How To Use A Multimeter On An Outlet

Updated on: December 10, 2018


The Intro

This guide will show you just how to utilize a digital multimeter (DMM), an essential device that you can make use of to detect circuits, find out about other individuals’s digital styles, and also even on an outlet. Therefore the ‘multi’-‘meter’ or multiple dimension name.

One of the most standard points we measure are voltage and also current. A multimeter is additionally wonderful for some fundamental sanity checks and troubleshooting. Is your circuit not working? Does the button work? Put a meter on it! The multimeter is your initial support when troubleshooting a system. In this tutorial we will certainly cover measuring voltage, current, resistance and continuity.

Every fixer must recognize their means around a multimeter, which has just north of a zillion uses for testing electronic parts and also circuits.

In this tutorial we’re going to show you just how to utilize a multimeter. This tutorial is mainly resolved for novices who are starting out in electronics and also have no suggestion exactly how to make use of a multimeter and just how it can be helpful. We’ll check out the most common attributes on a multimeter and also exactly how to measure current, voltage, resistance and also exactly how to check continuity.

What is a multimeter and why do you require one?

A multimeter is a measurement device absolutely required in electronics. It incorporates three vital functions: a voltmeter, ohmeter, and also ammeter, and also sometimes continuity.

The tool enables you to comprehend what is going on in your circuits. Whenever something in your circuit isn’t working, it will aid you fixing. Here’s some situations in electronics projects that you’ll locate the multimeter useful:

  • is the button on?
  • is this cord conducting the electrical energy or is it broken?
  • just how much current is moving with this led?
  • just how much power do you have left on your batteries?

What would multimeters measure?

Virtually all multimeters can measure voltage, current, and resistance.

A bunch of multimeters have a continuity check, resulting in a loud beep if two points are electrically attached. This is valuable if, for example, you are developing a circuit and also attaching cords or soldering; the beep shows whatever is linked and also absolutely nothing has actually come loose. You can additionally use it to ensure two points are not attached, to help stop short circuits.

A few multimeters also have a diode check function. A diode resembles a one-way valve that just lets power circulation in one instructions. The precise function of the diode check can differ from one type to another. If you’re dealing with a diode and also can not tell which method it goes in the circuit, or if you’re not certain the diode is working effectively, the check attribute can be fairly useful. If your DMM has a diode check function, read the handbook to learn specifically how it works.

Advanced models might have various other features, such as the ability to measure and also identify various other electrical parts, like transistors or capacitors. Considering that not just about all multimeters have these features, we will not cover them in this tutorial. You can review your multimeter’s handbook if you need to make use of these functions.

What Do All Of the Symbols Mean?

There’s a lot taking place when you take a look at the selection knob, however if you’re only mosting likely to be doing some basic things, you will not also utilize fifty percent of all the settings. Regardless, right here’s a rundown of what each symbol suggests:

Direct Current Voltage (DCV):quite often it will be signified with a V– rather. This setup is utilized to measure straight current (DC) voltage in things like batteries.
Alternating Current Voltage (ACV): Sometimes it will be signified with a V ~ rather. This setting is used to measure the voltage from alternating current sources, which is virtually anything that links into an outlet, along with the power originating from the electrical outlet itself.
Resistance (Ω): This gauges exactly how much resistance there is in the circuit. The reduced the number, the easier it is for the current to flow through, and vice versa.
Continuity: Usually signified by a wave or diode icon. This just examines whether a circuit is full by sending a really tiny quantity of current with the circuit and also seeing if it makes it out the other end. Otherwise, after that there’s something along the circuit that’s creating a problem– discover it!
Direct Current Amperage (DCA): Similar to DCV, yet rather than providing you a voltage reading, it will tell you the amperage.
Direct Current Gain (hFE): This setup is to test transistors and their DC gain, but it’s primarily useless, given that many electrical contractors and enthusiasts will utilize the continuity check instead.

Your multimeter could also have a committed setting for examining the amperage of AA, AAA, and 9V batteries. This setting is generally denoted with the battery icon.

Once more, you possibly won’t also use fifty percent of the setups shown, so do not get bewildered if you just understand what a few of them do.

Just how to Utilize a Multimeter

For beginners, let’s review some of the various components of a multimeter. At the very standard degree you have the tool itself, together with 2 probes, which are the black and also red cords that have plugs on one end and also steel pointers on the various other.

The tool itself has a display on top, which offers you your readout, and also there’s a big selection knob that you can spin around to choose a particular setting. Each setup may likewise have different number worths, which exist to measure different strengths of voltages, resistances, and also amps. So if you have your multimeter collection to 20 in the DCV area, it will measure voltages up to 20 volts.

