Erratic readings on electronic digital caliper

Hi. I hope someone can give me some advice. I have been using an
electronic digital caliper (no brand on the case, or the unit itself,
but it does say “Made in China”), and I think it was a reasonably
expensive one when I bought it about five years ago. Recently though,
it has been randomly turning itself on and off, and giving wild and
completely inaccurate readings. I’ve changed the battery (no
fingerprints on the new battery), but it is still misbehaving. I’d
love to hear any solutions people have.

Best wishes,
Anna M Williams,
Tasmania, Australia

Hi Anna,

You might try cleaning the battery connections with a pencil eraser.
Learned this trick from someone about a flashlight once. Hope it

All the best,
Donna W
Huntsville, AL

Hi Anna,

If it’s one of the no-name Chinese calipers, I figure you did well
to get 5 years out of it.

Once the electronics start to fritz out, they’re done. You can get
replacement bandit brand digicals for about $20, and they’ll be
worth exactly what you pay for them.

On the other hand, a good set of Japanese digicals will run about
$125USD for a 6" set. I’ve had my current Mitutoyo set for ?15?
years and they’re going strong. Unfortunately, it really is a case
of paying for what you get.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.


Sound like you did all you could to save it. You could buy an analog
caliper or micrometer. They never need batteries. That being said,
if it is a tool that you use everyday, and you rely on it, buy a new
one (digital or analog). I have a few tools like that and have
always said that, if and when they break, I just get a new one
because I don’t want their failure to stand in the way of doing what
I really want or need to do. Rob

I am a Machinist, which means that I use precision measuring
instruments on a daily basis.

This is your problem right here:

(no brand on the case, or the unit itself, but it does say “Made in

Do yourself a favor and get a caliper that is actually made to
measure accurately and reliably. I recommend Mitutoyo, and no other
brand. If you like I can point you to some vendors, but seeing as how
you are in Australia, i’m unsure whether the vendors I have in mind
would ship down there.

If you are put off by the price here’s something to think about: We
spend $50-75 for a hammer to whack things, $200 + on dapping punches,
100 + on setting burs, and yet we somehow can’t bring ourselves to
spend more than $20 on an instrument that measures components,
stones, burs, drills, rivets, and all the other numerous things that
need measuring. This is a tool, and a precision one at that, and just
like every other tool quality is had at a price.

If you can’t find any vendors or the price is to high please let me
know, I might be able to get my hands on one for a very low price. In
fact, I just purchased a 6" coolant proof model (waterproof) for
$100, and it’s in almost new condition.


Clean the battery contacts and make sure the battery door is closed

Also the new battery you installed may be low.

it has been randomly turning itself on and off, and giving wild
and completely inaccurate readings. I've changed the
battery......but it is still misbehaving. 

Sounds like it needs an exorcism.

Linda in centralFL

Hi – I’ve always felt that a measuring tool that couldn’t be
counted on 100% of the time was less useful than one that was
completely broken.

While a broken watch is right twice a day, an inaccurate watch may
not ever be right! The first time I get a hinky feeling about a
measuring tool, I replace it immediately - one of the most important
attributes of worldclass measuring tools is the confidence they
inspire during the process. If I can’t have that, I move on. Bob

Hi -- I've always felt that a measuring tool that couldn't be
counted on 100% of the time was less useful than one that was
completely broken. 

I have a dial vernier, the batteries never run out. because there
are no batteries :smiley: CIA

OK, once again I have to chime in, from my experience and background.
As a retired quality control chemist, I have spent my entire career
dealing with measurement, and the associated error with each point of
measurement. As an example, when making an assay, a sample is
normally weighted, with some error between the actual weight and the
measured value, and then some kind of response is then compared to
the response of an established “standard”.

