How To Use A Multimeter To Test An Outlet

Updated on: December 11, 2018


The Introduction

These recommendations will reveal you exactly how to utilize a digital multimeter (DMM), a crucial device that you can utilize to identify circuits, find out about various other individuals’s electronic designs, and also to test an outlet. Thus the ‘multi’-‘meter’ or several measurement name.

The most basic things we measure are voltage and current. A multimeter is also wonderful for some standard peace of mind checks as well as troubleshooting. Is your circuit not functioning? Does the switch work? Put a meter on it! The multimeter is your very first support when fixing a system. In this tutorial we will certainly cover measuring voltage, current, resistance and also continuity.

Every fixer should recognize their method around a multimeter, which has just north of a zillion makes use of for screening digital parts as well as circuits.

In this tutorial we’re mostly likely to show you just how to use a multimeter. This tutorial is mostly resolved for beginners that are beginning out in electronic devices as well as have no concept exactly how to utilize a multimeter and also exactly how it can be beneficial. We’ll check out the most usual attributes on a multimeter as well as how to measure current, voltage, resistance and how to inspect continuity.

What is a multimeter as well as why do you require one?

A multimeter is a measurement tool absolutely needed in electronics. It combines three vital attributes: a voltmeter, ohmeter, as well as ammeter, and also in many cases continuity.

The tool allows you to recognize what is going on in your circuits. Whenever something in your circuit isn’t functioning, it will assist you troubleshooting. Here’s some circumstances in electronics projects that you’ll find the multimeter valuable:

  • is the button activate?
  • is this cord performing the electricity or is it damaged?
  • just how much current is moving through this led?
  • just how much power do you have left on your batteries?

What could multimeters measure?

Nearly all multimeters can measure voltage, current, and also resistance.

Some multimeters have a continuity check, causing a loud beep if 2 points are electrically connected. This is practical if, for example, you are building a circuit and also attaching wires or soldering; the beep suggests everything is attached and nothing has come loose. You can also use it to make certain two things are not connected, to assist prevent brief circuits.

A few multimeters also have a diode check feature. A diode is like a one-way shutoff that only allows electrical power circulation in one direction. The precise function of the diode check can differ from one type to another. If you’re dealing with a diode and can’t inform which way it enters the circuit, or if you’re not exactly sure the diode is working effectively, the check feature can be fairly handy. If your DMM has a diode check feature, checked out the handbook to figure out precisely how it works.

Advanced models might have other features, such as the ability to measure as well as recognize other electrical components, like transistors or capacitors. Given that not almost all multimeters have these functions, we will certainly not cover them in this tutorial. You can review your multimeter’s manual if you require to use these features.

What Do Each Of the Symbols Mean?

There’s a whole lot going on when you look at the selection knob, but if you’re just mosting likely to be doing some basic stuff, you will not also make use of fifty percent of all the settings. Regardless, below’s a run-through of what each icon implies:

Direct Current Voltage (DCV):Occasionally it will be denoted with a V– instead. This setting is utilized to measure direct current (DC) voltage crazes like batteries.
Alternating Current Voltage (ACV): Sometimes it will certainly be represented with a V ~ instead. This setting is utilized to measure the voltage from alternating current sources, which is quite much anything that connects into an outlet, along with the power coming from the electrical outlet itself.
Resistance (Ω): This gauges exactly how much resistance there remains in the circuit. The lower the number, the simpler it is for the current to stream via, and the other way around.
Continuity: Usually signified by a wave or diode icon. This simply checks whether a circuit is complete by sending an extremely tiny amount of current via the circuit and also seeing if it makes it out the various other end. If not, then there’s something along the circuit that’s triggering an issue– locate it!
Direct Current Amperage (DCA): Similar to DCV, but as opposed to giving you a voltage analysis, it will certainly tell you the amperage.
Straight Current Gain (hFE): This setting is to test transistors and also their DC gain, but it’s primarily worthless, since many electricians as well as enthusiasts will certainly use the continuity check rather.

Your multimeter might also have a committed setting for examining the amperage of AA, AAA, as well as 9V batteries. This setup is typically represented with the battery symbol.

Once more, you possibly will not even make use of fifty percent of the settings revealed, so don’t obtain overwhelmed if you just know what a few of them do.

