A multimeter is available as an analog or digital unit and is used to test and measure electrical properties. In terms of using a multimeter for automotive use, it can be used for diagnosing alternators, batteries, wiring, fuses, solenoids and many other automotive components that are malfunctioning.
If you require a quick answer, the best automotive multimeter is the Fluke 87-V, which is able to perform all standard and automotive specific test for diagnosing electrical issues. However, if you are on a tight budget, the Innova 3340 is the best alternative that’s ideal for working on cars.
In terms of rating the automotive multimeters within this article, we based our recommendations upon our experience of using many different units as well as multiple factors. The factors that were considered included their functionality, performance, additional accessories, warranty and value for money.
Table of Contents
Automotive Multimeter Comparison
|CAT III/CAT IV
|Power Probe PPDMM
|CAT III/CAT IV
|CAT I/CAT II
|ESI 585K Deluxe
|Etekcity MSR R500
|CAT I/CAT II
If you are an amateur or professional mechanic, a vital tool for diagnosing an electrical fault in a car is an automotive multimeter. The latest multimeters can even connect to a smartphone to display or save the data. We advise that you choose a digital unit over analog because they are easier to use and provide extra functionality.
Below is a list of the best automotive multimeters that display real time data readouts in a range of formats and measurements.
The Best Automotive Multimeter
1. Fluke 87-V Digital Multimeter
Fluke are a highly reputable brand that produce a variety of multimeters to suit all budgets. The 87-V is a digital multimeter with an intuitive display that makes it much easier to use compared to other multimeters.
A unique feature of this automotive multimeter is the fact that it has a built-in thermometer, which takes instant measurements without a separate thermometer.
Other features of the Fluke 87-V Digital include:
- CAT III/CAT IV
- Measures up to 1,000 VAC
- Accurate frequency measurement on adjustable speed drives
- Auto ranging settings
- Impressive lifetime warranty
- Selectable filter and true-RMS AC voltage
- Designed and built in the USA
In terms of what’s included in the complete kit is the multimeter, test leads, aligator clips, holster, 9V battery and the temperature probe.
For automotive use, the Fluke 87-V offers plenty of functionality to diagnose electrical issues with your car. Although it’s the most expensive option within this article, it’s a worthwhile investment that comes with a lifetime warranty for complete peace of mind.Check it Out
2. INNOVA 3340 Digital Automotive Multimeter
The Innova 3340 is another popular option that’s cheaper than the Fluke alternative but has similar functionality. It’s a professional automotive multimeter that the brand state has been designed to pinpoint electrical engine issues. By using this automotive multimeter, you are able to test alternator diodes, wiring, switches, solenoids and many other components of your car.
Other features of the Innova 3340 include:
- Auto-ranging with auto shut-off and overload protection
- Test lead holders for hands free protection
- Temperature probes
- Inductive RPM clamp
- Carrying case included
- Measures up to 600 VAC
- UL certified
Overall, the Innova 3340 is the best automotive multimeter for the money and it won’t disappoint. It’s able to perform plenty of tests and includes temperature probes, which allows you to take measurements of overheating electrical components.Check it Out
3. INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter
A more affordable unit by the reputable Innova brand is the 3320 model. It’s by far the most popular automotive multimeter that has all the required features to diagnose electrical problems. Unlike other cheap units, it’s also UL certified for complete peace of mind.
Compared to similar priced alternatives, this model also has the desirable auto ranging functionality, which avoids the need to manually set the correct range.
Other features of the Innova 3320 include:
- Detachable testing leads included
- UL certified multimeter
- Auto ranging scales
- Easy to read digital display
- Color coded LED’s
- Protective rubber guards
- Suitable for multiple applications
The Innova 3320 is an excellent all-round automotive multimeter and also one of the cheapest available. It does lack certain features when compared to the more expensive 3340 model but it’s more than ideal for basic automotive electric diagnostics.Check it Out
4. Amprobe AM-510 Multimeter
The Amprobe AM-510 is another popular option and is suitable for measuring voltage, resistance, capacitance, frequency and much more. It’s a compact unit with a clear digital readout and it has been tested to meet CAT IV 600V / CAT III 1000V standards.
