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Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for best digital tire gauges

Whether you drive a car, bike, truck, ATV, or RV, proper tire pressure is important, and a digital tire gauge is an inexpensive way to help maintain your tires. Several types of tire gauges are available, but digital ones are the easiest and most accurate to use, particularly in low light.

You will face a number of questions when looking for a digital tire gauge. For example, what can it measure? The majority of digital tire gauges do just one thing: tell you how much air is in your tire. While rare, some also have inflation capabilities, but you would probably need an air source to use with it. It’s also important to know what the range of your chosen gauge is, how it is powered, and how much to expect to pay for it.

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Driving can raise a tire’s pressure. A tire pressure check will be more accurate if you let your vehicle sit for several hours before testing the pressure.

Key considerations

Units of measure

Tire pressure can be measured in a variety of units, and the best digital tire gauges are able to switch between them. Some of the more common tire pressure units include the following:

PSI: Pounds per square inch
kPa: Kilopascals
BAR: Bars of pressure

A note on how these units relate to each other: 1 BAR = 14.7 PSI = 100 kPa.

Size

While larger than stick-like gauges, digital tire gauges should still be compact enough to easily fit in your hand (and an emergency road kit or glove compartment). Digital tire gauges range in size from 5 to 11 inches tall.

Range

While the majority of car tires are rated from 28 to 36 PSI, trucks and RVs typically have larger tires with much higher PSI. Even some car spare tires will have a higher PSI, so you should give some consideration to the range you’d need in a digital gauge before selecting one. If you have a car, a gauge capable of reading up to 100 PSI should be sufficient. Those who drive trucks or RVs will probably be better off going with a gauge capable of reading up to 150 PSI.

How accurate is it?

Digital tire gauges are generally much more accurate than other types of tire pressure gauges. Even with digital gauges, however, some are more accurate than others, often to within .5 PSI. If you need this kind of accuracy, check product specs carefully.

Power

Batteries are the power option of choice for digital tire gauges, although the type of battery required can vary. Some gauges use relatively inexpensive AAAs; others require expensive lithium coin cells or button cells.

While battery operation makes these gauges highly portable, it also means that you will need to periodically replace them. If possible, find out how long batteries tend to last in a given gauge, and note whether the gauge ships with all the batteries you would need to run it right out of the box.

While stick-type gauges have long been popular, a digital tire gauge has no mechanical parts. As such, it will not be affected by contaminants such as dirt and dust.

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Features

Housing

What is a digital tire gauge made from? Less-expensive gauges are crafted largely from plastic, while pricier gauges tend to incorporate rugged rubber in their design. Durable all-metal gauges can also be found. A soft, ergonomic grip for comfort is common. Regardless of what goes into its construction, the housing should be designed so you can easily grip it and simultaneously use it to read tire pressure.

Nozzle

The nozzle is where the gauge and tire valve meet, and it is one of the more important elements of a quality digital tire gauge. It should seal to the valve securely so air does not leak. Neck length can range from short to long, the latter of which will be much more important if you are using the gauge with a truck, RV, or dual tire system. Some nozzles include adapters so you can use the gauge straight or at an angle.

Lighted nozzles are common, and they are beneficial if you find yourself trying to use the gauge in low light. While rare, some digital tire gauges have such a powerful light that you can also use them as flashlights.

Display

Windowed displays are standard on digital tire gauges. Those that are backlit are easiest to read in any light. Note how long the display will stay on when you are checking a tire’s pressure. A display that stays on longer will be easier to read, but it will also drain the batteries faster.

Controls

The majority of digital tire gauges feature simple one-button operation, though you may find a few that feature additional control elements.

Carry case

While rare for a digital tire gauge, some ship with a carry case to house and protect it when not in use.

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DID YOU KNOW?
Underinflated tires generate more heat when you drive than normally inflated tires, which can lead to tire failure.
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Digital tire gauge prices

Digital tire gauges start out at under $10 and can reach upwards of $20 or more. The majority sit in the $10 to $15 range.

Low-end: Digital tire gauges that cost less than $10 are quite simple and usually made of plastic. The range measured may be lower than 100 PSI.

Mid-range: In the $10 to $15 price tier, you will find gauges with a higher range — usually up to 150 PSI. These tend to be made of durable materials like rubber or metal. The majority of single gauges for general use are found in this price range.

High-end: Digital tire gauges that cost more than $15 are usually one of two types. They may be members of a multipack of less-expensive gauges, or they may be single products that are professional-grade tools. Professional-grade tire gauges often measure up to 200 PSI and are made entirely of metal with an extended neck. You will also find some gauge/inflation combinations in this price range.

Your front and rear tires may require different pressures. Check your owner manual or other vehicle information to verify if this is the case for your vehicle.

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Tips

  • Check your tires once a month to maintain proper inflation. Perform an additional check before you set out on an extended road trip.
  • When checking your tire pressure, don’t neglect the spare. Regular-size spares usually require the same pressure as your other four tires, while “doughnut” spares often require a higher PSI (typically 60 PSI).
  • Underinflation isn’t the only issue you need to worry about when dealing with tire inflation. Overinflated tires can lead to uneven tire wear, which can shorten the life of the tire and lead to a rough ride.
  • Most digital tire gauges are not equipped to inflate tires. Consider picking up an inexpensive portable air compressor to go with your gauge.
  • A digital tire gauge is only as good as its batteries. Keep a spare set of batteries on hand in case you need them.
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The three types of tire pressure gauges are stick-type gauges (shaped like a pen), digital gauges, and dial gauges (with a clock-type readout).

FAQ

Q. Why is tire pressure important?

A. While both overinflation and underinflation can harm a tire, underinflation — having too little air in your tire — is much more common. Keeping tires at the proper inflation level can reduce tire wear, leading to longer tire life. Proper tire inflation can also lead to better fuel efficiency and handling, which result in a smoother and safer ride.

Q. How can I determine the correct air pressure for my tires?

A. When determining how much air to put in your tires, opt for the car manufacturer’s recommendations instead of the maximum pressure listed on the tire itself. Using the vehicle recommended pressure will result in the best performance, fuel economy, and ride. This information will either be in your owner’s manual or on a sticker near the driver’s side door, inside the glove compartment, or on the inside of the fuel filler door.

Q. Can I use my digital tire gauge on my bike tires?

A. Generally, yes. The only problem you could have is if your bike uses a different type of tire valve. The majority of automotive and bike tires use Schrader valves, which is what a standard digital tire gauge will work with. Some bike tires, however, use Presta valves, which are slimmer than Schrader valves. To use a digital tire gauge with Presta valves, you would either need a gauge that fits them or a Presta adapter that fits on your existing gauge.

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