How to Use an Electrical Test Meter

Updated February 21, 2017

Using an electrical testing meters is a safe way of assessing problems in your electrical devices. Multi-meters test voltage, resistance, current and have other functions depending on the model and manufacturer. Newer meters have digital displays and a method of selecting the type of test you want to conduct and the type of current (AC or DC) the item requires. Meters connect to your device using test leads, which are colour coded to the meter. This ensures that you connect the leads to the appropriate ports on the meter.

Insert the meter's test leads into the correct ports on the meter. Put the black lead in the black port that is marked "COM." Plug the red lead into the red port marked for the quantity you are measuring. Multi-meters will have different red ports for each test it is able to perform.

Set the knob on the meter for the type of test you are performing. The available selections depend on the model of the multimeter you are using but most have the option of "DC" and "AC" volts, ohms and amperage.

Touch the ends of the test leads to your testing points. Where you touch the ends depends on which quantity you are measuring. Turn the power to the device off before the test if you are testing for continuity and touch the leads to the device's terminals.

Read the display to determine the measurement. The measurement that the meter displays will depend on the quantity you are measuring.


Using clips on the probes will allow you to connect the probes to the device safely. Make sure you switch the test leads when you change the quantity you are testing. The red lead must be in the proper port to prevent damage.


Inspect the leads for damage before you use the meter. Replace leads that are broken or scuffed immediately. Always have someone with you when working with electricity. Do not test electricity in wet or damp conditions. Do not attempt to test or repair high voltage or dangerous circuits.

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About the Author

Specializing in business and finance, Lee Nichols began writing in 2002. Nichols holds a Bachelor of Arts in Web and Graphic Design and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Mississippi.