For testing car batteries, this automotive multimeter checks the amount of charge remaining in 1.5v and 9v batteries, which is a very desirable feature.
Other features of the Amprobe AM-510 include:
- Dual reading backlit LCD screen
- Built-in flash light for low light conditions
- Meets CSA, ACMA and EEA standards
- Non-contact voltage detection
- Measures up to 600 volts
- NIST Traceable calibration certified
- Test leads and instructions included
By using the Amprobe AM-510, you are able to perform multiple tests and it’s suitable for both beginners or advanced users. The brand also offer various other models but the AM-510 is the most affordable option with plenty of features.Check it Out
5. Power Probe PPDMM Automotive Multimeter
Power Probe are a reputable brand that specialize in automotive multimeters and electrical testing equipment. This PPDMM multimeter model is a great example of the brand’s reputation and has been designed for heavy duty usage within the garage environment. By using this automotive multimeter, you are able to measure voltage, current resistant, frequency, duty cycle, true RMS, temperature and capacitance.
Other features of the Power Probe PPDMM include:
- CAT-IV 600V
- Large digital display
- Loud indicator tones for alerts
- Rugged rubberized housing
- Automatic shut-off functionality
- Designed for automotive use
- Uses AAA batteries
Accessories that come with this multimeter include color coded alligator clips, magnetic hanging strip, temperature probe and testing leads. Overall, the Power Probe PPDMM packs plenty of features for automotive use and is also relatively affordable.Check it Out
6. Actron CP7677 Multimeter For Automotive Use
Actron are know for their professional automotive equipment and the CP7677 is their highly rated multimeter. It has one of the largest digital displays compared to all of the alternatives, which allows for clear data feedback from the probes. Using this automotive multimeter, you are able to test for faulty wiring, fuel delivery systems, ignition issues and many other components.
Other features of the Actron CP7677 include:
- UL and ETL listed
- Fold out stand for hands free usage
- Switchable between 4, 6 and 8 cylinder modes
- Overload protection on all ranges
- 10 Ohm impedance
- Color coded test leads and alligator clips included
The Actron CP7677 is an affordable multimeter that’s able to perform all standard and automotive specific electrical tests. It’s a great option that’s backed by a reputable brand and is safety certified for peace of mind.Check it Out
7. ESI 585K Deluxe Automotive DMM
The ESI 585K Deluxe is another dedicated multimeter for automotive use that comes as a complete kit. It has an impressive 45 test ranges, 14 test functions and a dual fuse protection with built-in tilt stands for more efficient testing. In terms of the display, it has both an analog bar graph and digital readings, which provides you with viewing data that best suits your requirements.
Other features of the ESI 585K Deluxe include:
- 45 test ranges
- 14 test functions
- Dual fuse protection
- 10 meg/Ohm input impedance
- Built-in tilt stand
- Test probes and alligator clips included
- Zipped storage bag
Overall, it’s a professional automotive multimeter that’s ideal for car engines, computers and other components with electrical glitches. A great benefit of this model is that it doesn’t have the price tag of the Fluke model but certainly has features that makes it great value for the money.Check it Out
8. Etekcity MSR-R500 Digital Multimeter
The cheapest digital multimeter on the market is the Etekcity MSR R500, which is suitable for basic automotive testing. It’s able to measure AC/DC voltage and perform numerous tests where data is reported via the digital display. Although it’s a fraction of the price compared to premium options, it still come with a two year warranty and a lifetime support.
Other features of the Etekcity MSR R500 include:
- Easy to read digital display
- Support stand for hands free usage
- Durable rubber sleeve
- Suitable for up to 500V
- Data hold functionality
- Tests diodes and the continuity
- Manual ranging
Overall, it’s a basic automotive multimeter that’s able to perform tests on DC currents and is perfect for those on a budget. It provides instant feedback when testing fuses, wiring and even the battery of the car.Check it Out
How We Rated The Automotive Multimeters
As we own a number of classic cars, we are often using our automotive multimeter to diagnose electrical issues. Over the years, we have tried and tested a number of different units and have gained plenty of experience to base our recommendations on. As well as our experience, we also based the recommendations in this article upon multiple factors. The factors that were considered included their functionality, performance, additional accessories, warranty and value for money.
