Cable Troubleshooting: I need suggestions re a "Recommended minimum" set of tools

Recently I've been asked to do more and more cable troubleshooting as part-time work.  I don't want to spend more money than I have to, and I'd like to purchase the tools gradually over time as justified by the work I'm getting.

Can you please recommend a minimum set of tools (and suppliers/vendors) for someone who occasionally goes to a customer's site to do trouble-shooting, including cable trouble-shooting?  I'm hoping to spend in the range of $500 altogether, not $20,000.  Am I dreaming?  For example, I've found a cable certifier at for $361.

1.  Crimping tool, including RJ45 cable ends - got it
2.  Cable tester - got it, but I need a better one
3.  Cable certifier
4.  Toner probe
5.  Punch down tool
6.  Battery voltage testing tool
7.  What am I missing, that would be in the category of an "essential" tool for someone in this business?

Dwight BaerStudentAsked:
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What sort of cables are you troubleshooting?  That is critical.

Years ago I bought a Microtest scanner to certify cables.  This was back in the Token Ring/Coax Ethernet/10M Ethernet days.  I never found an installation where continuity and length passed properly but the cable failed on any of the other specs.  Since then I just look for proper continuity on all 8 wires.

There is no doubt in my mind that there could be other issues (crosstalk, noise, etc.), but they are rare in my world.  If you want to be able to certify cables, then the expensive tool is necessary, but you've indicated you already have it.

I try to use pre-made cables when practical, but occasionally have to crimp my own.  Make sure you have a good crimper, typically one that ratchets.  It is difficult to use enough force equally on the connector otherwise.
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
Thanks CompProbSolv,
I'm talking Ethernet cabling (5e, 6, or 7?).  Sorry for not making that clear.
No, I don't yet own a cable certifier.  That was what triggered this question - Is the Ideal VDV II Pro device at  worth buying?  What do you mean, "the expensive tool is necessary"?
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
What about the toner probe at ? ($150)

Is it worth buying?
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The key is to identify what you want to be able to troubleshoot.

Based on your link, the VDV II will do some things, but not all.  You can check for proper wiring and cable length, but not crosstalk, noise, or signal loss.  If you buy the appropriate accessory, it will allow you to identify cables.  I'm presuming that you plug their devices in various ethernet jacks and then you can identify them back at the patch panel with this tool.  That can be very handy if the wiring is otherwise good.  I've used my scanner for this test, but that requires much more effort (or a second person) than this approach.

A cable toner is handy (and relatively inexpensive) for identifying cables when they are not good enough (broken or misconnected wires) for the test with the device above.

A punch-down tool is useful more for phone cabling, but can also be used with some RJ-45 punch-down panels.

The "expensive tool" to which I was referring was the class of tools that can certify all of the specs on the cable.  My Microtest was suitable for that in the 10M days, but not with 100M or gigabit.  An example of a suitable tool is the Fluke CIQ-100 which runs around $1,350US.

Even though phones are not really in my scope of work, I do seem to need to troubleshoot their wiring once in a while.  The toner is useful for that as well as a telephone buttset which is basically a telephone with alligator clips.  I picked up one of those on eBay used for about $30.

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That looks like a reasonable toner, but seems a bit expensive.  I don't recall what I paid for my (cheap) one but I don't think it was anything close to that.
A couple of other notes.....

As far as the battery tester goes, sure, you ought to have one.  Better yet, for under $10 (more if you want better accuracy) you can get a digital VOM that has battery test capabilities.  

Be aware on the RJ-45 plugs that there are different ones for stranded and solid cable.  The "fingers" that grab the wire are different.  The wrong ones will work but may give trouble down the road.  In general, though, solid-core wires should be terminated on some sort of punch-down and not on a plug.
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
Thanks CompProbSolv.  You've been very helpful.  I think I'll close this now and give you all the points.  There's probably no end to this conversation, depending which technology a person is more interested in.
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
usually Fluke testers are very good
i found one Fluke Networks MS2-100 for 500euro (650 with VAT)
the link is in dutch  - but i'm sure you'll understand

i have used fluke testers for years, and am very happy with them - but they do cost a bit
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
Thank you very very much, nobus.  I've found a place where I can rent one.
then i guess you'll be sold on it
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
This is the 2nd time I'm closing this?
yea- there are many problems with closing  on this "new" EE version...
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
Hopefully this can be finally closed now, thanks.
from what i see it is not closed yet
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
Well, I've closed it three times now.  :)  It does seem like a bug in their new version, we must be patient.
then ask a mod to help a bit - use request attention
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
Already done.
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
The problem is, when I start with "Best solution", then the module immediately goes to close the issue without allowing me to specify any assisted solutions.
And when I start with Assisted Solutions, the problem never goes away.  It doesn't close.
i also had trouble with the new system
i find it NOT user friendly - but they are working on it
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
I'm sure it will be resolved in a week or two.
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
Hopefully this will close the question.
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
Dwight BaerStudentAuthor Commented:
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