Arcade Collecting > Miscellaneous Arcade Talk

How to use a multimeter to troubleshoot

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Like many of you, building an emulator cabinet was the first step to buying real arcade cabinets and PCBs. I now have two additional cabinets (a Primal Rage cabinet that I use for JAMMA boards and a Neo-Geo 2-slot). Also, like many of you, I've learned a lot of this stuff as I go and I'm always trying to help out others that are just getting started. One thing that is overlooked by many jumping into this, is the importance of both owning and knowing how to use a multimeter to troubleshoot problems that will arise.

A multimeter is undeniably a tool that you will NEED if you are wanting to own and work on arcade games, pins, or troubleshoot any other electronics projects.

Despite this, there doesn't seem to be any specific info on the site about using one.

I'm thinking it might be good to have a centralized place (updated WIKI entry and maybe a stickied post) to get people started on diagnosing their problems using a multimeter. As with much of this site, I'm thinking that tips on practical applications are best.

Before you jump into working on an arcade game you should already understand basic electronic principles like circuits, voltage (including the difference between AC and DC), and continuity. You will be dealing with a lot of wiring, so you will have to know how to at least crimp on connectors. Eventually you will also have to have a working knowledge of soldering. You will also need to know the difference between wiring things in series versus wiring parts in parallel. If any of these concepts are unfamilliar to you, read up in a basic electronics book before starting.

Anytime you're working with live electricity be very careful. Taking shortcuts, being careless, and jumping in before you know what you're doing can be extremely harmful to both you and your game.


Here you go.


You can pick up one up at a good variety of places. Radio Shack has them, home improvement/hardware stores, Sears, computer stores, auto parts stores, etc.  You can also buy them online many, many places.

I'd stick to a digital multimeter instead of an analog one. Digital will have a nice, large-sized LCD display of numbers. An analog meter will have a peak meter with a moving needle. Digital is MUCH easier to use.

For our purposes, you should have absolutely no problems finding a decent one for $20 or under. For what you'll be using it for you don't need a super-fancy one. On most inexpensive models you'll be adjusting the range that you're measuring manually. This isn't a big deal at all as you'll mostly be measuring voltages over a small range anyway. If you can find a cheap auto-ranging one, it's not a bad feature. Fluke is a brand name that you'll encounter if you do much research on multimeters. Very nice equipment, but for basic testing it's overkill. You also might check out what kind of battery it takes. I've seen RadioShack ones that use a funky 12V battery that would be more expensive to replace than a 9V or a couple AA batteries.

Here are pictures of a common, inexpensive multimeter and a much nicer Fluke one. As you can see the auto-ranging ones have a lot less settings on the dial.


--- Quote from: ChadTower on July 12, 2007, 03:19:04 pm ---
Here you go.

--- End quote ---

I was just about to post that link and give you credit for it.  I thought this might save you some posts. It's probably the best starter tutorial I've seen. My only gripe is that it skips over continuity instead of just giving the really simple explanation that it is.

Here are a few other tutorials:

A Video Tutorial. There's also a downloadable PDF link there that might be good for reference.

If you really have some spare time here's a  29 minute-long video tutorial.

There is a very brief listing in the Wiki that needs to be expanded.


To be fair, that's not my web page, I just post the URL when appropriate.


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