5 ways to find a broken wire in a wall

7 min

Turning off the light can occur for several reasons, and if it has nothing to do with preventive or repair work on the line, then many probably begin to personally establish the reasons for such an unpleasant situation. It is understandable that if there is light in neighboring apartments and houses, then your problem is of a local nature. And it’s good in this case if you just got knocked out of the machine from overloading the network, since to return the electricity it will be enough to turn it on again. It will be a little more problematic if the machine, or rather its connection area, burns out due to an unreliable wire. Then you have to call an electrician and buy a new machine for replacement.

However, all these cases are quite common and are mostly noticed on time, which leads to quick and safe problem solving. Nevertheless, if everything is in order in the switchboard, and at home or in some specific part of it, the flow of electricity is still not observed, then the wire break is most likely. In this case, the task of eliminating the problem becomes much more complicated, since, first of all, you have to find the place of the break, or even the wiring itself inside the walls, which can be difficult if you do not know its location. And today we will consider several ways to help you cope with this.

Causes of damage

If you decide not to wait for a specialist and find a wire break on your own, then with a high probability you can succeed, even in the absence of special skills and tools. However, before embarking on these searches, it will probably be useful for you to know about the possible causes of damage to the wiring. Despite the fact that there are not many such reasons, it will be better if you know in advance what to prepare for after finding the wiring and the breakage point. In most cases, many of the causes of wire breaks are “man-made”. That is, the point here is, of course, not in the impact on the environment, but in the human factor of the problems that arise.

For example, a fairly common practice in the past was twisting wires, wrapped at the final stage with electrical tape, which led to a “durable and reliable” connection. It is clear that this type of connection, albeit unacceptable, but still took place, and even now it can be found in apartments where repairs have not been carried out since the house was put into operation. And despite the fact that they can perform their function for a long time, over time, such connections begin to get very hot, which can lead to malfunctions, or even fire.

Another, no less rare, subjective cause of a break can be drilling holes and hammering nails into walls, relying on intuition. You may not have X-ray vision to pre-locate the wiring, but if the light goes out while making a hole in the wall, then you hit the bull’s-eye. True, then it won’t take long to look for the place of the cliff. Only now it is possible that you can just slightly touch the wire, damaging the insulation. Such a plot is less predictable, since the disappearance of light may not follow. At least instantly. With slight damage, the wiring can last for some more time, but then a short circuit will inevitably happen, and you will not even remember what could have caused it.

The most difficult cause of wire breakage in terms of localization is banal aging. Yes, over time, wires wear out, becoming more fragile, and the occurrence of a break can occur absolutely anywhere. Given the absolute spontaneity of the emergence of problems for this reason, their detection is considered the most difficult, especially because no logical chains can be built here simply will not be possible.

Finding a cliff

So, all the houses along the street and in the area with light, no problems were found in the switchboard either, which means that the problem is probably hidden somewhere inside the walls of your possessions. And after we figured out the possible causes of wiring faults, it’s time to move on to the main topic – finding a wire break in the wall. There are several relevant ways to accomplish this difficult task, each of which we will consider in a little more detail, which will probably be useful to you in the future.


Yes, despite the fact that above we have already assumed that there is no benefit from logical reasoning in some scenarios, it still remains one of the tools for determining the location of the accident, which many resort to first of all. In this case, it is worthwhile to analyze in detail all possible “hints” that have occurred recently. Try to remember if the lights were blinking, or if your neighbors had electrical problems. If repair work has recently been carried out, then you may be able to localize the outbreak faster. Pay attention to smells, because if a short circuit occurs, then it is likely that you will smell the characteristic smell of melted insulation. All these, of course, are not the most accurate sources of information, however, this may be enough to find the break in time.

Indicator screwdriver

If it so happened that none of the logical conclusions fits your situation and does not allow you to determine the place of the accident, then from the available means (at least those that a good owner should have) an indicator screwdriver may be useful. Of course, its usefulness can be disputed, but in some cases it allows at least to localize the area of ​​damage to the wire. True, it works in a rather peculiar way, since by checking the presence of a phase, you can check the integrity of only the phase wire, but not zero. And this is not the only drawback of this method, since even if the indicator on the screwdriver lights up, this may not mean that there is no problem at all.

Simply put, with the help of an indicator screwdriver, it is quite possible to determine the approximate section of the break, but this information does not claim to be one hundred percent reliable. And the lack of experience in the field of electrical engineering can negatively affect the search process. By the way, the indicator indicates the damaged area, but it should be located no further than 30 cm from the place of diagnosis. Nevertheless, many owners probably have such a screwdriver, since its cost is much lower than that of specialized devices.

Wiring detectors

Known as alarms or locators, wire detectors are specialized tools for finding hidden or exposed wires that carry electrical current, as well as metal structures. Naturally, in the category of models of these devices, several different types are distinguished, however, you will need the manual option to find the exact location of the wire break. After all, you probably won’t need complex and expensive models that require connection to a laptop for such search operations. Yes, despite the fact that a good manual wiring finder will cost you a couple of times more expensive signaling devices found among electricians (which are cheaper representatives of wiring detectors), they will still greatly simplify the search.

With all this, these devices simultaneously solve two problems, including not only localizing the break, but also finding the route itself, which is extremely practical, especially if the wiring in your house or apartment was carried out contrary to accepted standards. That is, if the wires do not run vertically and horizontally, then no screwdrivers and testers will help you. That is why these devices are considered one of the most reliable in this situation, even if their price range seems to be quite wide.

Non-standard options

Of course, if among the above tools you only have logic at your disposal, which, for example, did not help you determine the location of the wire break in the wall, then you can resort to not the most standard “old-fashioned” methods. True, they will require you to have a certain technique, which we will list below.


So you probably might not have an idea about this, especially if you are far from an electrician, but an ordinary radio receiver can help in your search. And the most convenient option would be a small portable radio. To do this, it will be enough to tune it to the medium wave frequency and drive it near the wall. When distortion or crackling starts to appear in the sound, you will realize that you have come across a wiring. Having determined its location, you can proceed to the second phase of the search. Here you shouldn’t have any problems either, since by driving the radio along the direction of the wires, the interference will disappear or change noticeably in the test where the accident occurred.


If you are a modern person, then the radio receiver may not be in your house. But it is more likely that there is a microphone that can be connected to a device that reads and records / reproduces sounds. It can be a music system, a DVD player, and much more. As for the search process itself, it is similar to the previous one. All you need to do is drive along the wall at the suspected wiring site and listen for interference.

It is also worth remembering that these two methods cannot be called the best, since there may be significant errors in their “results”. That is, what is detected by ear may not be exactly in the place where you pick up this interference.


Summing up, it is worth noting that all of the listed methods of detecting wire breaks cannot guarantee you high accuracy, except perhaps for locators. Especially if you are not very well versed in this area. And even if you find a break, then you should not neglect the services of specialists, contacting whom may be the best solution to the problem.

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Passionate about DIY for over 10 years and all the new tools, I give you through this blog all my advice, tips, tests in all areas: carpentry, electricity, masonry, gardening, home automation ...


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