How to Utilize a Multimeter

For starters, allow’s look at several of the different parts of a multimeter. At the really basic degree you have the device itself, in addition to two probes, which are the black as well as red cables that have plugs on one end and also metal pointers on the other.

The tool itself has a display screen at the top, which gives you your readout, and also there’s a large selection knob that you can spin around to select a particular setup. Each setup might also have various number values, which exist to measure different staminas of voltages, resistances, and also amps. So if you have your multimeter collection to 20 in the DCV section, it will certainly measure voltages approximately 20 volts.

Your DMM will certainly likewise feature two or three ports for connecting in the probes:

  • COM port represent “Common”, and the black probe will certainly constantly plug into this port.
  • VΩmA port (in some cases represented as mAVΩ) is simply a phrase for voltage, resistance, and also current (in milliamps). This is where the red probe will plug right into if you’re measuring voltage, resistance, continuity, as well as current much less than 200mA.
  • the 10ADC port (often denoted as simply 10A) is made use of 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 other hand, you would certainly not utilize this port whatsoever if you’re measuring anything aside from current.

Caution: Make certain that if you’re measuring anything with a current greater than 200mA, you plug the red probe right into the 10A port, instead of the 200mA port. Or else you can blow the fuse that’s within the multimeter. Moreover, measuring anything over 10 amps can blow a fuse or damage the multimeters also.

Your measurement tool may have completely separate ports for measuring amps, while the other port is specifically just for voltage, resistance, and continuity, yet most less costly multimeters will share ports.

Anyhow, let’s obtain begun really utilizing a multimeter. We’ll be measuring the voltage of a AA battery, the current draw of a wall surface clock, as well as the continuity of an easy cable as some examples to obtain you began and acquainted with using a multimeter.

Parts of a Multimeter

Multimeters are composed by 4 important areas:

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


  • “COM” or “–” port is where the black probe ought to be attached. The COM probe is traditionally black.
  • 10A is made use of when measuring big currents, higher than 200mA.
  • µAmA is utilized to measure current.
  • permits you to measure voltage and also resistance and also examination continuity.


COM stands for usual and is usually connected to Ground or ‘-‘ of a circuit.The COM probe is conventionally black yet there is no difference in between the red probe as well as black probe other than color.


10A is the special port utilized when measuring large currents (more than 200mA).

Selection Knob

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


Two probes are connected into two of the ports on the front of the device. The probes have a banana type connector on completion that connects into the multimeter. Any type of probe with a banana plug will collaborate with this meter. This allows for different kinds of probes to be made use of.

Probe Types

There are several sorts of probes offered. Below are a few of our favorites:

  • Banana to Alligator Clips: These are terrific cable televisions for linking to big wires or pins on a breadboard. Helpful for carrying out longer term examinations where you do not need to need to hold the probes in position while you adjust a circuit.
  • Banana to IC Hook: IC hooks function well on smaller sized ICs as well as legs of ICs.
  • Banana to Tweezers: Tweezers are convenient if you are requiring to check SMD elements.
  • Banana to Test Probes: If you ever before damage a probe, they are cheap to replace!

Measuring Voltage

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

You can measure DC voltage or AC voltage. The V with a straight line suggests DC voltage. The V with the bumpy line indicates AC voltage.

Measuring voltage

  1. Set the setting 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 linked to the port with a V beside it.
  3. Link the red probe to the silver lining of your component, which is where the current is coming from.
  4. Link the COM probe to the other side of your component.
  5. Review the worth on the display.

Idea: to measure voltage you need to link your multimeter in parallel with the component you want to measure the voltage. Placing the multimeter in parallel is placing each probe along the leads of the component you wish to measure the voltage.

Measuring a battery’s voltage

In this instance we’re mosting likely to measure the voltage of a 1.5 V battery. You understand that you’ll have approximately 1.5 V. So, you ought to select a variety with the selection knob that can read the 1.5 V. So you must select 2V when it comes to this multimeter. If you have an autorange one, you do not have to fret about the variety you need to pick.

Start by activating it, plugging the probes right into their particular ports and after that establishing the selection knob to the highest number value in the DCV area, which in my instance is 500 volts. If you do not recognize a minimum of the voltage variety of things you’re measuring, it’s always an excellent idea to start with the highest possible value initially and afterwards work your way down up until you obtain an accurate reading.

