4 steps for troubleshooting a challenging locate


Last month, Cody Mecham — regional sales manager at McLaughlin — walked us through the most common locating mistakes he sees from both rookie and seasoned locators. Since April is Safe Digging Month, we’re continuing the conversation with four tips for troubleshooting a difficult locate.


Mecham encourages locators to utilize these four steps so they can adjust mid-locate if they encounter a problem like bleed off.


Step 1: Change your grounds


The first step to getting a better locate is to change your grounds. In other words, you want to move the ground stake to the opposite side of the target utility. This will help to eliminate signals from other utilities in the ground that may be causing bleed off (that’s when more than one utility is energized in the locating process), which can lead to false or inaccurate locates.


Step 2: Change your frequency


With locating, it’s important to use every tool in your tool belt. At times, that means venturing from the frequencies you might be most comfortable with and trying others that are available on your locator. Even if it’s counterintuitive to what you learned early on in your career, and even if that one frequency “always works for you,” changing up your frequency can often help you get that accurate locate.


Step 3: Change your power method


Still having issues after trying steps 1 and 2? It’s time to change up your power method. If you’re direct connected, switch to inductive locating. If you’re using inductive locating, try the direct connect method. Maybe you’ve tried both of those — you’ll have to move on to coil clamp if the jobsite allows for it. Similar to trying every frequency at your disposal, using a different power method can help you remedy precision issues.


Step 4: Change your angle


If steps 1 through 3 don’t fix the issue, it’s time to change your angle or move. Imagine you’re locating at a person’s house, and you’re having trouble finding the service. Locate the neighbor’s service to the main, and locate the main back into the customer’s service that you’re trying to find. Essentially, you’re going in the out door. A lot of times, using this method means you’ll get current to flow better, you’ll have better success and it’ll get you home with a quality locate.


Once you’ve gone through these four steps, regardless of what brand of utility locator you’re carrying, you’ve done one of two things: You’ve either successfully located the utility, or you’ve identified an un-locatable utility and it’s time to call in the vacuum excavator to investigate.


For more information on utility locators available from McLaughlin, visit mclaughlinunderground.com or give us a call at (864)-277-5870.

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