How To Read a Caliper Tool

Time Needed: less than 20 minutes, Difficulty: Beginner, Cost: Free Measuring things has become so easy that most people don’t … Continued

Time Needed: less than 20 minutes, Difficulty: Beginner, Cost: Free

Measuring things has become so easy that most people don’t even know all of the tools that are available to them. Think about it. When was the last time you used a physical ruler or (gasp) slide rule to measure something or do the math? Probably hard to remember, right?

But when you absolutely need an accurate measurement, it’s hard to beat a good caliper tool. You’ll need to understand how to read one, though. Digital calipers are easy and quick, but many of us still have old-school slide calipers still hanging around in the garage. Car Bibles’ mathematical editors will get you ready for the basics of reading a caliper tool and have you on your way in no time.

The Safety Brief 

You’re not dealing with radioactive materials here, but you’ll still want to be careful. Beyond carefully reading your measurements, you’ll want to be aware of your surroundings as you measure to make sure that you don’t bang a knuckle or your head. You should also take care as you’re measuring not to grab or touch anything hot under your hood.

The Tools & Parts You Need 

The only thing you need to properly read a caliper tool is the caliper tool itself. However, if you use glasses when reading or working at a computer, you’ll want to grab a pair to have on hand when trying to read the sometimes-tiny fonts on popular calipers.

The How-To 

There are several types of caliper tools: We’ll focus on Vernier calipers, as they’re one of the most common and least understood types.

To read a Vernier caliper:

1. Check For Zero Errors

Move the slider on your caliper until the measurement “jaws” are closed. If the two “0” marks line up, you’re ready to move on, but if they’re misaligned you’ll need to take steps to correct the error. To do this, you can refer to your caliper’s instruction manual, but be aware that you’ll need to do some math—we apologize ahead of time.

2. Take The Measurement

Slide the measurement jaws together until they are firmly around the object you’re trying to measure. You can measure the inside of an object by inserting the jaws and opening them outward until they meet the surface. Use the locking screw to secure the scale for reading.

3. Read The Value

Once you’ve got the scale locked in place, you can move it to read the numbers that are etched into the side. To read the value properly:

  1. If the zero mark on the sliding scale aligns with a whole number on the fixed scale, that is your measurement. For example, if it lines up with the 4, then the thing you’re measuring is four inches. If it lines up with four inches and the four tenth inch marks, the thing is 4.4 inches.
  2. Reading the Vernier scale is a bit trickier. To do this, find the mark on the Vernier scale that lines up with any line on the main scale. This will help you dial in the measurements of extra digits. Wherever the Vernier scale aligns with a mark on the main scale, that’s your measurement. For example, if the 12 on the Vernier scale lines up with a line on the main scale and each mark represents .01 inches, your additional measurement will be .012 inches.
  3. Add the two measurements together. In this example, we’re looking at 4.4 inches plus .012 inches, which gives us a measurement of 4.412 inches total.

Your Questions, Our Answers on Calipers

Car Bibles answers your burning questions! 

Q: What’s The Best Kind Of Caliper Tool?

A: The best caliper tool is the one that you’re most comfortable reading. Different tools have different markings and have to be handled differently, so it’s best to do some research to find the one that fits your eyes and hands best.

Q: How Much Do Caliper Tools Cost?

A: A quality digital caliper tool can be had for as little as $10, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to the upper end of price tags. 

Q: Are Digital Caliper Tools Best?

A: Digital calipers are certainly easier to read, but they are not notably more accurate than a good Vernier or other tools. They are faster to get measurements, however, because the screen displays the exact value.

Video Tutorial on Calipers

Best Places To Buy Tools and Parts to Read a Caliper?

You can buy tools for Caliper at almost every auto parts and home improvement store. As well as online stores like Amazon. You have a sea of options to select from. Our personal favorites, the ones we go to sleep with every single night, however, are the Adoric Digital Caliper and Rechargeable LED Work Lights. They’re cheap, reliable, and did we mention cheap? We also realize that it may be out of stock, which means we’d have to choose our runners up, the Kynup Digital Caliper.

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