How To Read Calipers02/09/2021
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Never forget this: There is a tool for everything. And not just a general mixed-use tool. There is a tool specifically designed for the job you’re doing. Take rulers, for example. They’re one of the oldest and most essential tools out there, but they still have their limitations and downsides.
A caliper tool, also referred to as a pair of calipers, is essentially a more advanced and niche version of a ruler. It measures parts in a specific way for specific jobs, specifically speaking. Because of this, they’re a bit more complicated than the straightforward nature of a ruler.
To better understand how to read calipers, it’s best to learn what they are and how they work. To assist you in that process, The Drive’s backyard editors have created a guide to the core basics of this unique tool. Let’s get started.
What Is a Caliper?
A caliper is a handheld device for precisely measuring the dimensions of relatively small items, not a part of your braking system. They come in a variety of styles and use different measurements, most often inches and millimeters.
Types of Calipers
These are the most common types of calipers you will encounter.
Vernier calipers utilize two different scales, a main scale and an even more precise Vernier scale.
A dial caliper reads part of the dimension out on a small attached clock-like dial with a rotating hand.
A digital caliper reads the dimensions out on a small digital display screen. They typically also feature a few extra buttons.
Calipers are typically made of metal.
Anatomy of a Caliper
To know how to use a caliper, you must know what each piece of the tool is for.
These claws are used to measure width, length, distance, or diameter of the outside of a part.
The upper jaws are used to measure the diameter of the inside of a part.
The locking screw, often found near the upper jaws, locks the caliper in place.
Slide the jaws open or closed with the thumb wheel. This screw also moves the depth gauge.
The primary graduated scale seen on the main stalk of the caliper.
The secondary sliding scale attached to the main scale.
Used to measure the distance between an edge and another point on something.
Found at the tail of the caliper opposite the jaws is the depth gauge. The depth gauge can be used to measure something’s depth.
On digital calipers, the button used to turn the device on and zero it out.
On digital calipers, the button used to switch the measurement between inches and millimeters.
The ABS button on a digital caliper will temporarily reset the reading to zero where the caliper lies.
The dial found on dial calipers displays the measurement reading using a rotating hand.
The digital screen on digital calipers shows the measurement reading in easy-to-read digital numbers.
Some calipers are digital.
The Basics of Reading a Caliper
Estimated Time Needed: Less than 10 minutes
Skill Level: Beginner
Vehicle System: NA
Depending on how, what, and where you’re measuring, you might need proper safety gear. If you’re working on your vehicle, use these items at a minimum:
- Safety glasses
- Mechanic gloves
Everything You’ll Need To Read A Caliper
Just a caliper and something to measure!
Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won’t need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)
Here’s How To Use A Caliper
Whether using a digital, dial, or Vernier caliper, they are all generally used in similar fashions. It might seem obvious, but here are the steps to follow:
How To Read a Dial Caliper
How To Read a Vernier Caliper
Get Help On How To Read A Caliper From Mechanic On JustAnswers
The Drive recognizes that while our How-To guides are detailed and easily followed, a rusty bolt, an engine component not in the correct position, or oil leaking everywhere can derail a project. That’s why we’ve partnered with JustAnswers, which connects you to certified mechanics around the globe, to get you through even the toughest jobs.
So if you have a question or are stuck, click here and talk to a mechanic near you.
FAQs About Caliper Tools
You have the questions, The Drive has the answers.
Q: How Much Do Digital Calipers Cost?
A: A variety of calipers are available ranging in quality and cost between $20-200.
Q: Are Digital Calipers More Accurate Than Dial Calipers?
A: That depends on the caliper, but dial calipers do have an extra instrument that could be thrown out of calibration if not careful.
Q: What Are the Best Digital Calipers?
The Drive’s review team has selected our picks for the three best digital calipers.
Vinca Electronic Digital Vernier Caliper
iGaging Electronic Digital Caliper
Mitutoyo Digital Caliper
Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: [email protected]
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