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How to Use a Multimeter for Dummies

How to Use a Multimeter for Dummies

One of the devices you’ll need when fixing electrical issues in your home or car is a multimeter. The device comes in handy in every context you use it whether you’re a pro or a beginner. In this guide, you’re going to learn the common features of a multimeter and how to use it. You’ll find the guide useful if you’re starting out in electronics.

What is a Multimeter and how is it Useful?


As a measurement tool, a multimeter is necessary for electronics since it is a combination of three essential features. The features include an ammeter, an ohmmeter, and a voltmeter. A multimeter gives you useful insights into how your circuits are working.

You can use a multimeter to check if the switch is on or if the conducting wire in a circuit is broken. It also comes in handy when determining the amount of current flowing in a circuit. It can help you know the power left on your batteries.

Understanding AC and DC

The first thing to learn before using a multimeter is to understand the current. There are two current used to run machines. That is AC and DC. The AC is for alternative current and DC is direct current.

Alternative current periodically reverses direction and is mainly used in appliances in houses and anything you can plug into the wall. DC does not change direction and only travels from negatively charged to positively charged. The DC is widely used in small electronics such as laptops, phones, tablets among many more.

Breaking Down the Parts of a Multimeter

Multimeters come with different accuracy levels and functionalities. Most of them are affordable and useful in measuring the most important values in a circuit (resistance, current, and voltage). The best one for you will depend on your budget and what you intend to do. Discussed below are the four essential sections you’ll find in multimeters.

1. Probes

You’ll find two probes on your multimeter. One of the probes is red while the other one is black. You should always connect the black probe to the COM port. You can connect the red probe to one of the other remaining ports based on the measurement you want to take.

2. Ports

The ports allow you to plug in the probes in the multimeter. Also known as the “COM” port, the “-“ port is for connecting the black probe to the meter. You’ll notice it by its black color. VΩ is for measuring resistance and voltage and testing continuity while µAmA is for measuring the current. You’ll use 10A when measuring currents greater than 200mA.

3. Selection Knob

The selection knob comes in handy when selecting what you want to measure. Most multimeters have a selection knob with an arrow at the front side to guide you when taking voltage or resistance measurements. The knob usually points to a number of voltage, current, and resistance calibrations.

4. Display

You can view all the taken measurements on the display of the multimeter. Most multimeters come with an LCD backlight display that makes them ideal for use in dim-lit areas. The display can provide you with labels and notifications based on how you want to use the meter.

How to Measure Voltage

A multimeter can help you AC voltage or DC voltage measurement. On the device, the V with a wavy line is for AC voltage while the V with a straight line is for DC voltage. You should set the mode to V with a straight line when measuring DC voltage. Set the mode to V with a wavy line to measure AC voltage.

Connect the red probe to the port with a V sign beside it. Be sure to have the red probe connected to the positive side of the electrical component. Proceed with connecting the COM probe to the other side of the electrical components. You’ll get the precise voltage value on the display if you connected the probes correctly.

How to Measure Resistance

Begin with plugging the red probe into the port on the right side of your multimeter. Adjust the selection knob to point to the resistance section as you connect the probes to the leads of the resistor. It doesn’t matter how you connect the leads since the results will still be the same.

What is Continuity and How Can You Test it?

In electronics, continuity is a measure of current transfer between two electrical components connected together. Most multimeters come with a feature for testing the continuity of your electrical components or circuity. The feature helps you identify faulty wires or other bugs easily. To use it, you need to set the dial to continuity mode, which looks like a speaker.

You’ll always hear a continuous sound when there’s power flowing in your circuit. If you don’t hear the continuous sound, check to see if you connected your electrical components properly. Be sure to turn off the power supply of all electrical components that you’re testing for continuity.

Different Types of Multimeters

1. Analog Multimeters

Analog multimeters were prevalent before the digital ones came to the market. Though they’re cheaper than the digital ones, they are difficult to read. They feature a pointed scale that resembles a needle for the readings.

2. Digital Multimeters

  • Autoranging Multimeter

Autoranging multimeters are easy to use though they’re expensive. They feature a central knob with fewer calibrations. You don’t necessarily need to switch the central knob to what you want to measure when using the Autoranging multimeter.

  • Clamp Digital Multimeter

You’ll find the clamp digital multimeter useful when measuring the flow of electricity. The device comes with probes for measuring volts and a clamp for measuring the amps. A clamp digital multimeter also comes with different types of settings for different measurements.

  • Fluke Digital Multimeter

A fluke digital multimeter features a large display screen and different collaboration functions. It comes in handy when measuring electrical resistance and voltage. You can find fluke digital multimeters with advanced features for measuring pressure, humidity, temperature, frequency, and duty circle.

Beginner Tips When Using a Multimeter

Always set the multimeter to read voltage after you finish using it. You won’t get the voltage value on the meter’s display if you left the device in the current mode. It can be tricky to get precise voltage and resistance readings when using a multimeter for the first time. You’ll get it right when you understand how the device works and practice taking the measurements.

Our Multimeter Recommendation

We recommend you to get the Etekcity Digital Multimeter MSR-R500 since it is ideal for both beginners and pros. The multimeter features a low battery indicator, protective rubber sleeve, and 9V battery. You can read our review of the product here.