How to Locate a Broken Wire

Wires form the basis of any electrical circuit, but over time, they can become worn and damaged, and even break, rendering a circuit useless and sometimes dangerous. A standard multimeter can work as a wire break locator by performing a continuity test on a circuit. Once you find where the break is, the wire can be fixed or replaced. Remember to always be particularly careful when working with electricity. Make sure the devices are switched off, never work anywhere near water and wear gloves.

Electrical Cable Cut in Half
credit: Jan Stromme/The Image Bank/GettyImages
How to Locate a Broken Wire

What Are the Causes of Broken Wires?

Wires can be subject to aging over time, but there can be other problems that can lead to wire breaks or shorts. In older homes, wires tend to become damaged by dry rot or erode quicker. Rodents can also chew through wires and cause breakages. Loose or poorly soldered wire connections can come apart, too.

How Can You Find a Broken Wire?

To find a broken wire, you'll first need to test the device as a whole. This can be done using a digital multimeter. Multimeters are handheld tools that can take measurements of voltage, amperage, capacitance and resistance.

First, switch off the device you're testing. Unlike with other circuit tests, the multimeter can supply the power needed to conduct the test. Then, turn on your multimeter and set it to the "continuity" setting. Place the meter leads across the device's cord. Place the black end of the multimeter into the round ground port of the device. Place the red in the smaller of the two slotted ports on the device. Make sure the leads are connected to metal in order for the multimeter to work properly. If the resistance is zero, you've found the break. If the resistance isn't zero, continue searching along the cord until you get a zero reading. The zero reading is the indicator of a broken wire.

How Can A Broken Wire Be Fixed?

After using your multimeter as a wire break detector, you can go about fixing the problem. More often than not, the broken wire will need replacing entirely. You should test the new wire with your multimeter before installing it to check that it too isn't broken.

Some very minor wire breaks can be fixed with wire splices or joints. They can then be soldered and covered with electrical tape. There are a variety of different types of wire splice, depending on the types of wires you're fixing.


Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle is a freelance writer based in Manchester, UK. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Daily Telegraph, Professional Photography Magazine, Bustle, Ravishly and more. When not writing, she enjoys pubs, knitting, nature and mysteries.