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  • EEVblog #60 – Fluke 117 Multimeter Review and Teardown

    Posted on February 8th, 2010 EEVblog 27 comments


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    27 responses to “EEVblog #60 – Fluke 117 Multimeter Review and Teardown” RSS icon

    • awesome stuff and review…

      :)

      • I have the 117 and like the non contact feature because I work with high voltage.

        I also have a fluke 16 which is a continuation of the fluke 12. It measures temperature and uA as well as caps. I had the fluke 12 for 10 years which only cost me 100 in 1994. I fell in love with this meter immediately. It had low Z was small, rugged and had 4 push buttons. I found the low z great for many things including discharging capacitors and testing batteries and power supplies.

        These low end meters had a little known feature which Dave would love. The fluke 16 still has it although i did not find it in the manual. I believe you use the range button when in diode mode. It has a latch open and a latch close to check a cable for shorts or breaks. If you hold the leads together and hit a button it will detect a momentary open, but has a display which shows up as —__ on the display. otherwise the display looks like —–. Like a logic transition. Correct me if wrong, but this is a feature not included in higher models, I believe.

        Love the blog Dave keep it up. Electronics has been my passion for over 20 years.

        Reuben

        • While I am on the topic of meters I love, I have an Ideal amp meter with a tight sight display. There is a little rubber boot over a second display in the end. This is great for high hanging wires. This meter has min max capacitance, frequency through the jaws and an analog bar graph. It also has a great back light and huge digits. Sorry fluke, but I like this better than yours especially at under 200.
          It looks and feels “sexy” as Dave would say. I had it checked by a calibration lab and they said it was “spot on”.

          • More on ideal amp meter. I have had it for 4 years. I really like the canvas belt holster and it comes with wonderful probes which come apart to put a huge black alligator clamp on the black lead for one handed testing. It is also cat III and IV. Check it out :).

            I have been using ideal’s vibrating low impedance meter (wiggy} for about 6 years and you want to talk rugged? I dropped mine from 50 feet. It has a solenoid which vibrates and a analog meter with ever famous neon lamps. Strangely, works well to test unloaded frequency drives.

    • Nice review. I’m still using my cheapie R/S meter. I really don’t need to go into microvolts, or even microamps.

      It cost me all of $30US a few year back.

      And reasonably accurate. It’s all I need as the electronics work that I do is more hobby than pro.

    • Dave, thanks for the review. If I were to take a Fluke multimeter apart, the very first thing I would look at is the design of the knob switch. On my aging model 83 the contacts are carbon and printed on the PCB. Metal wipers sweep across the printed carbon contacts as the selector switch rotates. The problem with the design is that, over time, the metal contacts smear the carbon in arcs across all the carbon contacts. The smears cause small amounts of battery drain even when the meter is switched off and the meter becomes a battery hog. As expensive as the meter was I’m still paying for it in dead batteries when I forget to remove the battery.

      Another problem with the meter is that the LCD is pretty much shot. I’m pretty bummed that such an expensive meter didn’t hold up better. I will buy something other than a Fluke next time.

    • Any chance you could go over how Volt Alert works? I’m not sure what makes it work on wiring that’s not actively flowing current like the cord you held up but didn’t go anywhere. Is it really safe? Is there situations where it will give false positives or worse, not warren you that there is dangerous voltage? Maybe on your next multimeter video blog. Thanks.

      • Volt Alerts are notorious for giving false negatives more than false positives. They work great in some situations (ie non shielded cables, in plastic or no conduit (ie steel conduit stops them from working…))

        Most people DO NOT follow the RULES of there use, FIRST TEST ON A LIVE CIRCUIT, make sure it gives a positive reading, then check the circuit to work on, then check again on a live circuit.

        I have known of at least 10 deaths due to faulty “volt sticks” in Au in the last 20 years (when I started an advanced diploma in EE OH&S was a mandatory module as EE’s are usually in charge of techs etc)we studied the law and cases etc. some of the volt sticks did not work when the coroner tested them after the death.

        I usually prefer to use a meter to physically test a circuit (both from active to neutral and if no voltage from active to ground and neutral to ground (to make sure the switch / breaker is not in the neutral conductor))

        Safety these days is taken too lightly by “cowboys” if you look at the Australian news feeds, we have a Federal Government house insulation scheme to install insulation in roof spaces. To date there are 5 deaths in under one year of people installing insulation (both aluminium foil and batts) some is from dodgy wiring (before IIRC 1970 the plastic used did not stand up to heat and humidity of the tropics and is failing) some are due to staples or nails holding insulation in place penetrating live conductors.

        If I wanted a quick check device and was doing electrical work for a living, I would not use a <au$200 contact tester, I would use one of the more expensive ones that could also detect buried cables and pipes (used to scan walls before chasing and drilling)

        Regards,

        Kat.

      • A tic tester works by detecting the electric field, which is where the false positives come from. Static can throw false positives. Basically, I think it’s a very sensitive transistor with the base connected to an insulated metal prod at the front. I’m sure there’s more complexity, and maybe a whole other methodology in a professional device, that’s just what I saw in a DIY circuit once.

        I worked for an oil company where there could be dodgy panels from 50 years ago, or new panels that simply had faults due to a lot of problems that can come up out there. The required safety procedure for approaching and working on a panel (besides the requirements for gloves, face shields and etc) was to use a tic tester on it first to verify the whole metal case wasn’t charged, then turn it off, verify that the cutoff wasn’t broken by checking the voltage with probes, and proceed.

