Many people who drive newer cars have an edge when it comes to preventing flat tires: the tiny warning light on the dashboard (part of what’s known as the TPMS system) which lights up when there’s not enough air in the tires. That indicator is particularly helpful for those who don’t pay as much attention to maintenance as they should.
A warning light only goes so far, though. Whether you check tire pressures religiously (and you should), or you rely on the “idiot light” to give you a heads up, you’re eventually going to have to add air to your tires. And an indispensable tool for that task is a tire pressure gauge – since the only way to know if your tires are properly inflated is to measure the air pressure inside them.
You can choose between simple stick gauges or bulkier, more complicated models, and each has their pros and cons. The Your House Garden review team has checked out the options, and we’ve ranked the 12 best tire pressure gauges on the market. Here’s what we’ve found.
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Best Tire Pressure Gauges
1. Michelin MN-12279 Digital Programmable Tire Gauge
The brand names of the other gauges on the Your House Garden rankings may not mean anything to you, but the name “Michelin” is certainly a good start when choosing a tool for tires. It’s far from the only reason, though, why the MN-12279 tops our list.
This is one of the most compact non-stick tire gauges you’ll find, fitting nicely into the palm of the hand. Its ergonomic design and soft rubber grip make it a pleasure to use, while its die-cast metal casing make it extremely durable without being heavy. It’s also one of the most accurate digital units on the market, accurate to +/- 1% with the digital display reading out tire pressure to 0.1 psi. By comparison, the majority of gauges only measure in increments of 0.5 or 1 psi.
The review team liked how easy it is to read this Michelin model in low light, and was even more impressed by the thoughtful addition of a built-in LED flashlight that makes it a snap to find the valve stem in the dark. You can also program the gauge to remember not one, but two different air pressures (helpful if your manufacturer recommends different pressures for front and rear tires) so you don’t have to keep looking them up.
Nothing’s perfect, including the Michelin MN-12279. It’s not built to allow you to release air pressure if your tires are over-inflated, and it won’t fit easily onto valves on non-standard tires (like those on motorcycles). Neither of those was a deal-breaker for us, though, particularly since the gauge’s price is so low you’d expect this to be a bare-bones model and not a full-featured one.
The review team doesn’t just think this Michelin gauge is the best digital model you can buy. We think it’s the best you can find, period.
Facts and figures for the Michelin MN-12279 Digital Programmable Tire Gauge:
2. Tiretek Premium Tire Pressure Gauge
This baby is a strong workhorse. It’s a rustproof analog dial model made out of steel and brass, with a rugged rubber cover surrounding it. If you accidentally leave the Tiretek on the ground and drive over it, it probably will emerge from the encounter better than your tire will. It’s not a surprise that many automotive pros use this gauge on a daily basis.
The front has a large face (two inches in diameter, compared to most analog models with a 1.5 inch face) and easy-to-read numbers, and it can measure up to 60 psi in 1 psi increments. The tool has been calibrated under international accuracy standards to be accurate to 2%, and as an analog device, it won’t lose power or accuracy over time. One other notable feature is a fairly long (5mm) angled chuck that swivels 360°, which allows you to easily reach the valve and rotate the chuck for best access.
If you prefer a gauge with an extended rubber hose that gives you even more reach, the Tiretek Flexi-Pro is an option to check out for just a couple of extra bucks.
The Tiretek Premium is accurate, well-designed, extremely well-built and may live even longer than you do.
More info on the Tiretek Premium Tire Pressure Gauge:
3. Milton S-921 Single Chuck Pencil Tire Pressure Gauge
As you’ll learn in our buyers’ guide, the Your House Garden review team is partial to simple stick tire guides. That may be because many of us grew up with them, but we also love their simplicity, reliability and tiny size. You can find some stick models with a few bells-and-whistles (like double chucks), but to our mind, these gauges are pretty much interchangeable as long as they’re well made.
And the Milton S-921 is definitely built well. Unlike many competitive models, it’s made in America from machined brass, plated for long-life and with a four-sided nylon indicator bar that pops out to show you the tire pressure. No muss, no fuss. You won’t get quite the same accuracy as you will with one of our top-ranked models – but you’re taking a quick check of the tire pressure on your car and not taking measurements on the space shuttle, so we think a difference of 1-2 psi here or there is just fine for the price.
Oh, that’s right, we didn’t mention the price. This gauge will set you back about the same amount that you’ll spend on your morning stop at Starbucks. We like that, too.
Stick-style tire gauges are pretty similar, but the Milton S-921 is built better and is even easier to use than the super-cheap Chinese ones you might find elsewhere.
