Finding a Wire Break In a New Installation

A customer asks, what do you do if there is a wire break in a new installation? And how do you go about finding the wire break if you think it is in the twisted wire?

On Tuesday my new Dogtra EF-3000 new transmitter indicated a possible wire break. I can’t find it. This is what I did so far:

  • Connected 10ft small loop to transmitter and connection complete, both lights on.
  • Put on rf choke and connected wires to the choke, again both lights on.
  • Took am radio out to fence and started walking around perimeter, had signal all the way around, some places weaker than others, but still a signal. The weakest area was right where the twisted wire connects to both ends of fence. One side had a strong signal, other side was none to very weak until I got about 10-15 ft away from the splice and then I would pick up signal again.

This area of the fence has not been buried yet and I cannot see any visible knicks or cuts in this wire. I had changed the splice on this side of the twisted wire but this still did not fix.

Can the twisted wire be bad? And if so how do I check it? Or should I put some new wire down from the splice to 10-15 ft out?

Also, how close do you have to be to get the signal on the am radio? Sometimes I had to get as close as a couple inches from the buried wire to pick up signal? Is this normal?

So far, the dogs have done pretty well with the fence, but I haven’t let them loose since Monday. I need to get this fixed soon and hope I don’t have to put all new wire in.

Any help of suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Hopefully I’ll get this resolved tomorrow.

Thanks again for your help,

Hi Karen,

That we get both lights on when we connect it to a dummy loop or the RF choke tells me that the system works fine, and that we really do have a break.

If you have a new installation and have not mowed or edged the property since the installation, the culprits are almost always a bad splice. I would uncover all the splices and remove the splice, expose some wire, then physically twist the wire together so you can see you have a good join. Do this for each splice until the system shows no wire break.

If the break appeared soon after the lawn was mowed or edged, the prime suspects should be along the path of the edger and wherever the wire was not buried.

It is extremely, extremely rare for a good section of wire to go bad for no reason. Particularly if the wire is new. I think it is safe to assume the chance of this is essentially zero. I would concentrate on the above two causes first.

If you have no luck with that, we can use the RF choke to find the break

Finding a break in the twisted wire section is tricky, because the two wires twisted together are designed cancel each other out and hence give off no signal that we can detect on our AM radio. Since this is such a short distance, we usually assume the break is not in the twisted wire.

If we are concerned there are two things we can do. (1) We can connect only one of the two boundary wire leads to the RF choke, so that only one of the two twisted wires will be active. The noise should be audible on the AM radio on only one side of the loop, where you have the break. or (2) As you suggested we can bypass the twisted wire, by temporarily laying two regular wires from the base station to the start of the regular wire section and temporarily splicing them in. If this fixes the problem, we know the break was somewhere in the twisted wire and just replace that section.

The distance the signal is audible from the boundary wire is determined by the boundary width setting. To make the signal audible from further away, you can turn up the boundary width. You want the signal to go the minimum possible distance that you can still hear it. If you turn it up to wide, it makes finding the break difficult, because the section where there is a break is less obviously silent.

Let us know how it goes.

Stewart Aldous
(678) 389 6661

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1 Comment

  1. Joey Pruett says:


    The boundary wire signal seems very weak whenever my wire is buried under or is even near some basalt perma landscape rock. I’m pretty sure that the rock is disrupting the signal but wanted to get your opinion please?

    ADMIN – Hi Joey,

    Igneous rocks have high density which leads me to believe that you are correct. Perhaps you want that portion of the fence to be inside an old hose or PVC pipe.

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