Light Switch Replacement

Light Switches

Single pole, three-way, and four-way switches.  With repeated use, light switches can become defective.   To replace any of these, you need to have the same type as what you are removing.  This also refers to the amp rating of the switch; 15 amp or 20 amp.  First step is to remove the face plate from the wall to see what type of switch you have.  A single pole switch will have two terminals and an on and off designation on the switch.   Single pole is used to control a fixture from one location.  Three-way and four-way switches do not have on and off stamped on the switch.

A three-way switch allows you to turn a fixture on and off from two locations.  This switch will have three terminals plus a ground terminal.  A four-way switch allows you to turn a fixture on and off from three locations.  This switch will have four terminals plus a ground terminal.

Be sure to turn off the breaker in the service panel before starting work.  Remove the faceplate and then the two screws holding the switch to the box.  Gently pull the switch out to see what color and  the orientation of the wires connected to the switch.  Disconnecting the wires from the switch is the same as with an outlet described in a previous post.

Single pole – The black and ground wires will be attached to a single pole switch.  If a white wire is attached it should be marked with black tape.  Look at the orientation of the wires and take a Single-Pole-Electric-Wall-Switch-Replacement-Guide-008photograph or write down the arrangement.   If the black wires are attached to the terminals on the sides of the switch, back the screws out and remove the wires.  One black wire should be attached to the brass screw; this is the hot wire.  The other black wire attached to the silver screw travels to the fixture.  If the wires are pushed in the holes on the back, there is a small hole above each wire.  Push a small nail into the hole and pull the wire out.  The copper ground is usually attached to a green screws on the bottom of the switch.  Back this screw out and detach the ground.  Reattach the wires to the proper terminals on the new switch.

Once connected, push the new switch back into the box.  Do not allow any of the wires to have a sharp kink.  They will usually accordion back in and fold nicely unless the box is to full.  Align the switch attachment screws at the top and bottom of the box and screw the switch into the box.  The tabs at the top and bottom of the outlet should rest against the drywall.  If the switch goes back too far, you will need to insert spacers behind the attachment screws and the box in the wall.  Reinstall the cover plate.

Three-way and four-way switches – Replacing these switches can be confusing when you look at all the wires.  Take a photo of the wires and to what terminals they are attached to.  Replacing the switch is easy if you follow the instructions in the single pole switch.  Just be sure to get the wires back on the SAME terminals.

If you are unsure of your skills or ability, contact a qualified technician to perform the work.