Details for the Milton S-921 Single Chuck Pencil Tire Pressure Gauge:
4. Astro 3018 Digital Tire Pressure Guide and Inflator
There’s one annoying problem with most tire gauges, even those which also let you deflate over-inflated tires (which this gauge does). Adding air to under-inflated tires requires the use of a pump, and then you have to measure again to make sure you guessed right. Reaching the proper pressure can require you to take those steps several times in a row.
The Astro 3018 is a handy all-in-one digital model that takes care of that issue, because you can attach an air hose to the bottom of the unit before using it. If your tires need air, you just have to move the Astro’s convenient handle to add pressure. Release the handle and you’ll see the new reading. Added too much? Move the handle the other way and it will bleed some of the air out. This not only saves time, it saves your back from the strain of bending over repeatedly to get the pressure right.
This gauge reads to 0.1 psi, it has a long and durable 21-inch stainless steel braided hose and a lock that can secure the chuck to the valve, and the face is large and easy to read. It can register pressures as high as 175 psi, and there’s even an auto-shutoff feature.
The Astro 3018 may be more tool than you need, but it certainly makes life easier – albeit at a much higher price than competitive models that aren’t able to inflate your tires.
Looking deeper at the Astro 3018 Digital Tire Pressure Guide And Inflator:
5. Tekton 5941 Digital Tire Gauge
Don’t get us wrong – we liked this inexpensive Tekton digital gauge a lot, and we think it’s a bargain. It just didn’t have quite enough going for it to be ranked “the best” digital gauge available. It’s lightweight and fits comfortably in the hand, the LED display is easy to read, and the results are pretty accurate. However, it only reads to 0.5 psi increments and it uses expensive lithium batteries, so we graded it down a bit for those reasons.
The Tekton can measure pressures from 0-100 psi, it has a 30-second auto-shutoff feature, and it has a lighted nozzle which isn’t quite as useful as the LED flashlight on the Michelin but still helps you find the valve in low light. This gauge may not last as long as some more expensive models, since it’s made primarily of plastic and manufactured in China. Then again, how often do you use a tire gauge, anyway?
The Tekton is a good choice for those who prefer a digital pressure gauge, but don’t want to spend a lot to buy one.
More info on the Tekton 5941 Digital Tire Gauge:
6. Jaco ElitePro Tire Pressure Gauge
Your House Garden found two major differences between the Jaco and the analog dial gauge that’s ranked higher on our list, the Tiretek. First, we mentioned that you could probably run over the Tiretek with a car and not damage it. But we’re guessing that you could run over this Jaco with a truck and have the same outcome (we didn’t actually try it, of course). The second difference is that the Jaco is priced about 1/3 higher than the Tiretek.
The similarities are easy to see. They’re both dial gauges that have been calibrated to +/- 2% by international standards, they’re both incredibly sturdy, they both have chucks that rotate 360° for easy use, they both have bleeder valves, and they both have large two-inch faces that are very easy to read.
There are a couple of differences, too. We’ve already alluded to the first one; it’s even sturdier. The Jaco ElitePro is made from heavy-duty steel and brass, with a high-quality outer rubber guard in the shape of an automotive gear. It also has a long flexible hose which you won’t find on the Tiretek, and the ElitePro reads pressures up to 100 psi rather than just 60 psi.
Are those differences worth a little extra money to you? If so, Your House Garden thinks the small extra cost justifies the Jaco’s higher price. Otherwise, we’d go with the Tiretek.
Specifications for the Jaco ElitePro Tire Pressure Gauge:
7. Accutire MS-4021B Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
Here’s our budget digital gauge choice, the Accutire MS-4021B. It’s true that (for the most part) we’re not talking about expensive tools, so “budget” really means you’ll be saving a couple of bucks. But for many people, small savings add up.
An angled, rubber-coated handle distinguishes the MS-4021B from most competitors; that doesn’t mean it’s easier to hold, but it is ergonomically-designed and comfortable to use. The gauge itself is made from lightweight plastic, but it should hold up just fine as long as you don’t mistreat it. There’s a single large LED display; the only negative the review team found was that you have to hold the unit in place for a few seconds before a reading comes up. The gauge also has an auto-shutoff feature.
We like the large range of pressures the Accutire can measure (from 5-150 psi) and we like its accuracy (+/- 1%), but we particularly like its price.
Looking closer at the Accutire MS-4021B Digital Tire Pressure Gauge:
8. Rhino USA Heavy Duty Tire Pressure Gauge
Here’s another workhorse in the analog dial category. Like the two gauges we’ve listed higher in the Your House Garden rankings the Rhino is built to last, with a large two-inch dial that glows in the dark and is easy to read. The fittings are made from solid brass and it has a braided hose, and the protective rubber cover does its job well.
