On Wednesday, December 11, 2013 11:10:52 PM UTC-5, nestork wrote:
I agree. I have a nice Simpson, but it's kind of a pain to drag that case around and untangle the leads. The cheap Radio Shack is what I usually reach for, unless I'm getting weird readings.
Just a warning though, about being concerned whether voltage is there or not. That's a great use for a meter, and can save you the occasional miserable oops. But the proper technique is Live-Dead-Live.
Check on a known live voltage to be sure the meter is working.
Check the wire you're about to touch to confirm you've disonnected it.
Then check AGAIN on a live source. Meters have been known to fail at just the wrong time, and your dead wire might not be really dead.
Okay, it's rare to have that problem. But that's the way I was taught to test.
Yep. Mine died once while trying to check resistance/continuity. The battery was low and did not
bring the meter out of 0L even while there was a circuit established. The screen worked and all, but
that was a cursing TSR moment. Luckily I figured out what was going on and had my expensive meter
handy to finish the job in a few minutes. Yes, a hundred feet of wire is enough to defeat the meter
with a low battery.
Not caring about true RMS at the time, I got this meter.
I scored price wise on it (under 30). Would have preferred replacing my
fried Fluke, but spur of the moment need and almost 400 bucks difference
in price made the decision easy. I miss the milliamp driver, but cannot
say that I have a true need for that any time soon.
A lot of the cost is making the meter safe if you make a mistake on high
capacity circuits, as in one of Ralph's posts. A real good idea if you
are working in service panels or somewhere other than on the end of a
20A branch circuit.
Fluke recommends that their meters be calibrated annually. They used
to do it for free. Just pay for all of the shipping. If it is the
oops, I dropped it again meter, no one cares. Those are a proof of
concept tool and are meant to be kicked around, unlike the $300 plus
meters that generally stay in their hard cases. Ever drop a Meger?
That's an expensive oh sh#t! :-)
On Wed, 11 Dec 2013 17:48:53 -0500, Stormin Mormon
I forgot that I'd given one to two or three friends, just because I
thought they should have one.
I also gave even more of them the HF headlamp when it was on sale real
cheap, but that might not have been such a good idea. If they don't
use it, the batteries will leak. (and I don't even use mine.) And a
few years later, LEDs got good enough to make a better light (still
with batteries that might leak.)
Years ago, Nite Ize had LED conversions for mini
mag flash light. They fit nicely into the black
and yellow HF head lamp. The one that takes two
AA cells. Makes for a good light, with AA cells
that last longer than AAA cells. Just have to
pull out the bi pin bulb, and break out the
provided reflector. Fits nicely into the lamp
with the Nite Ize reflector inside the HF plastic
Maybe...but I'd shy away from the free ones if it's your only meter.
I picked up one free.
I was gonna throw it into the car, but decided to check it out.
Shorted the probes on ohms. Reading varied around 500 ohms.
Took it back.
"sorry, it was free, not guaranteed."
"I guess I got what I paid for, GRRRR!"
"OK, go get another one."
This one is much better, but still crap.
there are a lot of much better ones on sale at sears, home depot etc.
for under $50.
One handy feature missing on cheap meters is the temperature function.
Make sure it comes with the temperature probe.
Start with the Harbor Freight - freebee or very low cost - under $10.00
A lot will depend on what you want to measure. I have a farily expensive H
P multimeter, but use the HF cheapie 00% of the time, I don't need the incr
eased accuracy very much. Just, is the circuit activated, is it 6V or 9V o
r 12V? For these levels of sophistication, you don't need more than a HF.
AC volts to at least 300 V
DC volts to at least 100 V
AC and DC amps to 10 A, 15 A, or 20 A
Continuity beeper (might be part of the Ohms function)
Detachable test leads
"Smart" ohms mode that will flip over into volts mode if you
accidentally probe a live circuit
Rubber case or holster
Hooks, straps, stands, etc.
Extra test leads, alligator clip attachments, etc.
Those voltage and current ranges will handle anything that a mild-
mannered homeowner will want to measure.
The continuity beeper is useful to figure out if a wire is broken or
shorted to another wire, or if an (unpowered) switch is closed or open,
without having to look at the meter.