        It’s also useful for finding wires in a wall before you start nailing things in it or to track a run. It’s not 100% reliable, by any means though, as Kat said.

        I think this is the same meter that came in our FIRST Robotics rookie kits this year, I’m mentoring for a team and the first thing I did was check the continuity speed, LOL.

    • Hi Dave, boys and girls. I know you have been doing terribly many multimeter reviews lately but I have a proposition for the next one to review(if you can get hold of one, that is). You mentioned that you like Japanese stuff in your Metrawatt review and I’ve seen these Japanese Sanwa meters on the internet. They have pretty good spec’s for a good price. The older models with high spec’s don’t look too pretty but they seem to have a well thought out design(like double off postions on the range switch).What do you think?

    • So I’ve seen you put up many many multimeter reviews over the last year, have you ever considered other test equipment reviews like a budget-benchtop multimeter?

    • Just got one of these last week !
      Home electric install.. I was not willing to use my 87 for it.

      • Newton,

        Have you looked at the videos on the Fluke site ?

        There are a few on safety, and they all point out the most important point.

        Multimeters have a rating (EG Cat III 1000V) these are what you need to look for. In the cast of the 87V these ratings are Cat III 1000V and cat IV 600. These are more than adequate for house hold circuits. Given the cat IV 600, you could measure 2 phase voltages on the supply side of the incomming fuses (assuming you have a fuse before the meter like in Au (in Au these are HRC fuses that limit the fault current from blowing the power meter))

    • Dave can you do one on Yokogawa TY500 or TY700 Digital Multimeter thanks

    • Dave, another one to add to the multi-meter list: the Smart Tweezer digital multimeter. It looks like a very handy gadget but I’m wondering what you think of the device in general – it is billed as “high precision”.

      • The Hack a day dudes have reviewed it some time ago(although the review was not that great).
        Why don’t you just use a cheap tweezer attachment. It’s way cheaper if you have a good multimeter to attach it to.

    • I like the 117 it seems to have all the features an electrician needs and it is reasonably priced also. My experience as an electrician leads me to believe the That the most impressive feature is on the fluke 233

    • Hi Dave, There is one test of a multi-meter that I haven’t seen you talk about. (Perhaps I’m the only one who cares.) I’m always using my DMM (Fluke 189) to measure DC voltages from BNC jacks. To do this I put a BNC to twin banana adapter on the end of a coax cable and then plug the banana jacks into the meter. This mostly works great. But some meters don’t have the standard 0.75″ spacing between the banana jack inputs. This ticks me off a bit. But a worse problem that I

    • I bought the 117 with the idea of also using it with a 200A Fluke clamp probe (with mV output) for current measurement (10A and higher). I selected the 117 specifically because of the MIN/MAX/AVG feature with an eye toward using it with the current probe so as to double as current meter.

      The Fluke 117 is spec’d at 250 mS sample period.

      When I called Fluke to ask what probe would be best for use with the 117 the bloke at tech support said “don’t”. He said that the 250 mS is a period over which the input voltage is averaged. (To my mind this kind of conflicts with my definition of “MAX” measurement mode.)

      I mentioned that the (10 years old?) Fluke 36 clamp meter I’ve used is also spec’d at 250 mS and asked (with tongue in cheek) if I should also avoid using that to measure peak current. His reply was that the 36 uses a digitizer to measure the input from the clamp, whereas the 117 uses an analog integrator which takes longer.

      Dave, what do you think about the suitability of the 117 — indeed, other low-to-medium priced Fluke models — to use with Fluke current probes to measure current including motor inrush current? How about a video demonstration / comparison? As detailed and interesting as your reviews are, inrush current measurement — specifically used in conjunction with a clamp probe — would be a welcome addition.

      Some of us in the industrial & power fields who use DMMs and clamp probes to measure current (usually motor inrush) would appreciate a comparison of clamp meters vs. DMMs using clamp probes.

    • I have one of these 117 meters that I have had for about 3 years now, and this thing IS my cheap Chinese multimeter! I bought mine new on eBay for about $110US and it is the meter I use for almost everything when I’m out in the field. I also have a fluke 189 that I take everywhere, but I never use it on high energy circuits so I can maintain utter confidence in it’s calibration at low levels. I often work on high voltages of 10-20kv using HV probes, and why would I want to risk my expensive meter to a possible overload damage if I don’t have to . I do wish this meter had mA/uA but really its so cheap for what it does do, that I can’t help but love it. I have beat the hell out of mine and it still works great!

    • Hi Dave, thanks for the review.

    • i have fluke 117 i bught its since 1 month i used that meter for auto electric system but sir lot of time the meter show in wire 12v 9v but my test light not get that reading.test light show nothing

      • @sikandar – Sounds like something leaks current/voltage to the wire you’re testing. Whatever does that, probably has a high resistance, so your meter will show some voltage. (Up to the car’s battery voltage.) When you try the test light on that same wire, you’ll see she voltage drop almost completely. That is because of the low resistance of the incandescent test light bulb.
        The AutoV/loZ mode might give you a lower reading than the regular DC Volt range which indicates that the wire under test is not as live as it seems at first glance.

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