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Testing and Replacing Phone Jacks

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Telephone jacks can go bad from time to time and cause static, intermittent reception, or no dial tone at all. If your phone isn't working, you may need to install a new jack to get it up and running again. Of course, the problem could lie with the phone you are using or with your phone connection for the whole house. This guide will help you determine where the problem is and how to fix it.

Do I Have a Bad Jack?

Before you spend money on a new phone or hire an electrician to come to your house, do a few simple tests to see what repairs are necessary.
  • First, unplug all other phones, fax machines, etc. around the house and test your phone in the potentially bad jack again. If it works, the problem lies elsewhere. Try the other jacks until you have located where the issue is coming from.

  • Try connecting a new base cord from the problem jack to the phone; the cord itself could easily be damaged. If the phone works, that was your problem and you've already fixed it.

  • Test the phone on a different, working jack. If the phone works elsewhere and the base cord situation has been tested, then you probably need a new jack.

  • If you only have one jack in your home, go outside to the Outside Network Interface (ONI)-- the box that connects the phone line to your home. It should be near the power meter and have a gray phone cord running into the house..

    • Open the panel that is labeled "customer access."

    • Unplug the test plug (it looks like any phone plug). If there is goop there, it's just water-resistant sealer to protect your house's connection.

    • Plug your phone into the place the test plug used to be and see if you get a dial tone. If you do, then your house has wiring problems, which are best taken care of by an electrician.
If after conducting these simple tests, you find that the problem lies with one of the jacks in your home, never fear: the replacement process is pretty simple.

Replacing a Bad Jack

  • Buy a new jack at your local home improvement store.

  • Disconnect the lines to your house at the ONI as described above.

  • Using a screwdriver, remove the jack from the wall, and remove the wires' connections by loosening the screws. Remember the placement of the wires in case your new jack isn't color-coded.

  • If the ends of the wires look brittle or discolored, snip them off.

  • Use a utility knife to strip the gray insulation further down the cord, and then strip one-half to three-quarter inches of the colored insulation off of each wire, exposing the copper.

  • Use needle-nosed pliers to bend the ends into U shapes.

  • Slip the looped wires onto the new jack's connections and tighten the screws over them.

  • Attach the new jack to the wall and plug your phone back in.

  • Go back outside and reconnect the house at the ONI.

  • Test the phone. If it still isn't working, contact an electrician.
It may take a little time, but testing for and replacing a bad jack is simple and can save you a lot of money. Hold the phone: you're an amateur electrician now!

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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