How Do I Choose the Best Multimeter Probes?

K'Lee Banks

Determining how to select the best multimeter probes, also referred to as multitesters, depends on their intended purpose. As a variety of applications use multimeters, the actual configuration of the “testing end” varies among many available forms. For example, if one is simply testing fuses for conductivity, the common probe design will suffice, but if the application requires a hands-free approach, the clip-on style may be more convenient. The clip-on style is also known as an “alligator clip,” because the clip resembles an alligator’s mouth with rows of “teeth” that prevent the multitester from becoming disconnected while the tests are performed. There are also “blade” configurations that resemble the blades on an automotive fuse.

A multimeter with common red and black probes.
A multimeter with common red and black probes.

A multitude of different multitester or multimeter probes are available on today’s market. Common multimeters come with the standard test probes used in most electrical applications. For example, a do-it-yourself mechanic may want to test the voltage in a car battery when the car will not start. The average multimeter test leads should work fine for that purpose. In that case, therefore, purchasing additional multitester test leads will not be necessary.

A person may use a multimeter to check the voltage in a car battery.
A person may use a multimeter to check the voltage in a car battery.

Occasionally, however, finding the best multimeter probes may involve specialized knowledge regarding what requires measuring. For example, not all probes are designed to measure a variety of items across a broad spectrum. These include temperature, frequency modulation (RF), and voltage. In other words, one may have trouble measuring battery voltage with a probe designed to measure temperature. On the other hand, not all multimeters or multitesters are even capable of measuring things like temperature, but there are adapters available.

Another option that should be considered when searching for the best multimeter probes is cord length, as the cords attached to multitesters are available in different lengths. If one is dealing with high voltage, it is crucial to find the best multimeter probes for the job. There are probes specifically designed to handle high-voltage, but it is highly recommended to contact a professional if that is the situation.

Certain probes possess additional insulation, should the application require it. A wise first step in selecting the best multimeter probes might be to look through the informational literature packaged with the multitester itself. Any available accessories, such as optional test probes, are often listed towards the back of the instruction pamphlets included with the purchase of quality multimeter probes. This will also ensure compatibility, because the best test probe will be the one that actually fits one’s multitester. Although many input plugs are in fact interchangeable, it is wise to research this before purchasing to make sure any investment into new multitester probes is not wasted.

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