How to Use an Electronic Multimeter

For the person working with electronics, having access to an electronic multimeter is a must. There are certain situations where measuring ohms, continuity, and voltage is essential. Without an electronic measuring device that can display this information for you, it will be like working on a circuit board in total darkness. Refer to the information below to better understand how a multimeter works and how to use one.

Things you'll need:

  • Electronic Multimeter


Step 1 – Understanding Multimeter Options

Like many other devices, multimeters are available in a variety of types from simple and inexpensive to those that provide a large assortment of settings and may cost as much as $5,000. For simplicity, unless you have advanced electronics skills and knowledge, you can save yourself the frustration of making big mistakes, including damaging your meter, by using one that offers fewer settings.

Step 2 – Familiarize Yourself with Your Multimeter

Examine the face of your multimeter. You should see three prominent things: a) a dial, b) settings, and c) lead ports. These ports are usually color coded, so you are less likely to make a mistake when you plug in a lead. When you use the meter to test a device for resistance, continuity, or voltage, plug the red lead into the "VmA" port, and the black lead into the "COM" port. For amperage measurements, plug an clamp probe into the "COM" and "A" ports.  

Step 3 – The Multimeter's Dial Settings

As you look at the multimeter's dial, observe the numbers and symbols surrounding it. One of these signs will look like an arrow pointing to the right. Next to the arrow you'll see a plus sign. This will be the setting you'll use for testing continuity. To test for voltage, use the "V" setting, A third setting will be a figure that looks like a zero with feet. This is to be used for testing resistance, or ohms.

Step 4 – Learning Uses for Your Multimeter

You can test an electrical outlet to see if it is working, by using the meter's "V" setting. In soldering or repairing an electronic circuit, you can test for a connection by using the meter to test for ohms. But first, check to be sure power is not flowing through the element you are testing. Want to test for a blown fuse? First, remove the fuse from its clamps, then set your meter for the continuity setting, finally, touch each end of the fuse with a probe from the meter. If the fuse is good, you'll get a beep from the meter. If it is bad, you'll see a reading of "OL."

Step 5 – Testing for Amperage

Testing for amperage is somewhat more involved. It will require the use of more than just two probes from the meter. Instead, use a clamp add-on. Plug it into the two ports designated "A" and "Com." On the hot wire you wish to test, clamp the tester. An alternate method of testing is to buy a plug with a wire loop designed specifically for testing amperage.