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How to Make a $3.98 Metered Glow Starter 


I was in Harbor Freight to purchase some tools.  Up front they usually keep sale items.  This $3.98 digital multimeter was in a bin.  I bought it with the intent of placing in my field box as it was small and perhaps I could use it to verify charge rates as I noticed it would read up to 10 amps DC current. 
It was clumsy to hook up leads to meter the charge current.  But perhaps it could meter glow plug current?  Again that was clumsy.  I set out to add a battery and integrate the circuit into the multi meter.

Modified multimeter with AAA batteries

The picture above shows the inside of the modified meter.  I soldered two AAA nimh batteries together in parallel (postive to positive and negative to negative). I used some suitable wire for leads and heat shrink tubing to secure the batteries. The AAA batteries fit in this meter snug enough to prevent movement or rattling around.
I made two penetrations for the starter wire through the plastic case.  I kept them as small as possible so a tight, neat fight was accomplished. 
Connect the positive battery lead to the starter wire connected to the center post of the glow starter.
The negative lead from the battery must be connect to the COM terminal of the multimeter.  To make the tool neat, this would have to be done internally. Inspection of the circuit board showed I could solder to a thick copper bar.  It was electrically connected to the COM port via a direct path on the circuit board. By not soldering directly into the COM port I could perserve it for inserting the test leads. 
The second wire from the glow starter was then was soldered to the 10ADC port on the multimeter.  I stuck the wire to through the case wall and into the 10ADC port from the inside.  A direct solder connection was made there.
Insert the AAA battery, screw the case back together and your done.
The starter can be charged with my existing starter charger.  One can even monitor the charge rate as the amp reading works in both directions.  The meter can still be used for Volts, ohms and milliamps by installing the supplied test leads into the remaining ports.  Amp readings are no longer possible for in the 10A port however.
I had in the shop or flight box all the components so my total investment was $4.26 with tax for the meter.  I like it.  Combining two tools into one is always usefull.  I use it more often than the Hanger 9 starter I used previously.  The AAA cells are rated 900 mah each so I get 1800 mah total.
Although Harbor Freight is unlikely to have this particular model for very long, any multimeter providing at least 4 amps of capability could be adapted for use.

Fayetteville RC Club
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