Ceiling fan replacement switch hang up
July 15, 2010 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Replacing the switch in my 3-speed Hunter ceiling fan. The power is turned off. I've taken it apart and there are four wires going to the old switch, but the replacement only has poles for three wires. What do I do? Thanks.
posted by wsg to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What color are the four wires?
posted by SugarFreeGum at 2:17 PM on July 15, 2010

We need a bit more information.

Is this fan switched from only one location? If it is switched from two locations, it is considerably more complex for you.

If it is switched from only one location, then what are the colors of the wires? Chances are there are 2 white wires and 2 black wires.

If that is the case, then the two black wires go to the gold/brass color pole on the switch - and the two wires go to the silver color pole. If you can not fit both wires under the pole, then you might need to pig-tail the wires.

The third pole on the switch is probably green, and that is for the ground wire. A ground wire will be color green, or it will be bare copper. Older wiring often does not have a ground wire, so there might not be anything for you to attach to the ground screw.
posted by Flood at 2:21 PM on July 15, 2010

I think the switch being replaced is the pull chain speed switch which has three positions, one each for slow, medium, and fast. Am I right? If so there probably isn't a ground connection to the switch itself.
posted by leafwoman at 3:31 PM on July 15, 2010

Also, which switch is it? There are at least 3 in most fans (3-speed fan, light, and reverse).
posted by TedW at 3:31 PM on July 15, 2010

also, do you have a voltage tester? you may need to test to see what wire is the hot leg.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:33 PM on July 15, 2010

Another thought is that the replacement switch might not be the right one. I have put up a number of fans over the years, and I have noticed lately there has been a trend toward fans with integrated light fixtures and remote controls that are wired differently (no separate wires for lights and motor, for example).
posted by TedW at 3:58 PM on July 15, 2010

Response by poster: The fan's almost new. It has lighting attached, too. It is the 3-way fan speed switch. Wires are green, black, gray, white. No voltage tester onhand.
posted by wsg at 4:15 PM on July 15, 2010

Response by poster: I HAD THE COLORS WROnG. The colors are green, black, gray, brown. No white. Sorry bout that.
posted by wsg at 4:31 PM on July 15, 2010

All that stuff above is nice, but if the broken switch has four wires and the replacement you have only has three, you have the wrong part. Once you get the right part, just hook it up the same way as the old one.
posted by gjc at 4:37 PM on July 15, 2010

Response by poster: I guess so, but the package says "3-way fan light switch."
posted by wsg at 4:50 PM on July 15, 2010

Best answer: OH! "3-way" is very very different than "3-speed".

Unless you're replacing a 3-way switch, you've got the wrong switch.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:01 PM on July 15, 2010

3way switch is a switch that is meant to have two switch locations.
You got the wrong switch.

You need a single pole switch.

Also, grey and brown are VERY unlikely colors. One of the wires has to be the neutral wire - and neutrals have been white (as required by code) for more than 50 years.

What kind of insulation is around the wires?
posted by Flood at 5:58 PM on July 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, y'all. That solves it. Nothing is easy.
posted by wsg at 6:30 PM on July 15, 2010

Neutrals can be a shade of grey, iirc. And you may not need a neutral at the switch. In fact, switch legs are the one place where a white conductor in a two or three wire cable can be the hot wire. HI I'M NITPICKING.
shutting up now
posted by rmd1023 at 6:40 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yep, returned the wrong switch for the right switch and the repair was super easy. The switch is designed so that no screwing wires down or fastening in any way is necessary. You just jam the ends of the wires into the holes provided and they wedge in beautifully. Glad to have this stupid project done. It's been bugging me for months. Thanks, all.
posted by wsg at 12:00 PM on July 17, 2010

Just replaced a 3-speed, chain-pull fan switch myself, and learned the hard way that you can't just go to the store and cavalierly buy a replacement switch — because there is no standard switch and the %$#! fan makers are making fans with more than one kind of 3-speed switch. Which is to say, you bought the wrong kind of switch. Take the old switch off the fan with you and get assistance from a knowledgeable clerk at the store, buy the right switch, and life will be much sweeter.
posted by exphysicist345 at 12:02 PM on July 17, 2010

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