Troubleshooting A Dial Indicator

Are you tired of spending countless hours trying to figure out why your dial indicator is giving you inaccurate measurements?

Frustration, confusion, and a hint of desperation may have started to settle in as you struggle to troubleshoot this essential tool.

But fear not!

In this article, I will dive deep into the world of dimensional measurement, unveiling the secrets to troubleshooting a dial indicator like a seasoned pro.

Get ready to banish your measurement woes and achieve precision like never before.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Sagging can occur in dial indicators due to long spans between coupling halves.
  2. Failure to notice pointer revolutions can lead to inaccurate measurements.
  3. Interpretation errors can occur during the reading and recording of measurements.
  4. Zero setting errors can lead to measurement inaccuracies.
  5. Digital indicators can eliminate some of these issues but come at a higher cost.


One common issue that can arise with a dial indicator is sagging. This occurs when there are long spans between coupling halves, causing the dial indicator fixture to sag under the weight of the fixture and the dial indicators.

To troubleshoot this issue, you can take the following steps:

  1. Check the length of the spans between coupling halves. If they are too long, consider reducing the length or adding additional support.
  2. Ensure that the dial indicator fixture is properly secured and tightened to minimize any movement or sagging.
  3. Consider using a support stand or other stabilizing devices to provide additional support to the dial indicator fixture.

Failure to Notice Pointer Revolutions

Another common issue with dial indicators is the failure to notice when the pointer makes a full revolution or two. This can lead to inaccurate measurements, as parts that are grossly out of tolerance may appear to be within tolerance to an inattentive operator.

To troubleshoot this issue, you can take the following steps:

  1. Pay close attention to the movement of the pointer while taking measurements. Be aware of any full revolutions or two that may occur.
  2. Take your time when reading the measurements and ensure that you are accurately interpreting the position of the pointer.
  3. Double-check your measurements and compare them to known standards or specifications to ensure accuracy.

Interpretation Errors

Interpretation errors can occur when using dial indicators, as the operator must interpret the pointer's position to read the measurement, record it, and key the data into a computer. This introduces three steps during which errors can occur.

To troubleshoot this issue, you can take the following steps:

  1. Ensure that you are properly trained on how to interpret dial indicator measurements and understand the specific requirements of the measurement task.
  2. Take your time when reading and recording measurements, double-checking your work to minimize errors.
  3. Consider using digital indicators, which can eliminate some interpretation errors by providing clear numerical readings.

Zero Setting Errors

Zero setting is an important step in using a dial indicator as it eliminates potential sources of errors. However, zero setting errors can occur and lead to measurement inaccuracies. To troubleshoot this issue, you can take the following steps:

  1. Ensure that you are using the correct procedure to zero set the dial indicator. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the specific model you are using.
  2. Check that the dial indicator is properly calibrated and adjusted before zero setting.
  3. Be mindful of any external factors that may affect the zero setting, such as temperature changes or vibrations.
  4. If you encounter zero setting errors, repeat the process multiple times to ensure accuracy.

Using Digital Indicators

Digital indicators can eliminate some of the common issues associated with dial indicators, such as the failure to notice pointer revolutions and interpretation errors. However, they come at a higher cost and may not provide as much information as dial indicators.

When considering using digital indicators, keep the following points in mind:

  1. Digital indicators provide clear numerical readings, eliminating the need for interpretation.
  2. They are generally more accurate and precise than dial indicators.
  3. Digital indicators may have additional features, such as data storage and wireless connectivity.
  4. Consider the specific measurement requirements of your task and whether a digital indicator is necessary or beneficial.


How often should dial indicators be calibrated?

Dial indicators should be calibrated annually to ensure accuracy and reliability. Regular calibration helps identify any issues or deviations in the measurements and allows for adjustments or repairs to be made as needed.

Please follow the manufacturer's guidelines and recommendations for calibration procedures.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when using dial indicators?

