Best Tire Pressure Gauge
The Accutire MS-4021 Digital was not the most impressive looking gauge in the test, but it gets the job done right more often than the rest. Its ergonomic shape places the driving force of your thumb in line with the tire valve for a consistently accurate reading. The rubber-coated handle is pleasant to the touch and comfortable for a range of hand sizes. The display freezes on your pressure reading, so you don't have to scramble to get a good look at it. The Accutire is accurate to 0.5 PSI, and you can calibrate it at any time. It's also backed by a five-year manufacture defect warranty. It even works at a lower temperature than most digital gauges, operating from 14 to 122-degrees Fahrenheit.
The digital readout is a reasonable size, but it can still be hard on the eyes. You usually have to pull it away from the tire and angle the rose-colored LCD toward you to read it. Cycling through unit options is also tricky. You have to press and hold the "wake up" button below the valve for several seconds. The Accutire is very light, but this makes it seem cheap. And, when it dies, the three alkaline LR44 1.5V coin batteries are a bit of a pain to switch out. Still, this is our favorite gauge in the review and the best option for most folks' glove box.
The JACO ElitePro is one of the most accurate tire gauges in our tests. We liked its sturdy feel and how easy it was to get a good seal on the tire valve. The 360-degree swivel chuck is deeper than the similar Rhino option, holding the tire valve in place and making it easier to get an accurate reading on the first try. Dial-style gauges also have a few advantages. One is a bleeder valve that shows you how much air you are releasing as you go, and the JACO performs this task well thanks to its secure seal. Another is that they don't require batteries and aren't as affected by cold weather as digital options. The JACO can glow in the dark for easy night-time readings.
The JACO is well-made, and the "leak-proof" rubber air hose seems durable, as do the brass chuck and connection points. But, while the spiky rubber helps guard this model, dial gauges are less durable by nature. That's worrisome since this gauge is one of the pricier options. You do get a 100% lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee, though ours has yet to break to test the process. The long hose is also bulky, making this a less practical choice for a glove box. If you're looking for a battery-free, accurate gauge to store in a roomy car, toolbox, or garage, we recommend this one.
We will probably always have one of these classic stick gauges in the car as a backup. The Milton S-921 is sturdier than most and made in the USA from plated brass. The main argument for these gauges is that you can't kill them and their small size lets them slip into even the most overstuffed glove box. With only one moving part and no batteries to drain or freeze in low temperatures, this gauge will work under almost all circumstances. It also has a built-in deflator tab on the back of the gauge, though it won't let you set a specific amount of air to release.
On the downside, stick gauges aren't exact, and the Milton doesn't escape this universal problem. This gauge was consistently one PSI higher than all other gauges tested. In an emergency, it can give you some idea of what is going on with your tires, but it isn't the tool to nail an exact tire pressure. On the positive side, it offers fool-proof operation at a bargain price and a compact size that fits most space restrictions.
For tires with inward-facing valves or any tire that requires higher pressures, the AstroAl Digital Heavy Duty Dual Head tire gauge is a good option. The gauge forms a good seal with the tire valve in both directions, and its bright green, backlit LCD display is effortless to read. Its automatic flashlight can also help you find your tire valve in low light. The stainless-steel chuck is sturdy, and the two AAA batteries are straightforward to replace. This gauge comes with a 1-year warranty that you can extend an extra year by registering it.
Since the gauge is long, you can operate it further from the tire valve, but this makes it easier to mess up your alignment, let out excess air, and compromise your pressure reading. It works with practice, but you get better readings and lose less air if you use two hands. This is a big tire gauge. It could make sense to haul along for longer road trips or for cross country truckers, but it's a bit overkill for most passenger cars. Some of our testers think it is a great option to keep in the shop as a backup. Others were willing to compromise on space to have a sturdy and easily readable gauge with a built-in flashlight.
The AstroAl Digital is our favorite option for quick night-time readings. You can hold it in one hand, and the lighted nozzle and bright blue LCD make it easy to read your tire pressure to within 0.1 PSI in pitch-black conditions. The screen is equally easy to see during the day and quickly cycles through its four different unit options with the touch of its one universal button. There is no/off switch, and the gauge turns itself off after 30 or 40 seconds to save its batteries.
The gauge's curved lines make it harder to line up at a right angle, and we often had to take the pressure a few times, letting out excess air before we were able to get a good seal. Still, it was more consistent than some other options in the test. This model is light, which we like, but it rattles out of the box, and its four-battery power requirement makes it a bit of a pain. The 1-year limited warranty is comforting, though. This gauge is a good option that never forces you to work too hard to get a reading, especially at night.
