How To Read A Digital Caliper | Things You Should Know

When it comes to taking precise measurements of small objects, nothing beats a digital caliper

This tool is highly accurate, more so than measuring tapes or rulers, making it indispensable for both home and commercial applications. It is also easier to read than dial or Vernier calipers and is available in multiple versions and lengths. 

However, those relying on Vernier calipers or other tools for measurements may not be sure as to how to use a digital caliper. If that is the case, you’re not alone, as many new users often face this situation. 

Fortunately, learning to take measurements using digital calipers is not very complicated and can be mastered in very little time. To help you out, we’ve shared this informative guide here to make the process easier while also answering some of the common questions on the topic. 

Before we proceed further, checkout our other articles on various DIY projects like making blackout curtains, setting up dual monitor stand, install a vessel sink faucet, and many more. And, enhance your DIY skills on a wide range of necessary things around household or work.

Let’s get started! 

The Construction Of Digital Calipers

Digital caliper measuring knobs
Ⓒ Architecture Lab | Anton Giuroiu

Digital calipers, also known as electronic calipers, lack a proper measuring scale, unlike Vernier calipers. Instead, they come with four jaws, two upper ones and two lower ones, one of each being movable. There is a protective sticker at the back, along with three buttons, including the power button, a zero button, and one which changes the readings between millimeters and inches. 

Apart from that, you will find a screw on top of the sticker and an LCD display where readings are displayed digitally. Digital calipers offer a high level of accuracy while allowing quick measurements, especially when compared to a Vernier caliper. 

A digital caliper usually runs on a button battery made from silver oxide with a capacity of 1.5 volts. Also, such calipers are available in several sizes, including three, four, six, eight, ten, and 12 inches, for meeting different requirements. 

Advantages of A Digital Caliper

1. Quick And Convenient Measurements

Digital calipers allow you to take measurements quickly, which can be easily read directly from the LCD display. This is not possible in the case of a Vernier caliper, where getting an accurate reading can take a lot of time and effort. 

2. Can Be Set To Zero

A digital caliper can be set to zero at any point, making it indispensable for gradually altering measurements. Despite that, the readings stay highly accurate to within +/-0.001 inches or 0.02 mm. 

3. Displays Readings In Inches And Metric Units

Most digital calipers allow you to take measurements in both metric units and inches, which is highly convenient and makes these tools more versatile than Vernier or dial calipers. 

4. Additional Features

Digital calipers often come with useful additional features, such as a USB port at the back. You can use this to connect the device to a computer for processing or printing the data. 

Preparatory Steps

Before you can start taking measurements using a digital caliper, some preparations need to be made to ensure that the readings are accurate. 

1. Cleaning The Object Properly

The first step is to clean the surface of the object of which the measurements need to be taken, as dirt and dust can result in inaccurate readings. You can use a dry, clean cloth or a cloth soaked in cleaning oil to wipe the surface of the object. 

2. Cleaning The Digital Calipers

As with the object, the caliper needs to be properly cleaned externally with a clean cloth. In this case, also, you can use cleaning oil to wipe the cover of the device. Make sure to wipe all the jaws of the digital caliper after loosening the locking screw. 

3. Ensure That The Readings Are At Zero

When you take measurements using a digital caliper, ensure the readings are at zero position after powering it on. Not doing so will affect the accuracy of the measurements. 

Unlike Vernier calipers which require aligning the moving scale with the fixed one to bring both of them to zero, digital calipers simply have a zero button for the purpose. Press this button to change the reading to zero before starting to take measurements. 

Some digital calipers even have an in-built feature that ensures that the zero position is accurate, but you should always check before taking measurements. If the reading is not at zero, there may be some dust or dirt on the caliper jaws affecting it. That is why cleaning the jaws very thoroughly is crucial for accurate measurements. 

Taking Measurements

When taking measurements, avoid touching the surface of the object and the measuring scales of the digital caliper, as it can cause inaccuracy in the readings. After powering on the device, use the provided button to switch to the desired measurement unit, and then press the zero buttons to bring the reading to zero. 

Digital calipers can be used for inside, outside, depth, and step measurements. 

1. Measuring The Internal Dimensions

The upper or inner jaws of your digital caliper are used for measuring the internal dimensions of an object. To do so, place the object to be measured perpendicular to the caliper jaws and insert the jaws through the gap in the object. Gradually open up the jaws until they fill the space entirely. 

When the jaws can no longer expand, look at the readings on display, which will provide you with the correct internal measurement. 

2. Taking Outer Measurements

For taking measurements of the external dimensions of an object, place the object at the same level as the jaws of the digital caliper. The jaws on the lower side should be on the outer parts of the object and be able to tighten around it securely. This will provide you with the outer measurements of the object on the LCD. 