The range of pressures the Rhino can measure runs from 0-75 psi, not quite as high as the Jaco ElitePro but more than enough for consumer auto tire purposes. It’s certified to be accurate within +/- 2% by international standards, and there’s also a pressure relief valve. One caution: the manufacturer claims that the Rhino gauge is made in America – but from what we can tell, it’s assembled in America from Chinese parts. That doesn’t mean this is a bad product, only that the marketing could be a bit more honest.
The Rhino USA gauge is pretty much on a par with the higher-ranked Jaco, and around the same price point. We just liked the added range of the Jaco.
The FAQ on the Rhino USA Heavy Duty Tire Pressure Gauge:
9. Tuisy Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
Two features make the Tuisy digital model worth considering as an alternative to the gauges we’ve already reviewed. The first is its design; the system is closed and leakproof, so no air can escape between the body and the dial. The second is that as with the Astro, an air hose can be connected to the bottom of the unit so that it is able to function as an inflator as well as a deflator and gauge – at a price much lower than you’ll pay for the Astro.
The Tuisy has a high range of measurement (up to 150 psi), it has a lock-on chuck for easy use, and it’s one of the only models we’ve seen that comes with both Schrader and Presta valves. That means it can be used to measure tire pressures on just about any bike without having to purchase a separate adapter. Accuracy is +/- 1%.
The Astro’s high price is justified because it’s a better-made, more full-featured pressure gauge than this Tuisy. But if you like some of the features they have in common, you can find them on the Tuisy without spending big bucks.
Digging deeper into the Tuisy Digital Tire Pressure Gauge:
10. Dan’s Auto Tire Pressure Gauge With Dual Tire Chucks
The people who most need accuracy, flexibility and durability in a tire gauge are professional racers – and they’re willing to pay a premium for those qualities. That’s why so many pros are willing to pay top dollar for this Dan’s gauge, which carries a retail price close to three figures.
This gauge has one of the largest displays we’ve seen on an analog dial unit. At a whopping 2.5 inches in diameter, no guesswork is necessary to make a quick and accurate pressure reading. (Like other top dial models, the Dan’s gauge is calibrated to international standards of +/- 2 psi to its maximum of 60 psi.) Construction is outstanding, with a military-grade rubber casing and air hose, and a dial that’s been filled with liquid glycol to prevent moisture from getting inside.
In addition to the standard auto chuck that rotates 360°, the Dan’s gauge also comes with two solid metal Schrader chucks specifically made to measure pressure on SUV and motorbike tires. You might not need them, but we guarantee there are professionals who do.
You’ll pay way too much for the Dan’s tire pressure guage – unless it’s the type of quality, precision tool you want for your favorite hobby or on a pro track. In that case, it’s well worth the price.
The scoop on the Dan’s Auto Tire Pressure Gauge With Dual Tire Chucks:
11. Longacre 52-52002 Liquid-Filled Tire Gauge
We’ve included another option for those who are concerned with precision and willing to pay extra for it. The Longacre liquid-filled gauge is half the price of the Dan’s model, yet still quite expensive for “just a gauge.” That is, unless accuracy is paramount to you, as it is to the folks in the racing industry who regularly buy Longacre’s renowned products.
Two design features are notable on the 52-52002. First, the gauge is filled with oil. That allows the tool to handle sudden pressure changes and shocks extremely well, while still delivering extremely accurate results. Second, there’s a built-in pressure equalization screw, which makes sure the temperature inside the gauge matches the outdoor temperature and eliminates any mistaken readings due to heat or cold.
The Longacre, like the Dan’s gauge, has a large, easily-read 2.5 inch dial, and it can be read in 0.5 psi increments unlike most competitors whose dials are only marked in 1.0 psi intervals. It can measure pressure up to 60 psi.
This is a specialty gauge which isn’t really necessary to check your tire pressures once a month. But it certainly is a beauty, which many professionals and serious hobbyists will love.
Digging deeper on the Longacre 52-52002 Liquid-Filled Tire Gauge:
12. McLintech 5 in 1 Tire Pressure Gauge
Our final pressure gauge is admittedly more of a novelty than a high-end product, but it’s a good quality gauge that would also make a terrific father’s day gift or stocking stuffer. It’s a reasonably-priced digital model that has a display range up to 150 psi with an accuracy of +/- 1 psi, a backlit LED display and an easy-to-hold rubber grip.
