Wall, floor, and even ceilings in your house is becoming congested with networking, telephone, and electrical cables. That poses a challenge to engineers and technicians who want to add other hidden wires or even repair them. The danger of damaging the existing one and causing mess is at its all-time high. Fortunately, there are instruments and devices for tracing or locating those wires and cables.
Wire tracers are used in the automotive, communication, and energy industries. Engineers and technicians need them to trace wires buried in the walls or even underground. They are the third eye that can see through walls and ground to accurately detect the presence of cables.
Like other instruments, wire tracers come in various forms. The most common ones are the energized wire tracers, electrical wire tracers in walls, live electrical wire tracers, and communication or signal wire tracers. The instrument you buy depends on your field of specialization. Fortunately, some of them can do more than one operation.
So, what are the best wire tracers on the market? You can be confused by different brands and models of these products. We have compiled a list of the 8 best wire tracers to consider through extensive research. Let’s start with a quick comparison before getting into the details of every product!
Top 8 Best Wire Tracers in 2023
Wire tracers can be used in different industries to locate wires and cables and identify faults in a network. They are commonly used by electrical and network engineers and technicians. You, therefore, need to only buy what works for you. Here are our best picks you can consider:
1. Fluke Networks MT-8200-60 IntelliTone Pro 200 Toner and Probe Kit [Best Overall]
The Fluke Networks MT-8200-60 KIT consists of an InteliTone toner, probe, adapters, patch cables, and test leads. This kit is used to trace wires on active networks during installation, maintenance, or fault troubleshooting and rectification. It is the best choice for network engineers and technicians because it comes complete with everything.
The Fluke Networks MT-8200-60 KIT is a top performer in the twisted pair verification during installation with an end-to-end continuity test. The IntelliTone digital toning helps remove noise or false signals from the cables, and the SmartTone analog toning device isolates paired wires.
As the manufacturer states, Fluke Networks MT-8200-60 KIT is the first network cable toner and probe to provide analog and digital signaling.
- Has built-in pair tester for identification of open, short, and twisted pairs.
- Confirms cable location with high accuracy
- Removes noise and false signal and isolates individual wire pairs
- Verifies and diagnoses ethernet service
- Verifies cable continuity
- Can tone active networks
2. Amprobe AT-6020 Advanced Wire Tracer
Amprobe AT-6020 is an advanced wire tracer best suited for electrical engineers and technicians in various fields. This device is commonly used in automotive and energy to trace wires and troubleshoot circuits. It is the best electrical wire tester we have on the list.
The Amprobe AT-6020 Advanced Wire Tracer consists of a transmitter and a receiver. The at-6000-R receiver can detect electrical signals in wires and cables using active or passive tracing methods. This receiver has a pointed tip and a sensor for tracing wires in hard-to-reach spaces such as corners, junction boxes, and other tight spaces.
The AT-6000-T is the transistor that works on energized and de-energized electrical circuits with a high working voltage of up to 600V AC or DC. It can work in three modes: high signal, low signal, and loop.
The transmitter’s breaker identification feature is also another highlight. It eliminates multiple false alarms by correctly identifying the problematic breaker or fuse. That ability makes the AT-6020 the go-to option for a live electrical wire tracer. The following are some of the applications:
- Trace energized and de-energized wires
- Identify breakers and fuses
- Map a circuit with test leads
- Trace shielded wires
- Trace underground wires
- Trace low voltage wires and data cables
- Connect to GFCI-protected circuits
- Find breaks and opens
- Simple and easy to use
- Automatically identifies breakers and eliminates multiple false alarms
- Can perform in different environments with high precision
- Has up to four receiver precision modes
- Very expensive
3. Klein Tools VDV500-820 Cable Tracer
Klein Tools VDV500-820 Cable Tracer is a complete kit with tools for tracing wires in different circuits. It comes with the following components:
- VDV500-123 Probe-Pro Tracing Probe
- VDV500-063 Toner-Pro Tone Generator
- VDV770-500 Pouch
The tone generator features Angled Bed of Nails (ABN) clips that give it firm grips on the cable. It produces five tones for identifying different cable pairs and can travel through more than 1,000 feet of communication cable. You will find an RJ11 plug to connect to a telephone network or RJ45 data plugs for toning. This toner can also check the continuity and polarity of wires.
The tracing probe pairs with the toner to trace and detect signals in wires. It has a speaker for amplifying the received signal. But if you work in a noisy environment, you can plug in your headphones using a 3.5 mm jack.
Klein Tools VDV500-820 Cable Tracer is best for telecommunication engineers and technicians.
- Has work light to enable use in dark areas or at night
- Can test both polarity and continuity of cables in a network.
