Single 3way and single 4way?

I’ve got a circuit in the house that powers two flood lights in the back yard. There is a single 3way and a single 4way switch. There’s no neutral in either box (the house has neutrals) so it must be at the lights and/or another 3way i haven’t found yet.

I’ve never seen a circuit with just these two switches. I was under the impression 4way circuits needed a 3way at both ends of the switch series.

I guess there could be an unconnected wire coming off the 4way somewhere that never gets used (and hopefully it’s got a nut on it, right?).

Is there another way these two switches could be connected such that they are “correctly” wired?

So if I understand you correctly, you have flood lights that as far as you have found, are controlled by a 3-way and a 4-way switch, but just those two? You are correct that in a proper 4-way switch leg, you would use a 4-way switch in the middle of two 3-way switches. But nothing would surprise me.

I’d start by looking at the connections to the two switches. Do you have Romex or other sheathed cable? If so, it makes things a bit easier. Start by diagramming those connections so that we get a see how many Romex are involved and what the individual conductor connections are.

You are correct in that interpretation :slight_smile:

So the 3way has red/white/black entering the box.

The 4way has two 2-wire romex (black/white/ground). It seems to be wired fairly standard.

The floor lights are very difficult to get to so I haven’t opened them up. The full circuit may remain a mystery :confused:

So for the 3-way, if you just have one 3-wire in the box and all three insulated conductors are connected to the switch, then that is fairly standard as an endpoint. You’ll see that in a 4-way when power enters the 4-way either at the 4-way switch box or the light. Just confirming . . this is a single gang box with only ONE Romex in it?

The 4-way is still confusing. At a minimum, a “normal” 4-way will have two 3-WIRE Romex with two of the three insulated conductors attached to the switch. The third conductors are typically wired together, passing a neutral if power starts at a 3-way. If power starts at the 4-way, I’d expect to see a 3-wire going to the 3-way switch, which you don’t have.

And think about this . . . you would think that one of the Romex from the 4-way box would be going to the 3-way box. But it’s a 2-wire in the 4-way box and and a 3-wire in the 3-way box. That would suggest there is a junction box somewhere, or maybe both Romex come from the light(s).

There is more to this . . you just have to figure out what that is. I’d start by removing the conductors from the 4-way and test for constant voltange, using a meter. Test between the black and white of each Romex. If you don’t get anything there, test between each insulated conductor and the ground.

I’d also look around to make sure you’re not “missing” a 3rd switch. The fact that there is a 4-way switch in the mix suggests there was one, at least at one time.

FWIW, I have seen a 2-wire used as travelers to the 4-way switch. In that case, there is a parallel leg typically for receptacles, and that leg is on the same circuit as the switched leg. The receptacle leg carries the neutral which ultimately winds up somewhere for the switched leg to use it. I’m not leaning toward that in this case . . just throwing it out there because of the 2-wires in the 4-way box.

Wow - really appreciate the detailed response. This community is great :slight_smile:

One more wrinkle, I suppose. At the 4 way switch the two 2-wire romex has this super-thick grey sheathing. I’ve opened just about every switch in the house and this is the only one. It must be 12-gauge and there’s labeling on it that says it’s sun-resistant. Serious stuff.

To your point about what’s at the 3-way switch, this stuff is not it. The 3-way has “normal” interior wiring (I can’t see the sheathing, it was cut way at the entrance of the box)

Honestly, I’ve searched high and low - there’s no other switch. I can’t find any wiring in the attic either (lots of insulation hiding stuff like this). And like I said the flood lights are at the roofline on the 3rd story. This one might just have to remain dumb :frowning: