Reviews

Best Wire Tracers: Easily Detect Wires Behind Walls

Quickly locate hidden wires and electrical issues with these top wire tracers

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BY Suzana Mijatovic / LAST UPDATED ON June 25, 2021

Every once in awhile, wires used in house construction or in other electrical installations can malfunction. Tracing wires behind walls or underground can be a real hassle. Without a proper wire tracer, you won't be able to locate them and replace them. To help you find the perfect wire tracer for the job, we have picked the top options on the market.

Best Overall
Kolsol Wire Locator
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Summary
Summary

This device traces all kinds of hidden wires, including pet fence wires, electrical wires, and metal pipes. If you want reliability and speed in resolving electrical and other wiring issues, Kolsol might be just the thing you need.

Pros
Pros
  • Offers an impressive range of up to three feet in depth and 1,000 feet in length
  • Compact, lightweight, and easy to maneuver
  • Reliable and quick in tracing wires buried underground and behind walls
  • Can also locate a specific circuit breaker
Cons
Cons
  • Fragile outer shell is prone to damage, which can make the tracer unsuitable for daily use
  • Works only on single or double-strand wires and not on multi-stranded wires
Best Overall
Kolsol Wire Locator
Best Value
Meterk Wire Tracker
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Summary
Summary

The Meterk Wire Tracker is a powerful and reliable device that traces a wide range of wires, those located both behind walls and those buried underground. It also checks the status of network and telephone lines. Thanks to the user-friendly design, everyone can use it.

Pros
Pros
  • Wire tracker is powerful enough to locate wires in a matter of seconds
  • Intuitive design makes it easy to use and maneuver
  • Device produces a loud signal sound and has an indicator light
  • Comes with a pair of earplugs and a storage bag
Cons
Cons
  • Not designed for professional use
  • Button on the probe is too loose 
  • Tracer can accidentally turn itself on in the toolbox
  • Earplugs are fragile and get damaged easily
Best Value
Meterk Wire Tracker
Honorable Mention
Extech Electrical Troubleshooting Kit
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Summary
Summary

This is a handy electrical troubleshooting kit that includes a circuit breaker finder, a wire tracer, an AC voltage detector, and more. It’s highly efficient and ideal for discovering malfunctions around the house.

Pros
Pros
  • Tracker quickly locates wires and circuit breakers
  • Comes with a LED light, an audible alarm, and a sensitivity adjustment button
  • Easy to use, carry around, and store
Cons
Cons
  • Sensitivity wheel doesn't have increment markings and might be difficult to adjust
  • Outer shell is not of the best quality and requires careful handling
Honorable Mention
Extech Electrical Troubleshooting Kit

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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Wire Tracers

  • Efficient. Wire tracers are specially designed to locate wires in hard-to-reach areas. These days, wires run underground or through the walls, which makes them harder to trace. With a proper tracker, you can locate wires with ease, whether you're in a home or commercial environment. 
  • Time-saving. A wire tracer also saves you a lot of time you would otherwise spend trying to figure out there the wires go. It can locate wires both underground and in walls within a few minutes, allowing you to perform any repair rather quickly.
  • Easy on the budget. Wire tracers are smart investments because they last for a long time. They allow you to trace wires, network cables, and open circuits for years, saving you a lot of money on electricians and other related expenses. Wire tracers are not expensive, so you won't have to spend a fortune to get one in the first place. 

Types of Wire Tracers

Active Tracing 

There are two methods of checking for wires and cables with wire tracers. The first one regards active locating, which is convenient for those who need to locate specific lines, pipes, and more. A wire tracer charges a specific line with electricity and uses a receiver to pick up the generated signal. It does that by using a direct connection or by emitting a signal. Some devices require direct attachment to the line, while others only have to be well positioned on the ground above the particular line. 

Passive Tracing

The second method is called passive wire locating. It is used when a targeted line is already charged with electricity. The tracer picks up the signal without the help of the receiver. This method, however, won’t help you find a specific wire in wire pairs or groups. It will detect power in a specific area and help you secure the place prior to drilling or other activities. 

Top Brands

Extech

Extech was founded in 1971 and is located in Boston, Mass. The company produces all kinds of tools for preventing, identifying, and resolving mechanical, electrical, and other issues. Its main goal is to equip both professionals and DIYers with reliable and high-quality gear. Extech covers a whole array of tools, from electronics to lab instruments, and the Extech Electrical Troubleshooting Kit is one of its most popular products.

Amprobe

Amprobe is one of the most popular companies when it comes to tools for electricians and HVAC technicians. It was founded in 1948 and is located in Long Island, N.Y. For more than 70 years, Amprobe has been a company trusted by both professionals and handypersons. It stands behind the first clamp meter and the first wire tracer, and it always brings new and innovative tools on the market. An example of this is the Amprobe AT-6020 Advanced Wire Tracer with 8 Sensitivity Modes.

Wire Tracers Pricing

  • $30-$40: There are a lot of reliable and quality wire tracers in this price range. Although they might be specifically designed for some situations such as underground or wall tracing, they are very effective and accurate. 
  • $50 and up: Pricier wire tracers come with more durable cases and a lot of extra features. They are designed to last and give more accuracy when used for professional and demanding tasks. For some extra cash, you can also find electrical troubleshooting kits with many accessories and versatile devices that can trace wires, cables, circuits, and more. 

Key Features

Type

Consider what type of wire tracer you need in the first place. Some of them are specifically designed for certain conditions and environments and might not work for all purposes. Along with the two main types of wire tracers (active or passive tracing), there are also several other models. There's an underground wire tracer that can help you with finding wires buried deep under the ground or circuit breakers for locating power issues. Determine which type works best for your specific issues and pick a model accordingly. 

Attachment

Along with choosing between an active or passive wire tracing, you can also opt for a particular attachment type. Some wire trackers need to be attached to the network directly, and only then they can send the signal and detect specific lines, power issues, and more. Others, however, use clamps or alligator clips to send the signal when there's no direct access to the line. 

Adjustable Features

Whether you're a professional or a DIYer, you'll need an adjustable receiver. It will allow you to pick up the signal of a different range, and consequently, detect and locate wires faster and more accurately. The best wire tracers have adjustable sensitivity modes, and users can set them up according to the situation and environment. 

Other Considerations

  • Range. Not all line finders have the same range. Although most of them detect the signal at around three feet deep and 100 feet length, that can vary a lot depending on the model. These standard wire tracers work just fine for home purposes, but you might need the one with a higher range for professional purposes. 
  • Construction. It's also important to look for a device that comes with a rugged case for more durability. Home inspectors can go with a less durable wire tracer, but professionals might want to get a sturdier model. They are likely to use the device frequently and store it with other tools, which can cause damage and shorten the lifespan of a wire tracer. 
  • Additional Accessories. Consider what extra features and accessories you might need in the future. You might need the extra range at some point, as well as signal clamps and other accessories. If you have the means, you could invest in an all-purpose tracer that would work on all kinds of cabling and last for many years. 

Best Wire Tracers Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Kolsol Wire Locator

If you're looking for a reliable device to help you detect, prevent, and resolve electrical issues, the Kolsol wire tracker is an excellent choice. It's an efficient device that traces all kinds of hidden wires, from pet fences to metal pipes. 


The Kolsol wire tracer comes with an impressive range of up to three feet in depth and 1,000 feet in length. That should be enough to let you tackle all electrical issues, from commercial to DIY ones. The tracer also accurately traces circuits and wires buried underground and behind walls. In addition, it's compact, lightweight, and easy to transport. 


The main drawback of this wire tracer is the fragile outer shell. It's made of plastic, feels a bit flimsy, and might break easily. The device, therefore, is not a perfect option for daily use where it can be highly exposed to damage. Also, the tracer works only on single strand wires, which means it can't locate and differentiate specific wires in a group.

Best Value
Meterk Wire Tracker

This wire and cable tracer is ideal for those who are looking for a versatile yet budget-friendly device to help them track lines behind walls or those buried underground. It's also handy for checking the status of network and telephone lines. Thanks to the user-friendly design, it's suitable for everyone—even first-time users can get the hang of it. 


The wire and cable tester is easy to maneuver, and it comes with a comprehensive manual that contains all the necessary information. What makes it even more appealing is the signal range of up to 3,000 meters. The tracer is quite powerful and can locate wires in different environments. It even has a loud signal sound and multiple-color indicator light for easier coordination. Additionally, a pair of earplugs and a storage bag are included in the package. 


It's important to note that this device is not a perfect option for commercial use, although it does give accurate results. Unfortunately, the tracer might break or malfunction if it's used daily or not handled carefully. Also, the button on the probe is flimsy and might accidentally turn on the tracer. The included earplugs are not of the best quality either.

Honorable Mention
Extech Electrical Troubleshooting Kit

Extech offers a high-quality tracing kit for detecting electrical issues. Along with detecting wires, this kit can also help you locate circuits, installation defects, and other malfunctions around the house. It's also quite handy for professionals because it's very powerful and highly efficient. 


The wire and circuit tester features a unique snap-on design. A transmitter and a receiver snap together for easier transport and storage. The tracer is ergonomically designed and pretty straightforward. It comes with an LED light and an audible alarm, so the results are easy to read. There's also a sensitivity adjustment button that allows you to set up the signal and detect wires in every situation. 


The button, however, doesn't have increment markings, so setting it up might be quite a challenge. It also feels a little loose. Another thing that requires careful handling is the outer shell in general. It’s rather fragile and might break if dropped or damaged in any other way.

Best DIY
ELEGIANT Wire Tracker

The ELEGIANT Wire Tracker is a lower-priced tool designed to test wires. It's sleek and features an easy-to-grip handle that allows you to see the sequence LED indicator more clearly. It also includes two ethernet ports and a headphone jack that makes it much easier to hear when it finds a cable. All of the buttons and dials are located on the front of the device and each is easy to use. 


One great aspect of the tracer is its bright aqua color. It doesn’t have the standard, dull yellow color that most tools have, which also makes it stand out in any tool chest or box. You get all of the benefits of a premium $200 wire tracer in a more conveniently-priced package. It’s long-lasting, functional, and reliable.


However, in order to power it, you will need two 9V batteries—but it doesn’t come with any. There have been reports that the audible tone feature may not function while it is on. Also, figuring out how to turn it on can be difficult. It’s more of a DIY tool and may not necessarily be designed for a professional mechanic.

Best Mid-Range
Klein Tools Cable Tracer

The Klein Tools Cable Tracer is a high-grade tool for finding and testing wires. It’s built with a strong plastic housing and includes durable ABN (angled bed of nails) clips that grip wires securely without pinching or damaging them. It’s simple to use and helps save time in the long run.


By far, one of its best features is its audible alerts. The device comes with five distinct tone cadences that alert you to different types of wires. It can also detect wires that are up to 1,000 feet away. It’s an accurate device that is compact, lightweight, and easy to carry around, either in your pocket or in a box.


While the tool may not be overly expensive, it is mid-range when it comes to price. There may be issues with the speaker not being loud enough to hear without headphones, but it does include a headphone jack for extra versatility. Also, the buttons can be turned on quite easily if it is left in a bag or pocket.

Best Premium
Fluke Networks Tone Generator

The Fluke Networks Tone Generator is designed by a top-of-the-line manufacturer. It’s a premium wire tracer that is ultra-sleek and compact, but mighty in power. It’s meant to test wires on non-active networks and is set up with five tones for multiple ways to identify wires and cables around the house or workshop.


It also includes a completely replaceable tip. It features a great grip and ergonomic handle so it is easier to hold onto. Also, perhaps its best aspect is its loud and clear speaker. But if that doesn’t work, you could always use its included 3.5mm headphone jack. It saves you time by allowing you to track down wires in minutes as well.


It is a pricey wire tracer device, but it isn’t absurdly expensive. There have been complaints with the RJ11 port not being adaptable with the RJ45 connector. Also, the batteries may not be included with the tool. The buttons may also get turned on if you leave it inside of a tool bag and move it around. It’s small and can get squished more easily inside the bag too.

Most Simple
PTE Wire Tracer and Circuit Tester

The PTE Wire Tracer and Circuit Tester features a simple yet elegant-looking design. It’s another great budget-friendly choice for a wire tracer kit that is accurate and simple to set up and use. It’s capable of detecting wires through ceilings, floors, and walls with its strong tone signal. It functions quickly and works at a depth of up to 10 feet.


Continuing with the simplicity of the tool, it has a variable sensitivity dial that lets you cycle through different wires until it identifies the correct one you’ve found. It’s precise and handy enough to fit in your pocket, a drawer, or a tool chest, too. 


Sure, the tool won’t win any awards for how it looks, but it’s functional. It’s a cheap wire tracer that is designed for the everyday homeowner and not the mechanic or electrician. It’s better for small projects and may not be the best for larger buildings. The audio through the speaker may not be the loudest either.

Best Mid-Range Priced
Sperry Instruments Wire Tracker Wire Tracer

The Sperry Instruments Wire Tracker Wire Tracer is a tool designed to help anyone with their audio visual troubles. Keeping track of cables can be annoying, and this little tool helps track down RJ45, RJ11, and coaxial cables behind walls and floors. It’s not difficult to adjust its sensitivity levels and is all around easy to use.


When it comes to price, the wire tracer is on the lower end of the spectrum. It even fits snugly and securely inside of a slot designed in the device itself. The audible tones are loud, the plastic case is tough, and it is able to detect cables a few feet deep. Also, even though it isn’t a premium priced tracer, it can differentiate between several types quickly and conveniently.


The batteries are not included with the device, so you will have to spend a few extra bucks on batteries. It may not be able to find cables that are super far away—not 1,000 feet for sure—but is great for those just behind drywall or insulation.

Tips

  • The price of wire trackers could vary a lot depending on its purpose. You can find an excellent cheap tracker for home purposes and detecting wires occasionally. If you need a professional-grade tool, however, you'll need the best tracker that money can buy. 
  • Check the voltage power of a wire tracer before you use it. Not all devices are made to withstand the same amount of power. If the voltage of the source is higher than what the tracer can endure, the results won't be accurate. This can also cause a short circuit.
  • Perform the necessary tests to see whether a wire tracer works well. It's important to know that the probe and the transmitter are at their peak power before you start tracing. Once you set the probe's sensitivity to a maximum level, move it towards the transmitter. It will allow you to check the connectivity and alert you about possible issues. 

FAQs

Q: What is a wire tracer?

It's a device that tracks wires and cables located deep inside walls, underground, or in water. It also identifies specific wires in a set or groups of other wires in the same connection. A wire tracer is perfect for detecting wiring issues and malfunctions in houses. It is also helpful in professional electrical tasks.

Q: How do wire tracers work? 

Every wire tracer has a transmitter, a receiver, and a probe. The probe itself has three sensors. They are meant to locate a wire and determine in which direction the current goes. The probe points to a particular area, and the sensor catches the signal. The transmitter produces a unique signal that is detected by the receiver. Lastly, a receiver provides a numeric value that will depend on the signal strength. 

Q: What are the most common types of wire tracers? 

The main difference between wire tracers is each one’s ability to locate energized or non-energized wires. Some of them can locate both wire types, but most models are specialized for only one of them. There's also a type of circuit tracer that detects the circuit and its voltage.  

Final Thoughts

The Kolsol Wire Locator is our top pick when it comes to wire tracers. It’s reliable, quick, and easy to use. If stored properly, the device can be used for DIY purposes and some professional applications.

For those who are on a tight budget, we recommend the Meterk Wire Tracker. It’s an inexpensive wire tracer that can tackle most electrical jobs around the house.