Not any old multimeter will be suited to automotive troubleshooting and repair work. You could get by, but most tend to be geared to electricians working on AC circuits. Although they will invariably have a DC voltage range too, they may not have enough amperage measuring capacity or a milliamps range.
The following DMMs are among the best automotive multimeters on the market, with a proven track record and positive reviews on sites like Amazon. They span a range of brands and prices, about $20 to $400+.
A good mid-range automotive digital multimeter, the Innova 3340 is dedicated to working on vehicles, with features such as dwell angle, RPM and pulse width. It is able to diagnose issues with alternator diodes, solenoids, breaker points, and so on.
In addition are general ranges for testing voltage, current draw and the continuity of wiring and fuses. The 3340 can also measure temperature (in °F and °C) and the basic DC voltage accuracy is fairly good for a meter of this class at ±0.8%.
It is an auto-ranging multimeter, meaning the correct range is selected automatically. It’s not lightening fast, but is okay for most needs. Other features include MIN/MAX recording, data hold and auto power-off to conserve battery life. The large, clear display is also a positive but is unfortunately not backlit. Read full review…
COMES WITH: batteries (x2 AA), RPM clamp, temperature probe, holster, leads, case
- Dedicated auto test functions – test alternators, RPM and temperature
- Auto ranging
- Nice display
- Display not backlit
- Side probe holders fiddly
BOTTOM LINE: one of the better automotive DMMs with dedicated auto ranges, and at a good price.
Also from US brand INNOVA, the 3320 model is at the budget end and is one of the best selling multimeters on the market, good for home and auto electrics. It has the accuracy of the 3340, albeit without many of its dedicated automotive functions. It does, however, come with a battery load tester, which includes a dedicated 12V setting.
This is also an auto ranging multimeter and has both DC and AC voltage ranges to 600V (DC in the millivolts range) and DC current to 10A. You can also test AC milliamps, and resistance is up to 20MΩ. The display is similarly large and clear but is also not backlit. Input impedance is 10MΩ. Read full review…
COMES WITH: batteries (x2 AA), holster, leads
- Loaded battery tester
- Big display
- No AC amps
- A bit sluggish
- Screen not backlit
BOTTOM LINE: a great little meter for troubleshooting vehicle wiring and general DIY work.
Not strictly an automotive meter, the Fluke 77IV is more a general meter with automotive’ tendencies. When you are into the realm of Fluke, you typically get excellent build quality, reliability and accuracy. The 77 version 4 is a honed, user-friendly device of the 70 Series and one that is cheaper than some of the others, such as the 170 and 80 series’.
It suits electricians and auto engineers as it is also very rugged and is easy to hold in one hand and operate. The dial is smooth and mostly has dedicated ranges, to include DC voltage to 1000V, AC voltage to 1000V, AC/DC current to 10A, AC/DC milliamps, as well as a DC millivolts range. Resistance and capacitance are generous and the frequency range extends to 100kHz.
Among its solid functionality and measurement ranges are high levels of accuracy (basic DC voltage: ±0.3%) and excellent input protection. Fluke’s renowned automatic TouchHold® is featured, along with Min/Max recording, and manual and auto ranging.
As a Fluke, the response time of the auto ranging and continuity checker is very fast. The display is large, backlit and has great resolution. A TPAK hands-free magnetic hanger suits this meter and works very well under a car. Read full review…
COMES WITH: 9V battery, leadS
- Nicely designed and compact
- Accurate enough for most tasks
- Very strong
- No free hanger or case
- More expensive than other brands
BOTTOM LINE: this is a very competent meter for electricians and auto engineers, in the mid to upper price range of Fluke’s catalog.
The Fluke 88V is the best multimeter for automotive work you can buy. It is more expensive than the others, but has great functionality and accuracy and is extremely reliable. This is also a very rugged multimeter that can be taken into industry or used on the bench for electronics projects.
Automotive test functions include RPM and pulse width measurements and it can measure current to 20A, as well as micro-amps. Resistance, capacitance and frequency ranges are all good, as is the temperature range (-328°F to 1994°F). Functions include relative zero mode, Max/Min recording and auto hold. Continuity and auto ranging are super fast.
The Fluke 88V is good for diagnosing faults on conventional or hybrid vehicles and has the best accuracy of any handheld automotive multimeter at ±0.1% for DC volts. This is a Category IV-rated multimeter. It is average responding RMS only, which is fine for automotive work. The 87V is a True RMS meter and is also used by many for automotive tasks, though is more an electrician’s multimeter. Read full review…
COMES WITH: 9V battery, leads, holster
- RPM and pulse width ranges
- High amperage range
- Super reliable and rugged
- Very accurate
- Bigger than most
BOTTOM LINE: short of professional, full-fledged automotive test equipment, the 88V is as good as it gets but might be overkill for small operations.
We have detailed a handful of the best automotive multimeters. There are many others on the market, such as the popular Uni-t UT109, but these four have been tried and tested and are used in car yards all around the world.
Alternatives: amp clamp meters that also have digital multimeter capability. While traditionally useful for basic tasks, since they usually have limited measurement ranges, they are especially good for checking high amperage. You don’t need to disconnect anything, just clip the clamp over the cable. The caveat is that you need to make sure they can read DC amps as an AC-only model will not measure DC amperage.
Most brands also make clamp meters, including Fluke, Etekcity, Uni-Trend and Amprobe. The latter developed them, with the Amprobe AMP 200 and 300 being especially handy. The Fluke 365 is noted for its small jaw design, as is the GTC CM100 low current amp clamp. It can measure from 1mA to 100A AC/DC, along with voltage, resistance and continuity.