I'm driving a DC motor and in its path is a relay with approximately 100m Ω contact resistance, can I use that resistance as a shunt resistor to measure the motor current?

I don't want to measure the current accurately, just as an indicator to know motor is stuck or not.

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ THat's a good fault detector for both motor load and relay contacts that have been burnt by not having an RC snubber for open arc suppression \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Aug 17 '20 at 8:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would expect V/10 might be adequate or less for a threshold. Based on temp rise perhaps less \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Aug 17 '20 at 8:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I hope you meant current shunt and not Brake shunt \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Aug 17 '20 at 9:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TonyStewartSunnyskyguyEE75 Yeah current shunt. \$\endgroup\$ – ElectronSurf Aug 17 '20 at 9:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ if you have any idea about its tolerance, why not. If you don't, well, you can't rely on it. If you have some 10 relays, you can measure contact resistance, if they all fall close to nominal value, I guess you can get away with it \$\endgroup\$ – Ilya Aug 17 '20 at 10:42

It depends what you want to use the voltage developed across the shunt for.

If you want to know the current direction, then yes.

If you want to know the magnitude of the current, even to within a factor of 10, then no. Relay contact resistance is far too unstable to be predictable. It will change with every relay operation, with ageing, with contact erosion, and probably with phase of the moon ;-).

If you want to cheapskate on a shunt resistor, then use one of the leads between the motor and the relay, with Kelvin connections. There the main error will be the temperature coefficient of copper, about 10% variation for each 25 °C change. This will be easily accurate enough to discriminate stuck from operating. I used 300 mm lengths of 1 mm2 copper wires as current shunts in my final year undergrad project.


Not really, the relays contact resistance is succeptable to wear and vibrations.

Eg: this datasheet claims 100mΩ max. but doesn't say how low it might be.

enter image description here

I measured less than 3mΩ here (11mV@4A) but as the relay ages I expect that may increase to as much as 100mΩ before the end-of life of the relay. End of life being defined as when the relay no-longer meets the datasheet specifications.


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