Automotive Multimeter Buying Guide
Electrical problems can be a real issue and are notoriously difficult to diagnose without the correct equipment. Investing into an automotive multimeter is the best method to pinpoint the exact causes by using the probes and various testing functions.
Although a professional automotive diagnostic scanner may have testing probes, they can cost a serious amount of money to purchase. Therefore, investing into a dedicated automotive multimeter is a cost effective solution for testing electrical components.
To help you make an informed buying decision, we have produced the below guide regarding automotive multimeters.
Testing Electrical Properties
An automotive multimeter could be used for three primary purposes. The most common reason to use a multimeter would be to test continuity. Continuity testing tells the user whether parts of the car are continuous, and thus whether or not an electrical current can flow from one end to the other.
If there is no continuity, you will know there is a break somewhere in the circuit and the part likely needs to be replaced.
You can also use your multimeter to measure resistance in parts of your car, like the fuses, sensors and ignition coils. Measuring resistance can help determine whether a part like a headlight, for example, needs to be replaced.
The third use is to measure voltage within parts of a car. As you probably already know, heavy bass subwoofers and powerful amps requires a certain amount of voltage to work, otherwise your whole speaker system will not work.
Due to technological advances, almost all automotive multimeters have an LCD display. This allows you to view instant data reports and control various functions.
Many premium options also have a backlit display, which makes it easier to view in dark conditions. Other premium features include being able to freeze the screen to record measurements and much more.
Rather than having to manually select the range, the auto ranging feature of a multimeter does this automatically. It’s able to detect the type of current or voltage and adapt to accurately measure the input.
Every multimeter manufacturer will provide working voltage limit that often range between 500 to as high as 6,000 volts. To ensure that you are able to achieve accurate measurements, we advise that you choose a multimeter designed for automotive voltages.
Construction and Design
To avoid impact damage, the mutlimeter you choose needs a solid housing to prolong its lifespan. Most can withstand heavy impact damage and have rubber edges that provide additional protection if dropped.
In order to improve the usability, many brands include hooks, stands or magnetic strips. This allows you to work hands free and hold the testing probes in both hands.
How to use a Multimeter
In all tests with your multimeter, you will firstly want to make sure there is no current running through the component you are testing. This is a safety measure to make sure that you don’t get electrocuted in the process of your testing.
In order to test continuity, you will want to first switch the dial on your multimeter to the continuity test mode. Once the multimeter is setup, you can plug the probes into the ports and then the other end to the electrical components you are testing.
The probes work by sending an electrical current through the component and outputting a result onto the multimeter. If it’s continuous, it will read a 0 or emit an audio alert. However, if it’s not continuous, it will output a 1 or OL for an open loop.
When testing for resistance, you will want to switch to the appropriate function on the multimeter and leave the probes plugged in. Once setup, you can set the range of resistance to test against and use the probes on the component you wish to test.
If the readout on your multimeter doesn’t say anything, set the range to a lower setting because that probably means it’s too high. Adjust the device until you find a range where you actually get a readout. If you always get a 0 on your readout or OL, it probably means your component has no resistance.
Testing the voltage is pretty much the same process as resistance testing. Simply put one probe on each end of the component you are testing and wait for the readout. You can also adjust the voltage range on the multimeter if necessary.
To ensure the automotive multimeter you choose is safe, you want to check for UL certification or other reputable certifications. This will ensure that the multimeter has been thoroughly tested, which is important when working with electrical components.
Most multimeters will also include safety features such as overload protection to further improve the safety when testing electronics.
The use of an automotive multimeter will improve your chances of diagnosing faulty electrical components. Choosing a unit that has specific automotive features is highly recommended because many standard multimeters may not provide reliable measurements.
All of our recommendations are suitable to a range of budgets and can be used by both beginners or professionals. To avoid disappointment, we advise that you purchase from a reputable brand that provides the probes within the kit.