Will the VA2 Wall Tie Locator reign supreme?

Many of you are probably aware that the staple metal detectors of the remedial wall tie market – White’s Wall Tie Detector or the Imp Wall Tie Locators – have reigned supreme. Both of these however have now been discontinued, leaving a massive hole in the market with virtually no replacements.

The VA2 Wall Tie Locator from Coastal Wall Ties is now one of the few available. But is it any good? Well we got our hands on one to see if we could put it through its paces. Here’s our thoughts…

First impressions

Compared to the old whites machine it certainly looks more modern, more streamlined and less like it was manufactured in the ’80s. The Bright orange colour may help you spot it before treading on it and it might actually complement your Boroscope perfectly.

The machine can used with a combination of sound, LED, and vibrate functions. So in addition to the older machines, you have both a visual and vibration indicator to alert you, which might be useful on sites where there is a lot of background noise. Although we haven’t tested what impact having this functions on will do to the battery life.

The options for volume are a little crude. Essentially there is one volume, but you can make it  louder by using a perforated cap. Although it recommends this is not used in adverse weather, this is where the LED and vibrate function would come in particularly handy.

A modern touch

Unlikely older machines this doesn’t require a conventional v9 battery and charges via a USB cable. Obviously this means you need a bit of foresight as you can’t simply pop in the spare battery (assuming you’ve thought ahead and brought one), but equally means you could probably charge in your car to and from surveys (although charging from a wall charger is recommended). A full charge will take 2-3 hours.

Another simple but handy little feature, is the lanyard which comes supplied. If used, it will certainly give you peace of mind that you are not going to drop the unit from height.

Putting it into practice

The unit is well balanced and comfortable to hold. The handle has a soft(ish) rubber grip which improves drip and is fairly ergonomic.

It did take a fair amount of getting used to. I had a moment where the unit wouldn’t respond to anything I was doing and all I had was an intermittent flashing LED (arguably this could be something that I caused). Ultimately, it sorted itself out and when it was working, did so reasonably well and I was able to detect ties fairly easily.

The head is shaped like a closed trident and the two outer heads do the detecting, and I found understanding the way it worked was helpful.

Although there are four settings for sensitivity I never felt a need to go beyond the first setting and arguably, this was too sensitive as it was difficult distinguishing the ties around doorways and windows.


This has not been tested over a long period of time, so we can’t comment on the longevity. One concern is how long the face of the detector will last when brushed along a rough wall surface? Perhaps the option of a protective case would improve the longevity of the device, or protective film to cover the head would be beneficial?

It is also worth noting we only tested it on a fairly straightforward wall with good access and without render. With more time and once tested on other more challenging structures, it may paint a different picture.

As for direct comparisons, unfortunately we do not have a Whites detector to directly compare against so all our evaluations are based on previous experience. But it certainly seems a viable alternative to the older machines, albeit when it was working….


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