Tracing and Repairing Speaker Wire in Your Wall

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How to trace and repair speaker wire inside your drywall.

Tracing and repairing speaker wire in your wall is not difficult. You just need a few tools and some patience.

If you have moved into a home with speaker wire already weaving through your drywall you may want to take advantage of that and hook up speakers in the various rooms. You will have to trace the speaker wire from room to room to determine which wires go where.

The problem is how do you trace which speaker wire runs to the various rooms and which ends match up. Sometimes you will be lucky and the former owner has left a chart or list or has labeled the wires but this is not often the case.

Purchase Tone and Probe Kit

You will have to buy a Tone and Probe kit, sometimes called a Tone Generator and Amplifier. Don’t forget the batteries. This is a two part tool.

One part attaches to the beginning of the wire and the other part picks up the signal as it goes through to the other end of the wire.

Clip Tone Generator to Speaker Wire and Generate Tone

Tone and Probe kits will have alligator clips for attaching the tone generator to one end of the speaker wire. Put a piece of tape around the wire to mark it. Label the tape with a number or use colored tape. You will then label the other end of the wire with the matching number when you find it. Turn on the switch and it will generate a tone and send that tone through the wire to the other end.

Use Amplifier Probe to Locate Line

Turn on the probe or amplifier. Start where the wire emerges from the wall (where you have just attached the alligator clips) and slide the amplifier or probe along the wall much in the way you would a stud finder. If you are on the wire you will hear a tone. As you move away from the wire your tone will diminish or stop. It is like playing a game of hot and cold. There is also a light on the probe that will light up when you are on the cable.

Continue moving the probe along the wall marking as you go with little pieces of tape or pencil marks. Follow the line until the wire emerges at the other end. If the signal stops in the wall you may have a wire that is broken or has been chewed through by a rodent.

Repairing Broken Speaker Wire

If you want to still use that speaker wire line you will have to make a repair. It would be wise to find all the lines that you can before deciding. Start at other points in the home where speaker wires emerge and do the tone and probe procedure until all wires are marked. You may be able to find the other end of the broken wire by probing from the opposite end.

Cut Hole in Drywall and Repair the Wire

Once you have determined where the speaker wire is broken you will have to cut a hole in your drywall using a drywall jab saw. That is a small pointy saw that you can just poke into the wall and make a small hole. Don’t mangle it because you will want to put the piece back in once you have fixed your wire.

Find the broken ends of the speaker wire and splice in a new piece of the same size. Strip the insulating material off the ends exposing clean undamaged straight wire. Connect the ends to each other by twisting like wire to like wire. Secure the connection with a wire nut. Wire nuts are those little plastic caps that are color coded according to the gauge of your wire.

Repair the drywall by replacing the plug and patching the seams around it with a drywall repair kit you can by at the hardware store.


Judith Barton
Posted on Jul 17, 2010
Jerry Walch
Posted on Jul 17, 2010