When using dial indicators, it's essential to avoid the following mistakes:

  • Using an indicator that has been dropped or struck without thorough testing.
  • Overloading the indicator beyond its specified capacity.
  • Using the indicator in a harsh environment that can damage the sensitive components.
  • Not properly cleaning and maintaining the indicator, which can lead to measurement inaccuracies.
  • Ignoring calibration and repeatability checks, which can result in unreliable measurements.

How can I fix a dial indicator that is not returning to zero after use?

If a dial indicator is not returning to zero after use, you can try the following steps to troubleshoot the issue:

  1. Check if the zero position is set correctly. The zero should be set against the needle in use, and if it is not set correctly, the indicator may not return to zero.
  2. Inspect the indicator for any physical damage, such as a bent stem or rack, or a stem that is pinched from a too-tight clamp. If there is physical damage, professional repair or replacement may be necessary.
  3. Consider the possibility of faulty calibration. If the indicator has gone out of calibration, it may need to be recalibrated by a professional or a preferred repair center.
  4. Check if the plunger is sticking. A sticky plunger can prevent the indicator from returning to zero. Clean the plunger with a light solvent or oil, such as kerosene, to ensure smooth movement.
  5. If the indicator is sluggish and not returning to zero consistently, there may be mechanical issues such as a dirty or worn gear trainches In such cases, it may be necessary to clean and service the indicator's jeweled movement.

How can I improve the consistency of readings from a dial indicator?

If a dial indicator is not providing consistent readings, you can try the following troubleshooting steps:

  1. Check the indicator for any physical damage, such as missing parts, bent stems, or racks. If you find any of these issues, professional repair or replacement may be necessary.
  2. Inspect the surface being measured for any damage or irregularities. Clean or dress the surface if necessary to ensure accurate and consistent readings.
  3. Ensure that the sensor of a digital indicator is fitted snugly into the gauge face to prevent any movement or misalignment that can affect the readings.
  4. If using a digital indicator, reset the monitor to eliminate any potential software or programming issues that may be causing inconsistent readings.
  5. If using a dial test indicator, pay attention to the angle at which you set the ball. Make sure you are setting it at the same angle each time for consistent measurements.
  6. Before putting the indicator back to work, mount it in a stand and use gauge blocks to check the accuracy of the readings. This can help identify any remaining issues and ensure consistent measurements.
  7. If none of these steps resolve the issue, it may be necessary to consult a trained gage technician for further diagnosis and repair.

What can I do if a dial indicator is not properly gripping the surface being measured?

If a dial indicator is not properly gripping the surface being measured, you can take the following steps to address the issue:

  1. Check that the plunger moves freely. If it is sticking, clean it with a light solvent or oil, such as kerosene, to ensure smooth movement.
  2. Ensure that the dial indicator is mounted correctly. Mounting from the back using lug or rack-type backs is ideal, as mounting by the case or stem can interfere with the mechanism.
  3. Clean the spindle of the dial indicator using a soft, lint-free cloth to remove any dirt or oil that may affect its grip.
  4. If none of these steps work, it may be necessary to dismantle the dial indicator and clean and service the jeweled movement. However, this should only be done by individuals trained in the proper methods.

What are some potential causes of a dial indicator displaying erratic or fluctuating measurements?

Several factors can contribute to a dial indicator displaying erratic or fluctuating measurements. Some potential causes include:

  • Indicator damage or calibration issues: Damage to the gears, pinions, or bearings can affect the accuracy of the indicator. Calibration issues can also cause erratic measurements.
  • Environmental factors: Temperature changes, humidity, and vibration can impact the performance of a dial indicator and lead to fluctuating measurements.
  • User error: Improper handling, incorrect zero setting, or failure to keep the spindle clean can introduce errors and result in inconsistent readings.
  • Limitations of dial indicators: Dial indicators have limitations in terms of sensitivity and accuracy. They may not be suitable for measuring certain phenomena or may be sensitive to gravity and other external factors.

How can I identify and resolve issues related to a damaged or worn-out dial indicator?

