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My multimeter only has one 400mA fuse protecting the µA and mA range (and a 10A fuse protecting the amp range.) Is it possible to damage the microamp range by feeding milliamps through it?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Multimeters use a precision shunt resistor to measure current indirectly (known R, measure V, calculate I). Typically a low current range (uA to low mA) will have a larger resistance shunt resistor to generate a larger voltage drop.

As a result, this larger resistance is no longer negligible at higher currents and begins to cause a measurable voltage drop. Additionally, the power dissipation can begin to cause resistance change and eventually it will kill the resistor. Typically, a fast-blow fuse protects the shunt resistor from continuous over-current.

If you're wondering if running 10mA through the meter while in uA mode will damage it, the answer is most likely "no". If you run 300+ mA through the meter, then you will probably be in danger of blowing the fuse. If you try to use the meter as a volt-meter and forget to switch the leads, and connect it to a supply capable of dumping a lot of instantaneous power, you might be able to blow the shunt resistor before the fuse blows.

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