How To Use A Coax Cable Tester
Congratulations on that new TV you just bought! Now you want to move the old TV to another room, but you have no idea which one of all those cables in the basement goes to the room where you want it. You could always hook one of the cables up in the basement, run upstairs to see if it worked, then run back downstairs to try the next cable – and you know the right one is always the last one you tried!
To keep from running up and down the stairs a number of times, you could use a cable toner/tracer to help identify the correct cable. This is a valuable, but inexpensive, piece of test equipment that is great for tracing out cables in a home using the toner function and can also be used to test the cable for shorts. We’ll talk about each function the coax cable tester can be used for below.
The cable toner/tracer function is very easy to use. The coax cable tester includes two parts – a signal/tone generator and a speaker, which easily unscrews from the base of the tone generator. Simply go into the room where you want to install the TV and connect the tone generator to the F port on the wall plate if it is installed or connect the F connector on the end of the cable to the F-81 barrel splice that comes with the cable tester, and place the tone generator on the barrel splice. Now, go back to the other end where the cables are all located, and connect the speaker to each cable until you hear a tone. That’s the cable you want! Hook it up and you are good to go.
The coax cable tester can also be used to test the cable for shorts. There is an LED on top of the cable tester. If the LED lights up when you connect the tone generator to the port, it means that there is either a short in the cable, or there is a splitter somewhere in the line. If it does light up, you will need to follow the cable to locate the splitter, or to see if the cable is damaged. Make sure you look behind the wall plate as sometimes a splitter will be used there to provide a line to another location. If you find a splitter, remove it and use an F-81 barrel splice to connect the two ends of the cable together. Now you can verify if the LED is off on the signal/tone generator. If so, go to the location where all the cables originate and use the speaker to identify the correct cable.
If you find damage to the cable as you inspect it, it may be possible to fix the damage. Sometimes, staples used to attach the cable can accidentally go through the cable. Simply removing the staple may be sufficient. However, it is likely that the damage is permanent, and it will require repairs. If this is the case, you can cut out the bad spot, install F connectors on each of the cable ends, and connect them together with an F-81 barrel splice. Once repairs are complete, verify the red LED is out on the signal/tone generator, and then use the speaker to identify the correct cable at the other end.
If you have inspected the cable and don’t find a splitter and can’t see any damage, your only choice may be to run a new cable.
A coax cable tester, like the Channel Master CM-1030 Coax Cable Tester, can be an invaluable aid in identifying and repairing cable runs in a home.