You might not be aware that behind the walls in your home lies a whole secret world. What we’re talking about here are cables! A complex system of electrical wires run behind your walls and these play an important role in the functioning of your electrics. Unfortunately these wires and cables are not immune from malfunctioning on occasion and when this happens you will need a wire tracer or circuit tracer to detect which wire has broken. There are lots of different wire tracers and cable tracers on the market. Each varies quite significantly in quality, offering different sets of features that can suit your specific needs.
To make searching for a wire tracer easier we have taken the time to look at the best tracers you can buy online and listed them below, highlighting their best features and given you a link to check it out for yourself. We have also written a buyers guide to purchasing a wire tracer and have answered your most commonly asked questions too.
Keep reading to discover the best wire tracers to buy…
The Best Wire Tracer
This cable tracer promises to provide a tone that can reach up to 10 miles (16km) of cable and features a 9V alkaline battery. We liked that this product got great reviews from its users and promised clear and precise wire tracing. This write tracer uses special SmartToneTM technology which provides five distinct tones so you can isolate wire pairs. There is a loud speaker on the probe which ensures that the tone is easier to hear through wood, drywall and other enclosures too. There’s no need to adapters either as it comes with an angled bed-of-nails clip that allows easy access to pairs and easily connects to a telephone jack. The kit also included a nylon pouch which you can attach to your belt for easy transportation.
SmartToneTM Technology Provides x 5 Distinct Tones For Pair Identification
Loud Tone Reaches Up To 16km (10 Miles)
Loud Speaker On Probe
Easy Connection To Telephone Jacks
- BrandFluke Networks
- Weight1 lb
This underground wire locator provides excellent value for money at under $50 and received pretty good review online. It’s perfect for locating buried and hidden wires but is only suitable for single strand wires or double strand wires in parallel and cannot be used for multi-stranded wires. This tool is a handy device for detecting pet fence wires, metal wires, electrical wires and metal pipes. This particular wire tracer has a range of 3ft deep and 100ft in length. This product has been designed to locate the path of non-energized wires either underground or behind walls and can also locate a specific circuit breaker. This is perfect for pinpointing where wires run before you start drilling into the walls and cut off your electrical supply or worse!
Tracking & Locating Hidden Wires in Walls & Underground
Locate Pet Wires, Metal Pipes, Electrical Wires & Metal Wires
Parameters: 3ft Deep & 1000ft Length
- Weight14.1 Ounces
This is an example of how the price different of wire trackers can differ quite significantly. This product is definitely on the more expensive side of the scale but is a well known brand used by DIY enthusiasts and professionals. The kit contains a transmitter (TR-955), receiver (RC-959), tracer lead test set (TL-956), inductive clamp (IC-958), battery pack and carrying case too. If it’s the best wire tracer that you are looking for then this could be the product for you. The kit provides a numeric value and audible signal which gives an easy to understand tracing feedback. The receiver display rotates for easy viewing with 0-99 signal strength, four modes of sensitivity and a peak detection bar graph. This kit can identify breakers and fuses using CertainCirtcuit detection and can pinpoint open and shorts behind walls.
Kit Includes: Receiver, Transmitter, Tracer Lead Test Set, Inductive Clamp & Battery Pack
Comes in Handy Carry Case
Numeric Value & Audible Signal
Identifies Breakers/Fuses With CertainCircuit Detection
- Weight6.61 Lbs
This power scan kit is said to be revolutionary as it can perform several types of automotive testing such as ground testing, polarity checking, continuity testing, power injection and measurement and components activation. If you’re looking for an electrical wire tracer that can multitask then you’ve found the perfect product as this can accurately diagnose the DC voltage, AC voltage, resistance and diode of 12V up to 24V electrical systems. This gives you the ability to power up components such as cooling fans, relays and starters and is powered by car battery or cigarette lighter with no additional battery needed. The kit includes a 20ft extension cable which means that you can comfortably reach around your car, truck or trailer. We also liked that it contained a built-in flashlight which is bright enough to fully illuminate your work area. This automotive wire tracker can be used to test for bad grounding and can track and locate shorts super fast without losing fuses. It’s also circuit breaker protected which add an extra layer of safety in protecting the tool from electrical overload.
