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Author Topic:   Multimeter Suggestions
Jake B posted 01-31-2013 06:20 PM ET (US)   Profile for Jake B   Send Email to Jake B  
I am in the market for a new multimeter that also measures capacitance. My old one is a UEI DM383B that I blew both fuses trying to measure current on my battery for the first time. I have never been happy with the meter anyways. The readings would dance around all over the place and I would have to shut it off and turn it back on to get it to zero out most of the time.

I mainly use one to check:
120/240 AC volts
12/24 DC volts
Capacitance (A/C pump capacitors)

What brands do you guys like? Are they pretty durable(important)? Accuracy?

I know this is the deep end off the pool for this site, and I am an minnow when it comes to electrical issues. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.


SC Joe posted 01-31-2013 08:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for SC Joe  Send Email to SC Joe     
I have a had a Fluke DMM for as long as I have been messing with any type of circuits--probably 30 years or so. I still have the Model 73 my father gave me in college. I understand the model 77 is enhanced a bit, but the 73 got me through all my engineering circuits classes.
Jerry Townsend posted 01-31-2013 09:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
You can't go wrong with a Fluke. I have two, one in the boat and one in my shop. They are top-notch equipment. --- Jerry/Idaho
jimh posted 01-31-2013 10:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I have three FLUKE digital multimeters. The latest one is a Clamp-On that measures DC current with a peak recording feature. It is a Model 374. I also have a Model 73. And somewhere another Fluke, I think a Model 77. But I don't think any of them measure capacitance.
Chuck Tribolet posted 02-01-2013 08:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Another vote for Fluke. I have two, one at each house. Both
are model 77, but I think there's something newer. The 77
doesn't measure capacitance, but there may be another model
or add-on probe that does.

Fluke is the Boston Whaler of multimeters.


Jake B posted 02-01-2013 08:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jake B  Send Email to Jake B     
Thanks guys!

If Fluke is what you guys recommend, then thats what I'm buying. The Whaler comment is well taken Chuck. I don't mind paying a little more for something that will probably last me the rest of my life.

Fluke's website has a nice compare models page which really helped me narrow down my choices from the many different DMMs they produce.

Im leaning towards the 179 because it meets all my needs and as a bonus checks temperature. I don't know when I would use that feature, but hey why not have it just in case.

Im also interested in the 77-IV, mainly because you guys own that model and like it. According to the Fluke website the 77 does check capacitance. Both the 179 and 77-IV are around $300.

That brings me to a question, are microfarads the units that capacitance is measured by? Why don't I see the greek u and F on any of the meters dial settings?

On HVAC DMMs I have seen a MFD setting that is used specially to check capacitors. Do different manufacturers use the MFD and others use the uF ?

And thanks again for helping me with this decision.


jimh posted 02-01-2013 09:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
To buy a FLUKE DMM, check on line for best prices. I use GOOGLE's shopping feature. There is a vary wide range of prices available. For a long time I used to be able to buy FLUKE from a big national distributor at "best column" pricing (because we were affiliated with a very large international account), and the discount from MSRP was very significant. These days there several small vendors who will sell very close to cost via the internet.
David Pendleton posted 02-01-2013 09:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
And if you want to save $250.00, you can buy an EXTECH MN47 that does everything you want.

I've had an EXTECH for ten years and it still looks and works the same as when I bought it.

Chuck Tribolet posted 02-01-2013 11:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
So they are up to the fourth generation of Fluke 77 now.

I know my older one is first generation, and I'm pretty sure
the newer one is too. I bought the older one in the early '80s.

The only bad thing about them is that they are big (at least
the gen 1 is big). On the boat I keep a $20 radio shack
unit that's about the size of a credit and about 3/8" thick.


Tom W Clark posted 02-03-2013 12:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
I own three professional grade digital multimeters:

Venerable old Fluke 77
Klein Tools CL2000
Klein Tools MM2000

All of them perform flawlessly and have been very durable.

I also own a small analog multimeter I bought at Radio Shack in 1986 for about $10 or $20. It too has performed flawlessly and been very durable these last 25 years. It is also the one that has always lived with the other tools on my boats.

Don't feel like you have to spend a lot of money.

conch posted 02-04-2013 11:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for conch  Send Email to conch     
I have been using a Simpson anolog meter for over 50 years,a very good meter.

The Fluke 179 is nice with the "hold" feature for when your in an ackward or difficult position and taking a reading.


Whalrman posted 02-04-2013 05:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for Whalrman  Send Email to Whalrman     
Simpson 260 metre is what I use.
Jake B posted 02-04-2013 08:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jake B  Send Email to Jake B     
My wife asked what I wanted for Valentines Day. I told her a good Fluke. She just looked at me with those why did I ever say yes eyes.

My 179 should be here in a few days. I plan to test and probe everything. Lookout Tesla!