And as they say on the “As Seen on TV” commercials: “But wait, there’s more!” This tool also has two LED flashlights, plus an emergency seat-belt cutter and a hammer to pop out a car window in case of emergency. What more could you ask for?
There are better tire pressure gauges available for the money, but none would be as cool a gift as the McLintech. It does a good job checking pressures, too.
Digging deeper into the McLintech 5 in 1 Tire Pressure Gauge:
Tire Pressure Gauge Buying Guide
Everyone who owns or drives a car knows that tires are supposed to be inflated to a certain pressure. However, most only think about their tires because they don’t want to have a blowout or flat, or perhaps because they want good traction in a winter snow storm. Those folks don’t understand just how important tire inflation is to the day-to-day operation of a car – and to the cost of driving it.
Why Tire Pressure Matters
Obviously, if the air pressure in a tire drops so low that it can’t maintain its proper shape, you have a flat. And if the pressure is already too high, you’re at risk for a blowout on hot days when the internal pressure increases even more. Those are far from the only reasons, though, to pay careful attention to your tire pressures.
Automobile tires usually lose about 1 psi (pound per square inch) of pressure every month, just from being driven. It takes only a minute or two to check them once per month.
How To Check Tire Pressure
After you’ve checked your tire pressures for the first time, you won’t believe how simple the task is.
Before starting, you’ll need to know what the optimal pressure is for your tires. You’ll usually find it listed on a sticker inside the driver’s side door or inside the glove compartment; if there’s no sticker, it will be listed in your owners’ manual. Be aware that for some cars there are different recommended pressures for front and rear tires. Some manufacturers recommend adding 3 to 5 psi per tire during severe winter weather, but that should be listed in your manual as well.
One other caution: tire pressure changes after you’ve been driving. Always check tire pressures when the engine is cold, if possible.
Your House Garden assumes that you know what your tires look like, so you know that there’s a valve stem (usually with a rubber or plastic screw-off cap) sticking out from each tire. That’s where the air is pumped in, and it’s also where you use a tire gauge to check the pressure.
The process couldn’t be easier. Unscrew the cap and fit the top of the gauge into the valve stem; it will fit snugly, you’ll hear a bit of air escaping, and then the “hiss” will stop. That just means you’re doing it right, and you won’t be releasing much air.
If you’re using a stick gauge, the inside measurement rod will pop out and – poof – it will show you the psi number you’re looking for. If you’re using a more complicated model, it may take a couple of seconds and it will display the psi. That’s it. You’re done.
If your pressure is too low, you’ll need to pump some air in via the same valve stem (most gas stations have air pumps). If the pressure is too low, just hold the gauge tip in the valve stem at an angle, so you hear air escaping. Check the pressure again to make sure you’ve hit the sweet spot, and you’re done.
We told you it was easy, didn’t we?
Types of Pressure Gauges for Tires
You’ll find three major styles of tire pressure gauges to choose from.
Which is best? It’s largely a matter of personal preference, since testing has shown that there’s not a significant difference in accuracy between dial and digital gauges, and the rougher approximation you’ll get from a stick gauge is usually more than enough to determine if your tires are inflated properly.
Tire Pressure Gauge Features to Consider
You’ve certainly guessed by now that the key questions involved in choosing a pressure gauge focus on convenience.
If you want something small, lightweight and easy to handle, a stick-style tire pressure gauge makes the most sense. On the other hand, if your vision requires a tool that’s easier to read or you’ll be using it in low-light conditions, an LED or back-lit display or dial would be a smarter choice.
Even mechanics find that psi readings within a pound or so are more than accurate enough to measure tire inflation. But sticklers for detail, or those who are using the gauge for more-sensitive readings (like tire inflation on racing bikes), might prefer small, well-marked psi increments on the dial or a precise LED readout.
Manufacturer recommendations for nearly all passenger tires specify pressure somewhere between 30-40 psi. However, small “donut” spare tires are usually inflated to around 60 psi, while the tire pressure on large trucks can range up to 100 psi or higher. Be sure that the gauge you choose has an active psi range to fit your needs.
Some larger gauges are able to do more than just display tire pressure. There are models with dual readouts, ones which can bleed air easily, ones that can also measure tire tread, and some which are even combined with a pump. That’s far more than most drivers need, but they’re available. The fancier the tire pressure gauge, the more likely it is to have a hose leading to the dial or display; pay attention to the length of that hose, because it can become quite cumbersome quite quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions about Tire Pressure Gauges
Q: Are fancier or more expensive pressure gauges better?
Q: Should you check tire pressure more often if you think you might have a leak?
Q: What happens to tire pressures in the winter?
Q: Is nitrogen a better alternative than air for filling tires?