Electrical Systems

Troubleshooting: Continuity Testing 340

This class describes how to troubleshoot electrical circuits with continuity testing. Continuity testing determines whether electrical current is able to flow through a circuit and is commonly used to troubleshoot open circuit faults. Continuity testing may be performed with a single-function continuity tester or with a multimeter. Technicians may use techniques such as the split-half method while continuity testing to locate malfunctioning components more quickly and efficiently. Technicians should also be aware of various conditions that might affect the accuracy or practicality of continuity testing.

After taking this course, users will be familiar with continuity testing procedures using both a continuity tester and a multimeter. They will also understand how to use the split-half method to troubleshoot more efficiently, how to ensure accurate continuity tests, and when and why continuity testing may not be feasible.

  • Difficulty Advanced

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 9

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Electrical Continuity Testing
  • Continuity Testing Instruments
  • Testing with a Continuity Tester
  • Testing with a Multimeter
  • Review: Continuity Testing Procedures
  • The Split-Half Method
  • Ensuring Accurate Test Results
  • Limitations of Continuity Testing
  • Review: Efficiency, Accuracy, and Limitations
  • Describe electrical continuity testing.
  • Describe the instruments commonly used for continuity testing.
  • Explain how to test for continuity with a continuity tester.
  • Explain how to test for continuity with a multimeter.
  • Explain how to use the split-half method of troubleshooting.
  • Describe ways to ensure accuracy in continuity test results.
  • Describe the limitations of continuity testing.
Vocabulary Term

alligator clip

A spring-loaded metal clip with teeth that can be used for making temporary electrical connections. Alligator clips are used as test probes on continuity testers.


The amount of current flowing in a circuit. Amperage is measured in amperes (A), or amps.


A type of testing instrument that uses a scale and pointer needle to display readings. Analog instruments are often less precise than digital instruments.


Adjusted against a standard to ensure accuracy. Digital multimeters should be calibrated once a year.


A device used to store an electric charge. Capacitors consist of one or more pairs of conductors separated by an insulator.


A controlled path for electricity. A circuit must be complete, or closed, in order for electrical current to flow.


COM. The multimeter port in which the ground, or neutral, test probe is plugged. The common port is usually black and connects to the black test probe.


The state of having a complete path that allows the uninterrupted flow of electricity. Continuity can be tested with a continuity tester or a multimeter.

continuity tester

A simple device used for testing electrical continuity. Continuity testers are small, cylindrical devices with two test probes and a light or buzzer to indicate continuity.

continuity testing

Assessing whether electrical current is able to flow through a circuit. Continuity testing is used to troubleshoot open circuit faults.


A type of testing instrument that uses a numerical readout to display readings. Digital instruments are often more precise than analog instruments.

digital multimeters

DMMs. A device that measures electrical qualities such as voltage, current, and resistance and displays them on a numerical readout. Digital multimeters are the most versatile and common meter used for electrical maintenance and troubleshooting.


A semiconductor device with two terminals that allows current to flow in only one direction. Diodes have continuity in one direction and lack continuity in the other direction.

disconnect switch

A control device used to separate an electrical circuit from its supply of electrical energy. The disconnect switch should be used to de-energize a circuit before beginning maintenance or repair work.

electrical faults

Any condition that causes an abnormal flow of current in a circuit. Common types of electrical faults include open circuit faults and short circuit faults.

grounding conductors

The wire that provides a low-resistance path to ground for stray currents. The grounding conductor is usually bare copper or covered with green insulation.

half-split method

A troubleshooting technique that involves repeatedly dividing a malfunctioning circuit into two separate sections in order to narrow down the source of a fault. The half-split method, also known as the split-half method, is much more efficient than testing each part of a circuit individually.


A method of protecting employees from accidental equipment activation through proper locking and labeling of potentially hazardous equipment undergoing maintenance. Lockout/tagout prevents circuits from becoming unintentionally energized while technicians work on them.


A device that is used to measure voltage, amperage, resistance, and other qualities in electrical circuits. Multimeters may be analog or digital and can be used to detect and troubleshoot electrical faults.


Ω. A unit of measurement that indicates electrical resistance. The amount of ohms of resistance in a circuit indicates whether or not it has continuity.

open circuit fault

A type of electrical fault that prevents current from flowing through a circuit. Open circuit faults are often caused by broken circuit components such as wires or switches.

open loop

OL. A digital multimeter reading that indicates a lack of continuity in a circuit. Open loop readings usually indicate an open circuit fault.


A testing instrument that produces a visual representation of a voltage or current waveform. Oscilloscopes can be used to locate malfunctioning components in circuits.

personal protective equipment

PPE. Any clothing or device worn to minimize exposure to hazards and prevent injury. Personal protective equipment for electrical work may include insulated hard hats, insulated gloves, and eye protection.


A connection point on a device where cables may be plugged in. Ports on testing instruments such as multimeters are used to connect test probes for different testing functions.

printed circuit board assemblies

PCBAs. A layered construction of conductive and nonconductive material with various electronic components soldered to it. Printed circuit board assemblies can be found in almost all electronic devices.


The opposition to current flow. Resistance is measured in ohms (Ω).


A device used to limit current flow in a circuit. Resistors can be used to prevent excess amperage from damaging circuit components.

root cause

The true origin of a problem, as opposed to any resulting symptoms or effects. Identifying the root cause of a problem is an important aspect of troubleshooting.


A material that restricts the movement of electrons but still allows them to flow. Semiconductors, such as silicon, have more electrical conductivity than insulators but less than conductors.

signal tracing

A troubleshooting method that detects the audio or radio frequencies produced by electrical current in order to locate malfunctioning components in a circuit. Signal tracing is often used when continuity testing is impractical.

split-half method

A troubleshooting technique that involves repeatedly dividing a malfunctioning circuit into two separate sections in order to narrow down the source of a fault. The split-half method, also known as the half-split method, is much more efficient than testing each part of a circuit individually.


A control device that opens and closes a circuit. Switches control when a circuit is energized.

test probes

A conductive device attached to an electrical testing instrument that connects the instrument to the circuit or component being tested. In continuity testing, test probes are connected to both ends of a circuit or circuit component.


A device used to amplify a signal or open and close a circuit. Transistors are a type of specialized semiconductor device.


The systematic elimination of the various parts of a malfunctioning system, circuit, or process to locate the source of the problem. Troubleshooting an electrical circuit often involves conducting visual inspection, consulting electrical prints, and using electrical testing instruments.


V. The unit used to measure the electrical force or pressure that causes current to flow in a circuit. Volts are units of voltage.


The electrical force or pressure that causes current to flow in a circuit. Voltage is measured in volts (V).