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Open Roads Forum  >  Tech Issues

 > Multimeter recommendation?

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valhalla360

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Posted: 11/25/21 08:20am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

For starter, a cheap $10-20 unit will be fine.

Checking amperage is far less commo but even the cheap ones will typically do 12v up to around 10amps. The downside is you have to put it in the circuit. The more expensive clamp on meters don't require the wires to be disconnected.


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BB_TX

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Posted: 11/25/21 08:48am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I am also an EE and spent my career designing and testing solid state and microprocessor based control systems. Company had all the latest gadgets to test all scenarios. What do I use for my testing now that I am retired? Low priced meters from Home Depot and more often than not my “get one free with any purchase” meters from Harbor Freight. That’s all you need. You don’t need expensive meters for an RV. Have never needed to measure current flow when troubleshooting my RV even though one of my meters does have that capability.

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Posted: 11/25/21 08:59am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Good question. When faced with the same dilemma I ended up with about a $300 fluke which wasn't a very good decision because I have to get out the instruction booklet every time I use that thing it's so comprehensive/ complicated. If I used it everyday I'm sure I wouldn't have to break out the book, however i know very little about electricity...fluke also has or used to a free online school that's very helpful for about every thing electrical .

Matt_Colie

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Posted: 11/25/21 09:42am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Kansas,

You have a lot of great advice here. Some of us are like BB_TX. I am one of those.

I will guess by the way you asked that you currently have nothing. Let me make some suggestions.

At Hazard Fright, you can get a truly cheap Mutlimeter. That cheap CCV will do 95% of what you can do within your current experience level. Get one of those. (~7$us when not on sale.)

Then go to a storefront car parts place and get a socket with two wire leads (not a tail light base they have two leads for a two filament bulb), and a 12V bulb to fit that socket. If the have plain alligator clips there, get at least 2. Put this together and you have a test light that can clip on. "Does it have power?" can instantly be answered and this is better than a meter because the bulb actually requires that the circuit can supply power.

Those two items will allow you to do most of the diagnosis of what needs in an RV.

Want more? For 120V things a non-contact voltage detector is nice. Cost less than 10$ and you can't get hurt. Just hold it near the wire.

If you think you want more, learn more first. Then we can help you spend a lot more money. A lot more money.

What is with this guy?
Prior becoming a licensed ships engineer, I sailed as electrician. After I retired, I set up a company that did a lot of electrical work on boats. I did a lot of trouble shooting at that.

Behind me is a full Fluke case that is insured for 800$. In the drawer next to me is one of the cheapo Mutli from Harbor freight. It all has its place.

Matt


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ktmrfs

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Posted: 11/25/21 09:44am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

even the cheap ones are pretty good now UNTIL you drop it. (which you will). But the mid priced ones from brands like Klein tools are IMHO robust enough with moderate care. For occasional use a very good choice IMHO and available at Lowes, HD etc.

Make sure the meter you get is rated for at least CATII better if CATIII, 600V. If no rating, pass big time. Even with only 12V DC accidental wrong connection can cause big issues with safety (fire etc) with a meter not meeting safety standards. Remember, a 12V battery can supply 300-700A or more in short circuit, you want a meter than won't catch fire if it fails or you hooked it up wrong.

Then there are the Fluke and older Tektronix TX series handheld DMM's. Drop them from 20 ft, no problem, have it on current mode and connect across a 240V line or across a 12V battery bank, no problem, pop in a new fuse, need a unique set of leads, no problem, but you will pay more, but they will be passed on to your grandkids.

* This post was last edited 11/25/21 10:57pm by ktmrfs *   View edit history


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navigator2346

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Posted: 11/25/21 09:50am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

EE here. Go with a cheap Harbor Freight meter.Most of your work on an rv will be continuity, either you have it or you don't type trouble shooting. Someone mentioned dropping a cheap meter so buy 2.

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Posted: 11/25/21 09:50am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow - hate to hear the comments, get the cheapest one you can afford. Remember, the only thing between you and the current you are measuring is the meter. If you buy cheap, you get cheap, which may cost you in the end. Also, it's like a calculator. If 1+1=3 then 4 then 6 then 2, is it reliable? No!!

Get a good meter, spend a few extra bucks. I like the ones that automatically detect AC or DC voltage, same setting, auto ranging. Just put it on voltage and you are good to go. I have both a clamp and DMM, but they both measure the same things, the clamp is just easier for clamping to a wire, like a battery cable.

Make sure it is rated to CAT IV 600 V minimum - this is to protect you from shock. If you plan to use it around the house also you might be measuring 120V AC to 240V AC.

As many have mentioned, Fluke is the gold standard and they are priced accordingly, but Amprobe (Fluke's cheap brand) FLIR, Klein, Ideal all are good quality manufacturers. They are all built in the same factories, but QC is different depending on who's name is on them. Stick to a manufacturer of electrical tools and you won't go wrong.

A non contact voltage tester is also good around 120v - not DC. I use it all the time around the house to make sure the power is off before changing a light fixture, switch, etc. A decent one is $20 or so, you can go cheap, but are you sure it works? I guess you can touch the wire and check.

enblethen

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Posted: 11/25/21 10:00am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

At times it would be beneficial to have a clamp on DC amp meter. The one from Home Depot is rated to 400 amp. This one from ">moAAOSwoJ9ghndr]ebay would serve you well. An inexpensive one will not have DC amerage level that will not handle some of the testing.


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Posted: 11/25/21 11:28am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I vote for an inexpensive HF unit. That’s what I have.


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Posted: 11/25/21 11:56am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have the Klein 600a AC-DC meter and (though 600a is a bit of overkill), it’s one great meter that should be compared to Fluke…Due to future needs, I hate having to buy tools twice to get the one I end-up needing…

3 tons

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