Need a new multimeter, does autosensing bother anyone else?

I have an old (to me) Craftsman analog multimeter that I love. It’s treated me well over the last 10 or 15 years, but I think I’ve probably dropped it one to many times. The battery cover doesn’t really stay on anymore, the fuse holder only kinda holds the fuse and while I rarely do any precision work with the clamp, today I was trying to measure how many amps a set of LEDs were using and it came up at .5 when I was expecting something much smaller (.1 or less). It actually may have just been the needle moving while I was trying to hold the meter and not get shocked.

Anyways, after I had that one for a few years, my grandfather gave me a digital one (Radio Shack brand) and swore that I would love this one more then my other one because it was digital. To his credit, he was an MIT grad and still worked with electricity, but he had probably never held a digital multimeter in his life. I tried it, I hated it. I still hate it. I do still keep it in my tool bag, hell it’s in my trunk right now, but only because it’s nice to have two meters some times. What I’m trying to figure out is if I don’t like that meter or if I don’t like digital.
My issue with that meter was that it was near impossible to read. You’d turn it on and, touch it to what you want to read, and you could almost never tell what it said. For example, let’s say you were trying to read volts. Well, it might be saying 120V or it might say .0110mV. From a distance, it looks like 110V, but when you looked closer you’d see the decimal and the little tiny m (for milli). The decimal would bounce all over the place and it jumps from V to mV (or a to mA). Basically, it made it really, really hard to tell if you had no power or power, no continuity or continuity.

So, I want to get a new one and analog ones are hard to find. Are digital ones easier to deal with then that?

Next question…can I get a recommendation? Here’s what I need…
I need to be able to measure AC up to 240. Nothing to accurate. Either I have power or I don’t and it’s either 120 or 240. 480 would be nice, but I don’t run into that often. However, the meters I’ve looked at go up to at least 600, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

DC, just for working on car stuff. No big deal there.


Amps…I don’t measure amps often, but when I do I’d like it be accurate. For example, on today’s project, I measured .5 when it should have been closer to .1. This is for a LED retrofit project. What I’m going to end up doing is measuring the amps for the entire breaker before and after the project to get a better feel for how much it goes down, but I was trying to see how many watts the actual light is.
Also, it’s gotta have a clamp as well as nice sharp leads. The clamp is nice for measuring amps, sometimes I can get away with just checking for power that way, and it’s just a good way to hold the meter it a convenient location.

Looking around online, it seems like Fluke actually has a decently priced clamp meter (the 323 for about $100). I didn’t look at Greenlee or Klein too hard yet.

I have several digital meters and one is a fluke, but not a clamp model. It auto ranges, but I can lock the range if I choose to.

An analog meter is much better for noticing small changes in current or voltage because it’s easier to watch for needle deflection rather than figure out if the display has gone up or down.

That’s the thing, most of the time I’m just using it as a voltage tester so all I have to do is watch for the needle to move. I do have a handful of cheap neon testers (the ones with two leads and a light), but I like the multimeter because sometime I need to test other things (like continuity) at the same time and I’ve found (through experience) that with those cheap little voltage testers, you can’t always see the light when you’re out in the sun. The other thing I noticed with the digital one, and I don’t know if this is because it was cheap or over sensitive or both, but even if it was just sitting there, not doing anything, it bounces around. And since there’s no voltage, it’s jumping between, say, .001v and 1mv. So, I’m already annoyed with it, and there it is just sitting on the table, jumping between 1 and .001. How am I supposed to use that to test voltage when the numbers are jumping all over the place so rapidly…
Anyways, if I can set it to just Volts, that would be fine, I think, as long as it would sort of stay steady, if it jumped all over the place, that might still be an issue, but I don’t think it will. The analog needle doesn’t. I’m think it’s just a crappy Radio Shack meter that was the problem.

I like the analog one that I have where I can set the dial to 150V, 300V, 500V and then look at a different scale or 6A, 15A, 25A, 50A and the same for amps. Same idea I guess, but I choose where to set it.

i dislike autoranging meters without a good indication of the range you’re on.

analog meters, with pin probe, are plentiful. your typical home improvement store will have them. i recently got a Gardner Bender for general electrical work.

Gardner Bender has a fixed range analog and auto digital clamp on meter with pin probes.

A)Bumping this for the morning crowd

B)Ahhh, autoranging, that’s the word I was looking for.

C)Now that Fluke has some affordble meters out there, do I go with that, or do I just run to Home Depot and get a Klein meter? Are they all kinda the same at that price range? That is, it’s my understanding that a Fluke meter is the Gold Standard (though I could be wrong), but do I have to spend $500 to get a good one (which I’m not going to do)? Is the $100 Fluke meter the same as the $50 Klein or Greenleee or noname meter from Home Depot or Lowes?

I have a Greenlee DM-40 manual ranging meter that I’m happy with. I got it at Lowe’s for under $50. I think it does what you need. Greenlee still makes analog meters, too.

It doesn’t have a clamp.

Missed that in the OP. Greenlee makes clampmeters too.

For those times you’re just looking if a power circuit is live and 120/240/whatever, you want a Wiggy. The multi-megohm impedance of a digital meter can make you chase your tail thinking a line is live when it’s just showing capacitive-coupled ghosts of voltage.

Good point. I have one of the digital voltage testers with the light and chirper, but it’s so sensitive it’s almost useless.

So I’m not a Luddite for hating digital meters for what I do? Huzzah!

I had one of these once (when it was called Beckman):

It did all I needed, great for checking up to 600 Volts AC or DC, continuity but not amps or clamps

about $70

I often dislike autorange. If I am having fun learning and figuring out and understanding something, I prefer setting range manually. If I am checking things autoranging is OK. I would have to have my hands pretty full plus be pretty unsure what I was dealing with, to come up with a situation where I actually preferred autorange.

I use an autorange Fluke at work for rough things and various metrology items or a 6 digit Agilent lab meter for precise work. At home I have a Metex meter with a zillion manual ranges and, though it is cheap and feels a bit cheap, I still like it.

You can get a Simpson 260 for around $250 and an amp-clamp for one for another $150 or so.

Now there’s some nostalgia! They’ve been making the 260 for how many decades now? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to apply here.

I may have to get one again. Digital is great, but a quick analog needle is worlds better for seeing transients and trends that are just a jumble of numbers on a DMM.