- Very responsible and long-lasting probe
- Easily connects to telephone and data lines
- Has limited functions
- Relatively weak speaker on the receiver
4. Klein Tools VDV501-851 Cable Tester Kit
Klein Tools VDV501-851 Cable Tester Kit is a more advanced version of the VDV500-820 Cable Tracer. It has more features and functions, including a backlit LCD screen that displays cable length, cable ID, wire map, and test results even in dark places.
Klein Tools VDV501-851 Cable Tester Kit is a versatile tool for every telecommunication engineer. You can use it to trace and test cables for different signal types, including audio, video, and data signals. It makes cable verification during installation a breeze. Also, you can use it to identify multiple cable runs because of its location mapping remotes.
The kit consists of the following items:
- Scout® Pro 3 Tester
- Self-storing remote
- 5 LanMap™ RJ45 locator remotes
- 5 CoaxMap™ F-connector locator remotes,
- Coax F-connector
- Versatile cable tester for voice, video, and data signals
- Can test for open, short, miswire, or split pair faults
- Can measure cable length up to 2,000 feet
- Can identify a port on a switch or hub
- Backlit LCD screen for displaying measured values and test results in any condition
- Relatively affordable
- Has voltage protection and power-saving features
- The tone generator is not reliable when working with shielded cables.
5. SureTrace 61-957 Circuit Tracer
SureTrace 61-957 Circuit Tracer is another reliable electrical wire tracer in walls, floors, ceilings, and other hard-to-reach areas. Also, this device is used in automotive and other industries for tracing electrical wires and troubleshooting circuits. It is the best for open and short electrical circuits and circuit breaker identification.
This Ideal Industries’ SureTrace 61-957 consists of the following items:
- Transmitter TR-955
- Receiver RC-959 with rotating bright OLED display
- Test Lead Set TL-956
- Hard carrying case C-957
The receiver has a 360 rotatable OLED screen that can display numeric values from 0 to 99 to help you quickly measure the signal strength. On the other hand, the transmitter is versatile enough to work on energized and de-energized circuits.
This wire tracer is ideal for commercial, industrial, and residential use. It is one of the best electrical wire tracers on this list. You can use it in circuits with voltage ranges from 0-600V AC or DC.
- Rotatable OLED display for signal strength indication
- Long battery life
- Ideal for troubleshooting electrical circuits and tracing wires.
- Has up to 4 sensitivity levels to choose from
- Safe, durable, and reliable to use in different environments
6. Sperry Instruments ET64220 Wire Tracker
Having the Sperry Instruments ET64220 Wire Tracker in your arsenal is almost mandatory for audio or video installers and data communication technicians. It is a versatile wire tracer that identifies different wire types, including CAT 5, coax, speaker, phone, and non-energized wires.
This wire tracer is easy to use and has intuitive features that enhance its reliability. It has adaptor plugs such as RJ-45, RJ-11, coax automotive fuse blades and insulated clamps for safety.
- Has audible and visual indications
- Adjustable sensitivity
- Automatically shuts off after 45 minutes of idling
- Compact and lightweight
- Very affordable
- Overly simplistic with limited features and functions
7. Tempo Communications 801K Wire and Cable Tracer
801K Wire and Cable Tracer from tempo Communication is another good choice if you have a little more on your budget to spend. It comes as a kit consisting of a tone generator and probe. The set is highly compatible with almost all systems and immune to power noise. That means you can get very accurate results when used to identify wires.
The device is designed for tracing wires and identifying common problems in telephone, data, and security systems. Its probe can detect and play most audio signals. It also has a button that filters out noise from power lines and light fixtures. The result is a clear audio signal.
The Tempo 77HP/6A high-power tone generator produces quality signals that can travel through a 50,000-feet long cable. This output signal can be isolated by tracer from noise caused by other sources already mentioned.
- The probe has a built-in filter to suppress noise in the signal
- Auto power-off function to save battery life
- Adjustable sensitivity for boosted accuracy
- Polarity indication and continuity test
- Visual and signal strength indication
- Identify wires fast and accurately
- Relatively expensive
- Not for testing high voltage circuits
8. Fluke Networks 26000900 Pro3000 Tone Generator and Probe Kit
Fluke Networks Pro3000™ Tone Generator and Probe Kit are the last on our list of the best wire tracer. The kit consists of an analog tone generator that produces five different tones for cable pair identification. The audio signal produced by the generator can travel up to 10 miles through most communication cables.
You can also use this kit to accurately trace cables in communication lines, perform continuity testing, and confirm the polarity of the lines.
The Pro3000 Probe has a loudspeaker that produces audible tone and features a volume control mechanism. It is designed with a recessed on/off button that prevents turning the device on when not in use. This is an unfiltered probe that is best for inactive networks.
- Identifying cables faster with clear, precise toning.
- Its tone generator produces a loud tone that travels up to 10 miles in cables.
- Offers a direct connection to unterminated and terminated wire
- Compact and lightweight
- Not suitable for active networks
- Lack display screen
Things to Consider When Buying A Wire Tracer
Wire tracers or locators are tools for tracking electrical wiring behind walls, under the floor, and over the ceilings. They are great additions for electricians, network maintenance technicians, and DIYers to have in their arsenals. However, you can be confused about what to buy when you go to the market.
