Home Repair: Troubleshooting No Dial Tone On A Phone Line

When a phone has no dial tone it is important to determine if the problem is in the phone, the house wiring, or outside wiring.

You pick up the phone to make a call and there is no dial tone on the phone. What do you do? One option is to call the phone company and let them charge you money to tell you that you need to buy a new phone. A better option is to do a some detective work first. If you do end up calling the phone company (from a different phone,) they will ask you questions. With a little investigation, you will know the answer.

The phone line is connected to your house at a junction box. Phone geeks call the junction box a "network interface device." It is usually outside the home near the foundation. A no dial tone problem will fall into two categories. The phone company is responsible for any problem with the junction box or the phone line beyond. The homeowner is responsible for anything wrong from the junction box into the home. That is true unless the homeowner has purchased a service agreement from the phone company. Part of the investigation will be to determine who has to pay to fix the problem, the homeowner or the phone company.

Determine if the problem is with one phone or all of the phones in the home. If another phone is working, unplug it and plug it in where the trouble phone was. If the new phone works, you know the problem is in the phone that was plugged in there. To check further, plug the dysfunctional phone into a working phone jack. It will not work there either. It is time to buy a new phone.

If no phone in the house has a dial tone, unplug one and take it to the junction box. When you open the junction box, you will see a phone jack. Unplug the wire from the jack and plug in the phone. Does the phone have a dial tone now? If it does, it means that the problem is in the wiring to the house. If it doesn't, it is time to call the phone company because the problem is theirs.

When a cordless phone has no dial tone there are two additional considerations. Cordless phones do not work without electricity. They do not work in a blackout. Check to see that the power is on, then proceed as above. Be sure to keep a phone with a cord to use during power outages. Another thing to check is the handset battery. A cordless phone goes dead when the battery does.

If a phone has no dial tone and is plugged into an answering machine, remove the answering machine and plug the phone directly into the phone line to test it. If the phone now has a dial tone, the problem is in the answering machine.

When some phones in a house work and others do not, the problem is most likely within the house. Assume that all the non-functioning phone lines connect at some point, probably in the basement or crawl space. By tracing the lines, you can find the junction where the problem is. Many home phone wiring problems can be repaired with modular wires and jacks that need only to be plugged in to each other.

When the phone does not have a dial tone, do not panic. By following the steps above, you can find the source of the problem quickly and determine if you need to spend some money or if you just need to call the phone company to report the outage. With all the modular wiring and accessories available, most homeowners can fix their own wiring.

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