Are you looking for how to test a tachometer with a multimeter? Then this article is for you.
Let’s start from the beginning; if you don’t know what a tachometer is or what it does, the following article won’t make much sense, so; what is a tachometer?
It’s an instrument that measures how fast a disk or a shaft rotates. It’s designed to determine RPM or revolutions per minute of an object in motion.
They are commonly used in machines and motors and can be found on boats, cars, and airplanes, to name a few. You might know the tachometer as RPM gauges, rev counters, revolution counters, or only as a tach.
In a car, a tachometer is connected to the dashboard and displays the RPMs of the motor. This informs you when you should shift gear taking the engine’s rotational shaft speed into consideration.
Tachometers measure performance metrics, like the rotational speed on wheels, engines, fans, turbines, or rollers. They can measure traveling rates on, for example, conveyors and the length of wires and sheet products.
Since the tachometer is an essential part of any engine and you’re driving your car with a faulty or broken tachometer, you could be in for a dangerous ride. If you should get stopped by the police with a broken tachometer, you could either be fined or, worse, lose your license. Anyone who’s ever lost their license knows how hard and troublesome it is not to be able to drive.
There are many situations when a tachometer is critical, especially when driving on a highway. Should your tachometer break or not display the right rpm, you could easily take it to a mechanic to get it fixed. But you could also test the tachometer at home using a multimeter.
To quickly test a tachometer at home, all you need are some screwdrivers and, of course, the multimeter. If you don’t already have a multimeter, you can buy one in any electronics store or order one online from websites like Amazon and eBay.
Step-by-step guide will show you how to test a tachometer with a multimeter
But before we start, we’ll give you some quick tips to keep in mind to make the process a lot easier.
• Always wear gloves.
When testing the tachometer with a multimeter, you need to wear gloves since there is a chance that you might get shocked during the testing process.
• Always have someone in the driver’s seat.
To get the most accurate results, there should be a person sitting inside the car. It’s essential that there is a dialog between whoever is testing and the person in the driver’s seat.
• Make sure there is enough gas.
The car needs to be filled up with enough gas before testing to ensure that you can test adequately. A faulty tachometer can result in gas being burnt very quickly.
• Have everything you need prepared.
Ensure that you have everything you need beforehand, like screwdrivers, multimeter, and whatever other equipment you might need. This will speed up the testing process, which can be quite time-consuming.
• If, in any case, there should be any confusion after opening the hood because of the numerous wire connections, it’s better that you consult someone that knows cars or a mechanic. Should you fiddle with the wrong wire, you can damage the whole wiring of the vehicle.
Now that we have covered that, it’s time to start testing.
As mentioned above, to get started, you need screwdrivers and a multimeter. Once you have everything in place, you need to calibrate the multimeter.
When calibrating a multimeter, it’s essential that you use the correct calibration for your intended use. The calibrator you are using needs to be at least four times better than the multimeter to calibrate the multimeter correctly. The calibrator also needs to be good enough to cover all the multimeter functions you are using.
Modern multimeters are usually equipped with at least five features that each have a variety of different functions. One crucial factor is that the calibrator has to verify that the multimeter is sufficient to use in full range.
Most manuals will recommend functions and the minimum specs required to calibrate the multimeter properly. Most manufacturers also provide information on the needed test points and fail/pass limits.
Multimeters will also have the manufactures recommendations on the appropriate calibration intervals. Even though following the given intervals can be beneficial, it’s essential to know that a multimeter should also be calibrated when:
• The multimeter is new
• If the multimeter has suffered any trauma
• If you use the multimeter a lot
Creating your own schedule for calibrating the multimeter is highly recommended. Everyone uses their multimeter differently, but every multimeter should be scheduled to be calibrated once a year, every three months, or even every month, depending on how often you use it.
Unlike several other techniques for testing a tachometer with a multimeter, our method doesn’t require you to open the tachometer, nor does it require you to open the car’s dashboard.
All you need to do is to open the hood and locate the ground wire. The ground wire is usually thin and attached to one side of the car and leads to the other, usually located between the engine and the car chassis.
Once you have found the ground wire, you can follow it since it will lead you to the breaker box. Once you located the box, you need to find the cable that leads to the tachometer.
Since there are no clear instructions on how to find the wire that leads to the tachometer, and since every car is different, there is only one way to find it; if you don’t ask a mechanic or you happen to be one, is to try each cable with the multimeter to see which one it is.
This can be quite time-consuming but once located; you can mark it so you can easily find it in the future if needed.
