How To Find a Short Circuit With a Multimeter?

When working on electrical devices or circuits, you might face a short circuit issue; the effects of a short circuit can’t be ignored. In addition, short circuits can damage your circuit board or electrical circuit; therefore, you must find and fix them as soon as possible.

Multimeters can be used for many purposes; one is finding a short circuit using its probs. Finding a short circuit using a multimeter is considered one of the easiest and safest ways to find a short circuit.

How To Find a Short Circuit With a Multimeter?

There are three general steps to finding a short circuit with a multimeter, determining the circuit components’ location, probing the circuit’s chassis or ground, and probing the component or the section, observing the multimeter’s display to see the readings that appear after making the connection.

Finding a short circuit can be done through several ways and methods; however, using a multimeter to find a short circuit is one of the simplest ways that you can use. It’s a safe and quick way and doesn’t need much experience; the only thing you need is a proper multimeter.

Detailed Steps to Find Short Circuit with Multimeter

Safety and Preparation

Ensuring safety and preparation before performing any electrical task is a must, even if the task is simple as using a multimeter. A suitable preparation will ensure that neither your multimeter nor your electrical circuit is damaged while finding the short circuit in your electrical circuit.

The first thing to do is to power off your electrical circuit; for example, if your circuit is connected to a power supply, you will need to disconnect it. Likewise, if batteries supply your circuit, you will need to remove the batteries; switching off the power will keep you safe from electric shocks and electrocution.

Setting Up the Multimeter

After ensuring that your electrical circuit is safe to be checked, power on your multimeter to adjust its setting; multimeters differ in their capabilities. Therefore, depending on your multimeter specifications, you will need to choose the settings; the test could be either a continuity test or a resistance test.

To select the mode or the settings in your multimeter, you will need to use the selector knob; some multimeters have different resistance settings. If your multimeter has this feature, you should set the resistance to the lowest scale possible.

Calibrating your Multimeter

Adjusting your multimeter’s settings is the first step in preparing it; the next step is calibrating it to ensure it can provide you with the essential measurements. Calibrating the multimeter can be done by connecting its probs; if your multimeter is set to resistance mode, it should show a reading near zero or zero.

If your multimeter shows a reading far from zero, you must calibrate it until it shows almost zero or zero. For example, suppose your multimeter is set to continuity mode. In that case, you should hear a tone sound or see the light flashing, it differs from one multimeter to another, and the reading should be almost zero to zero.

Determine the Circuit’s Components

When you feel your multimeter is ready to be used and successfully calibrated, you will need to determine the circuit’s components to know which component you will be testing for short circuits. Any electrical component should have at least some resistance when tested; it’s most likely not to have zero resistance.

For example, if you tested the resistance of the audio amplifier input next to your television, you will find that it has a resistance of at least a few hundred Ohms. Knowing that the components you will be testing for short circuits have nearly zero resistance will make your task very difficult.

Probe the Component

After determining the component you will test for a short circuit, your next step is to probe it. To do so, you will need to grab the black probe of the multimeter and connect it to the chassis or the ground of the electrical circuit. Then, grab the multimeter’s red probe and connect it to the component you want to test.

It doesn’t have to be a component; you can connect the multimeter’s red probe to a section in the electrical circuit to see whether it has a short circuit. When connecting the multimeter’s probes, ensure that both probes touch a metal part like the circuit board foil, a wire, or a component lead.

Observing the Multimeter’s Reading

When you touch the red and the black probes to the ground or the chassis of the circuit and to the component you are testing, you will need to observe the readings appearing on the multimeter’s display. If you use resistance mode, the readings can be either a zero, near zero, or open loop “OL.”

If the readings are zero or near zero, the current resulting from the circuit flows through, and your circuit is continuous. However, if the readings are open loop “OL,” the current is not flowing through, and there’s a lack of continuity, meaning that you have a short circuit in this component or section.

If you are using continuity mode, you will either hear a tone sound or see the light flashing in addition to zero or near zero reading on the multimeter’s display. These results mean that the current flows through this section or component properly, and there is no short circuit.

If you can’t hear any tone sound or see the light flashing and the readings on the multimeters are open loop “OL,” the current is not passing through, and your circuit lacks continuity. Therefore, this section or this component has a short circuit and must be fixed to avoid harmful effects.


Tips to Find Short Circuit with Multimeter

Select the Right Device; you must select the proper device to check if a component or a section in your electrical circuit has a short circuit. Almost every multimeter can measure resistance, voltage, and current; some high-end multimeters can perform different tasks. This makes some multimeters have more modes, readings, and attachments.

Know the Parts and Features, the main components of any multimeter are the display, ports, select knob, and probes. Older multimeters differ in some components; instead of the digital display, they have a pointer. The ports of the multimeter can be up to four ports, two of them black-colored and the other red-colored. 

The black port is for the COM port; meanwhile, the other ports are used for measurements and readings. For example, the VΩ port is a unit for measuring voltage, resistance, and continuity test. μAmA is a unit for measuring currents in circuits, while 10A is a unit for measuring currents of 200mA or greater.


To summarize, finding a short circuit using a multimeter is considered one of the easiest ways to find a short circuit. It only requires a proper multimeter; you can determine if your multimeter is proper by testing it first and calibrating it. Calibration can be done by connecting its probes and adjusting it until it shows zero reading or near it.

The next step is to identify the circuit’s components or the section of the circuit you want to test for a short circuit. An essential piece of information you should know is that if the component typically has a resistance near zero, it will be hard to tell if it has a short circuit.

Typically, any electrical component has a resistance above zero with a great value; therefore, knowing your components before testing them is a time-saving step. After probing your component and circuit, you need to observe the readings displayed and determine if you have a short circuit.

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