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The Digital Multimeter:


Electrical Troubleshooting Simplified
07/25/08

A Digital Multimeter

I’ll be the first to admit it - electrical troubleshooting is not my favorite DIY task. Give me a woodworking project, give me a wall to tape and float; ahh, now you’re looking at a happy camper. But when I do have to jump in there chasing electrons, the first thing I reach for is my digital multimeter.

Digital VS Analog

These meters are also called multitesters, which is perhaps a more discriptive name. The digital part might be new but the concept is not. Like analog watches and clocks preceded digital ones, the same is true with electrical testing meters.

Is one better than the other? Oh, I don’t know. I've been told that the digital is more accurate than it’s analog cousin. Don’t really care though. I'm not likely to be measuring anything down to the nana-micro-tinyvolt. Besides, I really like that little needle flicking around

I guess it reminds me of those old science fiction B movies. But alas, my old analog doesn't work anymore so I've ’gone digital’.

Multimeter Functions

For such a small gadget, the multitester really packs a punch with respect to functionality. Check out some of the things this little gizmo will do for you:

  • Continuity Testing:

    This is probably the simplest function. No mystery here, it’s just what it sounds like. It checks to see if electrical current is continuous from point A to point B.
  • Voltage Testing:

    Again, pretty straightforward. For example, to test an outlet, set the meter to AC, set it to the voltage closest to what you’re measuring (110 - 120 for an outlet), and put one probe in each slot. Read the result, and Bob’s yer uncle!
  • Measuring Resistance:

    It also tests resistance in a circuit or device. Your instruction manual will go into detail, but basically, just set the knob to Ohms, plug the black lead into COM jack, the red into the OHM jack. Then put the leads across the device in parallel and read the resistance. Note: If it reads 1 or -1, try testing in a larger range.

That's enough to get you going. Your user’s manual will walk you through the rest. This is one gadget you’re going to want to have in your toolbox on most remodeling jobs. When I used to work in the field full-time rather than driving this keyboard, I used to keep mine next to the little bag of wire nuts.

Those wire nuts were great for stuffing in your ears with a piece of paper napkin when the superintendent started hollering. Hear no evil!

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