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How Do I Choose the Best Multimeter Cables?

A multimeter with red and black cables.
Article Details
  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Choosing the best multimeter cables can depend on what type of multimeter you have and the sorts of measurements you need to take. The first item you will need to pay attention to is the plug ends, since they will need to be long enough to make a solid electrical contact when inserted into your multimeter. You should also avoid buying the type of multimeter cables that have sheathed plugs if your multimeter lacks the concentric slots necessary to accept that type. The best probe ends can vary widely depending on how you use your meter, and you may want to consider alligator clips, needle probes, or even a current clamp if you believe your work might call for it.

Multimeter cables, which are often referred to as test leads, are the components that allow a multimeter to probe circuits and other electronic components. Some multimeters come with test leads that are either built-in or proprietary, in which case you may not have much of a choice. Most digital multimeters (DMMs) use modular leads though, which can allow you to select the best cables for each particular operation. The cables that a multimeter comes with will often be enough to perform general diagnostic work, but you may sometimes need to select other leads to perform more delicate or complicated operations.

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Before you begin a selection process, you may want to examine your multimeter. You will need to know the diameter and length of the plug ends on the cables that your multimeter came with, since any replacement leads will need to have similar characteristics. The best multimeter cables for your particular unit will need to have plug ends that are long enough to make good electrical contact, but not so long that they stick out and fail to secure properly. Plug ends that lack an exterior sheath will typically work fine in multimeters that are designed to accept sheathed plugs. The reverse is usually not true, as sheathed plug ends typically will not fit into multimeters that are not designed for them.

Another factor to consider is the probe ends of your new multimeter cables. A common configuration consists of a needle type probe that you can attach alligator clips and other probe ends to. Some of these cables use screw on attachments, while others have push on banana plug connections. If you want your new cables to be compatible with your old ones, you may want to pay attention to that factor.

If you work with high voltages or currents, you must select multimeter cables that are designed specifically for those applications. You may also want to find special radio frequency (RF) probes if you are working with frequencies over 10 Kilohertz (kHz). It is also a good idea to pay attention to factors such as bandwidth and root mean square (RMS) capability if you are working with high frequencies. True RMS capability is especially necessary if you work with non-sinusoidal waveforms.

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