Auto-Ranging Multimeter

Switched Multimeter

Integrated Test Leads/Probes
(right click to enlarge)
     In electrical applications, when an electrical circuit is capable of conducting current, it demonstrates electrical continuity.  It is said to be closed  because the circuit is complete.  
     Test the multimeter  (Use the continuity setting) to ensure that it is working properly by turning it on and touching the probes together - the meter should read zero.  An indicator light might flash or a beeping sound  might be heard, indicating a closed circuit.  [The meter "beeps" so that you can probe for continuity without constantly looking over at the meter.]  When the probes are not touching anything, the multimeter will read infinity, showing that the circuit is open [no beep].
     A multimeter is an instrument used to check for voltage, resistance or continuity of electrical components and small amounts of current in circuits.  It has its own power source, i.e., a battery or batteries! 
    On this page,
you will see illustrations and photos of a variety of multimeters. An explanation of how to use a multimeter to check for continuity is explained.  Other uses will be explained later.

Using a Multimeter

Analog Multimeter
More Expensive
Clamp Meter
Less Expensive
*Multimeters come in different sizes, colors, and shapes.  Multimeters can have different features and levels of sophistication.  Some have the leads hard-wired to the unit and some have plug-in leads.

*Your selection of which multimeter to use depends on what your individual needs are and how much you want to $pend.
Continuity In Simple Terms
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Read these terms, and then read below how they are used.
You can come back to this chart for reference, if needed.

This means the amount of charge (e.g., electricity) that flows past a cross-section area in a conductor (e.g., electricity flowing through a piece of wire).

Circuit:  This means the interconnection of physical components that constitute the flow of current (e.g., light switch by wire to light fixture).

This means how much the material is opposing (e.g., resisting or slowing down) the current flow in an electrical circuit.  Resistance is measured in ohms (Ω).

Zero Ohms:
  This means you have zero resistance, but it also means you have continuity. "00.0" (i.e., the flow is still moving and nothing is stopping or slowing it down.

Continuity:  This means the circuit you are testing is complete.  A straight piece of wire represents a circuit with zero or near zero resistance.   If you measure resistance of that circuit, the meter would indicate zero ohms, and you have continuity regardless what scale you have selected. If you were to cut that wire, you no longer have continuity.

Open Circuit: This means you have infinite resistance and no continuity.  Infinite (infinity) means the open circuit represents so much resistance the meter cannot measure it.  No beep, no measurement.

Closed Circuit: This means the circuit you are testing is complete, i.e., you have continuity. Your multimeter (if applicable) should emit an audible beep=audible continuity.

Infinity:  No beep, no measurement.    "0L." (open loop) or "1" on some meters.

Read the directions on how to use your specific multimeter that comes with your multimeter (for specific multimeter information and symbol meanings)
A multimeter has many uses You can use the multimeter to test batteries, switches and other appliances you might have.  The next section will focus on checking continuity with your multimeter.  This is done with no power to the item you are testing, i.e., no electricity or battery power to the test item! (Remember: the multimeter has its own power supply.)

Some tests do require an accurate reading.

  Some cheap units are not accurate, but can do a simple continuity test on your test item. 
Different Uses
sound symbol
If you already have a multimeter (or too many like me!), you're all set.  If you need to buy one, you can view, read reviews or purchase one through the links below (or you can borrow one from a friend or buy one at the store of your choice.)
Digital Multimeter Pocket Size DC AC Voltage Current Tester NCV Ohm Capacitance Frequency Diode and Continuity Test Auto Range
For Advanced Troubleshooting, Measures 1000 V AC/DC, Peak Min/Max, Low Pass Filter, Includes TL75 Test Leads, AC175 Alligator Clips, 80BK Temp Probe
General purpose digital multimeter tester for batteries, cells, fuses, and other electrical components.
Analog Multimeter with Back Light, and Transistor Checking Dock
Extra-small diameter jaw (0.5") that’s specifically designed to reach into very small areas
If your radio, refrigerator, motor vehicle or other items that are powered by electricity, battery or has any electrical connections stops working, a multimeter might help you to find the cause and enable you to effect a repair.
First, learn the language (terms), then learn how they are applied.
Let's apply the above terms.
Up Next: Resistance-ohms
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I have several of similar versions. If this is for a one time or occasional use (or to store in your vehicle when you don't mind your friend stealing it!), it is good enough for some basic continuity checks and to test small batteries. I don't expect the precise results of my oscilloscope, but for simple measurements (e.g.,continuity), some of these cheaper models will suffice.
     The examples below are from my refrigerator repair pages on this website.  You can visit this page for an actual demonstration of how to use the multimeter to check for a problem in a refrigerator circuit. This same illustration can be used to find problems in other appliances, electronics, etc. Click here to go to the Multimeter Testing Refrigerator Parts page on this website.