"The phone is a remarkably complex, simple device,
and very rarely ever needs repairs, once you fix them." - Dan/Panther

Main Menu

Cheap Multimeter

Started by HarrySmith, August 17, 2022, 05:25:02 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


I know a lot of people here have stated they do not own a multi-meter. It is an important tool for troubleshooting. I got an email from a surplus place that has one for $10 and a lot of other cool stuff.

Inexpensive Multi-meter Link

Harry Smith
ATCA 4434

"There is no try,
there is only
do or do not"


A useful tool unless one wants to measure capacitance (F, in yellow circle) but that's a measurement not usually needed unless one needs to test a network, coil or ringer cap.

DVMs with an F (farad) range are always more expensive, starting at $30 IIRC. Been awhile since I bought mine.


Although Teleplay's I think is the better out of the two, considering the people not having a
MM I kind of doubt if more then 50% of them would know how to test a cap anyway and that's not being snide
I just figure if their really not that familiar with the components in a phone they probably won't have that knowledge
to use too much of the extra bells and ringers on a MM.

Did I just dig myself a hole? LOL! 


Good to have the choice. I have a few ranging from a similar cheapie version up to one issued by British Telecom.

Another thread here:
Discusses a range of Multimeters.

A collector of  'Monochrome Phones with Sepia Tones'   ...and a Duck!
Vintage Phones - 10% man made, 90% Tribble


I think that when you start to learn the simplest one is OK, and meters are getting more advanced.
If you have a lo cost meter, it is not so much of a loss if you happens to use it the wrong way and it is ruined.
On the other hand I got a really old nice meter some weaks ago, and found the old manual on net, there it shows how I may use the ohm-meter to determine an approx value of the capacitor. 
Link to the manual:

This old meter is pretty good after 66 years. ;)


The capacitance range is handy for advanced electronic measurements. A telephone ringer capacitor can be roughly evaluated using the higher Ohm range, as already mentioned by DSK.
I found very old capacitors which test badly with a capacitance meter, but still work OK in a telephone.

Any small inexpensive MM will be a powerful tool when used correctly.

The most frequent mishap is to leave the measuring cord in the "mA" jack while attempting to measure a voltage. Thankfully the instruments are fused, better order some fuses with the MM and look at the manual how to change them.


Quote from: FABphones on August 17, 2022, 06:14:54 PMGood to have the choice. I have a few ranging from a similar cheapie version up to one issued by British Telecom.

I have 'a few' as well, but I generally turn to my faithful Fluke 25 that I purchased secondhand from eBay some years ago.


Quote from: tubaman on August 18, 2022, 03:25:48 AM... I have 'a few' as well, but I generally turn to my faithful Fluke 25...

Fluke. Very nice.


Here is a mind boggling selection, with some good info:

Thanks for starting the thread Harry.
A collector of  'Monochrome Phones with Sepia Tones'   ...and a Duck!
Vintage Phones - 10% man made, 90% Tribble


Quote from: FABphones on August 18, 2022, 03:54:00 AMFluke. Very nice.


Thank you. It was £30 in 2011 and is an ex Ministry of Defence model so also has an excessively large squadie-proof case.  ;D 

Doug Rose

As Techs used to say, "Flukes are the Cadillac of Meters" I guess now it would be Mercedes.  8)

Take care of your tools and they will take care of you!!

35 or 40 years old. I used this when I was a Tech in the field many many years ago...Doug


First, that is not my DVM above, it's simple an image grabbed off of eBay to point out what the capacitance measuring capability may look like on a DVM. Smaller DVMs that read capacitance may simply use a capacitance icon as circled in yellow below.

And, I've never had a problem reading the capacitance of a component out of circuit. In-circuit is a different matter with inductance and other electrical properties entering into the measurement. Measuring A-K on a 425 network, capacitors from 302s and AE ringer capacitors (out of circuit) is quick and accurate, at least the times I have had to check a component.

The above Fluke does not read capacitance. Below is the least expensive Fluke I found, in a quick eBay search, that reads capacitance (the icon is circled in yellow). I would imagine a Fluke that was capable of reading capacitance 50 years ago would have been quite expensive and in the eyes of the phone company something a field worker would need.

The bottom line when buying a DVM is to get the cheapest DVM that meets the needs just in case it does get hooked up wrong and burns out something more than an internal fuse (always have 2 working DVMs on the bench just in case one gets smoked).

"Off brand" DVMs that read capacitance are inexpensive and plentiful on eBay these days but it's up to the person needing one, wanting to buy one, to make the decision of which one with what capabilities to get.


I personally like the little cheapie analog multimeters.  Watching a moving needle reveals more info about the circuit you're testing. You can see dial pulses, whether a transmitter is working, continuity in bell coils. You can also see intermittents in cords, whether a capacitor is good, receiver working or not. All this can be seen using the Rx1, Rx10 and Rx100 scales.  The needle responds to changes much faster than the changing digits on a digital multimeter.
One example of a test I do to check the bell circuit in a phone without taking it apart. Set the meter to Rx100, put leads on L1 and L2 with receiver on hook. When you initially touch the leads to L1,l2 the needle will kick a little. This shows that the ringer is continuous, the capacitor is OK and the cord is good.
If the phone is not single party or an older one, you may have to do this test between ground and and one of the L's. Of course do all these tests with the phone disconnected from the line.


I have a couple of Fluke 77s that I got years ago, when we shut down a lab at a previous job. Also a Fluke 8012A bench meter that nobody wanted 'cause the LCDs go bad. (this one did not, and it has a cal sticker from '87!)

I'm a huge fan of Flukes, even though they are horribly overpriced now. The Chinese ones are...not dependable.