Will A Multimeter Discharge A Capacitor

4 min read Jun 26, 2024
Will A Multimeter Discharge A Capacitor

Will a Multimeter Discharge a Capacitor?


When working with electronic circuits, it's common to encounter capacitors, which can store electrical energy. However, when measuring voltage across a capacitor using a multimeter, a question arises: will a multimeter discharge a capacitor? In this article, we'll delve into the answer and explore the factors that affect capacitor discharge when using a multimeter.

What Happens When You Measure a Capacitor with a Multimeter?

When you connect a multimeter to a capacitor, the meter's internal impedance and the capacitor's internal resistance interact. The multimeter's internal impedance is typically high, usually in the range of megaohms (MΩ). This high impedance helps to prevent the capacitor from discharging quickly.

Factors Affecting Capacitor Discharge

Several factors influence the rate of capacitor discharge when using a multimeter:

Multimeter's Input Impedance

As mentioned earlier, the multimeter's internal impedance plays a crucial role in determining the rate of capacitor discharge. A higher input impedance means less current flows from the capacitor, reducing the discharge rate.

Capacitor Size and Type

Larger capacitors with higher capacitance values tend to discharge more slowly than smaller ones. Additionally, electrolytic capacitors, which have a higher internal resistance, discharge more slowly than ceramic or film capacitors.

Measurement Range and Function

The multimeter's measurement range and function also impact capacitor discharge. For example, if you're measuring voltage, the multimeter's internal impedance is typically higher than when measuring current. This means that voltage measurements will generally discharge the capacitor more slowly than current measurements.

Lead Resistance and Connection Quality

The resistance of the multimeter leads and the quality of the connections can also affect capacitor discharge. Poor connections or high-impedance leads can increase the discharge rate.

Will a Multimeter Always Discharge a Capacitor?

In most cases, a multimeter will not immediately discharge a capacitor. However, it's essential to understand that the capacitor will eventually discharge over time, depending on the factors mentioned above.

If you need to preserve the capacitor's charge, it's recommended to:

  • Use a multimeter with a high input impedance (usually > 10 MΩ)
  • Choose a multimeter with a low-current measurement function (e.g., voltage measurement instead of current measurement)
  • Minimize lead resistance and ensure good connection quality
  • Take quick measurements to prevent prolonged capacitor discharge


In conclusion, a multimeter can discharge a capacitor, but the rate of discharge depends on various factors, including the multimeter's internal impedance, capacitor size and type, measurement range and function, and lead resistance and connection quality. By understanding these factors, you can take steps to minimize capacitor discharge and ensure accurate measurements.