Easy Electrical Tests

electrical test1 Easy Electrical Tests

The electrical testers shown here are a continuity tester (left), a multimeter (middle), and two circuit testers (right) available at hardware and parts stores. Continuity testers and multimeters require internal batteries.

The Fix-It Club goal is to make electrical repairs and other home repairs easier. With simple instructions and an inexpensive electrical tester, you can test a wide variety of electrical and electronic devices in your home. For example, you can perform electrical tests during blender repair, washer repair, dryer repair, refrigerator repair, electrical cord repair, coffee maker repair, electric heater repair, holiday light repair, radio repair, vacuum cleaner repair, fuse replacement, when testing batteries and much more. With just a few uses, you can pay for your electrical tester in repair savings.

The three types of electrical testers for consumers are a continuity tester, a circuit tester, and a multimeter (VOM). All are easy to find and operate, typically coming with printed instructions. You’ll find a variety of electrical test tools at hardware stores, auto parts stores and large discount stores. Shop around and ask for help. You’ll probably keep and use your first electrical test equipment for many years.

Continuity Tester

Electricity needs a continuous path or circuit to flow. It’s like a two-lane road from point A to point B and back. If one or both lanes are blocked, traffic — in this case, electricity — stops. A continuity tester is useful for checking electrical cords and wires to make sure they can conduct electricity.

To test for continuity, follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect the cord from the power source (electrical receptacle or outlet).
  2. Turn ON any switches on the device.
  3. Attach the alligator clip to one prong of the cord.
  4. Touch the tip of the continuity tester to the other prong. If there is continuity, the tester will light up. If not, it won’t.
electrical test2 Easy Electrical Tests

A continuity tester can tell you whether electricity can flow through a cord. Wiggling the cord during the test can show if there is an intermittent break in the circuit.

Here’s how it works: The continuity tester sends electricity from an internal battery through one cord prong and down the wires. If the light gets electrical current from the other prong it lights up, meaning that the path is good. Otherwise, something, like a broken wire or component, is stopping it. You can remove the cord from the appliance and test each of the two wires separately to see which one doesn’t work. If both work, the short is in the appliance itself. You can buy a continuity tester under $10.

A circuit tester is simply a continuity tester without an internal battery. It uses the device’s electricity to power it. Be careful using a circuit tester and follow manufacturer’s instructions for safety.


A multimeter (also called a volt-ohmmeter or VOM) is another way of testing continuity. It also can measure the amount of alternating current (AC or household current) or direct current (DC or battery current) in a plugged-in or live circuit. It can check voltage, too.

electrical test3 Easy Electrical Tests

Analog multimeters measuring conductivity/resistance must first be adjusted for a zero reading. Check instructions that come with a new multimeter.

For example, a multimeter can verify that there are about 120 volts in an AC circuit or that a 9-volt battery is fully charged. In addition, a multimeter can check resistance. A continuity tester checks resistance, but answers yes or no. A multimeter checks resistance and reports how many ohms (the measurement of resistance) a circuit carries.

Fix-It Tip

Troubleshooting some devices may not even require that you use a multimeter. Many major appliances have fault codes that you can read and decipher using the owner’s manual. You press a button or two, read the resulting code, and look it up for repair instructions. And, if you don’t have the original owner’s manual nearby, search for it online. Multimeters are relatively inexpensive. The analog unit shown was $10 and the digital multimeter was $20, though you can pay $50 or more for more accurate models. The ones shown here are sufficient for most electrical tests called for in the Fix-It Guides.

You can use a multimeter to test motors, switches, controllers, home appliances and many other electrical gadgets. Specific instructions will come with the multimeter you purchase.

electrical test4 Easy Electrical Tests

Connect the multimeter’s probes to the device. (Shown is a digital multimeter.)

Here’s how to use a multimeter to test an electric appliance:

  1. Disconnect the cord from the power source, except when testing a live circuit.
  2. Plug the test leads in to the multimeter.
  3. Select the function (ACV, DVC, resistance) and the range (maximum reading expected).
  4. Connect the probes to the cord or appliance component.
  5. Interpret the reading. The Fix-It Guides and the device’s owner’s manual will tell you what to expect — and what to do about it.
electrical test5 Easy Electrical Tests

The reading with the device on will show some, but not infinite (1), resistance. If it shows infinite, the switch or other internal component is bad (heating element, etc.) and disassembly is required to fix the problem.

Quick Test

Here’s a quick test you can perform on any electrical device without disassembling it. Use a multimeter or continuity tester to check the appliance’s continuity — ability to pass electricity from one plug prong to the other — when the switch is on. If it passes, the appliance is okay. If not, you’ll need to disassemble it further to find the problem.


stationary things4 Adhesives

Common adhesive fasteners.

