How to Read a Multimeter

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So, this is your first time using a multimeter (doesn’t matter whether it is analog or digital). The initial days or weeks of using it could be very challenging, especially when reading it. Also, the multimeter comes with various symbols and signs which you need to learn and master to ensure accurate measures and tests. Ready to get started? 

Let us begin simply. A multimeter is an essential tool that electricians and individuals rely on for checking the resistance (ohms), current (amps), and voltage (volts) of certain devices that output electricity.

A Quick Recap about Ohms, Volts, and Amps

You should understand first some basic concepts about electricity before exploring the multimeter. 

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Ohms measure the resistance amount contained within a circuit. The electricity is slowed down if the resistance is higher. 

Volts measure the voltage or force amount that pushes the electrons to a circuit. 

Amps determine the total amount of electrons running through a circuit. 

Reading an Analog Multimeter Result

Analog multimeter is sometimes called AMM or analog multitester. It usually makes use of a galvanometer to show the reading of a current, resistance, or voltage. Some AMMs use vacuum fluorescent displays, bar graphs, and LED.

So, here’s how to read an analog multimeter result:

  • Determine the right scale

Analog multimeters feature a needle-like placed behind the glass window. Its main role is to indicate an accurate result. There are 3 different arcs shown behind the needle – dB scale, AC and DC for voltage, and omega for reading resistance. 

  • Make a voltage scale reading about your range 

Take a careful look at the voltage scales (either AC or DC). You should see numerous rows of numbers under the scale. Check with your preferred range. 

  • Calculate the value between numbers 

Do not be confused with this one because the voltage scales available in analog multimeters are just similar to that of an average ruler. However, the resistance scale here is logarithmic. Meaning to say the similar distance signifies a varying value change depending upon your position on the scale. 

  • Multiply the resistance reading on your multimeter 

Check the range setting that your analog multimeter’s dial is adjusted to. It must provide you with a number for you to multiply the reading by. 

  • Learn further information about the dB scale 

The decibel (dB) scale is usually the smallest and lowest on the analog multimeter. You should be experienced enough to handle such a thing. It is a logarithmic scale used to measure the voltage ratio. 

How to Read the Dial Settings

  • Test the DC or AC voltage 

The letter “V” you see on your multimeter stands for voltage. A straight line (V-) tells that there is a direct current while a squiggly line (V~) tells that there is alternating current. 

We measure current in amperes (A). Regardless of the type of circuit you’re testing, choose interchanging or direct current. 

Direct current: A-, A—, ADC & DCA

Alternative current: A~, AAC & ACA 

  • Find out the resistance setting 
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The resistance setting is commonly marked by an omega symbol. This symbol is used for showing ohms. But in older multimeters, this is indicated by R (resistance). 

  • Make use of DC- and DC+

Depend on DC+ if you are planning to test a direct current, though it is only applicable if your multimeter already has this setting. Otherwise, turn to DC- to rectify it without having the need to adjust the wires. 

  • Determine other important symbols

There are so many symbols you should familiarize with, aside from the resistance, voltage, and current. For instance, the symbol -|(- shows the capacitance settings while the Hz (Hertz) measures the AC circuit’s frequency. 

  • Read the port labels 

 Multimeters come with various ports. Sometimes, they are marked with symbols that match the symbols mentioned above. For example, the black probe should always be inserted in the COM port. On the other hand, the red probe must go in the smallest current label port if you want to measure the resistance or voltage. 

Multimeter Symbols and their Meanings

Fortunately, one of the most popular multimeter brands has standardized the current symbols on a multimeter. Yes, we are talking about Fluke. This reduces the extra hassle for users when using the tool. 

Now, allow us to be additional assistance for helping you become acquainted with the current symbols on multimeters. 

1. Hold Button 

Can be found in the multimeter’s top left-hand corner. Simply press the button if you need to lock in your measurement or reading. 

2. AC Voltage 

One of the most common and important settings for voltage testing. The expected readings are from 100 to 240 volts.  

3. Shift: Hertz 

Used to measure the frequency of either an appliance or a circuit. Different circuits or equipment are intended to function at a variable or fixed frequency. 

4. AC Millivolts 

With a symbol mV with a squiggly line at the top of V. Use it for measuring smaller circuits with the AC setting voltage. 

5. Shift DC Millivolts 

It is another road symbol with 3 hyphens and a straight line over them. It utilizes DC voltage. 

6. Shift Capacitance 

The shift option on the diode test button. The symbol appears to be two T letters that face each other. Use it if you want to measure your capacitance. 

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7. Min/Max Button 

Designed to save input values. A beep sound will be produced once a low or high value is exceeded, thus, saving the new value. 

8. Range Button 

Enables users to click through meter ranges. 

9. Function Button 

Can be compared to an Alt or Ctrl key on a computer keyboard. It is typically shown with yellow icons or text. 

10. DC Voltage 

Has a symbol of capital V with three hyphens on top of it and one line above that. Use it for measuring smaller circuits. 

11. AC Voltage 

Has a symbol of capital V with a wavy line at the top. Used for measuring the object’s voltage. 

12. Continuity 

Seems like a pool of closed-end parenthesis within a row. It allows you to determine whether you have short or open circuits.

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