Cable Tracers

Cable tracers are used for tracking and troubleshooting cables quickly. They are suitable for identification and maintenance of telephony networks and also for testing any kind of lines not-connected to the mains. Suitable applications are wiring test for computer Local Area Networks (LAN) and telephony extensions.

There are countless cable tracers on the market, but they all operate on similiar principles. They transmit a signal on to the cable and have a receiver that detects that signal.

Method: use the tone generator and the probe to determine where a cable is going and whether or not (and where) the cable is interrupted.

The Tone Generator is a hand held, battery powered instrument designed to perform a variety of tests on unenergized telephone lines or LAN cables. Alligator clips and a standard RJ11 plug allow the tone generator to be connected to stripped wires, terminal panels, wall plates, or modular single line jacks. The Tone Generator usually generates continuous tone or warbled tone with selectable test frequencies. Frequencies are usually around 1kHz frequency.

Here is a video that shows how to use Tone and Probe Cable Tracer.

The Line Tracer is a hand held inductive tracer that will help to identify wires without piercing the insulation. It can trace Tone Generator signals through dry wall, wood and many other non metal surfaces.

The conventional use of the inductive amplifier is the location of breaks in hidden wires, even buried in concrete. The typical wire detection range in a concrete wall is 10-20 cm. One of the manufacturers of the inductive amplifier is Tempo. Inductive amplifiers can also be used to find an individual cable pair in a telephone cross connect or cable head when used in conjunction with a tone generator.

Inductive amplifier can be used to trace mains wiring inside the wall. In case the mains wiring is is or can be reliably disconnected from mains power source, it is possible to trace disconnected mains wiring like telephone wiring is traced. Make sure the power is off before connecting the tone generator. If live mains wiring needs to be tested, you need tools specific for that: Voltage detectors are helpful once you find your wires — they let you test whether the wires are live. You can also buy circuit and wire tracers made specifically for the purpose of locating electrical wiring behind walls and underground. These tools tend to be expensive, though.

Some instructional articles:

How to Use a Wire Tracer article gives you some basic instructions.

Deciphering wiring article has some tips on cable tracing and notes cases where tracers do not always work well.

How to find an open circuit or shorted wire the FAST easy way

Are you interested in circuit diagrams of cable tracers? Here are some pointers to those:

My Cable tracing inductive amplifier blog posting  has several circuit diagrams.

Fox and Hound cable tracer article has links to generator circuits.

Fox – Hound, Cable Tracers, Signal Tracers, Line Tracers – whatever you want to call them project page has circuit diagrams.

Cable wizard cable tracer manual has many circuit details in it.

 

3 Comments

  1. 95Tammy says:

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  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Knowing What’s Below: Buried Utility Location
    https://hackaday.com/2017/09/07/knowing-whats-below-buried-utility-location/

    We humans have put an awful lot of effort into our infrastructure for the last few centuries, and even more effort into burying most of it. And with good reason — not only are above ground cables and pipes unsightly, they’re also vulnerable to damage from exposure to the elements. Some utilities, like natural gas and sanitary sewer lines, are also dangerous, or at least perceived to be so, and so end up buried. Out of sight, out of mind.

    Call Before You Dig

    By law, every public utility company in the United States must participate in a “one-call locator service.”
    Location services are paid for by the utility companies, so there’s no direct charge to the customer.

    Anyone doing any sort of excavation is required to call (or now, submit a request online) to schedule a location service to mark the intended work area. This applies to any digging
    If you’re going more than 15″ deep, you need to call, because if you cause any damage to underground services, you’re on the hook for it. If you live, of course.

    Beep, Beep, Beep

    Once a ticket is entered, a location technician will usually come mark the job site within a couple of days.

    Location techs have a wide range of tools to locate that which can’t be seen. Given that most underground facilities have some kind of metallic component — older water and sewer lines, natural gas pipes, and the copper wire in electrical or telecom cables — electromagnetic tools get the bulk of the work done.

    Detectors can be active or passive. Passive methods are usually used to locate facilities that already have an AC signal on them, like power lines or telecom cables.

    Active detection applies a current to an above-ground section of a utility line, like a water or gas meter. An AC signal is applied to the line by the transmitter, which turns it into an antenna. Utility companies sometimes even lay copper wire alongside plastic lines as an aid to active detection.
    Handheld receivers with highly directional antennas are swept over the ground to pick up the signal

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    MASTECH MS6818 Located underground concrete pipe at 1.4 meter depth
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVShOHR3uhY

    Using the “MASTECH MS6818″, I located underground concrete pipe at 1.4 meter depth and at 20 meters of length. I used a wire with an copper area of 0.7mm^2 and a plastic isolation. (1.1 meter is only the entry depth, the pipe is actually located at 1.4 meter)

    Reply

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