Top 5: The Best Tire Pressure Gauges for Cars

One of the easiest and most important things you can do to keep your car in good shape is to maintain proper tire pressure.
There is no shortage of pressure gauges available to buy, but sorting the worthwhile from the worthless can seem as hard as blowing a tire up with your mouth.
Hopefully this article can save you some hassle by looking at the five best tire pressure gauges for your car.

 

Why Bother Checking Tire Pressure

Most people don’t check their tire pressure, and in neglecting to do so may be jeopardizing their safety, or at least their wallet.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, improperly inflated tires can cause several problems.
The tires wear more quickly, and negatively affect the handling and ride of your car. Under-inflated tires drag down your fuel efficiency.
More seriously, both under-inflated and overinflated tires are more likely to fail, leading to flat tires or even blowouts.

Related: The Best All Season Tires!

Type of Tire Pressure Gauges

There are three main designs you’re likely to see when shopping for pressure gauges. The “stick” type looks like a metal pen. You place one end on the valve stem of a tire and the air pushes a measuring rod out the other end of the gauge.

These are simple and you’ll find them everywhere. Another type is the dial gauge. A dial gauge often has a short length of hose that goes on the valve stem and an analog dial that reads the pressure.
A good dial gauge is usually a bit more expensive but boast greater accuracy. The last type, which has become much more commonplace in recent years, is the digital gauge.
Like the stick gauge it has a nub that goes right on the valve stem, but these are powered by batteries instead of a mechanical process like the other gauges.

Digital models can often be set to display either American or international units for pressure, making them more versatile.

What a Good Tire Pressure Gauge Should Be

Here’s a rundown of what traits you should look for in a tire pressure gauge and how well the different types fit them.

Easy to Use

Stick and digital gauges can be operated one-handed, while dial gauges generally cannot.

Easy to Read

Most dial and stick gauges are analog and can be hard to read precisely, especially in low-light conditions. Most digital gauges have a backlit LCD display that makes for faster, easier readings.

Durable

Stick gauges are notorious for malfunctioning after drops. Dial and digital gauges can be more rugged, depending on the build material and quality. Whatever model you choose, experts advise not to trust a gauge’s reading if it has been roughly treated.

Priced Right

While stick gauges are the least expensive, be careful with the really cheap ones at the gas station or dollar store. For a few dollars more you can get a much better stick gauge. Dial gauges are more complex and good ones reflect that in their prices, often twice that of a digital gauge, or more.

Accurate

The rest of it doesn’t really matter if the gauge is giving bad readings, does it? Good, calibrated dial gauges are often used by mechanics and other professionals because of their reputation for accuracy and consistency.

Newer digital models can generally match dial gauge performance, with many of them being accurate to plus or minus one percent. Stick gauge accuracy depends on build quality–keep reading to see a good specimen.

How to Use a Tire Pressure Gauge

Here is a great video from Fairleigh Dickinson University showing how each of the gauge types we’ve discussed are used so you can see them in action:

AAA recommends checking your tire pressure once a month and before any long drive. If you drive on bad roads, more frequent checks might be prudent.

You should check your tire pressure when the car has been sitting for at least a few hours, because driving creates heat in the tires which makes the pressure rise some. The specific tire pressure for your vehicle should be in the user manual, and is often printed on the driver’s door jamb.

Top 5: Best Tire Pressure Gauges on The Market

1. Milton S-921 Pencil Tire Gauge

For those who want the simplicity and value of a stick type gauge, this model by Milton offers those benefits with fewer of the drawbacks inherent in the style.

It’s made of plated brass with a nylon measurement bar, which should be more durable than lesser stick gauges. Like others of this type, however, it is harder to read than dial or digital gauges, especially at night.

 

2. Lantoo ST-A0010 Mini Keychain Digital Tire Gauge

This is a remarkably small and handy gauge–the ultimate in digital portability for under $10. It features one-button operation and a light-up display for easy reading.

Accurate to 0.5 pounds per square inch (psi), it can also show pressures in international units.

The Lantoo runs on a 3-volt lithium coin battery and has an automatic shutoff to preserve battery life. On the downside, the manufacturer cautions against getting the unit wet, so it is not weatherproof.

Additionally its small size could make it difficult to maneuver onto a tire valve stem and hold it there.

3. Motor Luxe Heavy Duty 100 PSI Tire Pressure Gauge

This gauge represents one of the best values for a quality dial gauge. It has rugged brass fittings and dial body, and the dial is surrounded by a protective grip surface.

Unlike many dial gauges it has a glow dial that is rechargeable by exposure to light.

It is ANSI certified for accuracy and comes with a lifetime guarantee. You can even let air out of an overinflated tire with the unit’s bleed valve. The major drawback is the cost.

But, that’s still nearly double the next most expensive gauge on this list. This gauge may also be less responsive in very cold temperatures.

4. Ionox ION-15S Digital Pressure Gauge

Several features set this digital model apart, foremost its die cast metal body. The metal construction, accented with rubber for a better grip, makes it a little heavier than other digital gauges but far more durable and resistant to the elements.

Not only does the LCD display light up, but so does the nozzle so you can guide it onto the valve stem in any conditions. The nozzle is also offset to make placement on the stem easier.

Like the tiny Lantoo, the Ionox has a single button, is accurate to 0.5 psi, can read in US or international units, and has an automatic shutoff timer to save the battery.

It uses LR44 alkaline coin batteries, which may need replacing more often than lithium batteries. The only other downside is its weight, which is heavy relative to other gauges but at 4 ounces is still not prohibitive for most users.

5. Accutire MS-4021B Digital Tire Pressure Gauge

This digital gauge may be the simplest to attach to a valve stem because of its angled design, which also makes it almost 7 inches long. It has a long handle reminiscent of a wrench, coated with rubber for a good grip.

Like the other digital models, it has a timed shutoff, 0.5 psi accuracy, and backlit LCD display. I’ve personally used this gauge in extreme cold and was impressed it still worked. The rubberized handle is easy to hold even with gloves on.

I wasn’t as impressed by the fact that there’s a non-replaceable lithium battery in the unit and when it dies, the gauge becomes a paperweight and must be replaced. This is separate from the 3 A76 coin batteries it takes to run the display.

The Verdict

While all of these gauges represent good value and more importantly an accurate reading of tire pressure, one meets the criteria I laid out better than the rest. The Ionox ION-15S offers accuracy as good or better than the others as well as unparalleled ease of use.

The lighted nozzle is a uniquely helpful feature that makes fumbling around trying to clearly see and connect with the valve stem a thing of the past.

The metal body is a welcome change from the plastic casings of other digital gauges, and suggests the Ionox will be a reliable, sturdy tool that lasts years.

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