How To Test If RCA Cables Are Bad (With Expert Tips)

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RCA cables are used to transmit both analog audio and video signals into the output devices. But they also might be the reason for producing weird noises. 

So, what are the ways we can know how to test if RCA cables are bad?

The cable can be tested to see if it functions or not using a multimeter. For that, you have to attach the clip to both the tip of the cable. Do the same thing for the cable’s shield. If the multimeter doesn’t make any sound then the cable is either broken or bad. 

There is yet another method you can use to test it without a multimeter. However, to do that, you must read this article from start to finish.

Keep reading!

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How Do RCA Cables Works?

How Do RCA Cables Works

One of the first cables used to transmit audio and video streams was the RCA cable. It still finds widespread use even though it only transmits analog signals. By describing how RCA cables function, we may explain this scenario.

It works by sending the analog signal without requiring any specialized technological setups. It transmits video and audio signals from the input device toward the output device.

Symptoms Of Bad RCA Cables

According to research, the main RCA cable lasts for a lifetime. But its exposed metal connectors and the plug’s and cable tubing’s joint is prone to deterioration. This causes it to rust and degrades over time. 

This is among the main causes of RCA cables going bad. But now the question is, what are the symptoms of it?

It feeds the amplifier’s input with the signal after sending the audio from the stereo. For this reason, you might hear weird sounds if the RCA cables are damaged or broken. 

The sounds such as humming, buzzing, and whining could be heard while you’re using it. It’s because the audio signal isn’t able to flow through the cables properly. 

But it can also be due to the plugs being too loose or not properly working. Additionally, if one channel of the amplifier stopped working, then it can also happen. The only way to be sure is to test the cables on your own.

How To Test If RCA Cables Are Bad?

how to test if rca cables are bad

As we already mentioned that RCA cables can go bad and also its symptoms. But only looking for the symptoms can sometimes be deceiving. Because other minor things can also cause it. 

In order to determine whether the cable is genuinely damaged, it is crucial to test it. There are two methods to do it. One is by using a multimeter and another one is without it.

Method 1: With Multimeter

The best technique for testing an RCA cable is to use a multimeter. You can also measure the voltage and also capacitance with it. 

First, you have to turn the settings to continuity in the multimeter. It would help us to ensure that there’s no break in the cable. 

The RCA cable has two components including a tip and an outer ring called a shield. Then put an alligator clip on both tips of the plug attached to the multimeter. 

Then plug in the alligator clip onto the tip of the RCA cable on one side. Then use the other alligator clip to touch the tip of the cable’s other end. Upon touching, the multimeter would make a sound and also show the voltage. 

If the cables are bad then they wouldn’t show any voltage nor would make any sound. Then you should do the same thing with the shield. If you don’t hear any sound upon touching, that means the cable is bad or broken. 

Method 2: Without Multimeter

You can test your RCA cable without a multimeter by using a phase tester. It has a positive and negative plug, as well as an RCA jack. It has a speaker testing button, as well as a hertz and volume adjusting button. 

First, you have to hook up the positive and negative plugs to the speaker. The positive plug must be attached to the positive port of the speaker. The same should be done for the negative plug. 

Press the speaker testing button to see if the speaker works or not. Now take one end of the RCA cable and insert it into the amplifier. Get an RCA coupler and attach it to the RCA jack of the phase tester.

Then insert either side of the RCA cable into the phase tester’s RCA jack. If the speaker doesn’t make any sound, then it means that the cable is bad. But if it does, then there’s no problem with the cable, and can still be used. 

Not working Polk subwoofer and other sound systems can also be tested using these methods. 

How To Fix Bad RCA Cables

How To Fix Bad RCA Cables

Like with other cables, RCA cables breaking down is a pretty regular problem. You can change the cable but it would cost a few dollars. Instead, it is preferable to do the repair yourself.

Step 1: Examining The Cable

Determine the sort of cable you have by looking at it. RCA cables can have metal connections or molded plastic connectors. Go straight to Step 3 if you have metal connectors.

Step 2: Cutting The Cables

Visit an electronics store to buy metal RCA connections. To prevent issues, swap out the connectors on the cable’s two ends.

An RCA cable is made up of a sleeve and a metal tip. The cable wires’ proper soldering location in the connector is visible when the sleeve portion is unscrewed. If the break is smaller than 1/8 inch, it is fixable by adding more solder to the gap.

To remove the old connector, cut the cable directly below it using your wire cutter.

Step 3: Replacing The Connectors

After removing the connector to reveal the wire, inspect the cable. 

Using your wire strippers, remove the cable’s outer insulation, which is roughly 3/4 inch thick. Next, remove roughly 1/2 inch of the inner core insulation.

Make sure the cable is first inserted into the connector sleeve. The cable end should be inserted into the sleeve’s bottom hole to do this.

Step 4: Soldering The Cable

Soldering The Cable

In order to connect the tip, first place the inner wire in the small hole. The outer wire is then passed through the little hole created for the sleeve connection. Use your soldering gun to apply solder to these areas. 

When done, secure the sleeve by screwing it.

Using the most latest RCA cables is the best approach to prevent these problems. The highest-reviewed products are shown below for your convenience.

Amazon Basics 3.5mm RCA Audio Stereo Cable

Amazon Basics 4 Feet RCA Adapter Audio Stereo Cable

  • Brand: Amazon Basics
  • Model: 2 RCA to 1 3.5mm
  • Connector Type: RCA, Auxiliary
  • Cable: AUX
  • Compatible Devices: Tablet, Smartphone and Speaker
  • Color: Black
  • Connector Gender: Male-to-Male
KabelDirekt 3ft RCA Stereo Audio Cable

KabelDirekt 3ft RCA/Phono Stereo Audio Cable

  • Brand: KabelDirekt
  • Connector: 2rca to 2rca
  • Cable Type: Coaxial
  • Compatible Devices: Subwoofers, A/V receivers, tape decks, Amplifiers, PC, speakers, TV, stereo systems, Hi-Fi systems Subwoofers and See more
  • Color: Black
  • Connector Gender: Male-to-Male
Monoprice 1.5ft Premium 2 RCA Plug Cable

Monoprice 1.5ft Premium 2 RCA Plug Cable

  • Brand: Monoprice
  • Connector Type: Optional
  • Cable Type: HDMI
  • Color: Black
  • Connector Gender: Female and Male
  • Unit Count: 1.5 Foot
  • Gauge: 22.0

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Long Until An RCA Wire Starts To Degrade?

Regular RCA cables are 100 feet. Due to analog technology, the image quality can decrease at longer lengths. But it is hardly evident at 100′ or less. With a standard cable, you can climb up to 300′, although the quality will differ.

How Does A Multimeter Measure RCA Output?

A multimeter should first be tuned to AC voltage. Play the test tone again after that. Next, increase the volume. Place the negative lead on the outside shield and the positive lead on the middle pin.

Are Shorter RCA Cables Better?

There will unavoidably be a reduction in sound quality when the sound travels through the conductors. Therefore, the output will be better the shorter the wire is.

Does Component Video Work With Any RCA Cable?

There are no issues using RCA cables for SPDIF, audio, composite video, or component video. Only to avoid misunderstanding, the colors have been used.

Wrapping Up

Hope now you know how to test if RCA cables are bad.

Over time, they deteriorate, and eventually, they stop working or start making strange noises.

Before you call an electrician, try the above methods on your own. Along with saving you money, it would also offer a quick solution.

Stay safe!

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