Multimeter Capacitance Symbol and How to Read It (Guide)

If you’re into DIY, you likely encountered that strange capacitance symbol. That’s what we’re diving into today.

Quick Summary: Learn how to measure capacitance using a multimeter:

Step 1: Identify the symbol “-|(-” or “F.”
Step 2: Set up the multimeter.
Step 3: Zero out with REL mode.
Step 4: Disconnect the capacitor.
Step 5: Measure the capacitor and read the measurements accurately.

Understanding the multimeter capacitance symbol is crucial for anyone tinkering with electronics. It’s not just a random doodle; it’s a key to unlock the mysteries of your device’s performance.

What is Capacitance?

Let’s take a deep dive into the concept of capacitance. In simple terms, capacitance is the ability of a component to store an electrical charge.

Think of it like a tiny battery within your device. You see, everything from your TV remote to the smartphone in your hand uses capacitors.

In the electronic world, the unit of capacitance is the ‘farad,’ named after the English scientist Michael Faraday. But let’s keep things simple. Capacitors in everyday electronics usually measure in microfarads (µF), nanofarads (nF), or picofarads (pF).

To give you a better idea of the common capacitance units used in electronics, here is a markdown table:

MicrofaradµF1,000,000 picofarads
NanofaradnF1,000 picofarads
PicofaradpF1/1,000,000 of a microfarad

Let’s move on to learn how we can measure capacitance using a multimeter.

Multimeter Capacitance Symbol

Multimeter capacitance symbol displayed on a gray background
Video | GalcoTV

So, you’ve got a digital multimeter, maybe one of those not-too-pricey ones, right? These guys often come with a capacitance setting marked with a “-|(-,” “C,” or “CAP.”

I’ve used plenty of these in my time for a quick check. They’re great for getting a ballpark figure of a capacitor’s value, but remember, they’re not the last word in precision.

Now, when you need the real nitty-gritty details, that’s where an LCR meter steps in. I’ve had my hands on a few of these, and let me tell you, they’re top-notch but can hit your wallet hard.

They’re the big guns of capacitance measurement. What’s cool about them is their ability to accurately measure capacitance, even when the capacitor is still soldered on the board.

How to Measure Capacitance with a Multimeter

Let’s dive into measuring capacitance with a multimeter – a handy skill for any DIY buff.

Step 1: Set Up Your Multimeter

Power up your multimeter – digital or analog. Get those plugs in the right spots.

A person is holding a multimeter while observing the capacitance symbol
Video | GalcoTV

The red lead? That goes into the port marked with the capacitance symbol – it looks a bit like “–|(–.”

And the black one? It finds its home in the “COM” port. Trust me, getting this right is half the battle.

Step 2: Dial In the Right Setting

Now, twist that dial on your multimeter until you point at our friend, the capacitance symbol “–|(–.”

A person is holding a yellow multimeter, displaying the capacitance symbol on its screen
Video | GalcoTV

If your multimeter’s a bit fancy, you might have a ‘function’ key – give that a tap until the capacitance symbol shows up. It’s like selecting the right gear – it makes all the difference.

Step 3: Zeroing Out with REL Mode

Do you have a REL button? Hit it with the test leads apart. This zeroes out any extra capacitance from the leads themselves.

It’s especially crucial for those tiny capacitors – like fine-tuning before the real performance.

Step 4: Disconnect the Capacitor

A person is holding a capacitor placed on a wooden table
Video | GalcoTV

Now, carefully disconnect your capacitor from its circuit. Safety first – wear your protective gear.

Think of it as strapping on your safety belt before hitting the road.

Step 5: Time to Measure

Connect those test leads to your capacitor’s terminals. Hold them there momentarily – let the multimeter do its thing to find the right range.

A person connecting the multimeter probe into the capacitor
Video | GalcoTV

Getting an ‘OL’ reading means overload or your capacitor might be a dud.

Remember, every project has its quirks, and it’s all about adapting and learning as you go.

How to Read Capacitance Measurements

Once you’ve carefully set up your multimeter and connected the probes to the capacitor, it’s time to dive into reading capacitance measurements.

A multimeter is showing 0.084 nF on the screen
Video | GalcoTV

Reading the measurements may seem daunting initially, but you’ll get the hang of it with a few helpful tips and some practice.

Make sure the multimeter’s display is clear and bright. The display features the reading of the capacitance measurement. You are looking for a specific value with the symbol ‘F,’ which stands for farads, the unit of capacitance.

So, let’s imagine your multimeter reads 22 μF. This means the capacitance value of the capacitor you’re measuring is 22 microfarads.

Troubleshooting Tips: Getting Accurate Capacitance Measurements

Here’s a table combining common issues you might face and how to tackle them. Remember, troubleshooting can go a long way in getting those accurate readings.

