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Telephone Wiring Problems

Telephone not working?

Shorts, opens, and loose wire connections are the most common causes of problems in a residential telephone system. Here are some hints on tracking down these in-house telephone gremlins before you call for service help.

Today with the consumer generally responsible for the telephone wiring inside the house, it will pay handsomely to have just a bit of knowledge of the system. Telephone problems can occur anytime, but often show up while you're working on the system or soon after.

The first thing to do is make sure you actually have telephone service to your house. Many newer homes have a "network interface" where you can plug in a working phone and test the service, and you can check with your neighbors as to whether or not they have service. There is a handy little telephone line tester tool available from hardware stores that is helpful if you're not sure if you have a working phone to use as a test instrument.

Telephone line tester

A short is when a bare "ring" wire -- usually a red wire -- touches a bare "tip" which is most often the green wire in the system. This knocks out the entire system -- none of your telephones are going to work.

Our next problem is the "open" ... this is a break in a wire or a disconnected wire. An "open" affects only the next phone or phones on that one line.

These problems can occur inside the telephone instruments themselves as well as in the house wiring. So the very first thing is do is unplug every telephone, fax or answer machine in your house. Then plug the instruments back in one at a time. If you can duplicate the problem with one instrument, you have found the culprit.

To get a picture of how this works, let's look at two ways telephone systems are wired. One method resembles an octopus, there's a separate line for each telephone in the house starting at the main telephone company connection, either the "protector" or the "network interface." In this system, an open only effects a single telephone; the rest of the phones in the house work just fine.

The second method is to run a line to a telephone, and from that point continue on to a second telephone, then onto a third or forth. So if you have an "open" at the second telephone connection, the first phone on that line works, but the phones beyond the second are dead.

The third problem, a loose connection causes static or intermittent operation, and it's the hardest problem to locate. So when you are working on a telephone line and to spare yourself a lot of grieve later, before you put a cover back on a connection make sure wire connections are tight and neat.

Before you give up and call for help, visit the University Telecommunications Services at the California State University at Sacramento. They have prepared a troubleshooting chart to help you get your telephone service working quickly. Before reporting a repair, look through their TOPIC INDEX for the symptoms you are experiencing and click on the symptom. In many instances, the suggested steps should resolve your problem. If not, the steps you performed will provide valuable information to the technicians and speed the repair process, so note the results of the tests.

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