Because under-inflated tires hurt fuel economy, handling, braking, and overall safety, it's essential to monitor their pressure regularly. You spend good money buying a set of tires, so why waste it on premature wear due to underinflation? Keeping a quality tire pressure gauge in the glovebox of each vehicle you own makes sense.
With radial tires, you cannot "eyeball" tire pressure. If you haven't checked them in a while, it's more than likely that they are too low right now. Tire pressure will drop 1 psi for every 10-degree drop in Fahrenheit. And regardless of climate, all tires lose air gradually through the rubber - even when a vehicle isn't driven or a tire isn't on the vehicle. If you don't believe it, check the pressure in your spare!
In this article, we'll look at 3 different types of tire pressure gauges we offer: pencil, dial, and digital. We'll also look at some 12V air compressors, and combination inflators/gauges.
We'll start with the absolute lowest-cost pencil gauges - useful for vehicle fleets or situations where gauges disappear frequently. We've got reliable, low-cost pencil gauges from Powerbuilt, Wilmar, and Titan.
We recommend pencil gauges from Gorilla Automotive and Armor All for those seeking value, compact dimensions, and the durability of metal housings that can take knocks.
When it comes to dial gauges, our best value pick is the Astro Pneumatic Tool 2-in-1 Tire Pressure & Tread Depth Gauge. First, it's fitted with a thick, shock-resistant rubber sleeve that protects it against impacts. The dial face measures pressure in psi and bar, and a separate dial measures tread depth via a small rod that slides out of the bottom.
The Professional Products Tire Pressure Gauge can also be optioned with a tread depth reader as well as a 120psi readout. If you've got a classic car with spoke wheels or hubcaps, this gauge's straight and slim end allows easier reach through narrow areas where traditional heads can't fit.
And for best value convenience, we've got the Armor All Multipurpose Digital Tire Gauge with backlit digital readout, fold-out tools, and led light.
For a higher degree of accuracy, consider liquid-filled dial gauges. Casings are filled with silicone, glycerin, or other lubricants that dampen pressure spikes and vibrations caused by idling engines. Corrosion and wear on sensitive internal components is greatly reduced also. For starters, we've got Power Tanks' liquid-filled Hands-Free Tire Gauge.
We've also got the QuickCar Racing Liquid-Filled Tire Gauge and Longacre Liquid-Filled Glow-In-The-Dark gauge. While both feature pressure release buttons and swivel chuck heads, Longacre's model adds a glow-in-the-dark face and 1/2-pound dial increments.
If you use oversized "monster" valves for quicker inflation/deflation in off-roading or racing situations, the Power Tank liquid-filled Hands-Free Tire Pressure Gauge (choose 60 or 160 psi) features a clip-on chuck created just for monster valves.
For those who prefer digital readouts, we've got highly-calibrated gauges that break psi readings down into tenths of a pound while maintaining accuracy. Our selection includes offerings from Proform (60psi), QuickCar Racing (60psi), Joe's Racing (60psi), and Longacre (100psi).
Semi and heavy equipment truck drivers who run tires at over 100psi will appreciate easy-to-see digital tire pressure gauges that are specifically calibrated for accurate measurements up to 150 psi. In addition to analog ones referenced above, we've got the Power Tank 150 psi Digital Tire Gauge and OTC Digital Tire Gauge (150psi).
Other Tire Accessories
If you're an enthusiast, you'll probably appreciate a few of the products we've got below that go beyond just checking pressures.
Inflate Tires Yourself
For those who wish to perform their own tire inflation, we've got the equipment you need. First, portable air compressors from Smittybilt and Slime (choose light- or heavy-duty) can be used anywhere there's a 12-volt outlet.
Inflate AND check pressures
We also have tire inflator handles with built-in gauges from QuickCar Racing (60psi with or without liquid filled gauge), Power Tank (160psi), Longacre (60psi), and Joe's Racing (digital readout) to name a few. These connect to a compressed air line from a pump or tank.
At these price points, we strongly recommend that you purchase one tire pressure gauge for every vehicle you own, keep one in each glove box, AND use them to check your pressures! The professional recommendation is once a week; if that's not realistic, aim for several times a month. You and your tires will be better off!