The Fix-It Club can help you repair hundreds of things around your home with FREE Fix-It Guides. To start your repair education, learn about one of the most popular type of repair products: adhesives.


Adhesives, such as glues, are chemicals that attach the surfaces of two or more components. Fasteners are easy to use and will help you fix hundreds of things around your home, so let’s take a closer look at them.

Adhesives secure the surfaces of two materials together. There are many types of adhesive products, most of them designed for use with specific materials and under specified conditions. Adhesives come in liquid, solid, or powder form, and some require a catalyst to activate them. Select adhesives based on their characteristics, strength, setting time and temperature, and bonding method. For example, cyanoacrylate (instant glue) is preferred for permanently bonding rigid plastic parts that don’t face temperatures over 150 degrees. Some adhesives are waterproof while others are not; some need to be held together (clamped) while drying and others don’t. Read the instructions on the label for the appropriate application and use. You’ll also see adhesives used in the Fix-It Guides.

stationary things5 Adhesives

Properties of popular household adhesives.

Home Repair Safety

safety first1 Home Repair Safety

Many electrical appliances have warnings on their outside case to tell you of potential dangers to safety.

The Fix-It Club is dedicated to showing you how to easily and safely make hundreds of household repairs. Repair safety is a very important part of fixing anything, whether you are performing gas furnace repair, roof repair, yard trimmer repair, gas cooktop repair, electrical cord repair, or even jacket repair.  In one infamous example, technicians decided to find out what would happen if they tried to run the system with the various safety mechanisms defeated — at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Fixing your toaster won’t start a mushroom cloud of nuclear waste, but it can hurt you if you don’t apply some common-sense repair safety rules:


Houses built before 1978 may contain lead paint. Before disturbing any surface, get a lab analysis of paint chips from it. Contact your public health department for information on how to collect samples and where to send them.

safety first2 Home Repair Safety

If the electrical device you’re working on doesn’t unplug, make sure the power is turned off to the circuit you’re working on.

  • For electrical repair safety, make sure the power source is disconnected before working on any electrical or gas system.
  • Turn the water off ahead of the fixture before working on plumbing.
  • Wear gloves if using caustic chemicals.
  • Wear safety glasses if using a saw blade or any tool that can throw debris.
  • Wear a breathing mask if working around dust or strong chemicals.
  • Never place a body part where it can get hurt.
  • Don’t use a tool for any task but its intended purpose.
  • Don’t stand on something that won’t support you.
  • Don’t try to fix anything when your thinking is impaired by lack of sleep, emotional stress, alcohol, medications, or illness.
  • Plan it before you do it.
  • Remember repair safety for all Fix-It jobs.
safety first3 Home Repair Safety

Some electrical devices have labels telling you of potential danger due to high voltage inside. Heed them.

Aluminum wiring was used in home construction during the 1960s and early 1970s — until it was discovered that its interaction with copper and brass electrical terminals was causing some house fires! The metals expand and contract at different rates and the aluminum wire was pulling away from the copper terminals. How can you tell if your house has aluminum wiring instead of copper? Aluminum wire is dull gray or silver; copper wire is dull orange. “AL” may be imprinted on the wire sheathing (covering). What can you do about it? You may want an electrician to upgrade your home’s wiring with new aluminum-compatible connectors or by adding copper pigtail wires to the end of all electrical connections. You may be able to do it yourself, but do so under the direction of a licensed electrician.


Should you worry about asbestos? Asbestos is a fireproof, non-conducting mineral that was used in building materials for many decades — until OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) determined that asbestos fibers are a health hazard. Tiny asbestos fibers can readily break away from building materials and the fine dust can be inhaled or swallowed. And asbestos was in many types of materials that are now in homes today. Should you worry? To be a health hazard the fibers must be friable or loose in the air. Disturbing asbestos insulation or breaking up products that have loose asbestos fibers is a health hazard and requires an asbestos-removal expert. However, products like roofing that has asbestos impregnated in it (because it’s fireproof) aren’t a significant health risk.

How to Repair Anything

repair anything How to Repair Anything

Following easy step-by-step illustrated instructions you can repair hundreds of household appliances and other things — including a coffee maker.

The Fix-It Club knows how to repair anything! Besides more than 200 illustrated FREE Fix-It Guides, FixItClub.com offers the Fix-It Process, a simple and logical way to troubleshoot and repair anything.

