How to Find Out if You Have RG-6 Coax Cable in Your House

By Jacob Workman

Cable has become the way for millions of people to receive television, Internet and phone service across the globe. With the FCC switching to digital, it's important to have proper cabling. How well a signal travels into a home with cable service will depend on the actual coaxial cable itself. There are two main types of coaxial cable used in the home: RG-59 and RG-6. Manufacturers normally package RG-59 with their video and audio components because it's cheaper. However, a digital signal will perform better with RG-6 since it doesn't have to contend with signal leakage and improper shielding normally associated with RG-59. Learning how to identify the cables and making necessary changes can help eliminate current and future problems as well as help you troubleshoot other issues.

Things You'll Need

  • Phillip or flathead screwdriver
  • Wrench, 3/8 inch
  • Wire cutters
  • Cable crimpers (optional)
  • Fittings (optional)

Step 1

Unscrew the wall plate that houses the barrel connector for cable service. Depending on how well the plates were screwed in and whether or not a plastic anchor was used, there should only be a top and bottom screw.

Step 2

There may be a plastic housing once the plate is removed. You shouldn't have to remove this, but sometimes it is necessary so that you can pull the cable.

Step 3

Unscrew the cable from the back of the wall plate using the wrench. Try not to use pliers as they scratch up the fitting.

Step 4

Inspect the cable. Be careful as the stinger (the copper center surrounded by the aluminum and insulated shielding) may be longer than you need. You can cut this flush with the top of the fitting with the wire cutters. RG-59 will have a very thin copper conductor. Also, if the cable has two sides that can be peeled off one from another, it's more than likely RG-59. RG-6 normally comes as a single cable and the copper conductor is thicker in diameter.

Step 5

Check the outside of the cable. Normally there's writing that will identify the type. You may have to pull a little bit before some writing appears. Another way to verify the cable is to cut through the outer rubber coating to look at the shielding. Make sure you have enough slack for this and also an extra fitting and a pair of crimpers. An RG-6 cable has an extra layer of aluminum shielding over and under the inner braiding that identifies it as such.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use RG-59 for short distances (between 10 and 15 feet). It will generally do the trick for this kind of application if the signal is analog.
  • Make sure all of the cabling in your house is RG-6. Check in basements, attics, crawl spaces and behind wall plates. Call your cable company and ask if they charge to come out and replace it. The best time to try and have it replaced is when you're having problems. The cable company is more likely to replace additional cabling that could cause problems for free in that situation.