How to Use a Multimeter – Beginner’s Guide (Everything Included) Upd. 2020

While searching on Google about what to do when your car’s battery is dying, or your fridge stops cooling, or your oven stops heating, you surely have crossed your path with multimeters. Yes, multimeters are incredible tools which allow you to diagnose your electrical appliance.

But it’d be useless to buy one if you don’t know how to use it, right?

So, we’ve put together this beginner’s guide that not only contains the things that you need to know in order to use a multimeter, but also the basics that are essential to use this device. So, let’s get started.

how to use a multimeter

What is a multimeter and why do you need one? 

A multimeter is like a magic box which likes playing with electricity. In short, it’s a device which assists you to measure voltage, current, resistance, continuity, frequency and many more electrical parameters around the house. Not only this, some multimeters also test continuity, diodes and temperature in spite of some basic diagnosing. 

However, these power tools are mostly used by electricians, electrical engineers, technicians, science students. But if you’re an electronics hobbyist, or a DIYer then you should have a multimeter on your tool belt.

So, what can you do with a multimeter? 

With the services provided by your multimeter you can check your car’s batteries, fuses, live wiring, sockets, breakers, and can catch the culprit in HVAC appliances.

Types of Multimeters

Following are the some basic types of multimeters:

Analog Multimeters

These ones were present way before the digital ones, however, they are still used by some professionals. The reason they aren’t being used today is that they are significantly more difficult to read as they use needle to show the readings which can be misinterpreted.

Digital Multimeters

When digital technology came and manufacturers invented the digital multimeters, people started switching towards them because they are user-friendly and easy to read. Moreover, they are more accurate than the analog ones. 

So, if you’re still using that old school analog multimeter then you need to buy a digital one for quick and accurate measurements. 

Oscilloscopes Multimeters

Some multimeters come with oscilloscopes in them which allow you to record the readings.

But what benefit you’ll get from such multimeters?

Well, if you want to figure out the number of fluctuations over a period of time of any electrical equipment, then these oscilloscopes multimeters are extremely useful. 

What are the basics of multimeter that you should know before you get started?

Before you grab your multimeter and start playing around with it, you need to be aware of its basics and its essential parts. So, let’s take a quick look on them:

Display

It is an essential part of your multimeter. The display of your multimeter should be clear and large. However, get the one with backlit display, as it will help you while working in the dark.

While talking about the display, you should also consider the display rate of a multimeter. The faster the display rate, the more accurate the readings will be.

Temperature Sensor 

Multimeters which has temperature sensor in them can measure the temperature of the appliances being tested. It is great when it comes to measuring temperature-sensitive hardwares or circuits.

Capacitance 

This feature is usually found on high-end digital multimeters. Capacitance measures the system’s capacity for the electrical charge. 

Capacitor is like a temporary battery and is used in many electrical devices such as in computer motherboards, power supplies, radios and in many domestic appliances. So, with the help of a multimeter having this feature you can easily measure capacitance across any device.

Selection Knob

It is a dial on your multimeter which allows you to select the ranges of electrical parameters you want to measure.

Ports

Ports are the places where you plug in the probes. You must have seen the ‘COM’ or ‘-’ port on your multimeter. Ever wonder what does it mean?

It is the place where black probe goes, and conventionally the COM probe is also black.

V port allows you to measure voltage, while Ω port is used to measure resistance.

However, these ports vary from multimeters to multimeters. Just read the instructions carefully and get familiar with your multimeter.

Probes

Generally, multimeters come with two probes: a red and a black one. Moreover, there’s no difference between the two except the color. But, normally, black goes with the COM port and the red one goes with the other ports based on what you need to measure.

Besides, if you switch the two probes nothing dangerous will happen, the readings will be the same but negative. 

Auto-Range 

Multimeters having auto-range feature in them will not only save your time, but also your effort too while running multiple tests. Basically, each electrical parameter that you measure with a multimeter has a specific range.

For instance, if you’re measuring a 1.5V battery, you’ll have to choose the 2V range and for measuring 120V socket you have to select 200V on your multimeter. However, if you select the wrong range then your multimeter will not show any reading.

So, this is where auto-range feature can be of use, as it will automatically select the range of the inputs.

Transistor Testing Circuit 

Transistors are used in many electronics from your computers to speakers to smartphones. So, if you want to check whether the transistor is working as a part of a larger electronic circuits, or to test integrated circuits or digital logic circuits, then the multimeters with this feature will get the job done in no time.

Hold function

This feature holds the data for you if you want to record it. Additionally, every good quality multimeter comes with this feature that prevents the display from deleting the measurements.

How to measure voltage with a multimeter? 

how to use a multimeter

Want to check the voltage of your coffee maker, or car’s battery, or hair dryer, or refrigerator, or microwave oven, or of some other electrical equipment? 

Then, follow these simple steps and you won’t go wrong:

  1. First, set the multimeter to V with a short straight line if you want to measure DC voltage and for measuring AC voltage set the device to V with a wavy line. 
  2. Connect the red probe to the port, with a V next to it, on the multimeter. 
  3. Now you need to connect the red probe to the positive side and connect the COM probe to the other side of the equipment being measured. Make sure that your multimeter is connected in parallel with the component.
  4. Here comes the easiest step – read the value from the display. 

How you can measure current with a multimeter? 

Current plays a major role from lightning your homes to powering your appliances. So, in order to measure current all you need is a multimeter and follow these simple steps:

  1. Place the red probe on the lead of the device being measured and the black one on the next component lead.
  2. Make sure that your multimeter is attached in series with your circuit. 
  3. Now check the amount of current flowing on the display of your multimeter. 

How you can measure resistance with a multimeter? 

Resistance is everywhere, not talking about the one between the life we live and the unlived life within us, but the one which is much more tedious: the resistance present in our electronics. This resistance tells you whether or not your appliance is faulty. 

So, let us tell you some steps in order to measure resistance:

  1. First, you need to turn on your multimeter to the lowest resistance settings.
  2. Now, connect the probes to the resistor leads – it doesn’t matter the way you connect black or red probes.
  3. Take a note of the reading from your multimeter.

How to check continuity with your multimeter? 

Continuity is used to find the culprits such as faulty wires or electrical bugs, and it also helps you to determine whether or not the two points of a circuit are connected.

So, follow these steps in order to find continuity:

  1. Turn on your multimeter to the continuity settings and make sure that your electrical system is turned off.
  2. Connect the probes to the wire tips or to the device.

Now, your multimeter will give you the continuity reading.

Wrapping Things Up… 

So, now you probably know the basics and how and where you can use your amazing multimeter. Just follow the steps which we discussed earlier and don’t forget to read the users’ manual before you start. 

Hope you have found this article useful. If you think we missed something, do let us know in the comments.

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