Fix-It Basics

What’s wrong with it? That’s the first big question in fixing broken things. Any broken things! It doesn’t matter whether you need door chime repair, gas grill repair, toy repair, or computer printer repair. You can repair stationary things, mechanical things, electrical things, and hybrid things. Figuring out what’s wrong with it is the most important task. Once you know what’s wrong with it, you’re well on the way to fixing it—or making an informed decision not to. Figuring out what’s wrong with something may sound obvious, but it’s often the step that keeps folks from fixing things easily.

household battery1 How to Repair Anything

It’s easy to test small batteries that power dozens of small appliances and toys.

The Fix-It Process

Troubleshooting is a problem-solving process with the goal of returning an item to its as-designed state. The item doesn’t work at all, doesn’t work correctly, doesn’t work efficiently, or doesn’t stop working. You can fix anything if you know how to troubleshoot it. And you can troubleshoot if you understand how an item works and how to figure out why it doesn’t work. Here’s the process:

  • What does this thing do?
  • How is it supposed to work?
  • What isn’t this thing doing that it should do?
  • What’s the possible cause(s) of the problem?
  • What parts and tools will I need to fix it?
  • What are the steps to fixing it?
  • Once fixed, does it now work?
COFFEEMAKER4 300x224 How to Repair Anything

Testing an appliance control or switch is easy with a multimeter or volt-ohm meter (VOM).

For example, a coffee maker, obviously, is an apparatus for brewing coffee. There are two types of coffee makers: drip and percolator. A drip coffee maker is designed to heat water then pump it to drip through the coffee basket and into a carafe. Most drip coffee makers also keep the carafe of coffee warm. That’s a drip coffee maker’s as-designed state; that’s what it’s supposed to do. What does it not do? In our example, the drip coffee maker doesn’t keep the coffee hot, though everything else works. Knowing how a coffee maker is supposed to work, you will identify the problem to be within the warming element or controls. To check it you need a multimeter for testing these components. Then, following the specific steps in the Coffee Maker Fix-It Guide, you disassemble, test, and, if needed, replace the part. Finally, you can brew yourself some coffee and know that it will stay warm.

Easy Repairs

faucet3 How to Repair Anything

Learn how to fix any type of faucet with clear instructions from the Fix-It Club.

So, that’s the fix-it process . You can apply it to every thing that’s broken. That’s because the fix-it process works for every thing. It’s a simplified version of a time-tested problem-solving system. If it’s fixable, you can do it! Let’s take a look at some of the things that you can restore to working condition using the fix-it process. They include stationary, mechanical, electrical, and hybrid things. Every thing in your household falls into these categories. Now you know how to repair anything. Visit the Fix-It Club! It’s free!

15 Forever Car Maintenance Tips

The Fix-It Club is built on the premise that consumer items will last longer if you perform basic maintenance and simple repairs. We purchased our current car new and have followed these tips. It now has 200,000 230,000 miles on its odometer. Here are 15 things you can do to keep your car running smoother, longer, and more efficiently forever.

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Carefully remove the radiator cap when the engine is cool.

  1. Check the antifreeze/coolant level weekly. Some cars have transparent reservoirs with level markings. Fill to the level marking with 50/50 solution of antifreeze and water. Caution: Do not remove the pressure cap when the engine is hot!
  2. Inspect belts and hoses monthly. Replace worn, glazed, or frayed belts.Tighten them when more than ½” of slack can be depressed between the pulleys. Vehicles with spring-loaded belt tensioners require no adjustment. Replace bulging, rotten, or brittle hoses and tighten the clamps. If a hose looks bad, or feels too soft or too hard, it should be replaced.

  3. Check transmission fluid monthly. Do this while the engine is warm and running and with the parking brake on. Shift to drive, then to park. Remove the dipstick, wipe it dry, inert it, and remove it again. Add the approved type of fluid, if needed. Do not overfill!
  4. Check brake fluid monthly. First, wipe dirt from the brake master cylinder reservoir lid. Pry off the retainer clip and remove the lid or unscrew the plastic lid, depending on which type your vehicle has. If you need fluid, add the approved type and check for possible leaks throughout the system. Fill to the mark on the reservoir. Caution: Do not overfill!
  5. Check the power steering fluid level once per month. Simply remove the reservoir dipstick. If the level is down, add fluid and inspect the pump and hoses for leaks.
  6. airfilter1 200x150 15 Forever Car Maintenance Tips

    To check and replace a car air filter, remove the cover held on by screws or clips.

    Check the air filter every other month. Replace it when it’s dirty or as part of a tune-up. It’s easy to reach, right under the big metal “lid” in a carbureted engine; or in a rectangular box at the forward end of the art duct hose assembly.

