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Selecting a Multimeter for RV Use.

 


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Many RV'ers keep a multimeter handy for those electrical tasks at hand. With all of the meters available on the marketplace, how do you know which is a good meter to throw into your RV's tool box? A multimeter is defined by a meter that can measure many different things.

Typically, voltage, current (amperes), and resistance (ohms) are the basic functions. Additionally, Frequency (Hz), Battery Test, and Temperature (with a remote probe) are nice-to-have features found on some meters.

Even an old vintage multimeter such as the PSM-6, as shown to the right would do the job in most cases (a bit of nostalga here - if you were in the military in the '60s~'70s, you would have used one of these).

There is nothing magical about a meter for RV use, but there are a couple of features that may come in handy. I would choose a meter with the minimum:

  • Voltage measurement.
  • Ohm measurement.
  • Audible Ohm scale (continuity).

You may notice I did not include a Current (Ampere) function. Fact is, most multimeters having a current function is not sufficient for RV use, so it is not a priority.

There is a valid reason to measure current - such as for parasitic loads or leakage current (which typically drains your battery), however a generic multimeter is not the best tool for measuring it.

A Clamp Multimeter is the tool to use for these currents, and it would be a good choice for a second meter... perhaps not in your RV's tool box, but maybe in your home workshop where you have access to is.

In addition to the basic necessities, useful features include either a combo Analog/Digital meter, or a Digital meter with a bar-graph that approximates the analog movement. This is useful for varying voltages.

 

 

 

It is often not necessary to purchase a commercial grade multimeter for your RV, especially if you are going to be banging it around out in the woods. Often, an inexpensive ($25) meter will be sufficient.

My personal preference is a combo analog/digital multimeter, which gives me the best of both worlds. They are not as common these days, but they can still be found. And an audio annunciator on the x1 Ohm scale is essential in my view - especially for a digital meter - as it allows you to rapidly test continunity without having to wait for the digital display to stabilize.

Tip:

An audio function on the ohms scale is useful because it lets you rapidly test the continuity for multiple circuits.

The meters on my recommended list are:

  • Fluke 115 - if you want a professional grade digital multimeter.
  • Tekpower TP7244L - if you want an inexpensive but nice analog multimeter.
  • Tekpower TP7310 - technically a digital meter, but provides both Analog and Digital displays.
  • Mastech MS8211 - if you prefer a "Pen" style multimeter.
  • Mastech MS2108A - 400A AC/DC Clamp meter
  • B&K Precision 316 Mini AC/DC Clamp Meter

Tip:

A bargraph on a digital meter is useful as it can mimic the action of an analog meter. This lets you see whether or not you have varible voltages. It also lets you see voltage peaks.

One difference between an analog and digital voltmeter is it's impedance. Digital meters will not "upset" sensitive electronic circuits like an analog meter can, however in a RV, there may not be occasion to need that capability often. So I would say for a RV, you will be mostly measuring primary DC (battery voltages), so unless you know you will be working on electronic circuity - buy the one you prefer, as they will both work fine. But if you are doing electronic work - buy the digital meter.

 


Selecting a Multimeter Video.

 

 


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Or, if you don't need to measure current (amperes), you can get a Fluke 101 for not much money. This is a bargain.

 

 


Last reviewed and/or updated June 15, 2017