How to Identify a Neutral Wire with Multimeter (4-Step Guide)

Having a basic understanding of the different types of wires can be pretty handy. For instance, you never know when you will need these skills for a home DIY project. So, today we are going to walk you through how to do this.

Identifying the neutral wire can be done with a multimeter. After setting the multimeter at its highest voltage settings, you can easily identify the neutral wire using the multimeter’s black and red probes. 

Different Types of Circuit Wires

There are three types of wires that you might encounter at your home. Therefore, if you plan to do a repair or an inspection, having proper knowledge can benefit you.

Live Wire: This brown wire conducts the electricity from the main power supply to the other devices.

Earth Wire: Comes in yellow or green colors. This wire conducts electricity to the ground, and therefore, it prevents the current flow through a broken circuit breaker, also known as the CPC.

Neutral Wire: This blue wire carries electricity from a device to the power source. In other words, a neutral wire completes the system or a circuit.

Note: Below Image might explain more about these three types of wires. Having a good understanding of each electrical wire can be very useful.

Importance of the Neutral Wire

From the above section, you now might have a good idea about different types of wires. However, a neutral wire is an essential part of the circuit, and without it, the circuit won’t be completed. In other words, there is no way for electricity to flow back to the primary power sources. So, if you can identify a neutral wire, it could help you during panel upgrade or electrical wiring.

4 Step Guide to Identify the Neutral Wire with a Multimeter

Even though most of the time, these wires are color-coded, we cannot depend entirely on that to identify natural wires. The best solution is to use a multimeter. The process of testing a neutral wire is not a difficult task at all. However, it would be best if you executed it correctly. Having said that, here are the materials you need to complete this process.

Note: You can use an ordinary wall outlet at your home for this demonstration. We will describe everything according to the wall outlet. However, remember the same process can be applied to any other circuit.

Material needed: A multimeter, a screwdriver, a wall outlet, insulated gloves, a probe

Step 1 – Safety First

Because we are dealing with electricity, it is always better to wear insulated gloves. Also, use a probe whenever you need it. So, remember to follow these safety precautions.

Step 2 – Wall Outlet and the Multimeter

Bring out all three wires from the outlet. Sometimes, you might have to remove the front plastic cover to bring out the wires. If that is the case, use the screwdriver to remove the screws and the plastic cover. Sometimes, you might be able to bring out the wires without removing the plastic cover.

Now set the multimeter to the highest voltage settings. Also, because we are dealing with AC, the multimeter range should be AC. So, make the necessary changes before using the multimeter.

Step 3 – Use the Black Probe

On your multimeter, there should be two probes; a black probe and a red probe. They are also known as leads. Connect the black multimeter lead to the earth wire or any other grounded object such as a water pipe, fridge, or faucet. The multimeter shouldn’t give any readings yet. Now, we can start testing the neutral wire.

Step 4 – Use the Red Probe

To test the neutral wire, touch the exposed wires with the red multimeter lead. You might have to do this for the remaining two wires (except for the earth wire). If you didn’t get any reading in the multimeter, that means the particular electric wire is neutral. If you did get a reading, that means the wire is hot.

Precautions That You Should Follow

We hope now you have a good idea of how to test a neutral wire with a multimeter. However, even if you are an experienced electrician, there are some precautions you should follow. For your safety, follow these precautions properly. (1)

  • Wear insulated gloves and use a probe. Wear safety goggles because there is a greater chance of creating electrical flashes during this testing. Also, make sure to remove all the metal objects from your pockets before starting the process. (2)
  • While using the multimeter, do not contact the live surfaces that contain electricity. For example, hold the multimeter by its rubber parts.
  • If you are a beginner, first start with an electrically dead system. This is always a good idea before working with a live circuit.
  • Never work with a live circuit while your hands are wet. Also, please don’t stand on a wet surface; it might electrocute you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Can I Identify a Neutral Wire and HotWire?

The first thing you should look for is the color. Usually, a neutral wire comes in blue color. On the other hand, a hot wire, aka live wire, comes in a brown color. However, using colors to identify these electrical wires is not the best method. It is possible sometimes inexperienced electricians can mess up all the wiring systems during wiring. Also, some manufacturers use different colors for these wires. Therefore. Do not depend on the color.

The best method is to use a tester or multimeter. Usually, the hot wire has a voltage of 220V or 230V. When it comes to the neutral wire, it has a voltage of 0V. So, identifying the wires won’t be difficult at all.

What is Open Neutral?

Open neutral occurs when two points lose the connection of the neutral wire. In other words, there is no neutral connection between those points. An open neutral can disconnect the system or might cause inconsistency.

Wrapping Up

All things considered, we can confidently say that using a multimeter is the best and the safest option for identifying a neutral wire. We hope you might feel the same after going through our article on how to identify a neutral wire with a multimeter. While dealing with electricity, always remember to follow the necessary safety guidelines.

You may check other multimeter guides below;

(1) experienced electrician –
(2) metal –

Video References

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About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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