People who run their tires above or below the maximum recommended pressure burn more fuel, are less safe and cause extra wear to their tires when compared to those who maintain their tires at the manufacturer’s recommendation. Keeping your tires at the right level starts with a high-quality air pressure gauge to monitor the pressure on a regular basis. Tire gauges come in all sizes, shapes and styles, and choosing one can be daunting. To make a good selection when shopping for a tire gauge, consider three factors—style of the gauge, attachment type and the maximum pressure the gauge will accurately measure.
There are three common types of tire gauges. Pencil gauges are shaped like a pen or pencil and, when pressed on your tire’s valve, display the pressure on a white column pushed out of the rear of the gauge by the tire’s pressure. They are handy to store and mostly readable in good light if you have decent eyesight. Dial gauges, also called analog, have a clock-like display face that shows the pressure level and are much easier to read—as long as you can hold them where you can see the face. Digital tire gauges, the most advanced type, display pressure on an LCD screen. They are generally the most accurate and are easy to read because the pressure remains on the screen after you remove it from the valve. Dial and digital gauges are easiest to use, but pencil gauges are more compact and easier to store.
Most tire gauges are operated by pushing them down onto the valve so pressure can activate the gauge. Some people are good at this, while others struggle and let more air out of their tires than they’d like while trying to get the gauge perfectly situated on the valve. Models that have an attachment mechanism are easier to use than those you have to hold just right. Simply clamp them on and read the gauge with no struggling to get the correct position. Some models are made with extensions to easily reach tire valves tucked deep into wheels or that are otherwise hard to reach.
Consider the type of tire you will be checking when shopping for a tire pressure gauge. Normal car and pickup tires can be checked with a gauge that reads up to 50 or 60 pounds. However, larger tires for heavy vehicles often require higher tire pressure, thus a gauge with a higher maximum pressure reading is needed. If you’re going to be only checking your car or truck tires, go with the smaller one. If you’re going to also be using your gauge for tires that require higher pressure, a gauge with a higher range will serve both purposes just fine.