How To Locate Wire Breaks - Electric Dog Fence System

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Electric Dog Fence Wire Break
Electric Dog Fence Wire Breaks
Having been an electric dog fence installer for over 20 years I know firsthand one of the most frustrating problems with electric in-ground pet fence systems is diagnosing, locating and repairing line breaks in your perimeter loop wire.

Locating the wire break is often a time consuming and costly endeavor and can lead to extended service call time and the associated service call charges.

I have written this guide to give you a few tips from a professional dog fence technician on how to diagnose, locate and repair a wire break in your dog containment system.

First, let’s take a moment to discuss why a wire break can occur.

Perimeter wire breaks can occur for any number of reasons, but they all typically stem back to one main cause… low grade wire. Electric Dog Fence kits often come with a very low quality 20 gauge perimeter wire. The manufacturers do this to keep their costs down and maximize profits. The problem is this wire is often not strong enough to withstand the wear and tear it is subjected to.

Common Reasons For Perimeter Wire Breaks:
  • Lawnmowers
  • Edging Equipment
  • Weed Whackers
  • Aerators
  • Rototillers
  • Installing/Repairing Utilities
  • Rodents
  • Heavy Equipment
  • Vehicle Traffic
  • Freeze/Thaw Cycle
  • Animals (Horses, Cattle, Etc.)
Diagnosing Dog Fence Wire Break
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Diagnosing A Wire Break
If you suspect a wire break in your containment system there a few ways to accurately diagnose the problem.

Many pet containment systems are self-diagnosing. Look for a warning tone or indicator light on your transmitter unit that indicates a break in the loop wire.

Another way to diagnose a break in your perimeter loop wire is if you dog is going beyond the perimeter with no visual signs of correction (i.e. no yelping, crying, wincing, etc.). While this is not always the case, this could indicate a break in your loop wire.

If you have the type of electric dog fence transmitter that has a warning sound or warning light indicator, a sure fire way to test for a wire break is what is called a short loop test. This will eliminate most other potential problems and give you a more accurate wire break diagnosis.

To perform a short loop test, simply take a short piece of copper wire and strip the insulation from both ends. Plug one end into each of the terminals on the transmitter box. If the warning sound or warning light stops, you know for sure you have a break somewhere in your perimeter wire. If the sound or light does not stop, you know there is a malfunction with your transmitter box.

Lastly, you can also use a multi-meter to test the continuity of your perimeter loop wire. If you don’t already have a multi-meter you can purchase one at your local hardware store or home center.
PetSafe Dog Fence Wire Break Locator RFA-450
Finding A Wire Break
Here is where the fun begins…

There are several steps you can take to determine where your loop wire is broken. If you have a small property this may not be too difficult. However, if you have a larger size property or acreage, this can be extremely tedious and time consuming.

The first step is to look for the obvious. Start at the transmitter box and follow the wire to where it goes through the wall and to the outside. This is a very common place for wire breaks to occur. Follow this twisted wire from your transmitter box out to your perimeter loop wire, looking for obvious disturbances to the ground. This many help you identify a potential line break. If you do not see any obvious visual disturbances from your transmitter box to the loop wire, continue your visual inspection around the entire perimeter of your loop wire, again looking for obvious wire breaks or disturbances to the ground. If you are lucky, you will find obvious wire breaks, such as utility installations, rodent damage, etc. using this method. Uncover the wire at the point of disturbance to inspect the wire for breaks.

Another common area for wire breaks is where two wires are spliced together. Poor quality wire splices or poor splice installation can easily lead to a wire break. Inspect all known wire splice connections for signs of a bad connection. If you find a poor wire splice you will want to consider upgrading to a better quality wire splice.

If none of the above methods work, you will want to consider investing in a wire break locator kit. One I recommend is the PetSafe RFA-450 Wire Break Locator Kit. This kit has everything you need, including instructions on how to find a wire break in your perimeter loop wire. In short, the kit works by sending a radio signal through your loop wire. You will then use an AM radio supplied in the kit to walk the loop and listing for a change in the sound your radio is receiving. A change in tone indicates the location of the wire break.

This method is good for perimeter wires up to 500’ in length and is only works for complete breaks.
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Other Wire Break Considerations
Before you spend hours and hours trying to locate a wire break, you may want to consider some alternatives. If your wire is very old, it may be decaying in the ground and you may be in for many wire breaks in the future. It may be time to upgrade your wire to a better quality wire to prevent future wire breaks and repair costs.

As mentioned above, many systems come from the factory with very thin 20 gauge wire. This grade of wire is the most susceptible to wire breaks, damage and decay.
I always recommend using a good quality 14 gauge solid core copper wire. One great choice is our EXTREME™ Brand Dog Fence Wire, which I have specifically designed to avoid wire breaks. EXTREME™ Brand Dog Fence Wire is not only a 14 gauge solid core copper wire, but it also has a thick 60 mil polyethylene coating to protect the wire from breaks, making this one of the best choices available for electric dog fence wire.

EXTREME™ Brand Dog Fence Wire is available in continuous spools of 500 feet, 1,000 feet, 1,500 feet and 2,000 feet and is rated for underground, underwater and surface installation.

EXTREME™ Brand Dog Fence Wire is designed to last for many, many trouble free years!
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