To identify and resolve issues related to a damaged or worn-out dial indicator, you can follow these steps:

  1. Diagnose the problem by observing the behavior of the indicator, such as sticking, not moving smoothly, or giving inaccurate readings.
  2. Disassemble the indicator to access the internal mechanism.
  3. Clean all the parts thoroughly, removing any dirt, debris, or rust that may be affecting the indicator's performance.
  4. Inspect the parts for any signs of damage or wear, such as cracks or chips.
  5. Reassemble the indicator, ensuring that all parts are properly aligned and lubricated.
  6. Test the indicator to ensure that it is working properly, checking the accuracy of the readings and the smoothness of movement.
  7. If the issue persists, consult a trained gage technician for further diagnosis and repair.

Remember, dial indicators are delicate instruments that require proper handling, regular maintenance, and calibration to ensure accurate and reliable measurements. By following troubleshooting steps and taking necessary precautions, you can address common issues and improve the performance of your dial indicator.

Closing remarks and recommendations

Hey there, fellow measurement enthusiasts! We've spent the past few articles diving deep into the world of dial indicators, troubleshooting their common issues, and finding solutions. Now, as we approach the end of this series, I want to take a moment to offer you a unique perspective on this topic that will leave you scratching your head and pondering the possibilities.

Imagine this: you're in your workshop, meticulously measuring a crucial part with your trusty dial indicator. Everything seems to be going smoothly until you notice a slight discrepancy in your readings. Your heart skips a beat, and you start questioning the accuracy of your instrument. Is it faulty? Did you make a mistake? Or is there something more profound at play here?

Here's where it gets interesting. What if I told you that the dial indicator itself is not the sole determinant of measurement accuracy? Yes, you heard me right. While it plays a significant role, there are other factors at play that can influence the final result.

Consider this: the environment in which you're conducting your measurements. Temperature, humidity, and even vibrations can impact the performance of your dial indicator. It's like trying to paint a masterpiece in the midst of a chaotic storm. The external conditions can throw off your measurements, leaving you confused and frustrated.

But wait, there's more! Have you ever stopped to think about the human element in all of this? Yes, we're talking about you, the operator. Your technique, experience, and even your state of mind can affect the accuracy of your readings. It's like trying to solve a complex puzzle while your mind is racing a mile a minute.

So, my friends, as we conclude this series on troubleshooting dial indicators, let's not forget the bigger picture. The world of dimensional measurement is a fascinating one, full of intricacies and variables that can boggle the mind. It's a delicate dance between man and machine, where precision meets uncertainty.

As you continue your journey in the realm of dimensional measurement, I urge you to embrace the confusion that comes with it. Embrace the challenges, the unexpected twists, and the moments that leave you questioning everything. Because in the end, it's these moments that push us to grow, to innovate, and to uncover the mysteries that lie within the world of dial indicators.

So, my fellow measurement enthusiasts, keep exploring, keep questioning, and keep pushing the boundaries of what you thought was possible. Who knows what thought-provoking revelations await you on your next measurement adventure? Happy measuring!

Looking for a dial indicator?

Choosing a dial indicator can be very difficult if you know nothing about them.

So I created this quick, newbie guide to help you:

The best Dial Indicator and how to choose one for you

How To Use dial indicators

Tip: Turn on the caption button if you need it. Choose 'automatic translation' in the settings button if you are not familiar with the english language. You may need to click on the language of the video first before your favorite language becomes available for translation.

Links and references

  1. Dial Test Indicators Operation Manual
  2. Technical Support Chicago Dial Indicator
  3. Electronic Indicator Chicago Dial Indicator
  4. Repairing Dial Indicators Diagnosing, Fixing, and How They Work! YouTube
  5. BesTest Indicator Repair Manual
  6. Dial Indicators/Dial Test Indicators

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Frequently asked questions about Dial Indicators

Dial Indicator: Surprising Statistics and facts

How to use a Dial Indicator

Creative uses for your Dial Indicator that you haven't tried yet

Things I wish I had known before I bought a Dial Indicator

Alternatives to the Dial Indicator

Where is the Dial Indicator normally used

What is a dial indicator and how does it work?

Private note to self: (Article status: abstract)

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