IssuePossible CauseSolution
Inconsistent ReadingsLoose ConnectionsEnsure test lead connections are tight and secure, just like ensuring your tools are properly set up for a project.
Faulty Test LeadsTest your leads for continuity. Replace them if damaged.
Environmental InterferenceChange your measurement location. External factors can affect readings, similar to external conditions affecting paint drying.
Multimeter Not Detecting CapacitanceImproper SettingDouble-check that your multimeter is set correctly to the capacitance symbol, ensuring you’re in the right mode.
Discharged or Faulty CapacitorProperly discharge the capacitor before testing. Replace if faulty, like changing out a non-functioning light bulb.
Multimeter LimitationsCapacitors might be outside the multimeter’s range. Consider using a more specialized tool for such tasks.
Zero or Low ReadingFully Discharged CapacitorCharge the capacitor slightly before testing. A completely discharged capacitor won’t give a proper reading.
Incorrect Test Lead PlacementVerify that you’ve placed the test leads correctly on the capacitor terminals – similar to ensuring the correct bit is used for a screw.
Display FluctuationsUnstable Capacitor ChargeAllow the capacitor to stabilize before testing. Fluctuations can occur, such as variable drill speeds based on pressure applied.
Multimeter QualityLower-quality multimeters may not give stable readings. Consider upgrading your tool for more precision, like opting for a higher quality paint for a smoother finish.
High Reading Beyond Expected ValueCapacitor Connected to CircuitEnsure the capacitor is disconnected from any circuit. Testing in-circuit can give false readings, like measuring a distance without a clear starting point.
Parallel CapacitanceCheck for other capacitors in parallel, which might affect the reading, similar to accounting for additional weight on a scale.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls: Capacitance Measurement with a Multimeter

Let’s get down to business and discuss some common slip-ups you might encounter while measuring capacitance with a multimeter. Learning from these mistakes is all part of the journey in DIY electronics.

Not Properly Discharging Capacitors

This one’s a biggie. Capacitors store charge, and measuring them without discharging can skew your readings and shock you.

I always make sure to discharge the capacitor safely before I start measuring. It’s like ensuring the power tool is off before changing the blade – safety first!

Incorrect Setting on the Multimeter

Been there, done that. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you might forget to set your multimeter to the correct capacitance mode.

I remember getting bizarre readings once, realizing I hadn’t switched it over from the resistance setting. It’s like trying to drill with the drill in reverse – not going to get you very far.

Using Damaged or Inappropriate Test Leads

Damaged test leads can give you wonky readings. I always give my leads a quick check before I use them.

If they’re frayed or look worn out, it’s time for a replacement. It’s like inspecting a paintbrush for loose bristles – you want your top-quality tools.

Measuring Capacitance in Circuit

Trying to measure a capacitor while still in the circuit can lead to inaccurate readings due to other components interfering.

I always remove the capacitor from the circuit to test it. It’s a bit more work, but it’s like isolating a problem area when troubleshooting a leak – necessary for an accurate fix.

Ignoring Environmental Factors

Your environment can impact your readings. High humidity or temperature can mess with your measurements.

I found this out during a summer project in my garage – the readings were all over the place! Now, I try to measure in a controlled environment as much as possible.

Not Using the REL Function When Necessary

For those tiny capacitors, not using the REL function to zero out your multimeter can lead to errors. This function is like calibrating your scales before you weigh something – it ensures you start from a clean slate.

Remember, measuring capacitance is a skill; like any skill, it takes practice and patience. Avoiding these common mistakes can make your journey a whole lot smoother. Stay safe, and happy tinkering!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Long Should I Leave the Test Leads on the Capacitor?
    • Just a few seconds should do the trick. Hold the test leads against the capacitor terminals and give your multimeter some time to do its thing. It’ll figure out the right range and give you a reading.
  • Can I Measure the Capacity of Any Capacitor With My Multimeter?
    • Most of the time, yes. But remember, your multimeter has its limits. Extremely high capacitance or very low capacitance might not be accurately measured. It’s like trying to weigh a feather on a scale meant for heavyweights – not all tools fit every job.
  • Is It Safe to Measure Capacitance on a Powered Circuit?
    • Nope, that’s a big no-no. Always make sure the circuit is powered down before you measure capacitance. Safety’s the game’s name, and you don’t want to mix live circuits and testing.
  • Does Ambient Temperature Affect Capacitance Measurements?
    • You bet it does. Extreme temperatures can affect your readings. It’s like trying to read a thermometer in a sauna – the environment can throw things off. Measure in a stable, room-temperature environment for the most accurate results.
  • Can A Digital Multimeter Measure All Types of Capacitors?
    • Mostly, yes, but there are limits. Digital multimeters are great for a wide range, but super high or low capacitance values might be out of their league. It’s like trying to catch all the fish in the sea with one net – some are too big or too small.




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Taking Measure

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About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: 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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