Voltmeters...

Voymom

Original poster
Member
Feb 3, 2012
2,523
I know this is probably going to sound entirely stupid, but I have been wanting to learn how to use a volt meter, and how to read electrical currents just to further my knowledge on the voy. Anyone have any suggestions on a good volt meter and advice on how to read them and maybe a good list which can show me what certain things are supposed to read current wise? I have been eye balling a pretty simple $20 meter at the farm store here in town, but wasn't sure if it was good enough? I'm not going to go around and play Mrs. Electrician right off, but would like the knowledge in case I ever needed to use a meter and or diagnose a possible electrical problem.

I want to learn how to test volts and amps, do I need 2 different meter's? And also what are some good gauges to have in the tool box? As of now I can handle simple mechanical and maintenance work on the voy (brakes, oil change, TB cleaning etc...) but I would like to be able to get a bit more dirty instead of just being an innocent on-looker when FH has to fix something. I want to be able to handle things in case FH is not around to do it.

Thanks!
 

JimShoe

Member
Sep 3, 2012
16
I bought a book that breaks down the use of the voltmeter in a simple clear way that explains volts, amps, voltage drops and what they mean, buying a multimeter and alot more. The book is Fundamental Electrical Troubleshootingby Dan Sullivan.
 

Voymom

Original poster
Member
Feb 3, 2012
2,523
JimShoe said:
I bought a book that breaks down the use of the voltmeter in a simple clear way that explains volts, amps, voltage drops and what they mean, buying a multimeter and alot more. The book is Fundamental Electrical Troubleshootingby Dan Sullivan.

Thanks Jim!!!! I will have to go look for it!
 

AtlWrk

Member
Dec 6, 2011
674
In my opinion, just about any meter is good enough for 90% of the automotive work you'll do yourself--even the $4 Harbor Freight cheapos (seriously). Get what's cheap and available.

All of them are now "multi-meters" meaning they do voltage, current, resistance and several other useful/useless features all in one tool.

I imagine google will also turn up some useful and free tutorials to get you started.
 

Voymom

Original poster
Member
Feb 3, 2012
2,523
AtlWrk said:
In my opinion, just about any meter is good enough for 90% of the automotive work you'll do yourself--even the $4 Harbor Freight cheapos (seriously). Get what's cheap and available.

All of them are now "multi-meters" meaning they do voltage, current, resistance and several other useful/useless features all in one tool.

I imagine google will also turn up some useful and free tutorials to get you started.

Thanks! I didn't realize that they are now multi-meters, which I suppose is better space wise for the tool box lol. The farm store usually has a $5 and $10 bin which has meter's in them, but I never got one as I didn't know which would be best.

Thanks again!
 

Denali n DOO

Member
May 22, 2012
5,596
You can run a search on you tube, there are some good how to use a multimeter videos. I watched a few of those and they helped me. :thumbsup:
 

Wooluf1952

Member
Nov 20, 2011
2,663
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The only thing I'll add is, make sure it is a digital meter. Not even sure if they still sell the meters with the swinging needle (analog?) any more.
 

The_Roadie

Lifetime VIP Donor
Member
Nov 19, 2011
9,957
Portland, OR
I still have one of the classic Simpson 360 meters with the needle and the mirror behind it so you can eliminate parallax when doing a "precision" measurement with it. Now an antique. Too fragile to use on a vehicle mostly.

I have one nice Fluke, and 5-6 Harbor Freight $1.99 on sale cheapies that I sprinkle around in every vehicle, both floors of the house, and the shop so I KNOW I always have one in reach. Looking at a wire and not knowing the voltage on it makes me dizzy with curiosity. :crazy:

Most first timers are not going to use the current functions. One error in connecting it (like from an unfused 12V to ground or to a load) can destroy the meter, blow its internal fuse, or damage the load you're testing.

Better to concentrate on measuring voltage and resistance first. The resistance function is often called "continuity" and it's how you check to see if a loose fuse (NOT installed in the fuse block) or a lamp (incandescent, not HID) is good or not.
 

Voymom

Original poster
Member
Feb 3, 2012
2,523
the roadie said:
I still have one of the classic Simpson 360 meters with the needle and the mirror behind it so you can eliminate parallax when doing a "precision" measurement with it. Now an antique. Too fragile to use on a vehicle mostly.

I have one nice Fluke, and 5-6 Harbor Freight $1.99 on sale cheapies that I sprinkle around in every vehicle, both floors of the house, and the shop so I KNOW I always have one in reach. Looking at a wire and not knowing the voltage on it makes me dizzy with curiosity. :crazy:

Most first timers are not going to use the current functions. One error in connecting it (like from an unfused 12V to ground or to a load) can destroy the meter, blow its internal fuse, or damage the load you're testing.

Better to concentrate on measuring voltage and resistance first. The resistance function is often called "continuity" and it's how you check to see if a loose fuse (NOT installed in the fuse block) or a lamp (incandescent, not HID) is good or not.

Thanks Roadie!!! I will pick up that cheapie after all! The hubby knows how to use a multi-meter so I will get some starter tips from him as well. I just want to make sure I know most of the basics right off in case he isn't home to help.
 

MAY03LT

Member
Nov 18, 2011
3,412
Delmarva
Voymom said:
And also what are some good gauges to have in the tool box?

A fuel pressure gauge is highly recommended. It will pay for itself the first time that you have to use it.:yes:
 

christo829

Member
Dec 7, 2011
496
Fairfax, Virginia
MAY03LT said:
A fuel pressure gauge is highly recommended. It will pay for itself the first time that you have to use it.:yes:

Along with that, you might consider a vacuum gauge.

Also, if you go with the cheaper multi-meters, get a couple. Some of them can be a bit delicate, and that way you're
not stuck in the middle of a project if the meter decides to go sideways. For automotive work, the digital would
be the best bet. Some analogs could tolerate the abuse (I've got a Simpson 260 series 3 and a Simpson Triplett 310
that my father used to use when he serviced the old microwave weather stations Western Union used to operate, still working
well, and they used to bang around in the back of an old Willys Jeep :smile: ), and you can still get the 260's new, though
they're up to series 7 or 8 (pricey), but trying to read a needle from the different positions you'll end up in while working on
the vehicle is going to end up frustrating and inaccurate.

If you're working on old tube stereos or similar items, then the analog meters come in handy. So does an oscilloscope, for that
matter.... :smile: But not for general automotive...

Anyway, pardon the digression, but if you have more than one, you can always keep one in the house for general
purposes, and the other in the vehicle, or at least in the garage. That way, you've got a backup if it fails, and you've got
one that can get grimy, and you don't have to remember to wipe it off before you take it back in the house. :wink:

Oh...and Sullivan's book is a handy reference, so I'll second that recommendation. We used to keep a copy in
one of the labs. We told them it was for the interns... :wink:

Have fun!

Cheers-

Chris
 

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