3. Measuring Depth

To measure how deep the surface of one object is from another, you can use the depth gauge on your digital caliper. Place the caliper perpendicular to the surface and adjust it to the inner side of the object. 

Then, slowly move the sliding scale of the digital caliper while adjusting the depth gauge so that it comes into contact with the upper surface of the object. The reading on the display will provide you with the depth measurements. 

4. Taking Step Measurements

Like the depth gauge, digital calipers have a step gauge for measuring the distance between different edges. For step measurements, place the object and the caliper head on a hard, plain surface and ensure that the step gauge is perpendicular to this surface. 

Once done, slide the upper jaw to the top surface of the object, and you will get the reading on the large LCD display. 

Using A Digital Caliper For Comparative Measurements

A digital caliper can be used to take comparative measurements of different objects, making it easy to compare their dimensions. For instance, the dimensions of two different objects can be measured to find out whether one can fit inside the other. 

The readings also make it easy to know the difference between the dimensions, which can come in handy in several situations. Because such comparative measurements are easy with a digital caliper, this tool can be used for measuring and fitting joints, setting cutting depths, and more.  

Maintaining Your Digital Caliper

Proper maintenance is vital to ensure that your digital caliper provides accurate readings. Here are some of the ways by which you can ensure that the tool remains in good condition. 

1. Keep The Caliper Away From Electrical Current

Electrical current can damage the circuits of your digital caliper, which is why you should never apply it to the device. Similarly, keep the caliper away from areas where electrical equipment and devices are stored and where residual current is likely to affect the device. 

2. Store The Caliper Properly

After using your digital caliper, it is essential to store it properly until the next use. To do that, turn off the device using the power on/off button before placing the caliper in its case to save the battery. 

If the caliper is not going to be used for a long time, it is recommended to take out the battery and keep it separately. This will reduce the chances of battery leaks which can damage the caliper. 

3. Replace The Battery Timely

If the display on your digital caliper is flashing or not working, it may be a sign that the battery needs to be replaced. To fix it, remove the battery cover by sliding it, and then take out the old battery. 

Insert a new battery while making sure that the positive connector faces the external side of the device. However, in some cases, a replacement battery may not work if the device has been stored for a very long time, and you may need to contact the supplier. 

4. Fixing Other Issues

The issue of a flashing display can also be caused if there is no proper contact between the connectors and the battery or the battery poles have short-circuited. To fix that, you will need to readjust the poles and the insulator cover of the battery. 

Sometimes, water can also enter the cover and can damage the caliper if not removed timely. In such cases, remove the battery cover and blow dry the inside until all the water evaporates, but make sure that the temperature remains below 104 degrees Fahrenheit. 

How To Read A Digital Caliper FAQs

  • What Is The Difference Between A Caliper And A Micrometer?

    Micrometers are measuring tools similar to calipers, but their measuring capabilities are limited in comparison. They are best used to measure the external dimensions of any object, while calipers can be used to measure the internal dimensions, step, and depth. 

    That said, micrometers are more accurate than calipers, providing measurements with an accuracy of up to 0.0001 inches. They are generally used to take measurements in one-inch increments, which is another factor differentiating them from calipers. 

  • What Is The Best Way To Oil Calipers?

    When it comes to measuring tools like calipers, whether Vernier, dial, or digital, it is a good idea to oil them regularly. Oil helps lubricate the various parts and components and makes them easier to use while protecting against rust and corrosion. 

    Here we’ve mentioned the steps to help you learn how to oil a digital caliper properly. First, make sure that the caliper is clean and free of any dirt and dust. Then, use a clean, soft cloth dipped in oil and wipe only the steel parts of the device. 

    Once done, use a dry cloth to wipe away any excess oil. 

  • How Long Do Digital Caliper Batteries Last?

    A digital caliper generally uses a 1.5-volt battery, so a AAA cell is more than enough for the purpose. The most common batteries used for these devices include the SR44 and LR44 batteries, with the latter being the cheaper option. 

    While both these batteries have a rating of 150 mA hours, the actual period for which they will last depends upon the device use. On average, the battery of a digital caliper can last for up to five years.

  • How To Read A Digital Caliper Final Thoughts

    Digital calipers have made it incredibly easy to take highly precise measurements without much effort, especially when compared to other traditional measuring tools. However, the accuracy and ease of measurement often depend upon how well-maintained the caliper is. 

    While we’ve mentioned some of the steps that can help keep your digital caliper in proper working order, certain issues can sometimes crop up, affecting the functioning of the device. Some of these can be easily fixed and do not require tools or training, but that may not always be the case. 

    So, if you’re unsure how to repair a digital vernier caliper, we recommend taking it to the supplier and getting it fixed there. With that said, it is time to conclude this guide. Until next time! 

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