The 10 Best Digital Tire Gauges
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in October of 2015. Having the wrong air pressure in your tires -- whether that be too much or too little -- is not only dangerous, but can lead to poor fuel consumption, poor handling, uneven wear, and a shorter tire life. Keep your rubber at the proper level at all times with one of these easy-to-read digital gauges. Some even double as inflators and can be programmed to stop at a desired PSI. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 13, 2020:
It is important to keep your tires inflated to the proper PSI for both safety and mechanical reasons. While in a perfect world it may just be easy enough to make a quick pitstop at a gas station to check your levels, in reality, more often than not those gauges on those tire inflation machines are either wildly inaccurate or completely broken. So, it is probably a smart idea to keep one of the digital tire gauges on this list in your vehicle or home.
If looking for something to keep in your vehicle, it will almost always be better to choose a compact model that you can store in an easily-accessible location, like the glovebox, door pocket, or under the seat. This way, you don't have to rummage through your belongings in your trunk when you want to check your tire pressure. With than in mind, we recommend the Michelin MN-4205B, ProReady 150, Lantoo ST-A0012, Roadgear TG101, Accutire MS-48R, Ionox Ion-15S, and AstroAI ATG230 for in-vehicle storage. Of course, certain models are better suited to certain applications. For example, the Roadgear TG101 has a swiveling, 90-degree chuck that makes it best for use on motorcycles where you often need to get into a tight space to reach the valve. However, this same 90-degree chuck that makes it ideal for motorcycles can make it awkward to use on cars. Conversely, the AstroAI ATG230 is ideal for use on big trucks thanks to its extended tip. Also, because of a double-sided head, you can check your pressure easily without bending over, even if the valve is at the top of the rim facing downwards. The Michelin MN-4205B and Lantoo ST-A0012 are both great for emergency situations because they have a seatbelt cutter and window breaker, eliminating the need to buy those implements separately.
The Astro 3018, Jaco FlowPro, and AstroAI TIG250B are generally best to keep at home or in a mechanic shop. Because they also function as inflators, you'll get the most out of them when you can use them in conjunction with a compressor. While the AstroAI TIG250B is one of our favorites due to its versatility, we find the inclusion of so many accessories without a case to store everything to be a bit of an oversight, since the small pieces can be easily lost.
May 20, 2019:
In their most basic form, digital tire gauges simply measure the PSI of air inside your tire. The Accutire MS-4021B and Measurement Limited Michelin MN-12279 are examples of the most basic models you can buy. These are nice because they are simple to operate, compact, generally rather durable, and budget friendly. Many users though, prefer models with a few more features. For example, the Coolbuy T-1 and Ionox Ion-15S allow you to change the measurement type from PSI to bars, KPA, or kg/cm2. Others, such as the Craftsman MS4376 and DIYco Elite Series DTG-400 also have integrated bleeder valves for precise deflating. The AstroAI ATG230 is a very convenient model too, as it has a push-pull head that makes it easy to get a firm seal on a valve no matter which orientation the tire is in. A flexible hose, as can be found on the Astro 3018,Jaco FlowPro, DIYco Elite Series DTG-400, and some others can also make it simpler to get a firm seal on a valve, even if the tire isn't perfectly positioned. Some models, such as the Astro 3018, Jaco FlowPro, and Exwell TPG0096 can be attached to compressors, allowing you to measure the tire's pressure while simultaneously filling it with air. Other handy features that you can find on many of the options on our list are brightly backlit displays and integrated flashlights.
Slime Pro-Series Digital If you don't mind having to read a very small display and more focused on getting something extremely small, the Slime Pro-Series is probably your best option. Roughly the size of a big pen, it won't take up much storage space no matter where you put it, yet it still offers a backlit screen and illuminated tip. slime.com
Under Pressure: Choosing A Digital Tire Gauge
That means that while you can come very close to ideal tire pressure, you probably can't be fully precise.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to find a basic tire gauge that is accurate and easy to use. Such gauges can be pressed against the tire's valve and will almost immediately display the tire's internal air pressure in easy to read numbers on their screen. The only thing you need to be sure of is which pressure scale the gauge is using (even most basic tire pressure gauges offer more than one scale; if yours doesn't, that's no problem either, but you may need to know how to convert the numbers from one scale system to another). That is to say whether it is reading in PSI, BAR, KPa, or KG per CM.
