How to Fix a Phone Jack

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There is a common misconception that telephone wiring is difficult to operate, but because the electricity is low-voltage, it is safe to work on (when the wiring is dry). Phone jacks are incredibly durable pieces of equipment that can take years of abuse and still work perfectly fine. Unless you forgot to pay your phone bill, the odds are that your phone jack may have finally developed a problem. Do not worry because fixing a phone jack is usually one of the easiest self-repair jobs in the house.

Basics of Phone Jacks and Wiring

Before jumping in to fix your phone jack, it’s important to know the basics, and lucky for you, it’s pretty easy to understand. Telephone wires operate on one or more pairs of twisted copper wires. The most common type of copper wire is the four-strand, two twisted pairs. These jacks have red and green wires (which are one pair) and yellow and black wires (which are the other pair). The four-strand wire carries two separate phone lines, and by twisting them together, the cables won’t interfere with each other. That is perfect because if you’re on the phone, that means your call must be something important you couldn’t say over text.

Step 1: Check the Phone Cord

The first thing you should do is check the cord on your phone (if it has one) and make sure that the plug connects to the handset and the base. If that is all good and you still have no dial tone, check the other phones in your home to see if they are also dead. If you have another working phone, try plugging the phone that is not working into that jack to make sure that the phone doesn’t break. If it gets a dial tone, then you know the phone is OK. If all the phones are without dial tones, then there is a bigger issue.

Step 2: Check the Wires

Back at the phone jack that is not working, remove the cord from the phone jack, and look inside the terminal. Check the wires that contact the phone cord and see if any look bent out of shape or damaged. If a wire looks bent or out of position, use needlenose pliers to try and bend it back into place. Next, plug the phone back in and check for the dial tone.

Step 3: Remove the Phone Jack’s Cover Plate

On the backside of the plate, you should see where the phone wires connect to the terminal screws. There are usually four different colors of wires – red, green, black, and yellow. Check each of the screw terminals and ensure that they are all tight and that the cables remain secure under them.

Step 4: Check Each Individual Wire

Since the phone wire is extremely thin, it can sometimes break off at the screw. Check each wire to make sure they’re working. If you find one that is, loosen its screw and remove the broken piece of wire. Then, use the smallest notch on the strippers to release a new insulation section from the wire. Wrap the exposed wire around the terminal screw and tighten it. Be careful not to over-tighten, or the new wire may snap too!

Step 5: Check for a Dial Tone

Make sure each screw terminal has the appropriate colored wire connected to it. Before you close everything back up, plug your phone into the jack and check for a dial tone. If you do, close everything back up. If there is still no dial tone, then the problem may be where that phone line branches off from the mainline.

Step 6: Test the Demarcation Point

To troubleshoot, you will have to find where the mainline branches out inside your home. The demarcation jack is on the part of the line outside your home. You can use this jack to test the phone line. The demarcation point is located in the junction box outside your house containing electric wires and cables. Once you find it, check all of the wiring, terminals, and connectors to make sure nothing is loose or broken. If everything looks good, and you still have no dial tone, there may be a break in the line somewhere. You can opt to re-run a new line yourself or have a professional do the job for you.

How to Remove a Phone Jack

A remodel may force the relocation or removal of a phone jack – or you may be among the 30 percent of Americans who, according to “National Journal,” have decided to live without a landline. Despite containing myriad wires that make it appear extraordinarily complicated, a typical phone jack is surprisingly easy to install and even easier to remove. You will be able to do the entire removal procedure with one or two screwdrivers, but you will probably also want to fill the holes the cable passed through. That may be as easy as moving the carpet, or it may involve some wood filler.

Step 1
Unscrew the cover plate of the jack you want to remove using a Phillips screwdriver. You don’t have to worry about whether any of the wires are live; they can’t seriously shock you.

Step 2
Push aside all the wires that aren’t connected to anything. If your box is typical, this is most of the cables. You’ll probably find only two or four wires connected to terminals.

Step 3
Loosen the terminal screws with a Phillips or flat-head screwdriver, and pull off the wires connected. Snip the end of each wire off back to the insulation with wire snippers so that no bare metal is exposed.

Step 4
Unscrew the jack from the wall and pull it off. Next, pull the wire out of the back of the jack. If the jack is a flush-mount type, the cable will stick out through a hole in the wall; if it is a surface-mount type, the cable probably extends up through the floor.

Step 5
Find the other end of the cable. It may be connected to another jack or run to the network interface device, usually located on an exterior wall. Follow the cable to the point at which it passes through a wall or the floor on its way to the jack. It usually runs along or through the joists on the bottom floor of the house, and you should be able to access it by going into your basement or crawl space.

Step 6
Pull the cable toward you, and when you have the end connected to the jack, pull the staples holding the cable with a flat-head screwdriver; working your way back to the opposite connection point, remove the cable. When you get to the other end of the line, disconnect it from the jack or NID to which it’s connected.

Step 7
Patch the hole the cable passed through with the joint drywall compound if it was in the wall. If the line passed through the floor, use latex wood filler or rearrange the carpet to cover the hole. Some jacks are connected to electrical boxes on the wall, similar to electrical receptacles. A quick way to protect the tube without removing it is to screw on a cover plate.


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