Weights of both the standard and sample have an error bar about them.
The measurement of both have also some error bar. The potential error
adds up quickly. So your micrometer is showing error? Well, guess
what, it always have SOME error associated with it’s measurement. If
it becomes so bad that measuring the same item three times gives a
result greater than two times the readability of your instrument, you
may need to consider a replacement, but do you have any idea of what
it was capable of when it was new?? All our instrumentation was
checked monthly and compared to an established “standard”. It may
still be “good enough” for your use, but you will not know unless you
check it.

Tom, retired pharmaceutical chemist who “doesn’t do drugs” anymore!

I keep coming back to my trusty old Vernier calipers - they can’t get
messed around. When digital calipers came out, I got one, and after
breaking 2 of them and getting one bad one, I refuse to buy another
digital calipers. Makes me crazy that I have to keep taring them to
get them back to zero before I measure stone. My students are too
quick to use them, and don’t zero out before checking stone size. We
got all kinds ofweird readings, and I would tell them, put yours
away, we will use my non-digital calipers which can be counted on to
give an accurate reading. Digital is wonderful for many things, but
in my opinion, not always a good thing at the bench for measuring.
Also too easy to break if you are not careful.


Hi Joy,

The twenty dollar bandit brand digicals have to be reset every time,
but good ones ($100+) don’t. I’m quite fond of Mitutoyo digicals, and
I’ve heard others say good things about Starrett. Stay away from
Fowler, or other no-name brands.

Mine have held up for 15-ish years with no problems, and no funny

If you buy a set, you want the ones that measure by induction,
rather than a gear. (I haven’t seen the gear style available new in
years, but you never know what’ll turn up in somebody’s backstock.)
Look at the back of the main rod. If it’s more-or-less smooth, good.
If you see the teeth of a gear rack, pass.

Verniers work, and as other posters have mentioned, they don’t need
batteries or much TLC, which is good. I’ve always found them very
slow and exceedingly fiddly to read. I do have a few, for sizes I
don’tuse often. (Like a 40 inch set that I use once a year (maybe)
or an old height gauge that I very rarely need. That kind of thing.)
For things where I need quick, accurate measurements, professional
grade digitals are the only way to fly. (for me, anyway.)


Brian absolutely speaks the truth here. Mitutoyo digitals are the
way to go.


Hi Brian

Thanks for the recommendations on the digital calipers. I’m kind of
oldschool, and I really prefer my 6" Vernier calipers with the thumb
locking screw. I’ve gotten very good at reading it fast. Another
trick I use is that I can lock the calipers at the mm length I want
and then use it to score lines in sheet metal, so I don’t have to
use a ruler and a marker. To be honest, I use mine so much, I have
to keep extras on hand for my students “borrow” mine a lot.

We all have our preferences. I’ve learned from trial and error that
the6" Vernier calipers with the thumb locking screw works best for
me. On the other hand, using emery paper kills my wrists, and so I
rarely useemery paper. I’ve gone through a half dozen 3M deburring
wheels in more than a decade. I can use that 6" wheel with just
about everything, large or small. Who wants to go back to emery
paper? I also go through alot of the mini abrasive wheels.


For what it’s worth. I had some trouble with a less expensive
caliper and discovered that the batteries that came with it were
just not good. Once I’d replaced the battery and also cleaned the
battery contacts with a fine abrasive, the thing has been quite
reliable for a couple of years. But I’d definitely go to a store
where a lot of batteries are likely to be sold.

Derek the Gemmaker

I don’t buy a lot of things at Harbor Freight and I am cautious
about their stuff, quality-wise. So it surprises me to say this but I
really like their digital calipers. I have bought many pairs over the
years in different sizes and they have never crapped out on me. I
understand the oxymoron of finding a quality, precision measuring
tool at a discount tool house but they have always been great.

I have bought so many because I like them to be scattered throughout
the studio and because I travel with them. The only problem I have
had is that sometimes the glass window breaks. But that happens with
any of them I have found if you leave them in your tool draw.

I know that you get what you pay for. But at $9.99 on sale, they
work for me.

Happy holidays,