Different brands and models of wire tracers exist in the market. The products vary in capabilities and performance due to the differences in their design features. You need prior information about these tools to make the best buying decision.
Read on to find the details of everything you should know and factors to consider before purchasing a wire tracer.
1. Wire Tracing Method
Wire tracers can use either the active or passive tracing method. The type you choose depends on the intended purpose. So, let’s tell the difference between the two to help you make the best decision.
Active wire tracers consist of a transmitter and a receiver. A transmitter injects an electrical signal into the wire or cable you want to trace. Some work by contact method, where they have to be connected to the wire. But others are simply placed on the surface above the cable. You then use a receiver to trace the signal, helping you to identify routing direction and any fault along that line.
Active tracing is the preferred method when working on de-energized circuits and when you want to trace a particular line.
Passive tracing is best for energized circuits. Since the line already has an electrical signal, the wire tracer traces it without injecting an additional electrical signal. As you can guess, it cannot find a specific cable within a bundle.
2. Voltage Ratings
Wire tracers have voltage ratings to show you where they can be used. Telecommunication technicians and DIYers are good with tools with low voltage ratings. You can choose from 6-42V DC, 110-240V DC, or 12-400V AC. But if you are working on high voltage lines used in power distributions, consider higher ratings. It can be within the kilovolts range.
3. Probe Size
Wire tracers have probes – a long-pointed nose. You will find these products with different probe lengths. So, which is the best option?
There is no specific probe length to go for. However, the golden rule is to choose the one with the longest probe. They can be 7-inches long, but the value varies. These will make it easier for you to trace cables in tight or hard-to-reach places.
4. Tracing Range
Tracing length is determined by the signal strength that your wire tracer transmitter can generate. It is a primary factor you should consider when looking for an active wire tracer. Your choice is also influenced by the intended use.
If you are an electrician or a DIYer who uses the tool for tracing wires behind walls, floors, and ceilings, you should not care much about the distance. A wire tracer capable of tracing a 0-100 feet long cable should suffice. Tracing range is a primary factor if you work in utility infrastructure maintenance, where you trace long wires or cables extending hundreds of feet.
5. Depth Estimation
Some wire tracers can tell you how deep the cable is buried underground or in the wall. These are the best because it saves you time and can be used in many applications. They may not be accurate, but that information can save you time. It also helps you plan for yourself if you have to dig out the cable or repair a fault.
6. Additional Features
Wire tracers have additional features that make them more intuitive to use and save time. You can look for those with strike alerts. This technology enables a wire tracer to produce a sound when there are other underground structures you may damage when digging out a buried cable at that spot.
Another feature you may also consider is the GPS/GNSS. Such wire tracers can give you positional data that you can log into your records. It is the ideal feature for training and monitoring work-related activities.
Other features include an LCD screen, loudspeaker, headphone support, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth support, etc.
The type of wire tracer you buy depends on your budget. High-end products may cost you more, but they are often the best. But if you are working with a tight budget, consider pocket-friendly options that will give you the best value for money.
8. Warranty Period
Warranty on any product shows its quality. It will tell you how long the manufacturer is willing to back up their products. The longer the warranty period, the better.
Wire Tracer Vs. Wall Scanner
Sometimes, you may use a wire tracer to trace down the cable or wire inside the wall and ceiling. You do that with the purpose of avoiding that cable or wire when drilling, maybe you are going to install something on the wall. If this is your purpose of buying the wire tracer (to scan the wall), you should buy a wall scanner as a better option. A wall scanner can do more than trace the wire or cable. It can also let you know the conduit, studs, etc. In case of studs, you can use the cheaper ones such as stud finders.
We have reached the end of our review of the best wire tracers on the market. So, which one would you go for? The two main factors to consider are your budget and intended use.
If you are in the telecommunication or networking industry. The best wire tracer to buy is Fluke Networks MT-8200-60 KIT. The kit has a probe designed to trace cables on active or inactive networks during installation, maintenance, or fault troubleshooting and rectification. It is all you need for professional work!
But if you work in high voltage applications involving electrical circuits, Amprobe AT-6020 is the best choice. It allows you to work in high voltage circuits of up to 600V AC or DC. You can use this device to trace energized and de-energized wires, identify breakers and fuses, and many more. It is very reliable and accurate!
As a bonus, you can also consider Klein Tools VDV500-820 Cable Tracer. This is ideal if you work in the telecommunication industry as it easily connects to telephone and data lines. It gives accurate results when used to test polarity and continuity in a network and is affordable.
People commonly use wire tracer to trace the wire in the wall. In case of tracing the wire burried underground, the more powerful tool is needed. You can check these underground wire locators for better result tracing the wires underground.