How To Test a Car Battery With A Multimeter

An electronic multimeter measures voltage, current, resistance, and other electrical parameters from an electrical input. Multimeters are commonly used in automotive applications to test battery performance. A digital readout can be used to accurately report voltage information when properly used. When you conduct a multimeter battery test using the steps below, you can easily diagnose the problem.

Using a Multimeter to test the car Battery

The following steps should be followed for testing a car battery.

Preparation of the battery

  • The first step is to locate the battery for the vehicle and determine whether any dirt or corrosion has accumulated at the positive and negative terminals.
  • Negative terminals have a black cover with a minus sign, whereas positive terminals have a red cover and a plus sign.
  • Using fine-grit sandpaper can help scrub off corrosion buildup, which can hinder the multimeter’s ability to take accurate voltage readings.
  • You should wear gloves to protect your skin from the effects of overexposure to chemicals and battery acid.
  • After cleaning the terminals, they will serve as connections for the probes on the multimeter.

Turn off the car

  • If you intend to test your car battery with a multimeter, let it sit overnight or at least an hour so the battery has time to discharge.
  • Multimeter readings will be distorted if the battery is tested while the car is running because charging of the battery is done by the powered alternator, which produces electricity and charges the battery.
  • The battery of a recently run car is more likely to produce a misleading and inaccurate reading on a multimeter.

Preparation of the multimeter

  • Using a multimeter requires setting it to a specific range so it can measure within that range each time you use it.
  • Now Set your multimeter to 20 DC voltage to test a car battery with a multimeter that will allow you to detect voltage from 0-20 volts accurately.
  • The knob is located on the DCV (Direct Current Voltage) range and can be turned to 20.

Connect Multimeter with the Battery

  • Multimeter has basically two probes: red and black.
  • Place the red probe on the positive terminal and the black probe on the negative terminal.
  • It is common for positive terminals to be color coded red and negative terminals to be black.
  • The probes need to be oriented the other way around if the readings are negative 12.6 rather than positive.

Check your Multimeter’s reading

  • According to experts, an ideal battery reading should be around 12.6. Charge the battery if your battery voltage falls below 12.6, and then reconnect it.
  • Once you have rested overnight, you should take the test. Even if the battery is connected to a car, something drains the battery faster than the memory and circuitry in the car.
  • A reading of 12.2 to 12.6 volts full charge should be displayed on the multimeter when the probes touch the battery terminals while the car is off and the battery is resting.
  • If the voltage range is within this range, the battery is in good condition for starting the car.
  • The battery needs to be charged if the measured voltage is less than 12.2 volts, so it most likely needs to be replaced.

Useful Information

  • Even when all the lights and the engine are turned off, the digital clock, computer, and various other systems consume power.
  • During storage, you can either disconnect your battery, or remove the battery altogether, if you suspect the battery is being damaged.
  • In a modern vehicle, something electrical drains the battery even when the engine is off. This phenomenon is known as parasitic loss.

People Might ask

What is the best way to test a car battery without a multimeter?

To test your electrical system without a multimeter, just turn on your headlights after you start your car and see what voltage your battery has. When the lights are dim, that means the battery is being used and that the alternator produces very little energy.

Is it possible for a battery to test good and still be bad?

A battery is considered to be good as long as its voltage remains above 9.6 volts. The battery, however, may need to be recharged and retested if it drops below 9.6 volts after the test if it had not been fully charged before it was tested.

Is there a way to detect a bad car battery with a multimeter?

Yes, using a Multimeter you can detect a bad battery. Ensure that the positive and negative battery terminals of the multimeter are connected. The battery may have been damaged if it doesn’t have a voltage of 12.6 volts. Now start the car again, and look for an increased voltage. Whenever your voltage drops below 5 when the car runs, the battery is damaged and you need to replace it immediately.

What is the best battery voltage for new batteries?

The battery of an automobile should read 12.6 volts or above when fully charged. It should measure between 13.7 and 14.7 volts with the engine running.

What is the life expectancy of my car battery?

There are many factors that influence a car battery’s lifespan. There is a finite life span for batteries. Generally, batteries can last between three and five years, but you can reduce their lifespans depending on how you drive and how long your car is left unattended.


When you are experiencing an electrical problem with your car, it can be difficult to tell whether the issue is with the battery or the alternator, but testing the battery is the easiest way to determine whether the battery is the problem or if you should be focusing on the alternator.

Multimeters can be really helpful tools for this, and they are relatively inexpensive. If you follow the above instructions, you can easily test a car battery using a Multimeter. These steps can be performed without professional assistance and testing a battery with a multimeter is one of the simplest and cheapest methods.


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