Your DMM will also feature 2 or 3 ports for plugging in the probes:

  • COM port represent “Common”, and also the black probe will always connect into this port.
  • VΩmA port (occasionally denoted as mAVΩ) is simply a phrase for voltage, resistance, and also current (in milliamps). This is where the red probe will connect right into if you’re measuring voltage, resistance, continuity, and also current much less than 200mA.
  • the 10ADC port (occasionally signified as just 10A) is used whenever you’re measuring current that’s more than 200mA. If you’re not exactly sure of the current draw, start with this port. On the various other hand, you would not utilize this port in any way if you’re measuring anything besides current.

Warning: Make certain that if you’re measuring anything with a current higher than 200mA, you plug the red probe into the 10A port, instead of the 200mA port. Otherwise you can blow the fuse that’s within of the multimeter. In addition, measuring anything over 10 amps can blow a fuse or ruin the multimeters too.

Your measurement tool could have totally separate ports for measuring amps, while the other port is particularly simply for voltage, resistance, and also continuity, but many cheaper multimeters will share ports.

Anyhow, let’s start in fact making use of a multimeter. We’ll be measuring the voltage of a AA battery, the current draw of a wall clock, and also the continuity of a straightforward cable as some examples to get you started and accustomed to using a multimeter.

Components of a Multimeter

Multimeters have 4 components:

  • Display: this specific is just where the dimensions are displayed
  • Selection Knob: this chooses what you intend to measure
  • Ports: this is where you plug in the probes
  • Probes: a multimeter comes with two probes. Usually, one is red and the various other is black.


  • “COM” or “–” port is where the black probe needs to be linked. The COM probe is conventionally black.
  • 10A is used when measuring large currents, higher than 200mA.
  • µAmA is used to measure current.
  • permits you to measure voltage as well as resistance as well as examination continuity.


COM stands for typical and is generally attached to Ground or ‘-‘ of a circuit.The COM probe is traditionally black however there is no distinction in between the red probe as well as black probe apart from shade.


10A is the unique port made use of when measuring large currents (above 200mA).

Selection Knob

The selection knob allows the customer to establish the tool to read various things such as milliamps (mA) of current, voltage (V) and also resistance (Ω).


2 probes are connected into two of the ports on the front of the device. The probes have a banana type connector on the end that connects into the multimeter. Any probe with a banana plug will work with this meter. This permits various kinds of probes to be made use of.

Probe Types

There are several kinds of probes readily available. Right here are a few of our faves:

  • Banana to Alligator Clips: These are wonderful cables for attaching to large wires or pins on a breadboard. Good for doing longer term tests where you don’t need to need to hold the probes in position while you control a circuit.
  • Banana to IC Hook: IC hooks work well on smaller sized ICs as well as legs of ICs.
  • Banana to Tweezers: Tweezers come in handy if you are requiring to evaluate SMD parts.
  • Banana to Test Probes: If you ever break a probe, they are economical to change!

Measuring Voltage

To start, allow’s measure voltage on a AA battery: Plug the black probe right into COM as well as the red probe right into mAVΩ. Set to “2V” in the DC (straight current) range. Mostly all mobile electronics use straight current), not alternating current. Link the black probe to the battery’s ground or ‘-‘ as well as the red probe to power or ‘+’. Squeeze the probes with a little stress against the positive and also unfavorable terminals of the AA battery. If you’ve obtained a fresh battery, you ought to see around 1.5 V on the display (this battery is brand-new, so its voltage is somewhat greater than 1.5 V).

You could measure DC voltage or AC voltage. The V with a straight line means DC voltage. The V with the curly line means AC voltage.

To measure voltage:

  1. Set the mode to V with a wavy line if you’re measuring AC voltage or to the V with a straight line if you’re measuring DC voltage.
  2. Ensure the red probe is connected to the port with a V beside it.
  3. Link the red probe to the favorable side of your component, which is where the current is coming from.
  4. Connect the COM probe to the opposite side of your component.
  5. Review the worth on the display.

Pointer: to measure voltage you have to link your multimeter in parallel with the component you want to measure the voltage. Positioning the multimeter in parallel is placing each probe along the leads of the component you desire to measure the voltage.

Measuring a battery’s voltage

In this instance we’re going to measure the voltage of a 1.5 V battery. You know that you’ll have roughly 1.5 V. So, you need to select a range with the selection knob that can check out the 1.5 V. So you need to pick 2V in the situation of this multimeter. If you take an autorange one, you do not need to fret about the range you need to pick.