Diagnose DC & AC Voltage, Resistance & Diode of 12V-24V Systems
Multi-Functional Circuit Tester
Ability To Power Up Cooling Fans, Windows, Starters & Relays
Powered By Car Battery Or Cigarette Lighter
20ft Extension Cable Included
- Weight3 Lbs
This tone generator and probe set uses True Trace Technology to trace live wires up to 250V AC or 250V DC and can be used at home or on the job. This is a high-performance unit and utilizes a different frequency than the traditional Fox & Hound model – this one allows you to hear the tone clearly. The Fox HotWire has a Voltage Present Indicator which ensures that you can easily see if there is power on the wire. There is also an adjustable RF Level, TrueTrace function and Battery Test indicator too. This kit contains an audible and visual signal strength indicator with adjustable sensitivity that can allow you to trace a wire through a wall to the specific circuit on the circuit breaker. There is a strong filter that removes any interference from fluorescent lights and electrical noise and an earphone jack so you can trace wires without annoying your neighbors!
Live Wire Tracing Kit With TrueTrace Technology
Traces Wires Up To 1000ft in Length & 3ft Underground
Built-In Noise Filter
Earphone Jack For Discreet Tracing
- Weight0.16 Ounces
What we liked about this particular cable tracer was that it offered good value for money. At under $70 this wire tracer has great reviews too. This is a circuit breaker finder/receptacle tester which can locate a circuit breaker and tests the wiring. It can allow you to quickly locate between 110V-125V AC circuit breakers and fuses. When a correct breaker is found the tool emits a beeper sound and LEDS on the kit start to flash. It’s fully adjustable too so you can adjust the sensitivity to accurately detect the circuit breaker.
Circuit Breaker Finder With Wire Tracer/Continuity Tester, CFCI Tester
AC Voltage Detector With Flashlight
Carry Case Included
Includes Two AAA Batteries
- Weight0.64 Ounces
This professional tone and probe kit is suitable for a variety of different requirement and will allow you to detect the conductor in a collection of wires. The kit has an impressive high power tone generator which can identify the conductor at a cross-connect point or at a remote end. This kit can be used on single conductors, de-energized AC wiring, coaxial cables and twisted pair wiring. It features polarity testing and also continuity testing which will give you an audible beep response as well as an LED flash. The kit includes a loud speaker for very noisy environments but also has an earphone jack for more discreet detection work.
Simple To Use
Loud Speaker & Earphone Jack
External Warble Seelect
Durable Woven Nylon Case Included
- Weight14.6 Ounces
This professional VDV cable mapper can test voice, data and video cabling fast! If you have any wiring faults including split pairs then this wire tracer will find it. It’s easy to use and features a LCD display with backlight which allows you to test in even the darkest areas. Accuracy is one of the most important features of a cable tracer and this product does not fail when it comes to giving an accurate reading. A separate amplifier probe is required however, should you wish to purchase this product.
Professional VDV Cable Mapper
Tests Wiring Faults Fast
LCD Display With Backlight For Dimly Lit Areas
- Weight12.5 Ounces
This cable tracer is perfect for detecting and testing weak wiring systems, communication lines, metal wiring circuits, cables, electrical lines and water/gas supplies that are hidden or buried in the ground or in the walls. We liked that this product could also detect short circuits in floor heating and could detect fuses and assign current circuits. Another great feature of this wire tracer is that the receiver can be adjusted manually or automatically too.
Kit Includes: Transmitter, Receiver, Test Probe & Crocodile Clamp
Receiver Sensitivity Fully Adjustable
- Weight1.55 Lbs
If you’re looking for a wire tracer that can find wires fast and accurately then the PTE Wire Tracer makes a good choice. This tracer can detect and identify telephone tips and ring lines and can also detect the line condition. The tone generator will display clear, busy or ringing. The signal allows you to track your cable fast and you will also be able to check for short and open circuits. Fully adjustable, you can change the sensitivity to differentiate between close and far cable proximity. The company provide a one year warranty and offer friendly customer service too.
