You may be a metal detecting enthusiast, even an experienced detectorist, and yet you don’t know exactly how your detector works. Well, it isn’t magic! There is real science in how they work, and it’s information that may be helpful to you in your hunting. This post will explain, in general, how these machine work in simple terms. Of course, if you have a high-end or very specialized detector, there are much more detailed and intricate processes involved. The technology that is involved in metal detectors today can be very sophisticated and complicated, but the goal here is just to familiarize you with the basics of how metal detectors function.

Parts of a Metal Detector

In order to understand how metal detectors work, you first need to know what their key components are. Even though detectors look different, the way they work is typically the same, so they all have parts that function similarly.

The four key components are:

  • Shaft – This is the main part of the detector that all of the other parts connect to. It’s usually adjustable for the user’s comfort.
  • Stabilizer – This attachment is the part of the detector that makes it comfortable to use. Think of it as the armrest of the machine. It stabilizes the metal detector as you move it around.
  • Control Box – The control box is the brains of the machine. It contains the battery, device controls and settings, the microprocessor, readout, and speakers.
  • Search Coil – This is the bottom part of the detector that you swing over the ground. It’s an antenna that contains coils that are integral for the machine to be able to detect metal.

How Metal Detectors Work

While detectors can be complicated, the principle behind their function is fairly simple.  Metal detectors transmit and then analyze a magnetic field as it is returned from the area that the signal was originally transmitted into (the ground).

There are two coils in the search head of the metal detector. One acts as a transmitter, and the other acts as a receiver. The first one transmits a magnetic field that is generated by electricity that moves through the coil. That magnetic field that is being transmitted will cause electricity to flow into metal objects that it comes into contact with. The second coil, the receiver, identifies the difference in the magnetic field that is created as the buried metal absorbs it and the electricity begins to flow through it.

When the change is detected, the second coil send the alert to the control box through the attached cable, and you hear the signal from the speakers or your headphones. The weaker the returning magnetic field, the weaker the alert.

That’s it in a nutshell. One coil sends, the other receives, detects changes and lets the control box know.

Final Thoughts

Now you understand the basics of how a metal detector works, and knowledge is essential to being successful with your detecting. Even the best equipment in the world will not do you much good if you don’t know how to use it. For a more detailed explanation of how metal detectors work, go here.