Brand new 3-way lamps not working correctly


I've replaced the 3-way socket in a table lamp about 4 times in the past 6 years. Each time it works for 6 months or so, but eventually the secondary contact that touches the "ring" on the base of the 3-way bulb (the low-intensity filament) starts arcing and the lamp flickers. This progresses to the point where the lamp flickers most of the time, at which point I replace the socket. Up until this last time the only sockets I could find locally were Leviton brand. Last weekend I found a Westinghouse brand socket at the local DIY box store.

Why does this happen? Anybody else have this problem? Will the Westinghouse 3-way socket have the same problem, and does anybody make a socket that will last longer?

EDIT: Adding some answers to good questions raised in posts below:

Does the arcing problem happen with new bulbs?

Once it starts arcing it happens with any bulb. The contact for the low-wattage filament (the off-center contact) looks pitted and corroded.

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Just looking the fixture itself, and giving the probability of other points of failure... I would guess maybe the ballast on the lamp has given out (probably the silver box in the image). A ballast steps up the voltage so the lamp operate correctly, and they fail on occasion. Finding the replacement ballast might be the hard part and sometimes expensive. It might be easier to just get a new fixture and use CFLs (which have built-in ballasts).

At the same time purchasing a new fixture and replacing it will also confirm, in a relatively easy way, that the wiring to your fixture is working. Just be sure to throw the breaker to that fixture. Don't depend on someone wiring the light switch correctly and given your uncertainty of the status of your home...

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Ferrell and Wiig last paired up on the big screen back in 2015 for A Deadly Adoption, but it’ll be...

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Similar to the posts above, I recently (2-3 days ago) installed three decora illuminated 3 way switches on three circuits in my house recently. The other side three way switches are regular old non-illuminated toggle type. The three circuits work properly, but only one of the illuminated switches lights up correctly. The the other two on the other two circuits don not light up at all. I even exchanged one of the non-lighting switches with a new one from the store just to make sure the switch itself was not defective. Smae result. So I do not think that the switches are themselves defective unless these switches have an extraordinarily high rate of manufacturing defective pieces. There are only incandescent lamps on these circuits and no fluorescents/cfls.

There is only a couple of plausible explanations I can think for this. One is that either both ends of each circuits are required to have the illuminated switches instead of a regular non-illuminated switch.


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I've never been all that loyal to any one brand of any particular product, but I have to say that having tried a large number of LED bulbs from a variety of manufacturers over the last five years, I've never been disappointed by a Philips LED bulb. I bought this to replace the old three-way incandescent bulb in a floor lamp and the LED bulb is every bit as bright and pleasant as the bulb it replaced. The claimed 2700 Kelvin light output seems about right to me. We had a Sylvania soft white incandescent in the lamp and this bulb puts out light that looks exactly (to my eyes) the same as the Sylvania. I see at least one other review reported a buzzing noise, but this bulb (or any other LED I've owned) does not emit any buzzing or any other noise that I can hear.

One last note about Philips bulbs... I had one fail (a different model than this bulb) a month ago or so. I'd only had the bulb maybe a year or two, so I looked up a contact number for Philips customer service and gave them a...

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Brad -

Don't despair - I'll save you from having to call an electrician.

I'm assuming you replaced only one 3-way switch (of the two) with a new 3-way switch. If you replaced both 3-way switches - let me know.

Your problem is - you have mis-wired (wired incorrectly) the 'Common' terminal of the new 3-way switch. I will purposely not go into what the various wires (i.e. hot wire, leg end, travelers wires) leading to the switches' terminals actually do that allows a 3-way switching system to work its magic, but I will tell you this - to correct your problem you will have a 50/50 chance (pretty decent odds) of fixing it the first time you make the simple wiring change I'll ask you to make...and if that doesn't work, the next (second) change will definitely fix it. How 'bout those odds?

One last thing before we get started, which will make you feel a little bit better about mis-wiring your new 3-way switch. I suspect you are probably befuddled about the new 3-way...

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In my 15-year old home, two, 3-way switches in our kitchen suddenly began behaving strangely. The switches control the overhead florescent lights over the island in our kitchen. They are on a circuit controlled by a switch breaker. The circuit also includes the lights to a nearby bedroom and pantry.

My initial thought was that one of the switches had gone bad. One was relatively new from a kitchen remodeling a couple years back. The other was original, 15 years old. Both switches were replaced. My local Home Depot electrical dept. guy was sure that replacing the switches would solve the problem. It did not. The behavior remained the same.

Since this is a problem that occurred spontaneously after years of working correctly, I have to speculate that the problem is not the switches (just replaced) nor the wiring of the switches (as nothing had changed when the weird behavior started happening.) Help!!

Here's the wiring connections and behavior...

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While a three-way switch is very simple to many who visit, it is a mystery to many others. Understanding how the circuit works satisfies curiosity. It can also help to diagnose a three-way switch that does not work because someone wired the circuit incorrectly.

This is the basic circuit for a three-way switch. The gray circle represents a light bulb controlled by the two switches. It is gray because it is "off." The two lines ending near the left side of the drawing go to a power source, like the circuit breaker panel in your house.

The green rectangles represent the switches. Notice that one conductor comes into each switch, but two go out. When the toggle is thrown the pathway inside the switch shifts from one of the out conductors to the other.

Here you can see that electricity can flow along the upper wire through the first switch, but its pathway is broken at the second switch and the light remains...

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Guide to Fluorescent Light Fixtures and How to Fix Them

Electrical Question: My Fluorescent kitchen light was not coming on quickly if at all. I replaced the ballast which fixed the problem for about 3 days. Now it’s back to not turning on. When you hit the switch you see a flicker of light at one end of the U shaped bulbs but that is about it. This light has 2 U shaped fluorescent lights.

Appreciate your help !
Background: Jim, a Homeowner from Southington, Connecticut.

Additional Comments: Great website.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Jim.

How to Fix Your Fluorescent Lighting Problems

Application: Troubleshooting Problems with Fluorescent Light Fixtures.
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate – Best performed by a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Hand Tools, a Voltage Tester and Safe Ladder.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal experience, the light fixture and access to the...

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