The detachable test leads are because the leads *will* get beat up if
you use it a lot. 99% of meters use standard "banana" plugs on the
test leads, so any set of replacement leads will fit. This is kind of
an advanced use, but if you have a situation where you want to wire the
meter in for a while, you can buy banana plugs on your own and make a
custom set of leads.
However, detachable leads do make the meter more bulky; the "pocket"
meters tend not to have detachable leads. If you only use it once a
month or less, detachable leads are not such a big deal.
Auto-ranging means you just have to pick (say) "AC Volts" or "Ohms" and
the meter figures out the rest. Manual ranging means you have to choose
between (say) 4 V AC, 40 V AC, and 400 V AC ranges. It will say on the
package if it's auto-ranging, and also the big round switch on the front
will be simpler (fewer positions).
The backlit display is easier to read in the dark, which includes the
nooks and crannies of your furnace or washing machine. It uses a little
bit of battery life, though.
"Smart" ohms mode is because if you try to measure resistance on a
powered circuit, at best you'll get the wrong answer and at worst you'll
blow up the meter. Some meters detect this, beep, and flip themselves
over into measuring volts instead (which is safe for the meter).
Most all meters will have at least one internal fuse and a lot of them
have two. Eventually you *will* blow one of them, probably the amps
one. If it is a 15 A or 20 A ceramic 0.25" x 1.25" fuse, every Radio
Shack, hardware store, and electronics store in the US can supply them
(those fuses also get used in microwave ovens). If it's some weird size
of fuse, you'll have to go to an electronics store or order online. You
may have to look this up online; the packaging will say "fused for
protection", but the fuse *size* is probably only in the owner's manual.
Sometimes you get a spare fuse with the meter when new.
Most meters take a 9 V battery, but some take AAs or AAAs, and a few
take oddballs. In general the battery will last for at least several
months, and probably several years, so this isn't a super big deal. But
it's nice to be able to scrounge a battery from something else if the
meter goes dead at an inopportune time.
The case, holster, extra test leads just make it nicer to use, but
If the test probes aren't already like this, it can help to cover all
but the last 1/8" (3 mm) or so of the metal probe tip, to avoid shorting
it out on nearby wires. You can use electrical tape, heat-shrink
tubing, or even stripped wire insulation if you can find some that is
a good force fit.
When you first get it, practice on some stuff you know the voltages of,
like flashlight batteries, a car battery, wall adapters for small
electronics, and stuff like that. You can even (very carefully) measure
your line voltage by sticking the probes in an electrical outlet.
If you get a manual-ranging one, and you have no idea what the answer
is going to be, always start on the highest range and work down. This
is less important than it was for an analog meter, but it's still nicer
for the meter to not ask it to measure something out of range.
A lot of time, the amps ranges will require that you move the red lead
over to a different socket. This is fine, but the *SECOND* you get done
using that range, move the red lead back over to its regular socket -
don't wait until later to move it back. The reason is that in the amps
range, the meter is nearly a dead short. It's *easy* to measure current
and then try to measure voltage without moving the lead back, and blow
the fuse in the meter. I've watched it being done and I've even done it
The one I use around the house is a Radio Shack 22-805, which I bought
around 1999 or 2000 because of its computer connection, but I don't use
that feature much now. It is a rebadged Metex meter. In Radio Shack's
current lineup, the 22-813 ($40) or 22-075 ($45) might do what you want.
Their 22-182 is a "pocket meter" style that is on sale for $20; that one
will get you through a lot, but if I was going to buy only one meter
from Radio Shack, I'd go for one of the other two.
My "daily driver" in my field toolbox for a long time has been a Sperry
DM8400, which I bought probably at Home Depot in about 1997. The
closest meter to that in their current lineup is probably the DM5300,
which is about $80. Their lower-priced meters may be worth a look if
they are easily available in your area.
I used to work with college students and they were unable to kill the
two Fluke 12 multimeters we had, even though they tried. The only odd
thing I ever noticed about these was that when the "low battery"
indicator came on, the calibration would be off; replacing the 9 V
battery made everything work right again. The closest current model is
the Fluke 113, but it sells for about $120; I don't think they have any
meters under this price.
I hope this helps!
On Thu, 12 Dec 2013 09:17:33 +0000 (UTC), email@example.com wrote:
I would lower this to Nice to Have. In 45 years, I've measured
current 4 or 5 times.
