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Old 06-14-2016, 07:46 AM   #1
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1968 22' Safari
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Recommended Multimeter

I've never used a multi-meter before. I've found that the best way to determine both presence and strength of current is to just grab a wire near an audiometer and measure how loud I yell "YOUCH".


Seriously, for work on Airstreams, which multimeter do our electrical gurus recommend?

Jay & Lisa

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Old 06-14-2016, 08:11 AM   #2
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The free ones Harbor Freight gives away work fine for me. I have gotten 3 this year.

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Old 06-14-2016, 08:22 AM   #3
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No brand recommendation, but get a digital meter instead of analog.
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Old 06-14-2016, 08:35 AM   #4
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Being an Electrical Engineer.....
If I was broken down in a Harbor Freight parking lot, I would get a free on there.
Otherwise a Fluke or a Klein...nothing fancy just the basic functions. If I was at a Yard sale and came across an old Radio Shack meter, that would be ok too.
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Old 06-14-2016, 08:51 AM   #5
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I have at least a half dozen of the free Harbor Freight meters stached around. They work just fine until they stop and then throw it away and grab another one.
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Old 06-14-2016, 08:54 AM   #6
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If all you are looking for is volts and ohms, and are really only caring about wheather ther is voltage or not, and whether there is continuity or not, then any old cheap volt-ohm meter will work.

If accuracy is important to you (ifor example, checking wire insulation to ground and trying to determine if you have a small leak or not, or checking voltage at a campground outlet), then something more professional is in order. I have a basic fluke that has always served me well. One of my favorite "features" of a more high-end meter is that they typically have a variety of probe ends, things like screw-in alligator clips and the like, that will help you to make measurements when you don't have three hands to do the work. A Fluke 101 will run you around $50, so it isn't a major investment to have a little peace of mind.

good luck!
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Old 06-14-2016, 09:17 AM   #7
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If you are asking about the best all-around meter, get a True RMS Multimeter.

I use a Fluke 81438*, whch is compact and easy to use. I would only recommend a True RMS because you may be working with Inverters and other devices that don't always put out what you think they do.

*edit: this model is no longer available, but Fluke has several True RMS meters avaiiable. Search on-line.
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Old 06-14-2016, 10:00 AM   #8
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I am a big fan of only buying good quality tools. The cheap ones fail when you need him the most. So I have a fluke true RMS meter. Using a good tool is always a pleasure
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Old 06-14-2016, 10:42 AM   #9
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I have quite a number of different ones bought over the years - none extremely expensive but also not the cheapest. I have in the past bought cheap ones and had problems with poorly designed range switches becoming faulty.

The most multimeter I bought about a year ago cost about $120 on Amazon.
It has all the usual scales including a continuity beeper that I also find handy, but is the first multimeter I have owned that incorporates a "clamp type" current meter that works not only on AC but also with DC currents.

Clamp meters that work on AC gave been around for many years, but ones that also work on DC are a fairly new innovation.

I find that having the DC clamp meter function is handy for things like trailer brake wiring - you can simply put the clamp around one of the wires feeding each brake magnet and very easily confirm & measure current flowing.

When I first got this meter I wondered how accurate the DC current measurement would be using the simple clamp as opposed to actually including an ammeter wired into the circuit. It seemed too easy to use the clamp meter that I thought their could be a downside - perhaps in accuracy.

To find out, I did a couple of tests with the clampmeter comparing its readings with simultaneous readings from a conventional ammeter, and in testing up to about 15amps DC, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the two meters matched with about 0.1 - 0.2 amps.

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Old 06-14-2016, 11:00 AM   #10
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If you aren't an electrician and have need of a couple of hundred dollar multimeter, 90% of the time you're interested in voltage and continuity. I too have the HF freebie multimeters, about 6 laying around here, and they are quite good. They are digital, easy to read and if it breaks, who cares?

I bought a Radio Shack multimeter in the early 70s, it still works, but it's analog and my weak eyes find the digital easier to read. So RS is another option if you want a little better product.

In your email you jokingly state how you currently check voltage . I would say the HF version is just right for you. If you don't follow Harbor Freight, go to one and sign up to get the coupons, watch for the free multimeter coupon, go buy something else there and get the freebie. Keep doing that so you have free meters, flashlights and other goodies. If they had a bar in there I'd be there all day There is always some kind of tool or supplies that I can use.

Rich & Yvonne
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Old 06-14-2016, 12:05 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by CRH View Post
The free ones Harbor Freight gives away work fine for me. I have gotten 3 this year.
I agree I have several of the free Harbor Freight meters and they work great for the needs of your Airstream which are only 12v DC and 120V AC. If they are not free this month they are only about $5.

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Old 06-14-2016, 12:06 PM   #12
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Get a Good mid level Fluke and dont look back
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Old 06-14-2016, 01:40 PM   #13
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Both analog and digital meters have their place. I "grew up" as an EE using a Simpson 260 analog VOM, so it is my go-to meter and needs a battery only to check resistance. I recently acquired an obsolete Fluke portable which I like and I have several of the HF units, one in the truck, one in the trailer, so I always have one around. I have had two Radio Shack units that also had counters and capacitor testers built in, but they both failed after a couple of years. If I'm at home I'll use the Simpson or the Fluke, but on the road I use the HF. The HF was good enough to diagnose low AC voltage at a KOA recently that was tripping my AC breaker.


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Old 06-14-2016, 01:46 PM   #14
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Nowadays the Simpson 260 can still be had, but it costs more than a digital meter.

Bulky, but a great meter for some things.

I have a couple HF and others for knock-around use, but the go-to is a Fluke.

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