For those that require something with a but more functionality, a slightly more expensive model may be in order. For a bit more money, you can expect a pressure gauge that can not only be applied to a tire's valve to read internal air pressure, but which can in fact have pressurized air run through the unit, actively filling a tire with air (or releasing air if needed) while also determining pressure. These versatile tools are a must have for the auto repair shop, for a vehicle dealership or car rental business, or for any other location that deals with a high volume of cars, trucks, busses, or vans. But for the DIY home car enthusiast, such pressure gauges are well within the budget and are a wise idea to own.
Using a tire gauge without this flow through ability means letting some air out of the tire each time you take a reading. That means that while you can come very close to ideal tire pressure, you probably can't be fully precise. If vehicles -- and proper maintenance and care -- are quite important to you, so too should be highly accurate tire pressure.
Yet another category of tire pressure gauges takes the "Swiss Army Knife" approach to things, incorporating myriad tools into one device. You can get a tire pressure gauge that also has a built in glass breaker, a blade that can be used to sever a seat belt, and a light and screwdrivers that could help during a roadside tire change or other issue.
A Few Words On Proper Tire Pressure
If you have a tire that seems to be low on air, the first thing to do is use your handy digital tire gauge to check the internal air pressure and confirm your suspicions. Sometimes a tire can be perfectly well pressurized but appear low on air based on the angle at which it is parked or the road surface beneath the rubber. Trust your gauge's reading, but reconfirm the results later when the car is parked elsewhere.
Trust your gauge's reading, but reconfirm the results later when the car is parked elsewhere.
If the tire is low, use an air compressor (yours if you own one or else at a gasoline or service station) to return the tire to its ideal PSI (or pounds per square inch) of pressure. Then periodically check the tire again over the coming days. If the tire again loses pressure, you need to search for the source of the leak and, if you can find the issue, patch the hole, repair the valve, or else replace the tire.
You should never continue to drive on a tire that is improperly pressurized: not only does this increase the risk of it rupturing, leading you to a much larger issue, but it also puts uneven strain on the vehicle's other wheels. That is to say on the other tires, rims, struts, and all. A vehicle must distribute its massive weight evenly across its tires to be in good working order.
As for proper tire pressure, make sure you refer to the owner's manual of your vehicle to choose the right type of tires, and then cross reference the recommended pressure rating in the manual with information from the maker of the tires you choose. But keep in mind that what constitutes proper tire pressure can actually change from time to time given the circumstances under which you are driving.
For example, when your vehicle is towing a heavy load (or carrying a large payload, as with a loaded pickup truck bed or van's rear compartment), you may need to add about ten percent additional air pressure to the rear tires to compensate for the added weight. Never exceed the maximum rated PSI of the tires even when towing. (Many tires have an "ideal" pressure rating that is below their maximum; simply return to tire to its standard pressure when the towing or hauling is completed.)
Likewise, to properly winterize your vehicle, add a few pounds of pressure to each tire. This helps to compensate for the reduced responsiveness tires proffer in winter weather due both to poor road conditions and to the rubber stiffened by cold.
Other Accessories That Help Keep Tires Happy
A digital tire pressure gauge is an essential item for anyone who cares about his or her car. But these compact tools are also important for anyone who cares about safety and economic savvy: only a car that is driving atop four properly and equally pressurized tires can be assured of proper handling and of even, steady wear on the tires. (Not to mention on many of the other elements of the vehicle, including axles, struts, shocks, and more.)
If you care about keeping your tires looking and working properly, then beyond the tire gauge, consider keeping a tire sealant kit or can on hand. When a tire has been punctured, the sooner you use such a tool -- which uses a pressurized sealant that pumps into the tire through the valve -- the more chance you have of salvaging the tire. Just make sure you have it properly repaired later. If you want to take the next step in tire repair and maintenance readiness, get a good tire repair kit and be ready to fully patch a hole yourself.