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How Do You Calibrate A Digital Scale? 6 Easy Steps

In this article, you will learn about digital scale calibration along with important steps to ensure you calibrate your scale properly. 

Some people think that calibrating a scale is both complicated and unnecessary.

But that can’t be further from the truth. 

If you want to accurately show the weight of something on a digital scale, it’s important to calibrate the scale before on a regular basis. 

Regardless if you are weighing food items, mail, or anything that requires weight accuracy, calibrating a scale is a very simple process that anyone can do.

What does it mean to calibrate a scale?

Calibrating a scale is a basic procedure used to ensure a scale is providing accurate information. 

This will normally include placing a calibration weight on the scale in its calibration mode which the scale will use to diagnose load cell accuracy. 

This includes the ability to interpret readings and provide data to the controller which will then adjust the readings as needed for precise measurements.  

If you don’t have a calibration weight, don’t worry, there are other items you can use instead.

calibration weights

When to calibrate a digital scale

There is no specific time that says when you need to calibrate your scale. It really depends on how much use the scale is getting, it’s overall condition, and if it’s been moved around frequently. So when to perform a scale calibration can vary.

But a rule of thumb is to calibrate a scale 1 or 2 times each year if it is not used much and is stable sitting on a flat surface. 

If the scale is being moved around and placed on different surfaces, you should calibrate it every few months. 

After using the scale 4 or 5 times, it’s a good idea to calibrate it to ensure it’s accuracy.

If you are using the scale to weigh very light items and it needs to be very precise (within 0.1 grams), you should plan to calibrate the scale daily. 

digital scale with weighing an apple

How to calibrate a digital scale step by step

As mentioned, calibrating a digital scale is simple and doesn’t take much time.

Most scales will include instructions on how to calibrate it properly. 

But if you don’t have the instructions, you can follow these steps.

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Keep in mind that some scales will have a built in self calibration feature but not all of them have this ability.

Also, the following steps may need to be adjusted slightly depending on the type of scale and manufacturer you are using. But in general, these steps are common for calibrating most digital scales. 

  • Step #1. Setup the calibration area. Ensure the scale is sitting on a flat surface and the temperature is normal without any wind or high humidity. Use a carpenters level to ensure the surface is level. You also need to ensure there are no vibrations as this can negatively affect the calibration. 

Pro tip: To prevent any vibrations on the scale, place a computer mousepad under the scale to help dampen out and minimize vibrations. 

  • Step #2. Ensure the scale is clean and remove any debris by using a microfibre cloth. 
  • Step #3. Prepare the calibration weight. Check the weight of it as they can vary anywhere from 1 mg to 60 kilograms. A 100 gram calibration weight is quite common to use. Once you know the weight that you are using, you can go to the next step.
  • Step #4. Turn on the digital scale and wait until it reads 0.
  • Step #5. Most digital scales will have a calibration mode which can be found using the mode button. Push the mode button until “CAL” or calibrate shows on the screen. There may also be a calibration switch instead of a button which will need to be turned on. Check the instruction manual to ensure you enter the calibration mode properly.
  • Step #6. Place the weight on the scale and check the weight shown on the scale. If the proper weight is not shown on the scale, adjust the weight up or down to match the calibration weight that you used. 
Yellow and black level

Calibrate a digital scale with coins

So what if you don’t have a calibration weight available to use? 

You can use a variety of items providing you know it’s exact weight. Many people will use a coin as they are a standardized weight and are commonly available. 

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To use a coin for calibration, you need to know the actual weight of the coin.

If you are in the USA, you can use a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter and use the following weights.

  • Penny – 2.5 grams
  • Nickel – 5.0 grams
  • Dime – 2.268 grams
  • Quarter – 5.670 grams

Instead of using the steps above with a calibration weight, use a coin instead. 

5 cent coin

Problems with using a coin to calibrate a scale

I know that I just said you can use a coin for calibrating a scale if you don’t have an actual calibration weight. 

But there are a few things to be aware of.

If you want a scale that is very precise, you should use a calibration weight instead of using coins.

When coins are weighed, they are straight out of production and in brand new condition. 

Over time, coins will collect dirt, turn rusty and become chipped or dinged from use. 

The weight of a coin can change over time and therefore may not be a great choice to use for calibration. 

old rusty coin

For example, if you are using a USA nickel, you assume it weighs 5.0 grams when it reality it may weigh less or more. 

Putting in the wrong information into the scale will ensure it won’t be accurate or precise. 

It might seem like a very small thing that doesn’t make much of a difference but if you are measuring ingredients for a recipe and need exact measurements, it can make a huge difference. 

Imagine if you are using a scale that has a maximum weight of a 100 grams and you decide to calibrate it using nickels. 

You would need 20 nickels that weigh 5 grams each to weigh 100 grams. 

If you need to calibrate a certain scale by reaching it’s maximum weight, the 20 nickels that you add to the scale may only weigh 99 grams. Or perhaps 101 grams. 

Either way, the scale will not be calibrated properly as the scale will think it’s weighing 100 grams when it is not.

Technically, you can use any item to calibrate a scale providing you know it’s exact weight. 

Using a proper calibration weight is always the best item to use. 

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