This comprehensive article guides readers through the process of changing the direction of rotation in a three-phase electric motor by swapping two of the three motor leads. At ETS, we always emphasize safety as a top priority. As such, we outline crucial steps, such as disconnecting power, identifying motor leads, and noting the initial rotation. We’ll then cover the lead-swapping process and the subsequent reconnection of power, with a reminder to test the motor’s rotation. 

Warning: Before attempting any work on electrical equipment, ensure that power is completely disconnected, and proper safety precautions are taken.

Steps to change the direction of a three phase electric motor:

Disconnect Power:

  • Turn off and lock out the power source to ensure safety.

Identify Motor Leads:

  • Identify the three motor leads or wires. These are typically labeled U, V, and W or A, B, and C.

Note the Initial Rotation:

  • Before making any changes, note the direction of rotation when the motor is powered up. This will help you determine whether the changes you make result in the desired rotation.

Swap Two Leads:

  • Choose any two of the three motor leads and swap their positions. For example, if you have leads U, V, and W, swapping U and V or V and W will reverse the direction of rotation.

Reconnect Power:

  • After swapping the leads, reconnect the power.

Test the Motor:

  • Power up the motor and observe the direction of rotation. It should now rotate in the opposite direction from the initial rotation.



  • If the motor does not rotate in the desired direction after swapping two leads, you may need to try a different pair of leads.
  • Some motors may have a rotation direction diagram on the nameplate or cover, indicating which leads to swap for a specific direction change.


Important Tips:

Consult Motor Documentation:

  • Always refer to the motor’s documentation or nameplate for specific instructions and information about changing the direction of rotation. Some motors may have unique configurations.

Use a Motor Starter:

  • In industrial settings, a motor starter with a reversing feature is often used to change the direction of a motor. This provides a more controlled and safer method.

Seek Professional Assistance:

  • If you are unsure or uncomfortable making changes to the motor wiring, it’s advisable to seek assistance from a qualified electrician or technician.


    Final Thoughts…

    Changing the direction of rotation by swapping two leads is a common method for three-phase motors, but it’s important to follow the specific guidelines for your motor type and model. For a great, visual guide, see Electrician U’s Youtube video, “How Do You Change Rotation Direction in Three Phase Motors”:

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