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Open Roads Forum  >  Tech Issues

 > Multimeter recommendation?

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ktmrfs

Portland, Oregon

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Posted: 11/25/21 12:20pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thermoguy wrote:

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.


I'd say CatII or CatIII is more than adequate. CatIV stuff get's expensive. CatIII covers main distribution panels, CatII wall outlets. It isn't just for shock protection, also make sure it doesn't blow up in your face or catch fire if you accidentally short across a battery bank in current mode and try to stuff 500A in the 1A range.



CAT III
Distribution-level mains (usually permanently connected).
Equipment at this level is typically in a fixed industrial
location.
CAT II
Local-level mains (wall sockets). Equipment at this level
includes appliances, portable tools, and similar products.
Equipment is usually cord-connected.
CAT I
Secondary (signal level) or battery operated circuits

Fluke has a really nice unit with detachable current head so you can get it around a cable in a tight place when measuring current.

Also if you happen to have a Klein tool non contact voltage tester around the house, PLEASE check Klein tool website for a recall on many of those units. I have two going back under the recall. Apparently they can indicate no power when power is present.

* This post was last edited 11/25/21 10:55pm by ktmrfs *   View edit history


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CA Traveler

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Posted: 11/25/21 02:06pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A small 12V test light with ground wire, bulb and probe is a very useful tool because it's very visual and it puts a small load on the circuit.

A cheap HF voltmeter is adequate for most DC checking

For AC a better insulated voltmeter should be considered, and one that physically holds one probe in plastic tabs is better since only one hand is near the circuit - attach the negative lead first. But truthfully most RVers should not be probing AC except perhaps with a no contact tester.

The 3 light plug in tester is also a useful tool. Consider one that has a GFCI test button.


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wa8yxm

Davison Michigan (East of Flint)

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Posted: 11/25/21 03:34pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

There are many meters that will do most of what you are able to use starting at around 5.00 at harbor freight... NOW.. These measure AC and DC current usually up to around 10 amps. AC and DC voltage.. Most are peak reading meters on AC then multiply by Square Root(2)/2 (.707) to give you RMS voltage... This is good so long as it's a clean sine wave...

More expensive meters actually do the math and compute the RMS.. but you do not often need that (if you get strange voltage readings on a MSW inverter... that's when you need the better meter. about the only time)

More expensive meters add Frequency (Useful) Temperature probes. (Usefull but less so) and other features (Ability to test some components, measure capacitors and such).

Then there are clamp on ammeters. These often can read up to 400 amps on the clamps (you do not need to insert them in the curcuit just clamp it over say a battery cable.. Most of these the clamp only does AC. came in handy to figure out what was going on with an Air Conditioner (20 amp range)

Some can do both AC and DC on the clamp (mine) It cost about 65 bucks and is a Craftsman model. The "Gold Standards" are Simpson and Fluke. But again you don't need that good. (just the carry case for a fluke is almost what I paid for my crafstman and it has no electronics.. Just plastic)

I've got meters up to around 250 dollars list... But Electronics is .. My hobby.
(Among other entries I'm a certified electronics technician and extra class ham radio operator) Actually other than ruggedness the 5-10 dollar Horrible Freight does over 90% of what I need.... If I were working in the field. (Not a shop) it is likely what I'd take in my tool box... I mean.. if it gets lost stolenm stepped on.. no great loss.


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theoldwizard1

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Posted: 11/25/21 05:39pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CA Traveler wrote:

A small 12V test light with ground wire, bulb and probe is a very useful tool because it's very visual and it puts a small load on the circuit.

TRUE ! There are some "tricks" you need to learn to get the maximum out of it. Get one that use an incandescent bulb, NOT an LED ! Some auto techs use a dual filament tail light bulb just because it can draw more current.

For a meter, decent middle of the road clamp meter, Uni-T UT210E.

wa8yxm

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Posted: 11/26/21 04:51am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have made my own test lights.
You get an automotive lamp socket with leads (some have one lead and ground through the case you want one with LEADS a "Blade" type socket is good)
Get the matching lamp
Solder an extension lead on one side this is the probe lead (how to make probe in a bit)
The other lead gets the clip

To make the probe
A short (Say 8") length of wood dowell

A nail say a 10 penny.
Solder the wire to the nail about half way down.
Drive the nail into the dowel
Grind the head off the nail and sharpen to a point

Optional cover the dowel with HEAT SHRINK tubing holding the wire to the side of the dowel and shrink it down.

I used a license plate lamp.

2112

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Posted: 11/26/21 05:50am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The CL390 is a nice middle of the road meter with some nice features. I like the reverse contrast display, NCV tester and probe holder. Get something with a backlight if you don't get the reverse contrast.

A DC clamp meter can be handy on the camper to measure battery charge current, slideout or furnace current draw, or if you get into solar. You can use it around the house to troubleshoot our check the health of your HVAC. It's nice to have but you probably won't use it much.

I've been happy with EXTECH but Klein is probably a step up. I carry a small EXTECH in the camper and use a Fieldpiece around the house.


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StirCrazy

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Posted: 11/26/21 08:01am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

here is a cheep option that covers pretty much everything you would ever need in a rv. multimeter


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fj12ryder

Platte City, MO

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Posted: 11/26/21 12:04pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

$50 is cheap? We definitely have different definitions. [emoticon]


Howard and Peggy

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Thermoguy

Graham, WA

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Posted: 11/26/21 01:51pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It is compared to this - but with this one you can measure your bearing temps...

High Quality Meter

fj12ryder

Platte City, MO

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Posted: 11/26/21 03:01pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Oh my, that will certainly take your breath away. [emoticon]

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