  7. Check oil every other fill-up. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean. Insert it fully and remove it again. If it’s low, add oil. To maintain peak performance, change oil every 3,000 miles or every three months, whichever comes first. Replace the oil filter with every oil change.
  8. Keep the windshield washer fluid reservoir full. When topping off, use some windshield washer fluid on a rag to clean off the wiper blades. In winter months, pay attention to the freezing point of the washer fluid.
  9. Check your car’s battery with every oil change. Use extreme caution when handling a battery because it can produce explosive gases. Do not smoke, create a spark, or light a match near a battery, and always wear protective glasses and gloves. Cables should be attached securely and be free of corrosion. If the battery has filler holes, add only clear, odorless drinking water.
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    Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition prior to winter.

    Inspect the windshield wiper blades whenever you can your windshield. Don’t wait until rubber is worn or brittle to replace the!. Wiper blades should be replaced at least once per year, and more often if smearing or chattering occurs.

  11. Be sure all of your car’s lights are clean and working. Check brake lights, turn signals, and emergency flashers, too. Keep spare bulbs and fuses in your vehicle.
  12. Keep tires inflated to the recommended pressure and check for tire wear. It helps if you own your own tire gauge. Check the tires regularly for cuts, bulges, and excessive tread wear. Uneven wear indicates tires are misaligned or out of balance. Keep a record of tire rotation. Rotate at the first 5,000 miles and every 7,500 miles thereafter.
  13. Look for signs of oil seepage on shock absorbers. Test the shock action by bouncing the car up and down. The car should stop bouncing when you step back. Worn or leaking shocks should be replaced. Always replace shock absorbers in pairs.
  14. exhausthanger 200x150 15 Forever Car Maintenance Tips

    Make sure the exhaust pipe has no holes and that the hangars are in good condition.

    Look underneath the car for loose or broken exhaust clamps and supports. Check for holes in the muffler or pipes. Replace rusted or damaged parts. Have emission checked at least once per year for compliance with local laws.

  15. Take good care of your car and it will take care of you! More car maintenance and repair instructions are available free online on the Fix-It Club’s Car Repairs section.

Warranty Repair


Before disassembling appliances and devices for repair, check to see if the problem is covered by a warranty.

The Fix-It Club is ready to help you troubleshoot and repair or replace household things that break. But before you disassemble an appliance, electronic device or other gadget, consider whether it’s actually the manufacturer’s problem or yours. Many consumer items carry a limited warranty that the item will function for at least the specified time after the consumer buys it new.

What is a warranty?

A warranty is a guarantee by a seller or manufacturer to a buyer that the goods or services purchased will perform as promised, or a refund will be given, an exchange made, or a repair done at no charge. Warranties usually become effective when the manufacturer receives a warranty application from the buyer (not necessarily at the date of purchase) and are effective for a limited period of time. Warranties usually include limitations that exclude defects not caused by the manufacturer. Warranties are included in the price of the product.

Almost every purchase you make is covered by an implied warranty. The exceptions are items marked “as is” and sold in a state that allows “as is” sales. Implied warranties include warranty of merchantability meaning the seller promises that the product will do what it is supposed to do. A warranty of fitness applies when the product package or the seller tells you that the product is suitable for the described purpose.

Extended Warranties

Extended warranties are really not warranties at all. They are actually service contracts sold at an extra cost that is typically quite profitable for the retailer. That’s why so many retailers ask if you’d like to purchase an extended warranty when you buy something. In some cases, the retailer makes more profit on the extended warranty than on the product it sold you.

What is covered by a warranty? Warranties vary, but typically repair or replacement, though there may be a charge for labor (not parts) or shipping/freight costs. The manufacturer or the seller may be the one required to honor the warranty. The warranty term may be for 30 or 90 days or a year or more.

Fix-It Tip

As you shop for appliance and electronic replacements, open up the box and read the warranty card to find out how long the product or specific parts are covered for repairs or replacement. If the box is sealed, ask a clerk to open it and find the warranty information.

Won’t trying to repair something void the warranty? Maybe. Some warranties prohibit repairs not authorized or done by those authorized by the manufacturer. However, most things you buy will either not work as soon as you try to use them (they’ll be repaired or replaced under warranty) or the day after the warranty expires (fixing is up to you).

Product Recalls

More than 15,000 consumer items, including many things throughout a household, are subject to recalls by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). A recall is an announcement from the CPSC that a specific product offers a significant risk to consumers. You should stop using the product and follow instructions in the recall announcement. That may mean calling the manufacturer for a replacement or some other remedy. Each recall announcement is for a specific model of product and the remedy is different for each product recalled. You can find out if products you’ve purchase have been recalled by contacting the CPSC at 1-800-638-2772 or online at cpsc.gov. You also can report unsafe products that you think should be recalled. The website is also available in languages other than English as well as TTY.