Maybe I could get a job at the SuperDome with my new DMM.

swist posted 02-05-2013 05:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for swist  Send Email to swist     
For reasons I'm not 100% sure of, multimeters don't measure capacitance (or inductance for that matter). Probably due to the fact that the circuitry is DC and all (non-shorted :-) capacitors are open circuits at DC (and inductors are dead shorts or very low-resistance at DC). I think the meter would have to be able to put an AC current through such components to have a chance. And what frequency, etc, etc...

Jimh must know.

Jerry Townsend posted 02-05-2013 06:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
Jake - you got it made - Christmas in February. Everyone should be that lucky.

Re Tesla - I wonder what we would have today if Tesla had a good Fluke. But he gave us a real gift - AC power, radio, telecommunications, et al. And he was never awarded the Nobel award. --- Jerry/Idaho

kwik_wurk posted 02-05-2013 07:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for kwik_wurk  Send Email to kwik_wurk     
Have a two Fluke units, 73 and an 87V. One is in my tool box that goes on longer trips (boat or car), and the other sits in the shop.

The 73 has surprised me the most, it froze solid once (left it outside), and fell into the salt water for a nice dunk another time (only thing that saved it was I was holding the leads). Both times I simply opened it up, removed the battery, and let it dry out, then did a low heat dry in the oven.

But my favorite device is an Extec current clamp meter (forgot the model) that can handle DC/AC mA accuracy. Every time I get a new (to me) boat I spend several weeks isolating 12V devices that have parasitic draw on the batteries to identify if they need to be re-wired to dedicated on/off breakers/isolators that cut power entirely. -- In some cases it is not practical to simply turn off the house batteries entirely.

Chuck Tribolet posted 02-05-2013 09:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
One advantage of DMM over analog meters is that the DMM has a
very high input impedance, while the analog meter has a low
input impedance which can change the measurement.

Fluke has clamp-on current measurement. It plugs into a DMM.
I don't know the accuracy, but I've seen the facilities crew at work use them.


Jake B posted 02-06-2013 06:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jake B  Send Email to Jake B     
How accurate are the clamp on DMM's?

And how do they isolate the voltage inside the "loop" from the other wires near by?

It seems most of my work for a DMM is in a residential breaker box, my truck, tractors, and trailers. I like the idea of of an all plastic lead to prevent an accident, but seldom do I have the working space for such a clamp. It would also cut down on the amount of hands I need to hold the meter, leads, and hood.

Separate question, how does a clamp on measure without attaching a lead to ground? Why is that technology not in every DMM?

conch posted 02-06-2013 09:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for conch  Send Email to conch     
I guess one advantage to the old analog Simpson was the ability to see and sense rate and trending with the swing of the needle. I use both.
Chuck Tribolet posted 02-06-2013 06:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
The clamp-on is for measuring current. The clamp goes over
the outside of one conductor of the circuit and when the clamp
closes it completes a coil around that conductor. The current
flow in the conductor induces current in the coil, which the
DMM measures.


jimh posted 02-06-2013 06:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Clamp-on measurement of AC is not particularly hard to obtain, nor expensive. Clamp-on measurement of DC is more difficult to accomplish, and more expensive.

Clamp-on technology for AC voltage and current measurement is really old. I remember seeing my father use a Simpson Clamp-on meter back in the 1960's.

Jerry Townsend posted 02-06-2013 11:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
The clamp-on meters are reasonably accurate - typically within about 3%.

They work via an induced current into a coil - which is wound on one arm of the clamp-on clamp. I don't know if the other arm serves a purpose, other than to allow the "clamp" to hold onto a wire.

And here, I don't know for sure - but wouldn't be surprised if the clamp-on meter was a take-off of the Tesla coil - which he used to measure high currents and voltages which he could not have touched - as lightening strikes. ---- Jerry/Idaho

Jefecinco posted 02-07-2013 09:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
I'm sure the practice is irrelevant with today's digital meters but I seem to remember in the 60s, with analog meters, in order to get a semi-accurate amperage reading we would wrap several turns of a conductor around a clamp on coil and do the math.


Tom W Clark posted 02-07-2013 10:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
My Klein Tools CL200 is a clamp-on DMM that measures both AC and DC current. I alway thought it worked by magic, so thanks for the explanation. CL2000_TrueRms-Digital-Clamp-Meter-Instructions.pdf

jimh posted 02-07-2013 12:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The AC Clamp-on measurement is akin to a transformer. Alternating currents can be used with transformers. This is very old technology. See

The DC Clamp-on measurement is related to magnetic fields. Usually a Hall-Effect sensor is used. The measurement is a bit more complicated, but the theory is quite old, too. See

Jake B posted 02-18-2013 06:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jake B  Send Email to Jake B     
I received my 189 last week and love it!

Before I decided to purchase a new DMM I called UEI to purchase new fuses and a new LCD cover because mine was so scratched up. A very nice lady in WA told me they don't sell to the public and gave me a list of local distributors. She took down my information and said she could send me a replacement screen.
Last week I received a package from UEI with a screen, two fuses, and a hand written thank you note for using their product.

UEI made my day! It felt good to see a company help out their customer when they didn't have to. That DMM will remain my workhorse and the 189 for A/C repair.


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