixture.
  • These switches can be found at either end of a corridor, stairwell, or living space.
  • Most frequently, the light they control hangs from the ceiling above. These particular lights are hard-wired.

Step 2: Turn The Power Off

Required Tools

  • Insulated gloves.


  • Turn off the breaker for your main electrical panel before doing anything else.
  • Concentrate only on the circuit breakers that supply electricity to the switches and light fixtures you intend to replace.

Step 3: Open The Wiring

Required Tools

  • Insulated gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Voltage pen.


  • Each faceplate is frequently secured at the top and bottom by a pair of screws. To remove the plates covering each switch, unscrew these screws first.
  • Once the wires are connected, it’s standard procedure to tape over the switch terminals.
  • Turn on your voltage pen, then tap the switch’s edges.
  • Watch out if the pen starts to blink. If it does, that means high-voltage electricity (120 volts) is probably present nearby.
  • You can move forward as soon as your pen provides the all-clear.
  • If not, turn the other breakers off at the main panel until the flashing stop.
  • Unscrew the screws that are holding the old switches in place.
  • Detach the switches from the electrical boxes to gain access to the wiring.
  • The wires should still be tightly fastened to the screws holding them to the switch’s terminals. Make sure not to loosen any of them.

Step 4: Configure The Wiring

Required Tools

  • Insulated gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Wire nut.


  • There should be two bundles of wire inside each electrical box.
  • One of the wire bundles is inserted from the bottom into box 1.
  • This three-wire bundle’s black and white wires are joined with a bare copper wire.
  • These wires supply power to your lighting circuit from the main electrical panel in your home.
  • The other 4-wire bundle, which has a bare copper wire and three colored wires (black, white, and red), will go from the top inside the box. The switch in this box is linked to the other switch in box 2.
  • Both wire bundles should get in box 2 from the upper side.
  • You will find a three-wire bundle with two colored wires (black and white) and a bare copper wire.
  • These connect your light fixture with the switch.
  • There should be another bundle with three colored wires (black, white, and red) and an additional copper wire.
  • This local switch is connected to the one by these wires in box 1 across the room.

Step 5: Install The New 3 Way Switch

Required Tools

  • Insulated gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Wire nut.


  • Disconnect a wire from the old switch in Box 1 and connect it to the connecting terminal on the new switch.
  • One wire at a time, methodically, will help you prevent confusion and blunders.
  • The black wire should be connected to the new switch’s “common” terminal or the line.
  • This terminal needs to be painted black, or the switch needs to be labeled “COM.”
  • The black and red wires are the travelers in the other bundle (four-wire), which enters the box from the top.
  • Connect these two wires to the two brass switch terminals.
  • The black wire from the three-wire bundle should be connected to the black terminal on the new switch inside Box 2.
  • Connect the four-wire switch’s brass terminals with the red and black wires from the four-wire bundle.
  • Copper wire bundles should be connected with wire nuts in each electrical box.
  • These bundles, which predate wire nuts and are soldered to one another, can be seen in certain ancient homes.
  • Whatever the case, your switches’ green terminal is where the bare copper ground wire connects.
  • The white wires must be connected already. If not, use a wire nut to connect them.
  • Put everything back into the electrical boxes carefully after connecting your new switches.
  • Screw the switches in place and replace their faceplates.
  • You can also add new faceplates according to your preference.

Step 6: Test The Appliances

Required Tools

  • Insulated gloves.


  • Turn the power back on at the main panel for testing the switches.
  • You’ll be able to tell that your new switches are operating fine if they spork stylish LED indications.

How To Troubleshoot A 3-Way Switch Wiring?

Since the wiring is purely electrical, it’s natural that it will malfunction from time to time. Don’t worry. Here’s how you can troubleshoot a 3-way switch wiring yourself.

  • To turn the light on, turn on each switch.
  • Try one switch to determine if it switches on and off the light. If it does, the switch is a good one. Keep the light turned on.
  • Check the other switch to check whether it switches the light on and off. If it does, the switch is fine; otherwise, it is not.
  • Switch off the circuit breaker’s power to the switches, and then use a tester to confirm that the power is actually off.
  • To reach the switch terminals, remove the two 3-way switches. It is not necessary to remove the wire connections.
  • Check for continuity between each 3-way switch’s traveler terminal (brass-colored) and common (black) terminal using a continuity tester.
  • The common terminal and the other passenger terminal should remain connected after flipping the switch.
  • The common terminal and one or both traveler terminals won’t be connected when the 3-way switch fails.
  • This is your signal to replace your 3-way switch.

Bottom Line

If you cannot operate your appliance and the fuse box has no other outlet, it is best to call a licensed electrician.

Fuse boxes typically have 3-way switches that turn on and off other outlets depending on what appliances they control.

If a fuse within the box has blown and cannot be repaired, then an expert can replace it with a new panel that will allow you to use your appliances again.


Does it matter how you wire a 3-way switch?

Depending on where the switch is located in the circuit, the right wiring for a 3-way switch should be decided.

Keep in mind that 3-way switches always come in 2 pieces. The circuit’s two switches can be placed before or after the light fixture, or you can place one on either side.

Can you replace a 3-way switch with an outlet?

If it’s necessary, you can add a wall outlet to the circuit. A three-way switch has two black terminals and one brass terminal.

Use the wire from the brass terminal and leave the two black terminals alone. With it, the wire for the new outlet, and some additional wire, create a pigtail.

What color wires go on a 3-way switch?

The common terminal of the switch on the right is connected to the black hot wire. Red and blue wires connect traveler terminals on both switches. The first switch’s common terminal is connected to the red wire, which travels back to the fixture.

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