Receiver Sensitivity Fully Adjustable
Trace Wires Fast
- Weight1.76 Ounces
Best Wire Tracer Buying Guide & FAQ
Below we will look at wire tracers in order for you to be able to choose the best product for your needs. We will talk about the benefits of using a wire tracker and answer your most commonly asked questions below.
Things to Consider When Buying a Wire Tracer
If you’ve done your research you will know that there are many different types of wire tracers on the market. The different in price varies hugely - with some starting around $30-$40 leading right up to $1000 or more. There are a few things you will need to consider when buying a wire tracker. Firstly, is this for occasional use in the home or are you a professional? If you are decorating a house and need to detect if there’s wiring behind the wall before drilling then you can probably opt for one of the cheaper models. Whereas if you’re a professional then it goes without saying that you will need the best quality model that money can buy. Is the receiver fully adjustable? This is a feature that is good to include on your tracer as it allows you to pick up the right signal. Does the wire tracer have multiple features? If you’re making an investment then you might want to look for a tracer that can check for wiring, short and open circuits and more. Range: it’s also important to choose a cable tracer that has a good range. Most tracers can make detections around 3ft deep and 100ft length.
Benefits of Using a Wire Tracker
There are many benefits to using a wire tracker. With the rise in popularity of underground cables and hidden utility lines there is guaranteed to be a complex of cables right under your feet of power lines, gas, sewer, electricity and telecommunications. Not just in the floor either, these wires run through our walls too; in both domestic and commercial environments. Wire tracers and locators have been designed to find energized and de-energized wires, pipes and cables in the wall and underground.
How to Use a Circuit Tracer
There are two methods of checking for wire lines and pipes using a wire tracer; active locating and passive locating. Active locating is when a tracer searches for a specific line using a direct connection or by emitting a signal. The tracer can be attached directly where possible or a frequency is selected (on adjustable receivers) which is then induced into the ground and reradiated by the utility used. This is the method most commonly used for maintenance or repairs where specific lines or pipes have to be detected. Passive locating involves tracing an area to look for unknown lines. The user would just scan the area looking for utilities that radiate or re-radiate frequencies. This method would not differentiate between lines but would clear an area for lines prior to digging or drilling.
Best Wire Tracer FAQ:
Q: What is a circuit tracer?
A: A circuit tracer kit consists of a transmitter, receiver and probe. The transmitter has a connection to one end of the circuit (electrical outlet) and transmits a signal that will travel along the wire that it is connected to. The receiver’s job is to detect the signal being transmitted on the circuit. The receiver is usually a handheld unit that can be adjusted to pick up different signals. When the receiver goes near a wire carrying a signal the user will be alerted with a noise or flashing light. The circuit tracer will also contain a probe that contains three different sensors. An electric field sensor in the probe, detects the end of the conductor, the differential field sensor decides the direction of the conductor above ground and the inductive sensor determines the direction of the conductor transmitting the circuit underneath the ground. The probe’s job is also to generate electrical energy (via a switch) which then determines the volume of power generated by the signal on the circuit.
Q: How do wire tracers work?
A: Wire tracers work by relying on the target having an electrical charge or signal which is then detected by a receiver. Lots of electrical utilities transmit a signal when the lines are energized and lines often have different signals which helps to differentiate between the different lines. When a line does not have a signal, wire tracers can induce a signal along the line (using a transmitter) in order to locate it. The wire normally has to be metal in order for it to conduct a signal. The transmitter of a wire tracer sends out a signal and the receiver’s job is to detect this signal. If a signal is detected then the user will hear a noise or see a flashing light on the unit.
Our Top Pick
Our favorite product on the list was the Fluke Networks 26000900 Pro3000 Tone Generator & Probe Kit. We were massively impressed that the tone could reach 10 miles of cable and that the provided clear and precise wire tracing. Using special SmartToneTM technology, the unit creates five distinct tones so you are then able to isolate wire pairs too. The loud speaker on the probe ensures the tone is loud enough to hear through a number of materials such as drywall and wood. The kit comes with a nylon pouch that can clip onto your belt - we liked that little touch too!
How to Trace Electrical Wiring in a Wall - How Stuff Works