# Why is my multimeter reading such a high/erratic current?

Newbie to electronics here.

I have a simple circuit consisting of just a 9V battery and an 820 ohm resistor. I was trying to measure the current with a multimeter (by opening the circuit between the positive battery terminal and the resistor and placing the leads in there.) According to my calculations, the current should be 0.011A = 9.2v / 820ohms.

My ammeter is reading values anywhere between 0.030A and 0.200A. I'm assuming my multimeter is faulty, but could it be something I have done wrong or is there a way to fix it?

When I set the range to 20m the meter reads 1.

I'm making the connection just by touching the clips onto the wires, making sure to not touch any wires with my fingers. And the resistor is reading 810ohms. I've tried two different batteries in the multimeter, both fully charged. The voltage across the battery terminals measures 8.64v while the circuit is closed and the current is flowing.

• How well are you making connection? Alligator clips and battery holders can be handy to get good connections. The battery has internal resistance too so you have to re measure voltage while the current is flowing if you want the numbers to really match up.
– K H
Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 12:33
• Post a photo of the setup showing the meter switch, display and sockets. We might spot something. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 12:33
• Are the probes in the right sockets on the multimeter and is it set to the correct range? Have you confirmed the resistor by measuring it?
– user16324
Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 13:11
• I've added photos and some more info in the question. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 15:15
• No, it's on hold in the picture because I couldn't take a pic and hold the leads on at the same time Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 12:04

That meter is switching the current being measured through the rotary switch contacts. These are sprung wipers that brush along the main PCB.

Figure 1. Inside of The World's cheapest multimeter.

You may be able to resolve the problem by rocking the switch back and forth. Disassembly and application of switch contact cleaner would be a better treatment.

• The best treatment would probably be getting a less cheap multimeter. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 15:16
• If I put the dial half way between the 2m and 20m ranges, I get an accurate reading of 0.01A. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 15:45
• That's probably a 10 A range reading so it's useless as the meter will have probably +/- a couple of least significant digit error. Once you're happy it's actually an 820 ohm resistor switch to 20 mA range and take a reading. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 15:48
• I am happy that it's an 820 ohm resistor and the ammeter reads 1 when in the 20m range. I've corrected a typo about that in the question. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 23:30
• Another trick would be to SLIGHTLY BEND the contacts so they're not riding in the exact same tracks ... This exposes them to fresh/virgin copper traces. Just a very minor sideways tweak, like 1/4mm or less, is all you need. Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 16:32

A cheap (<\$200) multimeter that has a current input on the same input jacks as the voltage needs to be tossed away immediately. It is a safety risk. These multimeters are not particularly robust. Suppose you're measuring mains voltage - say 400V phase-to-phase, and accidentally switch the meter to current mode. Good things will not follow. Or if you leave the meter in the current mode, forget, and then go and measure some voltage. There will be sparks at the very least.

There is a reason good multimeters are not designed that way. It is just bad practice.

• Using cheap DMMs on the mains, let alone anywhere near industrial voltages/fault current levels is generally a bad idea. Please, at least a genuine and confirmed IEC 600V CAT III rating on the meter and probes. Otherwise, here is an "arc flash lawyer" who will help your next of kin sue the multimeter supplier. Commented Mar 11 at 14:33