The TireTek Premium is a cinch to use and read. It was accurate in our tests and is certified to be accurate to +/- 2% by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Certification is not the end-all-be-all of accuracy, but we appreciate it. The TireTek combines the easy readability and precise air release of a dial gauge with the compact chuck of a stick valve. It's easy to grip in one hand, and the bright white display and scant 60 tick marks of measurement clearly show your tire PSI. The full-circle swivel chuck is deep enough to ensure a secure valve connection, and you can always adjust it to have the dial facing you.
Despite these benefits, this gauge isn't perfect. It has a low-pressure range, which makes it easy to read, but it's too low for most road bikes. The rubber cover supplies some protection from impacts, and the gauge comes with a 12-month warranty for manufacturing defects. You can also register for a lifetime warranty online. For a reasonable price, you can own a compact, easy to use and read, battery-free, steel and brass gauge.
The Mclintech is good for those who love saving space while staying prepared for any eventuality. It can cut your seatbelt, light your way in the dark, break your car window in an emergency, and check your tire pressure. It works, and the bright, backlit display makes the pressure easy to read until it fades to black lettering after about 10 seconds.
Its performance suffers predictably from concessions made to fit the extra features in. The light that's meant to help you see the tire's valve is right where you want your pointer finger to rest, defeating the purpose. Meanwhile, your hand pushes against the flashlight and window breaker release buttons in the back. The gauge was one of the less accurate options in our tests, partially because it's shallow chuck and awkward nature make it harder to get a good seal on the valve stem. If you just check your tire pressure once a month and want to be able to cut your seatbelt at a moment's notice, it's a reasonable option.
Although the brass chuck can swivel 360 degrees and the construction feels reasonably solid, the Rhino's braided hose picked up a concerning kink early on in our testing. The chuck is also shallower than the other tire gauge options, making it easier to accidentally release air than to get a solid pressure reading. While this gauge seems fairly accurate, every reading we took dropped. It still seems to work, but we like the other dial options better. The gauge face glows in the dark and is a little easier to read than the JACO model. Since it only measures to 75 PSI, it's tick marks are conveniently spaced further apart.
Dial gauges generally require more care than the digital options in the test, but we were surprised at how quickly this one got damaged. They do have a refund-backed satisfaction guarantee. If you want a dial gauge made the US, this gauge certainly works, but you might need its warranty.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tire pressure tester, Clark Tate, is a van lifer and mountain biker. She depends on reliable tools that can handle life on the road and is experienced using a tire gauge several times a day to set mountain bikes up for group rides. Clark also pays close attention to the tire pressure on her 1994 4x4 Toyota Hiace when she hits the highway or heads up rocky forest service roads. From dropping tire pressure to cut across Baja's beaches at low tide to tuning the van up for a long road trip, Clark is no stranger to routine tire checks and late-night breakdowns (mostly the van's).
We bought all the gauges, read through their user manuals, and created a test plan to evaluate their relative strengths and weaknesses. We handed them around to our car and motocross obsessed friends to put decades of expertise to work for you. From the best glove compartment companion to the most consistently accurate, we tried to narrow down the list to help you keep your tires running smoothly and correctly inflated every time.
Analysis and Test Results
We tested these tire gauges for their accuracy, ease of use, and durability. We used a digital tire inflator to standardize car tire pressures to 35 PSI (pounds per square inch) and then took the pressure ten times with each gauge. We repeated this three times and averaged the readings to assess accuracy and ease of use. Aside from our week of testing, we also compared the various features that each option offers to help you find the best tool for you.
Running the right tire pressures is great for your safety, your tires, the environment, and your bottom line. To reap these benefits, you need an accurate tire gauge, and the Accutire MS-4021 Digital model was the best in this test. Its ergonomic shape helped us get a consistent seal, letting very little air escape with each measurement. It most consistently matched the air pressure in our tires (as measured by the pressure gauge built into our tire inflator) and includes instructions to recalibrate it from time to time.
The JACO ElitePro and TireTek Premium also performed very well in our tests. The JACO and TireTek are both certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to ±1.5% and ±2% of their readings, respectively. The Rhino USA gauge also holds an ANSI certification of ±1.5%. While it stayed within that range in our tests, it was less accurate and consistent than the top performers.
The two AstroAl gauges also performed well, with the digital handgun edging out the heavy-duty option. Keep in mind that battery-powered digital gauges like the Accutire have temperature accuracy restrictions. These ranges are wide, in Accuitre's case 14 to 122-degrees F, but worth considering if you live in cold climates. Digital gauges also have automatic battery-saving settings that can get annoying when they shut down unexpectedly, losing your reading.
