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Maintenance & Testing – Tools of the Trade (July 01, 2001)

There are a multitude of tools and testers on the market these days, but for the residential market you really only need the basics. Here is a brief outline of what features to look for and what you s...


July 1, 2001  


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There are a multitude of tools and testers on the market these days, but for the residential market you really only need the basics. Here is a brief outline of what features to look for and what you should expect to pay (prices in $US):

DMMs (digital multimeters) are practically free these days, but you will not want to be without one when testing voltages and continuity.

Continuity testers are available for all of the cable types described in this article, and run about $79 for a combination UTP/F tester to around $290 for multimode fiber checkers.

Toners can be purchased separately, but a toner mode is typically included in today’s wire mapper products. Various audible melodies are injected into a cable, which can then be traced through the house using any standard inductive probe/amplifier. If the toner is properly designed, it will work with UTP, STP, FTP and even coax cables.

Wire mappers start at $79 and will test all eight wires in your UTP cables, which have been terminated with RJ-45 connectors. (Wire mappers will usually also check the shield connection, but STP cables are rarely used in North America). These testers will detect opens, shorts, crossed wires and split pairs. Wire mappers in the $300 range will have an LCD display, rather than LEDs, and may have TDR (time domain reflectometer) capability.

Coaxial testers are available as standalone products or as a wire mapper feature. The individual testers are in the $90 price range.

Fiber checkers for multimode cable start at $280, with both a source and receiver built in. These checkers would typically function at a wavelength of 850 nanometers (nm) and will have an accuracy of +/- 2 decibel milliwatts, which is good enough for continuity testing.

TDR capability is available in standalone products starting at $349, but for that price you can get an entire wiremap tester. The TDR function allows you to: measure the distance to a fault; measure the amount of remaining cable left on a spool; and measure the distance to an Ethernet hub or a PC.


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