In this situation, we understand the AA battery has an extremely reduced voltage, but we’ll begin at 200 volts simply for the benefit of instance. Next, position the black probe on the unfavorable end of the battery as well as the red probe on the favorable end. Have a look at the reading on the screen. Since we have the multimeter collection to a high 200 volts, it shows “1.6” on the screen, indicating 1.6 volts.

Nevertheless, I desire an even more accurate analysis, so I’ll relocate the selection knob lower down to 20 volts. Here, you can see that we have a more accurate analysis that floats between 1.60 as well as 1.61 volts. If you were to ever before establish the selection knob to a number worth reduced than the voltage of the point you’re examining, the multimeter would certainly just review “1”, signifying that it’s overloaded. So if I were to set the knob to 200 millivolts (0.2 volts), the 1.6 volts of the AA battery is excessive for the multimeter to take care of at that setting.

All the same, you may be asking why you would certainly require to evaluate the voltage of something in the very first place. Well, in this case with the AA battery, we’re examining to see if it has any type of juice left. At 1.6 volts, that’s a fully-loaded battery. Nonetheless, if it were to check out 1.2 volts, it’s close to being pointless.
In a more practical situation, you could do this sort of measuring on a cars and truck battery to see if it could be passing away or if the alternator (which is what bills the battery) is spoiling. An analysis in between 12.4-12.7 volts implies that the battery is in good condition. Anything reduced and that’s evidence of a passing away battery. In addition, begin your auto up and also rev it up a little bit. If the voltage doesn’t raise to around 14 volts or two, then it’s most likely that the alternator is having problems.


What happens if you pick a voltage setting that is as well low for the voltage you’re attempting to measure? Absolutely nothing bad. The meter will simply show a 1. This is the meter trying to tell you that it is overloaded or out-of-range. Whatever you’re trying to check out is way too much for that specific setup. Attempt transforming the multimeter handle to a the next highest setting.

Selection Knob

For what reason does the meter knob reviewed 20V and also not 10V? If you’re seeking to measure a voltage much less than 20V, you count on the 20V setting. This will permit you to read from 2.00 to 19.99. The very first number on many multimeters is only able to present a ‘1’ so the varieties are restricted to 19.99 instead of 99.99. For this reason the 20V max variety as opposed to 99V max variety.

Measuring Resistance

Connect the red probe into the best port and also turn the selection knob to the resistance section. After that, attach the probes to the resistor leads. The method you connect the leads does not matter, the result is the very same.

Normal resistors have color codes on them. If you don’t recognize what they mean, that’s ok! There are lots of online calculators that are very easy to use. Nevertheless, if you ever before locate yourself without internet accessibility, a multimeter is very helpful at measuring resistance.

Choose an arbitrary resistor and also set the multimeter to the 20kΩ setting. Then hold the probes against the resistor legs with the same amount of pressure you when pressing a key on a key-board.

The meter will certainly read one of three things, 0.00, 1, or the actual resistor value.

In this situation, the meter reviews 0.97, indicating this resistor has a worth of 970Ω, or regarding 1kΩ (remember you remain in the 20kΩ or 20,000 Ohm mode so you require to relocate the decimal three places to the right or 970 Ohms).

If the multimeter checks out 1 or shows OL, it’s overloaded. You will require to try a higher setting such as 200kΩ setting or 2MΩ (megaohm) setting. There is no injury if this happen, it merely indicates the array handle requires to be readjusted.

When the multimeter reviews 0.00 or nearly absolutely no, then you require to decrease the mode to 2kΩ or 200Ω.

Keep in mind that lots of resistors have a 5% resistance. This implies that the color codes might show 10,000 Ohms (10kΩ), however due to the fact that of inconsistencies in the manufacturing process a 10kΩ resistor could be as reduced as 9.5 kΩ or as high as 10.5 kΩ. Do not stress, it’ll function simply great as a pull-up or general resistor.

Generally of thumb, it’s unusual to see a resistor less than 1 Ohm. Keep in mind that measuring resistance is not perfect. Temperature can affect the checking out a great deal. Additionally, measuring resistance of a device while it is literally installed in a circuit can be extremely challenging. The bordering elements on a circuit board can greatly affect the analysis.

