When you first look at a multimeter it might seem like the cockpit of some fancy flying machine. However the uses for a digital or analog multimeter are actually quite common.
For example, how many times have you wondered if a battery were dead or not? It is the toy that went bad? Or, if you are like me and you are replacing old batteries and you pull out one of the old batteries and then forget which hand is the new battery and which is the old. Drives me nuts because I have to try each permutation to see which is old vs new. IF you have a multimeter it is easy to check not only to see if the battery is good, but HOW GOOD.
All you have to do is set the multimeter to the “DC” setting and then touch the black lead to the negative end of the battery and the red lead to the positive side of the battery and the multimeter will tell you clearly how much “juice” is left in the battery.
You can also check your car battery the same way. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have gone out to start the car and heard the “tell tale click” of the starter as it attempts to turn over. It is the starter? Is it the alternator? Or is it the battery. If you have a multimeter you can test it quickly and easily diagnose the problem.
Most of the time it is the battery that bad. If you have teen aged daughters like me that like to sit in the car and listen to the radio while you go into the store AND they leave the ignition in the “on” position instead of setting the ignition to the “auxiliary” postion (all the way back) so that the fan runs for over an hour…boom, battery dead.
Another quite common use for a digital multimeter is simple continuity checking. This is simply testing to see if a wire has any breaks in it any where. I have used a multimeter to test a set of iPod earphones. We have four daughters and therefore 10 iPods, with lots of headphones.
Well headphone wires can be bent and twisted enough times that sometimes they break. I will simply place one lead of the multimeter on the very end of the “male” adaptor (end that plugs into the iPod) and the other lead on the section of the stem right before the wire begins. If you get a solid tone, you know that the wire is continuous and not broken. IF however you don’t get a solid tone, you know that the wire is broken. Bummer taco! Pull out your wallet and prepare to buy a new headphone.