How to test a solenoid with a multimeter

How to Test a Solenoid with a Multimeter?

Solenoids are found in almost all electrical appliances, from electronic door locks to the more complex machines. They are made of thin wires coiled around each other, and when current is applied to it, it produces magnetic fields for valves and switches.

It is an integral part of your electrical system switches, like your vehicle engine starters. Now that you understand the solenoid and its function, you would begin to accept that the fault of your vehicle starter could be with the solenoid. But how sure are you? How do you test your solenoid? 

To carry out this test would be a more straightforward task if you already know about the instruments needed for this analysis. The multimeter is a troubleshooting device that can be used to check for voltage, current, and resistance in an electronic system.  

To perform the test your solenoid, you would have to involve the multimeter. Your next question would be something along, “how to test a solenoid with a multimeter?”

We don’t plan to leave you hanging, so we have a few steps that would guide as you carry out the test.

Some essential checking

Few things shouldn’t be omitted before going into the full test on the solenoids. One of them is that the fault with your car starter could be some issues with the terminals or the wires that connect your solenoid.

Firstly, you would need to find the starter and the solenoid. Of course, the solenoid would be in the engine; these starters come in different sizes depending on the model of your vehicle. Although, the starter should be cylindrical shaped and attached to another smaller cylinder.

If you can’t still locate that, then check your vehicle service manual, but the starter would have two terminals coming out if it, and there should be a wire from the positive terminal of the car battery, that is attached to one of the terminals of the solenoid.

Now that you know where your starter is, you may need some assistance for the next step. Have someone ignite the car, while you listen to the starter. If you hear a click sound, then the starter solenoid works, but maybe not enough. If it does not make a click sound, then your solenoid is not working properly, which may be a fault from your battery

How to test a solenoid with a multimeter?

Check your battery

Another thing to check is your car battery; it could be that car battery is not charged enough to power it. So before you continue, grab your multimeter and perform a test to determine the voltage of your battery.

You have to connect the probes of the multimeter to the battery terminals, by placing the red probe from the multimeter on the positive terminal of the battery and the black probe on the negative terminal.

When you place them in this order, your battery should read approximately 12 volts if it works fine, and if it doesn’t, there is a significant probability it is causing your solenoid to malfunction, and it may need to be charged.

Check the voltage

Now that you have confirmed the workings of your car battery, the next thing you should do is to know how much voltage your battery is supplying the solenoid, the amount of voltage would help to understand if the fault is with the connection between the solenoid and the battery.

Now pick up your multimeter again, connect the positive probe which is the red wire to the positive terminal of the battery. To know which of the battery terminals is positive, they are marked with a “+” label or “POS,” to complete the circuit, connect the negative probe from the multimeter to the ground terminal (any metallic part of the vehicle that is not powered can be used for ground terminal).

Set your multimeter to volt settings and check the reading on your multimeter, it may flicker around for a while, but wait for it to settle, your multimeter should read approximately 12 volts, if it reads less than that, then the voltage supply is low, so you should consider charging your battery.

Once again you may need assistance for the next part, while your connections are still intact, you should have someone ignite the engine. When this happens, your multimeter should display a drop in voltage until it is half a volt, if this doesn’t happen then there may be a fault with the connection between the solenoid and the battery.

The final solenoid test

For the final solenoid test that would determine if your solenoid is damaged or not, you would have to connect the red probe of your multimeter to the negative terminal of the solenoid, and the black probe of the multimeter to the positive terminal.

For you to get which terminal is negative or positive, you remember we stated that the solenoid would have two terminals, one would be connected directly to the positive terminal of the car battery.

The terminal on the solenoid attached to the battery is the negative terminal, and the other one that is attached to the starter is the positive terminal.

Again, you should have an assistant to turn on the engine, as you check the reading on the multimeter, it should drop half a volt just as it did in the previous voltage test, if it falls less than 0.5 volts, there is a problem inside your solenoid.

If the drop is much, the fault may be with the connection between the battery and the solenoid, but if it is not reading any voltage at all, then your solenoid is damaged and must be replaced.

This video might be helpful:


Finally, we have completed this article, but you should know that if you have to perform any of these tests, you have to ensure you maintain your safety by wearing protective eyewear, and while your assistant ignites the engine, we advise you give a distance between you and the vehicle.

For you not to mistake a solenoid for an electromagnet, the significant difference between both is that solenoids are wires coiled, but not around a metal core.

Meanwhile, electromagnet’s wires are coiled around a metal core, in which the amount of current applied on them determines the strength of the magnetic field.

One of the causes of power loss in the solenoid is grease, so make sure your solenoid is free of any corrosion or grease.

1 thought on “How to Test a Solenoid with a Multimeter?”

  1. Thanks for the tip about checking the battery when checking a solenoid. It would make sense to check this in order to know that the connections work well. You may also want to make sure that you buy your solenoids from qualified and professional sources in order to know that they are going to last a long time.

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