Start by turning on it, connecting the probes into their particular ports and also after that establishing the selection knob to the highest possible number worth in the DCV area, which in my instance is 500 volts. If you do not understand at the very least the voltage range of the point you’re measuring, it’s constantly a good suggestion to start with the highest possible worth first and after that work your way down up until you obtain a precise analysis.

In this case, we understand the AA battery has an extremely low voltage, but we’ll begin at 200 volts simply for the purpose of instance. Next, put the black probe on the adverse end of the battery and the red probe on the favorable end. Have a look at the analysis on the screen. Given that we have the multimeter collection to a high 200 volts, it shows “1.6” on the screen, suggesting 1.6 volts.

Nonetheless, I want a more precise analysis, so I’ll relocate the selection knob lower to 20 volts. Here, you can see that we have an even more accurate reading that floats in between 1.60 as well as 1.61 volts. If you were to ever before set the selection knob to a number worth less than the voltage of things you’re evaluating, the multimeter would just review “1”, symbolizing that it’s strained. So if I were to set the handle to 200 millivolts (0.2 volts), the 1.6 volts of the AA battery is too much for the multimeter to handle at that setup.

Regardless, you could be asking why you would certainly need to check the voltage of something in the first area. Well, in this instance with the AA battery, we’re inspecting to see if it has any kind of juice left. At 1.6 volts, that’s a fully-loaded battery. However, if it were to read 1.2 volts, it’s close to being pointless.
In an extra useful situation, you can do this type of measuring on a cars and truck battery to see if it could be dying or if the generator (which is what charges the battery) is spoiling. A reading in between 12.4-12.7 volts implies that the battery is in great shape. Anything reduced and also that’s proof of a dying battery. Additionally, start your cars and truck up and rev it up a little bit. If the voltage does not increase to around 14 volts or so, after that it’s likely that the generator is having issues.


What takes place if you select a voltage setting that is also reduced for the voltage you’re attempting to measure? Nothing poor. The meter will simply display a 1. This is the meter attempting to tell you that it is overloaded or out-of-range. Whatever you’re trying to review is too much for that certain setup. Attempt changing the multimeter handle to a the following greatest setting.

Selection Knob

As to why does the meter knob read 20V and not 10V? If you’re looking to measure a voltage much less than 20V, you look to the 20V setup. This will permit you to check out from 2.00 to 19.99. The first digit on many multimeters is just able to show a ‘1’ so the ranges are restricted to 19.99 instead of 99.99. Therefore the 20V max range as opposed to 99V max array.

Measuring Resistance

Connect the red probe into the appropriate port as well as turn the selection knob to the resistance area. After that, connect the probes to the resistor leads. The means you attach the leads doesn’t matter, the outcome is the very same.

Normal resistors have shade codes on them. If you don’t recognize what they suggest, that’s ok! There are lots of online calculators that are easy to make use of. Nonetheless, if you ever before locate yourself without net access, a multimeter is very helpful at measuring resistance.

Pick a random resistor and established the multimeter to the 20kΩ setting. After that hold the probes versus the resistor legs with the very same amount of stress you when pressing a secret on a key-board.

The meter will review among 3 points, 0.00, 1, or the actual resistor worth.

In this situation, the meter reviews 0.97, indicating this resistor has a worth of 970Ω, or concerning 1kΩ (remember you are in the 20kΩ or 20,000 Ohm setting so you need to relocate the decimal 3 areas to the right or 970 Ohms).

If the multimeter checks out 1 or displays OL, it’s strained. You will certainly need to try a higher mode such as 200kΩ mode or 2MΩ (megaohm) mode. There is no harm if this happen, it just suggests the variety knob requires to be adjusted.

Whenever the multimeter reviews 0.00 or almost absolutely no, after that you need to lower the setting to 2kΩ or 200Ω.

Remember that many resistors have a 5% resistance. This means that the color codes might show 10,000 Ohms (10kΩ), yet as a result of disparities in the manufacturing procedure a 10kΩ resistor can be as reduced as 9.5 kΩ or as high as 10.5 kΩ. Don’t stress, it’ll work simply great as a pull-up or general resistor.

Generally of thumb, it’s unusual to see a resistor less than 1 Ohm. Bear in mind that measuring resistance is not ideal. Temperature level can impact the reviewing a great deal. Additionally, measuring resistance of a tool while it is physically mounted in a circuit can be extremely tricky. The surrounding components on a motherboard can substantially influence the analysis.

The mockup generally appears like with a standard clock running off of a AA battery. On the positive side, the cord going from the battery to the clock is damaged up. We merely place our 2 probes in between that break to complete the circuit again (with the red probe attached to the power resource), only this time our multimeter will certainly read out the amps that the clock is pulling, which in this instance is around 0.08 mA.