Well, the cute little meters, maybe 1/2 inch thick by 3 x 4 inches,
that one can carry in a shirt pocket while viisting friends have
permenently attached leads. It's worth it to me so if I'm there for
dinnner and they have electrical problems, I can whip out my meter,
before my host can even get his from the workshop (if he even has a
workshop). This hasn't happened often, actually never, so the leads
aren't close to wearing out yet, but like my horse Trigger, I like
having it with me.
I usually end up measuring current when I'm messing around with cars -
watching a battery charge, seeing how much current some accessory is
drawing, stuff like that. That's why I spec'd the "high" current range.
I haven't done it much on line-voltage AC; the times I have, I either
used a clamp meter, or a Kill-a-Watt portable kWh meter. As others have
noted, line-voltage AC stuff is more of a "it works or it doesn't"
I firmly believe that as long as you have a tool with you, nothing that
you can fix with that tool will ever break.
I was trouble shooting a car. Battery kept discharging. I attached ammeter
into battery connection. After computer sleep, everything was good for a
while. Then it would keep drawing current at intervals. After sitting in
car I heard clicks. Click found to be coming from trunk. Bad radio antenna
contacts trying to pull down antenna. Solution, pull relay with antenna
On Wed, 11 Dec 2013 05:22:12 -0800, Jennifer Murphy
BTW, afaik all meters cheap or expensive, unless maybe it was
home-built, have a clever circuit, (whose name I forget. It looks like
a 4-sided diamond) , that makes the read-out the same, even when the
voltage of the battery inside is going down. When the battery is
almost dead (1.3 or 1.4 volts for a nominal 1.5 volt battery) it
won't work but if it's 1.47, which might be 80% discharged, the
reading should be the same as with a new battery.
Meters don't use much current, so they might work with batteries that
don't work in a portable radio with an actual speaker. (radios that
drive headphones don't need so much power so I'm not comparing with
I'm sure some people here will take issue with some of this. It's
true that my numbers are only educated guesses.
It took 4 1/2 hours but it came to me. It's called a Wheatstone
A) It uses the values and ratios of 3 known resistors to measure an
unknown resistance, and in a meter, since the ratios don't change with
voltage, the value of an unknown (external) resistance, is not
dependant on the votage of the battery.
However the url above only says "Variations on the Wheatstone bridge
can be used to measure capacitance, inductance, impedance and other
quantities," and "The concept was extended to alternating current
measurements" and doesn't mention voltage or DC current.
In fact, a few lines up it says "If all four resistor values and the
supply voltage (VS) are known, ....the voltage across the bridge (VG)
can be found by working out the voltage from each potential divider
and subtracting one from the other. " which implies that voltage
measurements are dependant on knowing the battery voltage.
So maybe I was wrong, except wrt resistance and AC current (and very
few meters measure AC current.)
^^Impedance is much like resistance, measured in ohms, but it's used
for coils and caps, where it depends on frequency. If the frequency
is 0, like it is with a battery, caps will have infinited impedance,
but coils will have the impedance of a resistor made with the same
length of the same wire.
Still, I've never read a warning that measurements are inaccurate as
the battery weakens, and the guys who design these things are pretty
clever, so I'm not giving up on the notion that, until the battery is
almost dead, the voltage of the battery doesn't matter. Anyone know?
For what it's worth, I'm using NiMH rechargeable batteries in my Fluke
meters (1.2V nominal/cell as opposed to 1.5V/cell for alkaline) I'm
using a Tenergy Centura brand 7 cell/8.4V "9V" battery instead of the 6
cell 9V alkaline specified; I have noticed no inaccuracies in resistance
I'm also using a Tenergy Centura D cell and similar "9V" battery in my
Simpson 260 with no issues, but on the 260 you need to zero the meter
every time you change resistance ranges anyway. However I suspect that
it uses a similar circuit as the relative knob position ends up about
the same for both alkalines and NiMH.
As an aside I've been happy after switching over to NiMH; hopefully I
will not buy any more cells/batteries unless I buy more devices for a
good long time.
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
Digital is easy to read but unless I'm doing hi spec work, I prefer the
old analog type. For one think, it's easier to see changes in reading
with the needle swinging back and forth. If you every want to check the
engine error codes, I can be difficult to do it with a digital meter.
$5-30 should get you something decent. I bought one at Radio Shack
about 10 years ago for $25 that I could connect to a computer and record
a time trace.
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