The mockup typically appears like with a basic clock escaping of a AA battery. On the favorable side, the cable going from the battery to the clock is broken up. We just position our 2 probes in between that break to finish the circuit once again (with the red probe connected to the power resource), just this time our multimeter will certainly review out the amps that the clock is drawing, which in this situation is around 0.08 mA.

While the majority of multimeters can additionally measure alternating current (AC), it’s not actually a good suggestion (especially if its online power), since AC can be hazardous if you end up slipping up. If you require to see whether or not an outlet is functioning, use 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 collection with your circuit.

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

Before measuring the current, make certain that you’ve connected in the red probe in the best port, in this case µAmA. In the example below, the exact same circuit of the previous example is used. The multimeter belongs to the circuit.

Testing Continuity

If there is extremely low resistance in between 2 points, which is much less than a few ohms, the two points are electrically linked as well as you’ll listen to a continuous audio. If the sound isn’t constant or if you don’t listen to any sound in all, it means that what you’re testing has a faulty link or isn’t attached at all.

WARNING: To be able to check continuity you need to turn off the system! Switch off the power source.

Touch both probes together as well as, as they are attached, you’ll listen to a continuous sound.To test the continuity of a wire, you simply require to attach each probe to the cord tips.

Continuity is a terrific way to examine if two SMD pins are touching. If your eyes can’t see it, the multimeter is normally a wonderful 2nd testing source. When a system is not working, continuity is another point to aid troubleshoot the system.

  • Set your multimeter to the continuity setting using the selection knob.
  • The readout on the display will promptly review “1”, which suggests that there isn’t any continuity. This would be right considering that we have not connected the probes to anything yet.
  • Next, ensure the circuit is unplugged and has no power. After that attach one probe to one end of the wire as well as the other probe to the other end– it does not matter which probe takes place which end. If there is a full circuit, your multimeter will certainly either beep, show a “0”, or something apart from a “1”. If it still reveals a “1”, then there’s a trouble and also your circuit isn’t full.
  • You can likewise test that the continuity attribute services your multimeter by touching both probes to each various other. This finishes the circuit and your multimeter should allow you understand that.

A continuity examination informs us whether two things are electrically attached: if something is constant, an electrical current can move freely from one end to the other.

If there’s no continuity, it indicates there is a break somewhere in the circuit. This could show anything from a blown fuse or bad solder joint to an incorrectly wired circuit.

Altering the Fuse

Among the most common mistakes with a new multimeter is to measure current on a bread board by penetrating from VCC to GND. This will immediately brief power to ground with the multimeter triggering the bread board power supply to brown out. As the current hurries with the multimeter, the internal fuse will certainly heat up and after that shed out as 200mA flows through it. It will take place in a fraction of a second and also with no actual distinct or physical sign that something is incorrect.

Bear in mind that measuring current is done in collection (interrupt the VCC line to the breadboard or microcontroller to measure current). If you try to measure the current with a blown fuse, you’ll most likely notice that the meter reviews ‘0.00’ as well as that the system does not switch on like it should when you affix the multimeter. This is due to the fact that the inner fuse is damaged and functions as a broken wire or open.

To change the fuse, discover your useful dandy mini screw chauffeur, and begin taking out screws. The elements and also PCB traces inside the multimeter are created to take various quantities of current. You will damage and also possibly wreck your multimeter if you accidentally push 5A through the 200mA port.

There are times where you require to measure high current tools like a motor or burner. Do you see both places to place the red probe on the front of the multimeter? 10A left wing and mAVΩ on the right? If you attempt to measure even more than 200mA on the mAVΩ port you risk of blowing the fuse. But if you utilize the 10A port to measure current, you run a much reduced threat of blowing the fuse. The compromise is sensitivity. As we discussed above, by utilizing the 10A port and also handle setup, you will just be able to review down to 0.01 A or 10mA. The majority of systems use more than 10mA so the 10A setting and port works all right. If you’re attempting to measure very low power (mini or nano amps) the 200mA port with the 2mA, 200uA, or 20uA can be what you need.


You’re now prepared to utilize your digital multimeter to begin measuring the world around you. Really feel complimentary to begin using it to answer several inquiries. A digital multimeter will certainly address numerous inquiries regarding electronics.

A multimeter is a crucial tool in any type of electronic devices laboratory. In this guide, we’ve shown you How To Use a Multimeter. You’ve discovered exactly how to measure voltage, current and resistance, and also how to inspect continuity.