Help tracing speaker wires in the ceiling

Old 09-09-12, 01:31 PM
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Help tracing speaker wires in the ceiling

Previous owners have speaker wires run thru the ceiling in the Family room. 2 to the back that I'm going to use for rears, and one to the side I'm going to eventually use for center sides. Can somebody recommend something that I can use to trace where the wires are run in the ceiling so I don't' have to make to many holes in looking? I bought something from Harbor Freight, but it doesn't seem to be real accurate..

Old 09-09-12, 04:15 PM
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Tracers that can find wires behind drywall are VERY expensive.

Do you have access to both ends of each cable? If so, you can just use an Ohm meter and ring them out.

If not, then you have a few options:
1) If you have any cans in the room, they can be removed so you can look and see with a mirror or stick a digital camera in the hole and take a picture, or feel around.

2) You could just make the hole where you want the speaker in hopes that is close to where the cable is. Likely they would have put speakers near the same place. If not, you then have a hole that is large enough to get your arm up there and feel around or do the camera trick again.
Old 09-09-12, 05:24 PM
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Do you know how deep behind the drywall the speaker wires are?

If they are near the surface I've had luck locating wires using a toner with a fresh battery and a banana (inductive) probe. You may have better results connecting the toner to just one conductor, or connecting the other conductor and the other toner lead to ground. Just make sure the conductors are disconnected from your speakers and electronics first.

I was surprised to find that this worked with 24 or 26 AWG conductors behind 2 layers of 5/8 sheetrock on metal studs. The cables were probably run through the pre-punched holes in the studs, although I never got a look.

My toner and probe are over 20 years old but they're nothing fancy - probably not as good as the stuff Sandman is selling now ... Testing and Repairing Phone Line Problems

Last edited by ArgMeMatey; 09-09-12 at 05:29 PM. Reason: Add toner/probe info
Old 09-09-12, 08:08 PM
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That's the exact same toner/probe I use. It does 'ok' at finding wire behind walls. If you use headphones it is much easier to hear the tone.

The biggest problem is if the wires are twisted or shielded. Both interfere with the tone signal's ability to escape the wire along its length. Toners of this type aren't really designed for that, they're designed for identifying pairs within a large trunk cable, individual cables in a bundle, or ports in a patch panel. But if you're talking standard parallel conductor zipcord, then you have a better shot at it working.

I paid $70 for mine at Home Depot a couple years ago. I know they still have them, but don't know if they're still that price.
Old 09-09-12, 09:14 PM
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If you can't find both ends of the wire it might be cheaper and easier just to run new wires. Is there an unfinished attic above or an unfinished basement below. If you can see both ends of the wire why do you need to trace them?
Old 09-10-12, 04:41 AM
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If you don't have an ohm meter or multimeter and you don't want to spend the cash for a toner & wand, put a 9V battery on the far end and use a car light bulb at the near end. When the lamp lights you've found your cable.

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