digital scale with calibration weights

Why Do Digital Scales Give Different Readings?

Last updated on September 22nd, 2023 at 05:55 pm

Digital scales are usually very accurate, making them an excellent tool for measuring ingredients or weighing precious metals.

However, you may sometimes notice that your scale is giving a variety of readings. If you’re measuring small amounts of something, even a slight variation can throw off what you’re making or your calculations.

There are several reasons why a digital scale might give different readings including the following.

  • Calibration
  • Uneven surfaces or item placement
  • Damage
  • Low batteries
  • Dirt or dust
  • Vibrations
  • Frequency interference
digital scale weighing flour

Calibration

Calibrating a scale is when you use weights to ensure that a scale is offering accurate measurements.

You might need to make small adjustments to the readings to ensure that the scale is weighing items properly, but once the scale is calibrated correctly, you can rest assured that the measurements it gives will be accurate.

It’s a good idea to calibrate a scale right after you get it. Scales can be jostled around during transit, and this might cause some slight fluctuations in the scale’s accuracy.

It’s also a good idea to calibrate your scale once a year or so after that, and if you use the scale frequently, you might want to check the calibration once every month or even every week.

Any kind of frequent movement, including simply weighing items, can gradually cause the scale to lose accuracy.


Digital scale with calibration weights
Digital scale with calibration weights

Uneven Surfaces or Item Placement

Where you put the scale and how you place items on it can also change your measurements. It’s important to always use the scale when the scale is on a flat, even surface.

Digital scales are designed to measure downward force. If the scale is at all tilted, the cells inside the scale that measure won’t be able to offer an accurate reading.

If the surface is level but your scale is still giving different readings, check to make sure that the scale’s feet are level.

One side of the scale may have worn down, for example, which can cause the scale to become imbalanced.

It’s also important to always place items on the scale in a balanced way. Try to place items near the center of the scale.

If there are multiple items, don’t place a lighter item opposite a heavy item, as the scale won’t press down evenly, resulting in an inaccurate reading.

woman placing a tomato on a digital scale

Damage

Scales can become damaged in many ways. Everyday wear and tear can cause pieces to break or wear out. Scales can also be damaged by moisture.

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If the scale is exposed to hot or cold temperatures, some of the scale’s components might expand and contract, which can cause cracks or breaks.

Scales can also break if you exceed their weight limit or frequently weigh items that meet or almost meet the weight limit.

Scales that are overloaded or broken can offer inaccurate readings. You can often open up a scale to see if there is anything visibly wrong.

The scale manufacturer may also be able to provide replacement parts or repairs.

womans feet on a digital scale

Low Batteries

If your scale seems to be in good shape and is on a level surface but is still offering different readings, the batteries might be low. This is one of the most frequent causes of inaccurate readings.

Dirt or Dust

Digital scales are often designed to weigh small amounts, which means they can be very sensitive. If your scale is small or sensitive enough to weigh small amounts, dust or a buildup of dirt can actually register as weight.

Cleaning off the scale’s top can make for a much more accurate reading.

If the scale is exposed to any sticky or dusty substances, these substances can also sometimes get into the scale’s inner components.

This can cause pieces to become stuck or jammed, and this can also cause inaccurate readings. You can open the scale and carefully clean any areas that look dusty or dirty.

Be careful not to disturb any of the scale’s components, though, as these pieces can be extremely fragile.

dust on a digital scale

Vibrations

Scales can be sensitive to vibrations. If a vibration occurs, it can cause whatever is on the scale to lift or jump just enough to give a different reading.

It’s a good idea to use the scale in a quiet area where there is little air movement. If you need to frequently measure things outdoors where wind can change your readings, you might want to consider using a draft shield.

You might also want to put the scale on a mousepad or any other rubber or plastic mat that will absorb vibrations. Always use the scale on a solid, stable surface such as a countertop or table.

tomatoes on a digital scale

Frequency Interference

Because a digital scale is electronic, it can be subject to frequency interference, and this interference can alter your readings.

Any other electronic items, such as phones, internet routers, or a microwave, can affect your scale. If you think you’re experiencing interference, move to a different room or move your cell phone away from the scale.

cell phone next to a digital scale

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