This final step is relatively straightforward. Once you have found the wire leading to the tachometer, you need to insert the probe on the tachometer into the multimeter.
The next step is to connect the multimeter to the AC current, so you can start testing. Turn on the car’s engine and touch the tachometers wire that leads to the breaker box.
This is where it’s essential to have someone in the driver’s seat telling you if and when the dial on the tachometer reaches the calibration process’s vital points.
Compare the results on the multimeter to the numbers shown on the dashboard. If the tachometer is precise, you are all set, but you need to go to a mechanic and get it replaced immediately if it isn’t.
You can use this testing process on boats, airplanes, and any other devices that has an RPM meter.
Some other things you should know
How to Wire a Tachometer to a Coil
Attaching a tachometer to an ignition coil can help monitor performance by calibrating the engine’s RPM within a vehicle or automotive environment.
The following steps will tell you how to wire a tachometer to the ignition coil.
• Find a good spot to mount the tachometer; it should be easy to see the reading.
• Route all three wires (usually green, black, and red) from the unit’s back beneath the dashboard.
• Using wire clippers, strip about 6mm of the insulation from each wire.
• Use a crimping tool to attach a terminal to the red wire.
• Attach a connector using a crimping tool to the black wire.
• Install on a piece of naked metal beneath the dashboard.
• Attach a fuse tap to a fuse that has power when the car is turned on.
• Route the green cable through the firewall, under the dashboard, into the motor compartment through an opening.
• Make sure that the cable is secured for both security reasons and protection.
• Find the negative part of the motor’s ignition coil and attach the wire.
• Secure a connector to the ignition coil terminal and use a wrench to tighten it.
• Start the engine to test your newly attached tachometer.
How to test a tachometer signal on a boat
A tachometer is a reference instrument, and at a given speed, you should be aware of what to expect. If there’s a difference, there is most likely an issue. It can either be a problem with the boat’s performance or with the instruments.
Usually, a tachometer should be allowed a ten percent margin of error, but you will need another reference instrument to discover how accurate it is or isn’t. Either a multimeter with a tachometer feature or another tachometer.
Configure the tachometer for your engine by choosing how many cylinders and how many times per second the ignition coil fires.
The tachometer’s red lead should connect to the dedicated gray lead on the motor or the ignition coil’s negative lead. The black lead should be connected to any grounding point on the engine.
Turn on the engine, turn on the tachometer and get the motor up to 1,000 rpm on the tachometer. Note it down and compare the reading to the boat’s tachometer.
How to test RPM without a tachometer
Usually, you would use a tachometer to test a vehicle’s RPM, but if you don’t have one or it’s broken, you can use a multimeter to create a workaround.
Before you can start measuring a motors RPM using a multimeter, you need the following things:
• A multimeter that can measure frequency
• Access to the motors spark plugs wires
• One 4-inch piece of wire
Since this isn’t a standard test with a multimeter, you should use full protective gear, electrical gloves, and eye covers.
During this test, you will use the multimeters ability to distinguish the RPM signals through a cable taking advantage of the electromagnetic interference that the ignition system produces.
How to test
Follow these steps to complete the test:
• First, remove both the black and red leads from the gadget and put them to the side.
• Next, remove 1-inch of insulation from one end of the cable. Bend the bare part of the wire into a u-shape, so it becomes a little thicker.
• Insert the bare part in the red socket. It should stick straight up from the multimeter.
• Set the multimeter to HZ.
• Start the vehicle and let it run for about a minute.
• Take the multimeter with the long cable sticking out from it and place it close to the spark plug without touching it.
Checking the results
After you complete the test described above, you should see results on the multimeter’s screen. You should write down these results. They will be presented in HZ, so you’ll need to convert them to RPM.
What you see on your screen is actually pulses per second, so all you need to do is multiply the results by 60 to get the RPM.
Below are some examples to guide you
• If the multimeter’s result reads 21 as the Hz, when you multiply it with 60, you will get 1260, which is the RPM.
• If the multimeter shows you 25 instead as the Hz, the RPM will be 1500 after multiplying it with 60.
Some testing irregularities to watch for Double the Expected Amount
A well-known issue on some 2/4 stroke motors is called a wasted spark. This makes the frequency results from the test show twice as high as the needed amount.
Following this guide and tips can help you test your tachometer at home, which can also help you save a buck or two instead of taking your vehicle to a service shop.
If something is wrong with your tachometer, you should consider getting it replaced as soon as possible since it can be dangerous, and you might be driving faster than you think you are.
A tachometer is also essential for a smooth, enjoyable driving experience if you’re driving a boat, a car, or flying an airplane.