Similar to this question, but I'm asking specifically about bare wires, with no socket. I don't want to flip a breaker switch, or blow a fuse.

How can I test for a current in the cable(s) without a dedicated meter?

  • 3
    What kind of current are you expecting? If you don't know, you really just shouldn't be doing this without proper equipment.
    – fredley
    Dec 10, 2014 at 20:48
  • 5
    Yeah, don't do this.
    – fredley
    Dec 10, 2014 at 21:11
  • 2
    You should include the situation in which the wires are found. Is it in your home? Outside? Do you have control over the breaker? Dec 12, 2014 at 14:23
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because any hack is inherently unsafe. Go to the store and get the proper equipment.
    – Jon
    Mar 18, 2015 at 1:39
  • 1
    @Jon This question was kinda meant as a test question in the early days of the site. It has already been closed, reopened, closed again, reopened, Deleted by Shog, undeleted, etc. Personally, I'd like to simply close/lock/delete it.
    – J. Musser
    Mar 18, 2015 at 1:45

2 Answers 2


Maybe use this.


image source

It glows when current is present. That way you won't have to touch the wire.

However, as stated by everybody, be careful.

  • What is the name of this device?
    – Mooseman
    Mar 18, 2015 at 14:13
  • 2
    Electric tester . ( as they call it in India, Asia). Mar 18, 2015 at 14:30
  • A clamp meter would work as well. It clamps around the wire without touching it and shows any current through it. (However it will not show voltage potential, which is just as dangerous) Jan 24, 2020 at 0:12

Theoretically, you could take a lightbulb (or nightlight, phone charger, etc.) and touch the wires to the bulb base or plug.


This would be EXTREMELY dangerous: you could die from the electrical shock. Even experienced electricians and crazy people don't do such a thing!

In conclusion

This is one reason there are breaker switches: so you can safely work on wiring, etc. without dying.

To answer your original question with a good and safe idea: Don't do it! Use the proper equipment.

  • This answer could be improved by explaining what exactly the danger is and why it's so dangerous. Dec 10, 2014 at 23:48
  • @starsplusplus I added : you could die from the electrical shock
    – Mooseman
    Dec 11, 2014 at 1:28
  • Excuse my electrical ignorance, but how do you get electrocuted if you're holding the bulb and not touching the wire? Dec 11, 2014 at 8:44
  • Why do you ask that? The dangerous part is handling the live, uninsulated wires.
    – Mooseman
    Dec 11, 2014 at 12:26
  • 1
    Rubber gloves do negate most of the danger though. Insulated tools help if you don't have gloves. However, given the sketchy question, this answer is probably spot on.
    – Mast
    Mar 17, 2015 at 14:38

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