Traditional stick gauges or dial gauges, like the JACO and TireTek, do not have these issues. So, while the classic Milton S-921 Single Chuck Head Pencil is consistently one PSI above the tire pressure, it should continue to work for you no matter how cold it gets.
Ease of Pressure Check
A gauge's accuracy is closely tied to how easy it is to use. If you can line it up consistently with the tire valve, you're less likely to let unnecessary air escape and miss capturing it all with the gauge. The gauges that form the best, most consistent seals were the Accutire, the TireTek, and the Milton. This is mostly thanks to a deeper well in the chuck that holds the tire's valve stem in line. The JACO has this as well, making it incredibly easy to get a good seal every time, but it's a little more cumbersome since you need both hands to use it — one for the chuck and one for the dial.
The Accutire shines here. Its awkward-looking right angles make it easy to align visually, and a thumb imprint places the force of your hand directly in line with the valve. Pretty brilliant. The AstroAl Dual Head gauge isn't bad either. It's just so long that it's easy to hit the valve at ab incorrect angle if you're holding the rubberized plastic handle. If you grip the metal section with both hands, you can get much more consistent results.
The Mclintech, the Rhino, and the AstroAl guns seemed to make it harder to check tire pressure consistently. Our frustrations with the Rhino were due to a shallower chuck stem that made it too easy to let the air out of the tire accidentally.
Ease of Reading
Some of the displays on various tire gauges are far easier to interpret than others. The bright green display on the AstroAl Dual Head is the gold standard. You can read that pressure reading from 10 paces away. Its little brother, the AstroAl gun gauge, is a close second, with a glowing blue LCD screen. Both make it easy to cycle through the pressure units by pressing one button.
The bright white TireTek dial, with its sparse 60 PSI tick marks, is also a cinch to interpret. However, it doesn't light up at night like the other two dial gauges. Of course, these only give you a PSI reading, so if you're looking for additional units, you'll need to do some math.
This is the only metric where the Accutire suffers. Its display is the worst in the test. You have to hold it at just the right angle to find out what's going on. Ease of reading is also the Milton's Achilles heel. Even if it were always one PSI off, its inexpensive and durable nature would have won the day — if only it weren't so hard to read the thing. Is that 35.5 PSI or 36?
All the gauges we tested lock on their reading for a time. The dial gauges, for example, hold the reading until you press the pressure release valve, while the Milton stick gauge holds it until you depress the nylon ruler. The digital gauges continue to display their readings until they automatically shut off after 20 to 40 seconds. This saves their batteries but could force you to retake the reading if you get distracted.
We didn't test these gauges to failure, but our lifetime of pressure gauge learning has taught us that the Milton is unlikely to ever die. The dial gauges, in contrast, may be the first to go (though we've got our fingers crossed for JACO). Finally, the digital options are harder to assess, and we suspect their durability might be a bit of a mixed bag. Online consumer reviews back up these generalizations.
The heavy-duty AstroAl Dual Head's solid steel chuck gains it a vote of confidence. For less intensive use, it seems to hold up well. The light-duty Accutire has replaceable batteries and very little to break. Its simple design should last long enough to justify the reasonable price tag.
In contrast, the Mclintech has a lot of breakable parts. That's not often a good thing when it comes to durability. The dial gauges have rubber guards to protect them from knocks because they need them. These gauges also have more delicate moving parts. Of these, the Rhino's braided hose seems like the greatest weak spot. The JACO and TireTek seem poised to fare better.
On the plus side, all these gauges (excepting the Milton, of course, and the AstroAl gun) have pretty proud warranties that online customers have employed in the past.
When it comes to features, it's mostly a choice between the measurable pressure relief valves on the dial gauges and the flashlights and illuminated displays of the digital models, with a couple notable exceptions.
The Milton stick gauge also has a built-in deflator. Just flip the chuck around and use the knob on the back to depress the valve stem, but it won't let you measure how much air you're releasing like you can with a dial gauge.
The AstroAl models include flashlights to help you find your valve stem at night, and the JACO and Rhino dials light up in the dark. Then there's the Mclintech, which includes two flashlights and an abundance of tools. It's hard to say how much good these features will do for the rest of us.
Hopefully, this review helped you find your next road trip companion. These products aren't very expensive, but you can reduce your frustration and save time and money by finding the one that suits your needs best on your first purchase. Cheers to rolling through life with the perfect tire pressure.
— Clark Tate