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Range Selection

Part of the correct use of an ammeter is the proper use of the range selection switch. If the current to be measured is larger than the scale of the meter selected, the meter movement will have excessive current and will be damaged. Therefore, it is important to always start with the highest range when you use an ammeter. If the current can be measured on several ranges, use the range that results in a reading near the middle of the scale. Figure 1-24 illustrates these points.

Figure 1-24. - Reading an ammeter at various ranges.

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Figure 1-24(A) shows the initial reading of a circuit. The highest range (250 milliamperes) has been selected and the meter indication is very small. It would be difficult to properly interpret this reading with any degree of accuracy. Figure 1-24(B) shows the second reading, with the next largest range (50 milliamperes). The meter deflection is a little greater. It is possible to interpret this reading as 5 milliamperes.

Since this approximation of the current is less than the next range, the meter is switched as shown in figure 1-24(C). The range of the meter is now 10 milliamperes and it is possible to read the meter indication of 5 milliamperes with the greatest degree of accuracy. Since the current indicated is equal to (or greater than) the next range of the ammeter (5 milliamperes), the meter should NOT be switched to the next range.


When you use an ammeter, certain precautions must be observed to prevent injury to yourself or others and to prevent damage to the ammeter or the equipment on which you are working. The following list contains the MINIMUM precautions to observe when using an ammeter.

  • Ammeters must always be connected in series with the circuit under test.
  • Always start with the highest range of an ammeter.
  • Deenergize and discharge the circuit completely before you connect or disconnect the ammeter.
  • In dc ammeters, observe the proper circuit polarity to prevent the meter from being damaged.
  • Never use a dc ammeter to measure ac.
  • Observe the general safety precautions of electrical and electronic devices.

Q.26 Why should you use the highest range of an ammeter for the initial measurement? answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.27 What range of an ammeter is selected for the final measurement?
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Q.28 List the six safety precautions for the use of ammeters.
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Q.29 Why will an ammeter be damaged if connected in parallel with the circuit to be measured?
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