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An ammeter wires into your electrical system in series, meaning you must run large wires to the gauge to support most (if not all) of the truck's electrical usage. An ammeter is like a flow gauge for your electrical system, and measures amps. It will tell you how much electricity you are drawing or putting into the battery.
A voltmeter wires into your electrical system in paralell, and is similar to a "fuel guage." A dead battery is close to 12.0 volts, a fully charged battery is 12.6volts, and anything from 13.0-14.5 volts is charging range. A voltmeter is more usefull for monitoring the state of your electrical system, IMO. The explorers come with one std.
Wow! Great info. The voltmeter in the truck is a little on the vague side. Do people consider this enough when running a winch and a dual battery setup? An ammeter would be used to show how much juice was left in a battery. But a volt meter measures what the alternator is doing. Correct?
An ammeter is only going to show load draw, it won't show how much juice the battery has left. A voltmeter won't even show what is really left in the battery. There is no way to accurately show what a battery's potential is.
BTW, the stock voltmeter is a joke. A true aftermarket voltmeter is a good way to show what kind of voltage is in the system.
i'd say a volt meter is what your looking for, that way you can watch both batteries, you will know what a "good" level of power is, that way if it reads just a bit lower than usual you know a bit in advance there is a problem
In your shoes, I'd definitley get a new voltmeter, possibly a digital one since the difference between a dead battery and a fully charged one is under 1 volt. Get a switch so you can monitor each battery seperatley.
An ammeter would be cool to have to see the draw on the system from the winch, as well as what the alternator is putting out. If you have the funds and dash space, having both meters would give you the best ability to "see" your electrical system.
You can get a decent "multimeter" for about $50 from a lot of places. I built a digital multimeter in electronics class a few years back and it works good enough for me so far. I still want to get a fluke one of these days. They're pretty nice, but kinda pricey. BTW, multimeter serves both functions, voltmeter and ammeter.