The Best Tire Pressure Gauge of 2020
The Accutire MS-4021B Digital tire gauge is not the most impressive looking 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 is 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 recalibrate 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 can 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, which 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 test and the best option for most folks' glove box.
The JACO ElitePro is one of the most accurate tire gauges in our tests. We like its sturdy feel and how easy it is 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 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 that easy seal. Another is that they don't require batteries and aren't as affected by cold weather as digital options. The JACO still glows 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 spiky rubber guards help protect them, 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.
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. An automatic flashlight helps you find your tire valve in low light. The stainless steel chuck is sturdy, and the two AAA batteries are straightforward to replace. The gauge has a 1-year warranty that you can extend an additional year by registering it.
Since the gauge is long, you can operate it further from the tire valve, making 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 would 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 thought it was a great option to keep in the shop as a backup. Others are willing to compromise on space to have a sturdy, easily readable option 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 get your tire pressure to the 0.1 PSI in pitch-black conditions. The screen is equally easy to see during the day, and quickly cycles through its four unit options with the touch of its one, universal button. There is no off switch, and the unit 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 got a good seal. Still, it was more consistent than some other options in the test. The unit is light, which we like, but it rattles out of the box, and the four battery situation makes it a pain to repower. The 1-year limited warranty is comforting, though. It's a good option that never forces you to work too hard for 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 +/- 2% of your reading 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 its 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.
But it's not perfect. Its low-pressure range, which makes it easy to read, is too low for most road bikes. And many online reviewers note that it is an accurate gauge, until it's not, raising durability concerns. The rubber cover does protect 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, steel and brass battery-free gauge.
We will probably always have one of these classic stick gauges in the car as backup. The Milton S-921 is sturdier than most, made in the USA from plated brass. The main arguments for these gauges are that you can't kill them and their small size lets them slip into even the most filled glove boxes. With only one moving part and no batteries to run out or freeze up in low temperatures, this gauge will work under pretty much all circumstances. It also has a built-in deflator tab on the back of the gauge, though you can't control how much air you release.
On the downside, stick gauges aren't exact, and the Milton doesn't escape this universal challenge. This gauge is consistently one PSI higher than all other gauges tested. In an emergency, it'll give you some idea of what is going on with your tires, but it isn't the tool to nail exact tire pressure. On its positive side, it offers fool-proof, years-long operation at a bargain price and size that fits the most budgets and space restrictions.
The Mclintech is good for those who love saving space while preparing for every eventuality. It can cut your seatbelt, light your way in the dark, break your car window in case of 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 whosits and whatsits in. The light meant to help you see the tire's valve is right where you want your pointer finger to rest, defeating the purpose. And your hand pushes against the flashlight and window breaker release buttons in the back. The gauge is one of the less accurate options in the test, partially because it's shallow chuck and awkward nature make it harder to get a good seal with 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.
The brass chuck swivels 360 degrees, and the construction feels reasonably solid, but the Rhino's braided hose picked up a concerning kink early in 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 works, 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 option. Since it only measures to 75 PSI, it's tick marks are spaced further apart.
Dial gauges generally require more care than the other options in the test, but we were surprised that this one was damaged so easily. 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 that warranty.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tire pressure tester, Clark Tate, is a van lifer and mountain biker. She needs reliable tools that can handle life on the road and is used to pulling out a tire gauge several times a day to set mountain bikes up for group rides. Clark pays close attention to the tire pressure on her 1994 4x4 Toyota Hiace when she hits the highway or heads up rocky old forest service roads. From dropping tire pressures 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 read scores of online user reviews and analyzed spec lists to help us find the top eight options reviewed here. Then we bought them all, read through their user manuals, and created a test plan to compare 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've narrowed down the list to help you keep your tires running smooth, 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 (pressure per square inch) and then took the pressure ten times with each gauge. We repeated this three times and averaged the readings to measure accuracy and ease of use. Aside from our week of testing, we also read user reviews to learn about their durability over time. We also compared and contrasted the various features of each of the options 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-4021B Digital model is the best in the test. Its ergonomic shape helps 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 scorers.
The two AstroAl gauges also performed well, with the digital handgun edging out the heavy-duty option. Keep in mind that battery-operated digital gauges like the Accutire have temperature accuracy restrictions. They are extreme, 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 and 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 will 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 consistently line it up 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 are 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 visually align, 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 the incorrect angle if you're holding the rubberized plastic handle. If you grip the metal section with both hands, you get a much more consistent result.
The Mclintech and AstroAl guns are harder to consistently check tire pressure, as is the Rhino, due to a shallower chuck stem that makes 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 a 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 their pressure units by pressing one button.
The bright white TireTek dial, with its sparse 60 PSI tick marks, is also a cinch to interpret. But 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 converting.
This is the only metric where the Accutire suffers. Its display is the worst in the test. You have to hold it up at the right angle to find out what's going on. This rating is also the Milton's Achilles heel. Even if it were always one PSI off all the time, the inexpensive and durable nature would win the day if it weren't so hard to read the thing. Is that 35.5 PSI or 36?
All the gauges we tested lock on each reading for a time. But, while the dial gauges hold the reading until you press the pressure release valve, and the Milton stick gauge holds it until you depress the nylon ruler, the digital gauges do automatically shut off after 20 to 40 seconds. This saves their batteries but could force you to retake the reading if you get distracted.
While we didn't test these gauges to failure, our lifetime of pressure gauge learning has taught us that the Milton will never die, the dial gauges will probably be the first to go (though we've got our fingers crossed for JACO), and the digital options will 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 a vote of confidence. Long-term online reviewers who use their gauges day-in and day-out, like bus drivers, weren't impressed. But for less intensive use, it seems to hold up well. The light-duty Accutire has replaceable batteries and very little to break. The simple design should last long enough to justify the reasonable price tag.
In contrast, the Mclintech has a lot of parts to break. That's not often a good thing when it comes to durability, and many online reviewers report various parts failing over time. The dial gauges have rubber guards protect from knocks because they need them. They have more delicate moving parts. Of these, the Rhino's braided hose seems the greatest weak spot. The JACO and TireTek are poised to fair better.
On the plus side, all of 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, you're mostly choosing between the measurable pressure relief valves on the dial gauges and the flashlights and illuminated displays of the digital models, with 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 you can't measure how much air you're releasing like you can with a dial gauge.
The AstroAl models provide 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 gives you two flashlights and enough tools to get Hoodini out of a box at the bottom of a river. It's hard to say how much good they'll 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 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 perfectly optimized tire pressures.
— Clark Tate