Airstream Forums

Airstream Forums (
-   Electrical - Systems, Generators, Batteries & Solar (
-   -   Wire Tracing Made Easier (

JimAspinwall 05-07-2015 03:51 PM

Wire Tracing Made Easier
1 Attachment(s)
Somewhere along the line of posts about finding various wires in trailers it occurred to me to share a tip I've just naturally used as a consummate geek - using a wire signal tracer.

To that end, unsolicited as it may be, take it for what it may be worth, I created a basic how-to document with non-specific product suggestions.

It should help find orphan, dead-end, open, shorted and other mysteries of wires for anything from phone cabling, TV cable, speakers, lights, etc. with a few other pointers.

Attached here (I hope), and linked to my ham radio presence site NO1PC.ORG Home Page, where I'll be posting an incremental set of articles covering DC to 'light'.


cwf 05-07-2015 03:55 PM


AWCHIEF 05-07-2015 04:00 PM

Thank you, good read.

trekerboy 05-09-2015 08:19 PM

This is super helpful; thank you! This will save me a lot of time!

Martin1214 05-10-2015 12:20 PM

Thanks so much for this information. I do believe that it will help me with my tow vehicle and my Airstream.

Lance M 05-10-2015 01:24 PM

Thanks for sharing!

mefly2 05-10-2015 01:59 PM

Thank you for your efforts ...shared!

chriscraw 05-10-2015 02:16 PM

Thanks Jim for sharing this excellent worksheet..although i would like to buy a Tracer 200EP seems they are quiet expensive. so, I'm considering this model from Amazon (and others)..what do you think?

shineybullet 05-10-2015 02:23 PM

Thanks for the info , another tool for me to buy , I just ordered one from Amazon 😈

batman 05-10-2015 02:48 PM

Great article!

Been in telecommunications since 1978. I have had and used many types. LOL, I still have the old yellow Banana (retired now). Invaluable tools in my business. Thank you for sharing this.


NavyCorpsman 05-10-2015 05:09 PM

_____ . . . . _____ . . ______

rmkrum 05-10-2015 05:32 PM

Still have my old 66 block punch-down tool. (And a few 66 blocks here and there.) and other nice telecom tools in my kit.

Just be sure ALL power is off before hooking up the tone generator....they will smoke if you hook to AC by accident.

Sent from my pocket Internet using Airstream Forums

1970 Safari 05-10-2015 09:16 PM

Wire tracing
How well do the signal generators pass a signal through the aluminum skin? From your experience it sounds like it has not problem?

Great post....

rmkrum 05-10-2015 09:31 PM

Aluminum will probably attenuate the signal too much. These are primarily designed to trace wires in bundles or identify the ends of a particular wire in a group. It uses capacitance to pick up the signal, so aluminum skin will probably shield it out totally. Worth a try, however.

Sent from my pocket Internet using Airstream Forums

JimAspinwall 05-11-2015 12:24 AM

The Extech is in the same genre, there's also "fox and hound". I think I have 4 or 5 variations on the theme. I think the original Bell System units were probably the best in terms of generated signal intensity, and there are models that you can select a steady tone or a warble. I'll have to look at which of mine has the weakest signal, as I remember doing a wire chase and being very frustrated, replaced battery, etc. Finally grabbed the old Bell System units and ba-zinga - WIRE!

rmkrum 05-11-2015 12:31 AM

I'm not sure what kind mine is, but I know I have found wires buried behind plasterboard. I usually have to turn the tracer volume down a bit because the signal is so loud with a fresh battery.

Sent from my pocket Internet using Airstream Forums

JimAspinwall 05-11-2015 12:36 AM

Great question about the signal getting through aluminum, and it probably won't do much until you get to a seam or other opening/cavity... and then there's a bit of 'magic' in whether or not the generator is noisy enough and you may find a wire two feet up behind a wall but you're sniffing at a water line coming out - how's that work?

A bit technical but if the generator sends out not only an audio tone but some higher, even into RF noise, some of the sniffers can pick up the artifacts enough to tell you you're close.

I've dug wires out of snow and slush, sort of like divining for water - and yes people do look at you like you're a witch and step back. Two wire phone stuff is easy compared to digging around in the multi-pair network cables that feed nearly everything today. I dig out the sniffer every now and then to find signals in radio circuits instead of using a scope... letting ears be the 3rd eye while the other two watch where you pick and poke.

Luckily most of what we need to find in a trailer isn't twisted or shielded, but it is frustrating when that elusive blue-yellow wire seems to come out no where, until you expose that unexpected light fixture and see the undocumented splice to a documented dark green wire - and wonder what they were thinking. :O

shineybullet 05-12-2015 09:04 AM

Could someone post a photo of what the bell system tester looks like ? I'm curious and I think I want one for my tool collection

JimAspinwall 05-13-2015 12:17 AM

Test Toner pics
2 Attachment(s)
I've rarely seen and never owned the 139C toner (rectangular unit), only the next-gen tone/continuity unit 'cube' (shown with my legacy yellow dial butt-in-sky)

No phone tool kit is complete without the 'can' wrench (nutdriver) and a box of toothpicks (to hold relays from closing or force contacts closed.)

If you've ever thought about climbing a pole with strap-on spikes - it's not as cool as it might look and certainly not good on the ankles and knees!

batman 05-14-2015 09:14 AM

I notice you live in Campbell, CA. Did you work in that area?
I started working for Pacific Telephone in Sunnyvale, Kiefer RD. garage in 1978. Got my contractors license and retired from ATT in 2010. I still have all of my tools and climbing gear. I still use many of the tools, not the climbers much any more.
The rectangular unit is still my go to tone gen.

As we know, cell phone don't always work. I keep a spare Butt set as part of my emergency kit for the truck and trailer.
Tip and Ring, in search of dial tone!


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 08:57 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.