VOLTAGE AND CURRENT MEASUREMENTS
Voltage measurements may be made as part of either preventive or corrective maintenance. These
measurements are made using a voltmeter. When compared with voltage charts, these measurements are a
valuable aid in locating a trouble quickly and easily. However, if the sensitivity of the test voltmeter
differs from that of the voltmeter used in preparing the chart, the voltage measurements must be evaluated
before the true circuit conditions can be determined. (Sensitivity in voltmeters was discussed in NEETS,
Module 3, Introduction to Circuit Protection, Control, and Measurement.)
Since many of the troubles you find in equipments and systems are the result of abnormal voltages,
voltage measurements are a valuable aid in locating trouble. You can measure voltage with a voltmeter
without interrupting circuit operation.
Point-to-point voltage measurement charts, usually found in equipment technical manuals, contain
the normal operating voltages found in the various stages of the equipment. These voltages are usually
measured between indicated points and ground unless otherwise stated. When you begin recording
voltage measurements, it is a smart and safe practice to set the voltmeter on the highest range before
measuring. This ensures that excessive voltages existing in the circuit will not cause overloading of the
Q-13. On what range should you set the voltmeter prior to taking a voltage measurement?
To increase accuracy, you should then set the voltmeter to the appropriate range for the proper
comparison with the expected voltage in the voltage charts. When checking voltages, remember that a
voltage reading can be obtained across a resistance, even if that resistance is open. The resistance of the
meter itself forms a circuit resistance when the meter probes are placed across the open resistance.
Therefore, the voltage across the component may appear to be normal or near-normal as you read the
meter, but may actually be abnormal when the meter is disconnected from the circuit.
If the internal resistance of the voltmeter is approximately the same value as the resistance being
tested, it will indicate a considerably lower voltage than the actual voltage present when the meter is
removed from the circuit. The sensitivity (in ohms per volt) of the voltmeter used to prepare the voltage
charts is provided on those charts. If a meter of similar sensitivity is available, you should use it to reduce
the effects of loading.
The following precautions are general safety measures that apply to the measurement of voltages.
Remember that nearly all voltages are dangerous and have often proved fatal to careless technicians.
When measuring voltages, be sure to observe the following precautions:
Set test equipment to the HIGHEST range.
Make sure safety observer knows where to secure power for the equipment under test.
Connect the ground lead of the voltmeter first.
Use only one hand to take measurements (when possible), and put the other hand in your pocket
or behind your back.
If the voltage to be measured is less than 300 volts, place the end of the test probe on the point to
be tested; use the polarity switch to select positive or negative readings.