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Cable Testing Tools

The best method for addressing a faulty cable installation is to


avoid the problems in the first place by purchasing high-quality
components and installing them carefully. But no matter how
careful you are, problems are bound to arise. This section covers
the tools that you can use to test cables both at the time of their
installation and afterward, when youre troubleshooting cable
problems. Cable testing tools can range from simple, inexpensive,
mechanical devices to elaborate electronic testers that
automatically supply you with a litany of test results in an easyto-read pass/fail format.

Wire-Map Testers
Awire-map testertransmits
signals through each wire in a
copper twisted-pair cable to
determine if it is connected to
the correct pin at each end.
Wire mapping is the most basic
test for twisted pair cables
because the eight separate
wire connections involved in
each cable run are a common
source of installation errors.
Wire-map testers detect
transposed wires, opens
(broken or unconnected wires),
and shorts (wires or pins
improperly connected to each
other)all problems that can
render a cable run inoperable.

Wire-map testing is nearly


always included in
multifunction cable testers, but
in some cases it may not be
worth the expense to spend
thousands of dollars on a
comprehensive device.

Dedicatedwire-map testers are


relatively inexpensive and
enable you to test your
installation for the most
common faults that occur
during installation and
afterward. If you are installing
voice-grade cable, A wire-map
tester consists of a remote unit
that you attach to the far end
of a connection and the
battery-operated, handheld
main unit that displays the
results. Typically, the tester
displays various codes to
describe the type of faults it
finds. In some cases, you can
purchase a tester with multiple
remote units that are
numbered, so that one person
can test several connections
without constantly traveling
back and forth from one end of
the connections to the other to
move the remote unit.

Continuity Testers
A continuity tester is an even simpler and less
expensive device than a wire-map tester. It is designed
to check a copper cable connection for basic installation
problems, such as opens, shorts, and crossed pairs.
These devices usually cannot detect more complicated
twisted-pair wiring faults such as split pairs, but they
are sufficient for basic cable testing, especially for
coaxial cables, which have only two conductors that are
not easily confused by the installer. Like a wire-map
tester, a continuity tester consists of two separate units
that you connect to each end of the cable to be tested.
In many cases, the two units can snap together for
storage and easy testing of patch cables.

Tone Generators

This type of device is most often used to


locate a specific connection in a punch-

down block. For example, some installers


prefer to run all of the cables for a
network to the central punch-down block
without labeling them. Then they use a

The simplest type of copper cable tester is also a two-

tone generator to identify which block is

piece unit, a tone generator and probe, also sometimes


by
connected to which wall plate and label In addition,called
a fox and hound wire tracer. With a standard
testing the
the punch-down block accordingly. You
jack, you connect to the cable the unit that transmits a
continuity of
can also use the device to identify a
signal, or, with an alligator clip, you connect the unit to

particular cable at any point between the individual wires


an individual wire. The other unit is an inductive
using alligator clips,
two ends. Because the probe can detect
amplifier, which is a penlike probe that emits an audible
a tone
through the sheath the cable containingyou can usetone
when touched to the other end of the conductor.
generator
and
the tone signal, you can locate one
specific cable out of a bundle in a ceiling probe to locate
opens, shorts, and
conduit or other type of raceway. Connect
the tone generator to one end and touchmiswires. An open
the probe to each cable in the bundle wire will produce no
until you hear the tone.

tone at the other


end, a short will
produce a tone on
two or more wires
at the other end,
and an improperly
connected wire will
produce a tone on
the wrong pin at the

end. to errors as the cable installation. You either have to continually travel
Using a tone generator is extremely time-consuming, however, and its nearlyother
as prone

from one end of the cable to the other to move the tone generator unit or use a partner to test each connection, keeping in close contact using radios or
some other means of communication. When you consider the time and effort involved, you will probably find that investing in a wire-map tester is a more

Time-Domain Reflectometers
As described earlier in the section Cable Length, a time domain-reflectometer (TDR) is the
primary tool used to determine the length of a copper cable and to locate the impedance variations
that are caused by opens, shorts, damaged cables, and interference with other systems. Two basic
types of TDRs are available: those that display their results as a waveform on an LCD or CRT screen
and those that use a numeric readout to indicate the distance to a source of impedance. The latter
type of TDR provides less detail but is easy to use and relatively inexpensive. Many of the
automated copper cable testers on the market have a TDR integrated into the unit. Waveform TDRs
are not often used for field testing these days because they are much more expensive than the
numeric type and require a great deal more expertise to use effectively.
You can use a TDR to test any kind of cable that uses metallic conductors, including the coaxial and
twisted-pair cables used to construct LANs. A high-quality TDR can detect a large variety of cable
faults, including open conductors; shorted conductors; loose connectors; sheath faults; water
damage; crimped, cut, or smashed cables; and many other conditions. In addition, the TDR can
measure the length of the cable and the distance to any of these faults. Many people also use the
TDR as an inventory-management tool to ensure that a reel contains the length of cable advertised
and to determine if a partially used reel contains enough cable for a particular job.