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Multimeters

Discussion in 'Workshop and Home Improvement' started by MTJohn, Aug 17, 2006.

  1. MTJohn

    MTJohn

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    I don't know an amp from a volt from an ohm from a watt, but I apparently need a multimeter for some of the diagnostic work on my 80. A search on the site seems to suggest I should buy a Fluke.

    Any advice on what I should get? I want to have the features I need, but not so many I don't need that I never figure out how to use it.


    Thanks
     
  2. KLF

    KLF Frame waxer SILVER Star

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    Fluke is a very good brand, high end, well made. If I was a pro doing electrical work all the time, I'd have one. I don't think they make one for less than $100, but they go way up from there.

    For occasional use, the Craftsman meters are fine. I have a $20 one that I carry with me in my truck box, it's done everything I've needed so far. I also have a higher end one that I keep at home, too expensive to possible lose or destroy in a box of trail tools.

    Get one that will measure at least 10A of current in DC mode, and temperature measurement is also really handy, if you get the probe for it. An audio continuity feature is really useful too.
     
  3. landtank

    landtank SILVER Star

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    best option to have is a continuity tone. When looking for an open in a circuit it's nice to be able to hear the meter instead of needing to look at it.

    For your application, the cheaper the better. I actually have an analog (sweep) meter because they are better at seeing bad contacts in switches and relays and display faster than the auto ranging ones.
     
  4. Grench

    Grench SILVER Star

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    I have a craftsman digital and an OLD semi-generic el cheap-o analog sweep. I calibrate the sweep with the digital then use the old POS one.

    Analog dials are much easier to read at a glance. Half the time you're checking @12 volts. I.e. did it make the dial move to about where 12-15 volts is at on the dial. The other half of the time you're checking for continuity. I.e. did it make the dial move at all. This is where an audible one would be handy. I wonder if you could convert the door open alarm box into a continuity tester... I digress.

    If your name is Raventi then you actually know and understand the properties of resistors and won't confuse a resistor with a capacitor with a fuse with a solenoid with a ...

    If you get to the point where you're adjusting rheostat pots on a custom circuit board to vary the voltage to a dedicated process controller resulting in a pulsed quasi-analog output... thats when you need to buy one of the high high end fluke meters that has a built in osiliscope.

    Until then, my advice is to buy the cheapest one you can find. Look for one with a user changable fuse inside the meter. Buy extra fuses. The first time you have it set to continuity testing and lay it into 12 volts at battery amperage you'll be glad you had the fuse.

    Just my humble opinion. I'm not an EE. YMMV.
     
  5. re_guderian

    re_guderian SILVER Star

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    Harbor Freight occassionally puts them on sale for ~$5, which make great ones to put in the tool box in the truck. When they get smashed, no sweat. I also have a Craftsman one at home that is a little better quality.
     
  6. woody

    woody unhelpful spotter Staff Member Admin

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    my good one is a fluke, it stays in the shop....

    the balance run between $6-20, and I have 4-5 of them floating around...one in the tool box, one in the tool bag, one in the rollaround, and a spare that I can't find offhand...

    someday, you'll want a good one...for starters, spend $10-15 and call it good.
     
  7. informationjunky

    informationjunky

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    I bought a couple of the Harbor Freight ones (on sale for about $3) and our lab tech compared its readings to a techtronix scope and funny enough it was almost dead on.
     
  8. mobi-arc

    mobi-arc

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    Agreed. They're within 1% of our calibrated Flukes. Best $2.99 ever spent.
     
  9. haystax

    haystax

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    I like our newest Greenline clamp meter, even though they are sold at Home Depot. Fluke is the "gold standard" but rarely will you need or use the features in simple DC auto mechanics. You get what you pay for, just like most tools. I have a cheaper Craftsman meter that goes with me in the field toolbox and it has been a very good tool. Amp clamp is useless for DC but is nice for hanging the meter within view, expensive units allow for the add-on of a DC amp gauge. Those are nice but too expensive for most garage mechanics.
     
  10. ducktapeguy

    ducktapeguy

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    HF ones are decent, and are always on sale for about $3. At that price you can afford to buy multiples ones to keep in the garage, toolbox, etc. It's almost cheaper to buy new ones than to replace the batteries on it.

    For basic electrical troubleshooting on a car, 99% of the time you'll either be checking continutity or voltage, so a $3 meter will work as well as a $200 Fluke. The audible tone is very useful, makes it a lot easier if you're under the dash probing stuff. If you get to the point that you need more features, then you're a lot more advanced than most people. I have an older Fluke that gets almost no use, because it's too big, too expensive, and never easily accessible because it might get damaged.
     
  11. tabraha

    tabraha Hello My Name is: TAD SILVER Star

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    I've got a Fluke 112 and it is built real solid but most of the Flukes would be complete overkill for your app. It's overkill for me too but I found it on the side of a RR track in the middle of nowhere so I now own one.

    Get a harbor freight el cheapo and do your troubleshooting.
     
  12. mabrodis

    mabrodis

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    Nothing wrong with a cheap MM but work with it a bit to understand it. By that I mean, test some sensors (the FSM has instructions on testing many sensors, what ohm range it should be at when hot, etc), because having an accurate ohm measurement is helpful. Many meters will not read something measuring 10-50 ohms correctly, they will just say it's zero ohms and therefore a short, but that same item measured on a quality meter will say whether it's 6 ohms or 8 ohms, giving you an accurate reading, which may or may not be needed/helpful.

    I have a WaveTek meter I got as a gift, works very well, has the temperature probe (thermocouple), which is cool when someone asks how freaking cold it is outside while we're wheeling...well toss the wire out and we'll see...

    If you want something to measure AC/DC current accurately you can get clamp meters which connect to a MM, they actually put out a voltage to the MM, so you read amps by reading what voltage the clamp meter puts out...the cool part is that clamp meter can be plugged into any MM, the bad part is they are not cheap, AC current meters are alot cheaper than DC models...and yes a normal MM can measure current up to 10-20 amps by running it through a known-resistence wire and measuring voltage drop across the wire (all internal to the MM, but if you take it apart that's what you'll see), which is fairly accurate, but does impact the circuit you're measuring somewhat, more than a current clamp, which doesn't even physically touch the wire.

    The reason I mention using the meter before just stashing it in the toolbox is I have seen atleast a few harbor freight meters which the leads were bad on, didn't even connect internally, so if you pulled it out of the box and started using it without knowing the wires were bad, you'd come to some odd conclusions about your vehicle..

    Good Luck...

    :cheers:
     
  13. Josh83

    Josh83

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    I have 2 flukes, a craftsman, and old el cheapo digital and an older el cheapo analog. Fluke #1 is a 179 III that I bought in school and paid about $180 for. I love this meter and it is what I grab at home. I also have a fluke 87 III that I use at work. It is a little more high-zoot ($230ish) and I love it more than my other one. The craftsman one lives in my tool bag in my rig and is a great meter for the price of about $20. The other two I do not use. For what you need, a 20ish dollar craftsman would be great. If you want to spend a little extra coin, get one with a backlight, both of my flukes have it and I will NOT buy another meter without it. Whatever you buy, get one with a continuity tone.
     
  14. sandcruiser

    sandcruiser

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    glad I saw this thread!
    I was looking to replace the probes on my inexpensive MM, but after seeing the harbor freight unit, I just bought three of those as it would cost a lot more to replace the probes & battery than it does to buy the whole unit.

    Now I'll have one for my indoor toolbox, one in the garage, and a third in the truck. All for under $10. :)

    I'll keep the old meter in case one of the HF units is garbage, then I'll just scavange the probes and move on.
     
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