I have a Goldilocks toolbox. Everything about it is just right for me. It has a manageable size, so I don’t ding railings and doorways as I lug it from task to task. It’s lightweight, and I can one-hand it up a ladder without a second thought. This toolbox is even mentally engaging, as it provides enough storage and configuration options that I can continuously optimize it for my go-to kit. I have confidence I can grab this toolbox and tackle the vast majority of “while I have you here…” mother-in-law requests. To make it to this toolbox is a hall-of-fame honor for one of my tools, and the Extech EX410A has just been nominated.
The Elevator Pitch
The Extech EX410A is a professional-quality multimeter at a consumer-friendly price point. It can perform eight different functions, with measurements of AC/DC voltage, AC/DC current, resistance, continuity, diode, and temperance. The display is large, digital, and backlit. The meter grips comfortably in one-hand, because it comes in a protective holster. There is an integrated stand, with 3 convenient viewing angles and a position to hang the unit vertically from. For measurements, the meter includes CAT III test leads and a Type K bead wire temperature probe.
A Power-User Upgrade
Do not be fooled by the entry-level price on this measurement tool! The EX410A is capable, and in my experience, quite accurate. The base offering, however, is lacking in terms of hands-free test leads. Thankfully, Extech offers the a few different Electronic Test Lead Kits that affordably upgrade this meter to get the job done. I chose the TL809 kit, which for not even twenty bucks provides alligator clip leads, banana plug leads, and mini-grabber leads.
Bread and Butter Measurements
Everyday measurements are quick and easy with this multimeter.
Toasted Bread Measurements
Have you ever wondered what the carbon footprint of your toaster is? I haven’t either, but I measured it anyway!
To measure AC or DC current, a multimeter must be inserted to the circuit. With the Extech EX410A, you first select the appropriate AC or DC current limit on the dial. Then make sure to use the designated port for the positive lead. Next, safely determine a way to make the test leads complete the circuit in question. Confirm your design with the user manual of the multimeter. With this model, you will find that the meter is limited to a maximum of 30 seconds of observation. Observations also must be at least 15 minutes part.
To take the AC measurement of my toaster’s current draw, I used the following design:
This design has an outlet that receives line power controlled by a pair of switches. When either or both switches are in the ON position, the outlet is energized. To measure the draw one minute into a toast, I started with just the bypass switch in the ON position. This avoids running the circuit through the meter and surpassing the 30 second limit. When a measurement is desired, the meter switch is placed in the ON position, and then the bypass switch is turned OFF. The circuit will stay energized during the changeover, as both switches are momentarily ON. Once the bypass is turned OFF, the only path of current is through the meter. In this configuration, the meter reads the full amperage draw of the toaster.
Replacing a Fuse
When I first researched which multimeter to buy, I came across a few negative remarks regarding the difficulty to access the fuses for this unit. Unfortunately, in writing this article, my hands were forced to investigate the replacement procedure. As I tested the DC voltage on a fully-charged marine battery, I inadvertently connected the leads with the meter configured for current. The instant the alligator clip completed the circuit through the meter, 1000 amps of cold cranking power surged from battery. Thankfully, the internal 10 amp fuse protected the meter!
A couple of precision screwdrivers are all that’s required to access the fuse location. Remove the battery first, then separate the meter in half by removing the four screws at the corners. A small PCB is held in-place with headers. A gentle pull removes that PCB, and the fuses simply snap in and out of place.
Consult the markings on the fuse for information on a suitable replacement. For this meter, a 600V rating is stamped on both. The 10A fuse is easier to find — I fit the Zephyr from Amazon. A 200mA fuse with a 600V rating is more difficult to source. This Klein Tools fuse from Home Depot should do the job, though.
A good multimeter belongs in the go-to toolbox. A continuity test can help you determine if a dishwasher heating element is shot. A voltage check can tell you if your battery still takes a charge. A current measurement can help you feel guilty about toasting your breakfast. The Extech EX410A is a capable multimeter at a price that lets you put more of your cash towards the project. Pair it with a leads kit, like the TL809, and get the job done!