While a lot of multimeters can additionally measure alternating current (AC), it’s not actually a great idea (particularly if its live power), since AC can be hazardous if you wind up making a blunder. If you require to see whether or not an outlet is functioning, make use of a non-contact tester instead.

To measure current you need to keep in mind that elements in series share a current. So, you need to connect your multimeter in series with your circuit.

POINTER: to position the multimeter in collection, you require to put the red probe on the lead of a component and also the black probe on the next component lead. The multimeter acts as if it was a cable in your circuit. If you detach the multimeter, your circuit won’t work.

Prior to measuring the current, make certain that you’ve plugged in the red probe in the appropriate port, in this instance µAmA. In the example below, the exact same circuit of the previous example is utilized. The multimeter is part of the circuit.

Test Continuity

If there is very low resistance between 2 points, which is much less than a couple of ohms, the two factors are electrically attached and you’ll listen to a continuous sound. If the noise isn’t continuous or if you don’t hear any type of noise in any way, it indicates that what you’re testing has a malfunctioning connection or isn’t connected in all.

CAUTION: In order to test continuity you must shut off the system! Shut off the power supply!

Touch the 2 probes with each other as well as, as they are connected, you’ll hear a constant sound.To test the continuity of a cord, you simply need to connect each probe to the wire ideas.

Continuity is a terrific means to examine if 2 SMD pins are touching. If your eyes can’t see it, the multimeter is typically an excellent 2nd testing source. When a system is not working, continuity is another point to help repair the system.

  • Establish your multimeter to the continuity setting utilizing the selection knob.
  • The readout on the screen will instantly review “1”, which indicates that there isn’t any type of continuity. This would certainly be appropriate since we haven’t connected the probes to anything yet.
  • Next off, see to it the circuit is unplugged and also has no power. Then connect one probe to one end of the cable and also the various other probe to the other end– no matter which probe goes on which end. If there is a complete circuit, your multimeter will certainly either beep, reveal a “0”, or something besides a “1”. If it still reveals a “1”, then there’s an issue as well as your circuit isn’t total.
  • You can additionally test that the continuity feature works with your multimeter by touching both probes to each other. This finishes the circuit and your multimeter ought to allow you recognize that.

A continuity examination tells us whether two things are electrically linked: if something is continual, an electrical current can move openly from one end to the other.

If there’s no continuity, it implies there is a break someplace in the circuit. This might suggest anything from a blown fuse or negative solder joint to an incorrectly wired circuit.

Altering the Fuse

One of one of the most typical errors with a new multimeter is to measure current on a bread board by probing from VCC to GND. This will promptly short power to ground through the multimeter triggering the bread board power supply to brownish out. As the current hurries via the multimeter, the internal fuse will warm up and then melt out as 200mA streams with it. It will certainly take place in an instant and without any type of real distinct or physical indicator that something is incorrect.

Bear in mind that measuring current is performed in collection (interrupt the VCC line to the breadboard or microcontroller to measure current). If you attempt to measure the current with a blown fuse, you’ll probably discover that the meter reads ‘0.00’ and that the system does not activate like it should when you attach the multimeter. This is since the interior fuse is damaged and works as a broken cord or open.

To alter the fuse, discover your helpful dandy mini screw vehicle driver, and begin taking out screws. The elements as well as PCB traces inside the multimeter are designed to take different quantities of current. You will certainly harm as well as possibly spoil your multimeter if you inadvertently press 5A with the 200mA port.

There are times where you need to measure high current devices like an electric motor or home heating component. Do you see both locations to put the red probe on the front of the multimeter? 10A on the left and also mAVΩ on the right? If you attempt to measure greater than 200mA on the mAVΩ port you run the risk of blowing the fuse. Yet if you use the 10A port to measure current, you run a much lower threat of blowing the fuse. The compromise is level of sensitivity. As we chatted around above, by utilizing the 10A port and knob setting, you will only have the ability to check out to 0.01 A or 10mA. The majority of systems use greater than 10mA so the 10A setup as well as port functions all right. If you’re trying to measure very low power (mini or nano amps) the 200mA port with the 2mA, 200uA, or 20uA could be what you require.


You’re currently prepared to use your digital multimeter to start measuring the world around you. Do not hesitate to begin utilizing it to answer many inquiries. A digital multimeter will answer numerous questions concerning electronics.

A multimeter is a necessary tool in any kind of electronic devices lab. In this guide, we’ve shown you How To Use a Multimeter. You’ve learned just how to measure voltage, current and resistance, as well as just how to inspect continuity.