A Guide to Selecting a Tire Pressure Gauge
Ensuring correct pressure levels in your vehicle’s tires is an important part of your car’s maintenance. If the pressure is too low, your vehicle requires more energy to start moving and to maintain a constant speed. If your tires are overinflated, it can cause them to skid when driving on a wet road and you’ll require a longer stopping distance, which wears down the treads. So it’s important to keep your tires at their optimal pressure. And a good tire pressure gauge can help you check your tires regularly, to make sure they’re at the right pressure.
We’ll see that there are analog and digital pressure gauges. The analog pressure gauges don’t require batteries and have a sturdier construction overall. Digital pressure gauges can display the pressure in different units and can measure a greater range of temperatures. Different gauges will vary in their level of accuracy, as well as the types of vehicles for which they’re intended.
Let’s look at some of the offerings in the Best Reviews Guide list of tire pressure gauges. It’s a handy, inexpensive, yet essential piece of equipment, to maintain your vehicle’s optimum performance!
What are the advantages of keeping my tires at the right pressure?
Properly inflated tires will wear down their tread more evenly so that you’ll be able to use your tires for a longer amount of time. Your vehicle will also respond more efficiently, meaning better fuel economy. And you’ll have a smoother and more safe drive overall.
How can I know the correct pressure for my tires?
On your tire’s sidewall, it will have specifications about the tire’s make and dimensions, as well as the maximum permissible inflation pressure. But that’s not the pressure to which you should inflate your tires! There should be a sticker on the inside of the door on the driver’s side, which specifies the desired air pressure in your front and rear tires.
How do I go about measuring my tire’s pressure?
Unscrew the cap on the tire’s valve stem, and push the pressure gauge onto the valve stem. If you see that the pressure is less than the optimal level, add some more air with the air compressor. Add air in small increments, checking with your gauge every so often. If you overinflate your tire, many pressure gauges have a knob or air release button to reduce the air pressure.
Types of Tire Pressure Gauges
Looking at the Best Reviews Guide list of the most popular tire pressure gauges, you’ll see that they usually fall into two main categories:
Mechanical Pressure Gauges: These can come in two main types:
Pencil gauge: These are around 6” - 8” in length. You unscrew the cap on your tire’s valve stem, attach the gauge’s head to the tire’s valve stem, and see how far out the gauge’s stem extends outward. One example is the Milton Single Chuck Head Pencil Tire Pressure Gauge. It shows the pressure reading anywhere from 5 - 50 PSI (= pounds per square inch) in increments of 1 pound per marking or from 40-350 kilopascal, in 10 kPa increments.
Milton Single Chuck Head Pencil Tire Pressure Gauge
There are also dual-head pencil pressure gauges, which allow you to place the gauge on the tire’s valve stem at an angle of 30°, as well as straight onto the valve. The straight-head air chuck is for measuring the pressure in the outer wheels and the 30° reverse-head chuck is for the inner wheels if you’re measuring the pressure in the tires of an 18-wheeler, for example. An example is the Godeson Dual Head Tire Pressure Gauge.
Godeson Dual Head Tire Pressure Gauge
Dial gauge: There are also dial-shaped tire gauges. They usually come with a rubberized casing. This offers you a better grip, which is important in cold weather. Also, it protects the gauge from getting damaged if you drop it. An example is the Jaco Elite Tire Pressure Gauge. It also has a glow-in-the-dark dial, to allow measuring the air pressure in low light. There is also a reset button on the stem, to set it back to zero when you’re finished measuring the pressure in one tire and want to move on to the next one.
Jaco Elite Tire Pressure Gauge
Digital Pressure Gauge: There are also battery-operated pressure gauges that provide you with a digital reading. An example is the AstroAI Digital Tire Pressure Gauge. You place the blue tip on the tire’s valve stem, and it reads the pressure in units of psi, bars, Kilopascals (KPa), or kg/cm2. It uses a lithium coin-shaped battery, but there are similar products that use a “AAA” size battery. The screen has a backlight so that you can read the gauge even in low light conditions, as well as a lighted nozzle to help you attach the gauge to the valve stem properly. It remains lit for 10 seconds for you to make the reading and then shuts off automatically to save battery life.
AstroAI Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
Jaco also makes the ElitePro Digital Tire Pressure Gauge with a digital readout. The probe is attached to the gauge by a rubber neck, which allows you greater accessibility to reach the tire’s valve stem. It can swivel into exactly the position you need to measure the tire’s pressure. It can measure pressures up to 200 PSI, up to an accuracy of 0.10 PSI!
Jaco ElitePro Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
What reviewers say
Here are some customers’ impressions about the pressure gauge that they purchased:
Don’t need more than PSI units: Some customers who bought a digital pressure gauge said that displaying the pressures in more than one set of units is overkill. It makes using the gauge only more complicated. It may be useful if you use your pressure gauge in another country, however.
Lighting on digital gauge helps: People say that the illumination on a digital gauge helps very much to find the tire stem when you’re in poor lighting. That’s a feature that mechanical gauges won’t have.
Deflation button: Some dial pressure gauges have a deflation button. This is more convenient than with pencil gauges, where you have to disconnect the gauge to use the deflation button. With the dial pressure gauge, you can overinflate the tires purposely, and then deflate them to the desired pressure. It’s easier than the hit-and-miss method!
Here are some tips to help you select the right pressure gauge:
Appropriate for your vehicle: Make sure that the pressure gauge that you purchase can handle the pressure range that your vehicle needs. Some gauges only go up to 50 or 60 PSI. That’s usually good enough for cars, SUVs, and most trucks. But larger trucks may need as much as 105 PSI. So have that in mind when shopping.
Tread depth gauge: Some tire pressure gauges will also include a tread depth gauge, such as the Milton Pencil Tire Pressure Gauge (Model S-920). The indicator bar has markings in 1/16” increments to tell you if the treads on your tires are still in good condition. New tires should have a tread depth of around 10/32”. If they’ve worn down to only 1/16”, you should replace the tires. (There’s also a “penny test”, where you insert a Lincoln-head penny into your tire treads. If you see all of Lincoln’s head, it means that your tire’s treads are worn down and need to be replaced.)
Pressure release button: Another convenient feature is a pressure release or deflator button. On the pencil tire pressure gauges, it can be found opposite the pressure gauge section. If you see that you’ve overinflated your tire, simply press on the tire valve stem with the deflator button to release the pressure, until you hit on the correct amount.
We went through some of the best tire pressure gauges available nowadays. On the one hand, mechanical gauges are sturdier and don’t require batteries. But, there are also advantages to the digital gauges, such as the illuminated screen and the ability to light up the tire’s valve stem for easier measurements. But what is certain is that this important piece of equipment should be something that you keep on hand!