How To Troubleshoot a Capacitor

Part of the three basic electronic elements, which include the inductor and resistor, the capacitor can be found in almost anything that runs on electricity. Also referred to as condensers, capacitors are electrical components installed in most appliances and devices that help store energy to run the appliance or device. Often these capacitors feature dielectric or layers amid conductors or plain old insulation. Like most power sources, capacitors have positive and negative terminals that help electricity flow where the capacitor is put in. Capacitors are also helpful in regulating the amount of energy in the appliance or device. Most capacitors are made from metal or polysilicon films.

Some symptoms of capacitor failure include your appliances making a humming noise, slow running motors, overheating and then shutting off, and restarting on its own. Should your appliances or devices show any of these symptoms, maybe it is time to check your capacitor.

Below are a few rudimentary troubleshooting techniques you can use to check if your capacitor is still working properly. All you will need is a good, functioning multi tester.

  • Safety first. Make sure your device is unplugged from the wall socket and turned off. Then you need to get rid of the stored energy in the capacitor by shorting the capacitor’s terminals. You need to make sure that there is no ambient electricity charged in the capacitors as some capacitors are capable of blowing up during testing even when unplugged from the socket.
  • Multi tester settings. You need to set your multi tester to check the energy in your capacitor. To do that you need to put it on the ohm setting. Next, test the multi tester by touching the leads together and check if the gauge moves to the other end of the scale.
  • Touch leads. When you’re sure that your multi tester is working well, you move on to actually testing your capacitor. Touch the multi meter’s leads to those of the capacitor’s. The gauge should not move when you do this.
  • Switch the leads. Reverse the leads on your multi tester and then connect them to the capacitor once again. Your gauge should move to the opposite end and then slowly make its way back.
  • Knowing which works. Touch each prod of your multi tester to the capacitor’s terminals. Your multi tester should always deflect to zero and work its way back slowly. This is how you know your capacitor is still good to go. If the deflection is fast, that’s how you know your capacitor needs to be replaced.
  • A good capacitor’s life cycle is expected to run about seven years. If you have your device or appliance for that amount of time, you may want to consider just replacing it before it causes further problems.

Most electronic devices can last and function a good long time if you keep them well maintained. When you have a better understanding on how the individual components work in an electronic device, the better you are in identifying and troubleshooting the more common problems that come with electronics.


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