How to measure loop current using Test diode?


Measuring the loop current using test diode is one of the important troubleshooting methods. A Test diode can be placed anywhere in the current loop forward biased.

The rectifying diode can be placed in series at anywhere in the loop.

  • During normal condition the diode conducts easily, that only shows a drop of 0.7 V which is common for forward biased silicon diode.

  • To measure the loop current, we connect an ammeter parallel to a diode.

  • The ammeter resistance is much lower than the diode resistance.

  • As current tends to flow through lower resistance path, the loop current flow through the ammeter.

  • Without enough current to bais the diode, entire current flows through the ammeter. the diode effectively turns off and conducts 0 mA, leaving the entire loop current to pass through the ammeter.

  • During this current flow the ammeter reads the amount of current through the loop.

  • When the ammeter is disconnected the diode resistance produce a 0.7V again and starts to conduct again.

  • Such a diode may be installed at the nearest junction box, between terminals on a terminal strip, or even incorporated into the transmitter itself. Some process transmitters have an extra pair of terminals labelled “Test” for this exact purpose.

  • Ammeter is connected to the terminals labelled as “TEST” below and to the right of the main screw terminals where the loop wiring attaches.

  • Transmitters equipped with analog meter movements for direct visual indication of the 4-20 mA signal usually connect the analog milliammeter in parallel with just such a diode.


This does not work for 0 to 20 mA ? because near 0 mA the current is too low to pass through the diode ! Thank you