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How to use a Multimeter / Using Multimeters

Digital Multimeters Tutorial

Digital Multimeter

Multimeters are designed and mass produced for electronics engineers. Even the simplest and cheapest types may include features which you are not likely to use. Digital meters give an output in numbers, usually on a liquid crystal display.

The diagram below shows a switched range multimeter:

Switched range multimeter diagram

Switched range multimeter

The central knob has lots of positions and you must choose which one is appropriate for the measurement you want to make. If the meter is switched to 20 V DC, for example, then 20 V is the maximum voltage which can be measured, This is sometimes called 20 V fsd, where fsd is short for full scale deflection.

For circuits with power supplies of up to 20 V, which includes all the circuits you are likely to build, the 20 V DC voltage range is the most useful. DC ranges are indicated by on the meter. Sometimes, you will want to measure smaller voltages, and in this case, the 2 V or 200 mV ranges are used.

What does DC mean? DC means direct current. In any circuit which operates from a steady voltage source, such as a battery, current flow is always in the same direction. Every constructional project described in Design Electronics works in this way.

AC means alternating current. In an electric lamp connected to the domestic mains electricity, current flows first one way, then the other. That is, the current reverses, or alternates, in direction. With UK mains, the current reverses 50 times per second.

For safety reasons, you must NEVER connect a multimeter to the mains supply.

You are not at all likely to use the AC ranges, indicated by , on your multimeter. An alternative style of multimeter is the auto ranging multimeter:

Auto ranging multimeter diagram

Auto ranging multimeter

The central knob has fewer positions and all you need to do is to switch it to the quantity you want to measure. Once switched to V, the meter automatically adjusts its range to give a meaningful reading, and the display includes the unit of measurement, V or mV. This type of meter is more expensive, but obviously much easier to use.

Where are the two meter probes connected? The black lead is always connected into the socket marked COM, short for COMMON. The red lead is connected into the socket labeled VmA. The 10A socket is very rarely used.

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