How to Troubleshoot No Dial Tone on Your Phone Line

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If you pick up the phone and there's no dial tone, wait before asking your phone service provider to come out and see what's wrong. Doing a little troubleshooting can help you figure out if the problem is with the company's equipment, or if one of your phones or phone jacks is the culprit. Most phone companies are only responsible for repairing their equipment outside your home, unless you have a maintenance agreement for repairs inside your home. By troubleshooting the problem, you have the option of fixing a faulty jack yourself, or paying a professional to do the work.

Things You'll Need

  • Non-cordless phone
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Check to see if any additional phone lines in your house are working. If they aren't, contact your phone service provider.

  • Make sure all the phone receivers in your house are hung up correctly. Check that every telephone line is properly plugged into its phone jack. If you have a problem with just one phone, plug a different phone into that jack. If the second phone works, the problem lies in the first phone.

  • Call your home number with a cell phone to see what happens. You might hear the home number ringing or it may go straight to voice mail, if you have that service. You also might get a busy signal or a hear message from the phone company saying the phone is out of service or your service has been disconnected. Contact your phone company in the last two cases.

  • Unplug each phone and answering machine in your house, one at a time. Wait 30 seconds after unplugging the first device. Pick up another phone to see if there's a dial tone -- if there is, then the first phone may be faulty. If not, continue unplugging phones in the same way and check for dial tone. If you find a phone that doesn't work, plug all your other phones back in and see if they work properly. The faulty phone should be replaced.

  • Take a plug-in phone to your network interface device (NID), a gray box located on the outside of your house. In a rural area, the box may be located on the telephone pole. Open the box by unscrewing the screw with a flat-head screwdrivier. If you have fiber-optic phone service, you will have a similar box. If you have cable phone service, you will have a modem inside the house.

  • Disconnect the plug from the test jack inside the exterior box. This disconnects your inside wiring from phone company's line. If you have more than one line, select the test jack for the line that is causing the problem. Plug your phone into the jack; this plugs you directly into the phone company's line. If you have a cable modem, plug the phone directly into the jack on the modem.

  • Pick up the phone receiver to see if there's a dial tone. If there's no dial tone, the problem is with your outside wiring. If there is a dial tone, the trouble is caused by your inside wiring, equipment or jacks.

  • Disconnect your phone from the test jack in the box and securely reinsert the original plug. Close the cover of the box and screw the fastener down until the cover is snug. If you have a cable modem, simply unplug the phone from the modem.

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