We tested tire pressure gauges from Accutire, Jaco, Milton, AstroAI, and others to find the perfect glove box companion
By Clark Tate ⋅ Senior Review Editor ⋅ Feb 9, 2023
We scoured the tire gauge market before buying and testing 8 of the best options head-to-head. Running the right tire pressure reduces wear and tear, increases fuel efficiency, and offers a smoother ride. To reap these rewards, you need to check your tires at least once a month. An easy-to-use pressure gauge will help you stick to the schedule, but it's hard to know which one will work for you. Our experts pulled out the air compressor and tested the accuracy, ease of use, and durability of these gauges to help. Then we tossed them in glove compartments and toolboxes to try them out in the wild. Keep reading to find an excellent gauge for your needs and budget.
PSI Range: 5 to 150 | Units: PSI, Bar, Kgf/cm², kPa
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to align
REASONS TO AVOID
No bleeder valve
Harder to read
Cycling through units is not intuitive
The Accutire MS-4021 Digital didn't win any points for fancy aesthetics, but it gets the job done right more often than any other model we tested and is our overall favorite tire gauge. 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 varying 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 even works at a lower temperature than most digital gauges, operating in the range of 14 to 122-degrees Fahrenheit.
The digital display 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 lightweight, 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 boxes.
The JACO ElitePro 100 PSI is one of the most accurate tire gauges in our test. 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 advantage is that these battery-free gauges aren't as affected by cold weather as digital options. The JACO can also 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. The long hose is also bulky, making this a less practical choice for a glove box. If you're looking for an accurate gauge that doesn't require batteries to store in your car, toolbox, or garage, we recommend this one.
We will probably always keep one of these classic stick gauges in the car as a backup. The Milton S-921 Pencil Gauge is sturdier than most and made in the USA from plated brass. What these analog gauges have going for them is that they're nearly impossible to break, 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.
PSI Range: 0 to 230 | Units: PSI, Bar, Kgf/cm², kPa
REASONS TO BUY
Works well on larger tires
Dual head for truck tires with inward valves
REASONS TO AVOID
Big for a glove compartment
Works best with two hands
Operating temp 23 to 122 F
Doesn't release pressure
For tires with inward-facing valves or any tire that requires higher pressures, the AstroAI Digital Dual Head 230 PSI 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 screen 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.
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 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.
Why You Should Trust Us
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.
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).
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.
While these gadgets are generally quite affordable, the products we tested still span a broad price spectrum. Our favorite basic budget option is the Milton S-921 Pencil Gauge, which is your standard, foolproof pencil gauge offered at a super affordable price. We think you can't go wrong keeping one of these tucked in your glove compartment. For a wallet-friendly digital option, we recommend the AstroAI Digital 150 PSI, which offers a brightly lit screen and only costs a few bucks more.
Running the right tire pressure 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 air compressor used to inflate to 35 PSI for each test) and includes instructions to recalibrate it from time to time.
The JACO ElitePro and TireTek 0-60 PSI both performed 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 AstroAI 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 Accutire's case, 14 to 122 degrees F) but worth considering if you live in a super cold climate. 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. And while the classic Milton S-921 is consistently one PSI above the tire pressure, it should continue to work for you no matter how cold it gets. The Topeak gauge is accurate if you can get a good seal between the gauge and the valve, but the shallow chuck makes that tricky.
The Jaco (left) and TireTek (right) both sport dial gauges.
We didn't test these gauges to failure, but our lifetime of pressure gauge experience has taught us that the Milton is unlikely to ever die. The dial gauges, in contrast, might be the first to go (though we've got our fingers crossed for JACO). 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 AstroAI Dual Head's solid steel chuck gains it a vote of confidence. It held up well to regular tire checks for nonprofessional drivers. The Topeak and Accutire models have replaceable batteries and very little to break. One of our testers has dealt the Topeak gauge specifically years of abuse and has yet to see signs of wear and tear. It should last long enough to justify the reasonable price tag.
The dial gauges have rubber guards to protect them from knocks because they need them. These gauges have delicate moving parts. Of these, the Rhino's braided hose seems like a weak spot. The JACO and TireTek seem poised to fare better.
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, TireTek, and Milton gauges. 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 AstroAI Dual Head gauge isn't bad either. It's just so long that it's easy to hit the valve at an 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 Rhino and the AstroAI 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 accidentally let the air out of the tire. The was also the problem with the Topeak, which is otherwise incredibly easy to hold and use.
Ease of Reading
Some of the tire gauge displays are far easier to interpret than others. The bright green display on the AstroAI Dual Head is the gold standard. You can read that pressure reading from 10 paces away. Its little brother, the AstroAI 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.
In contrast, this is the only metric where the Accutire suffers. Its display is one of the worst in the test. Some lighting conditions forced us to move around to find the right angle to allow us to read the screen. This metric 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? The Topeak's large digital display works much better, though it doesn't light up. You'll need a flashlight to use it at night.
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.
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 few notable exceptions.
The digital Topeak includes a bleeder valve. You do need to remember to press the tune button so it can track how much air you release, and then press it again when you're done so that the regular readings are accurate. 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 AstroAI models include flashlights to help you find your valve stem at night, and the JACO and Rhino dials light up in the dark.
Hopefully, this review helped you find your next road trip companion. These products aren't costly, but you can reduce your frustration and save time and money by finding the one that suits your needs. If you are interested, we have even more recommendations on the best tools to keep your life running smoothly. Cheers to rolling through life with the perfect tire pressure.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.