Quick facts about pressure gauge:
- Checking your tyre pressure at least monthly is recommended to ensure safety, reduce tyre wear and increase fuel efficiency. A tyre pressure gauge is an affordable, simple device that can help you quickly check the pressure of your tyres.
- There are a variety of tyre pressure gauges available on the market, from manual to digital and even multifunctional devices.
What is a tyre pressure gauge?
A tyre pressure gauge is used to give you an accurate measure of the pressure inside your tyres. Buying a tyre pressure gauge comes at a small price for the convenience of getting your tyre pressure checked reliably every month. Ensure you properly maintain your vehicle with our handy car maintenance tips.
Who needs a tyre pressure gauge?
Every car owner should own a basic pressure gauge. It is recommended that drivers check their tyre pressure using a tyre pressure gauge and refill at least monthly. Making sure that your tyres are not under- or over-inflated is important to maintain safe driving conditions, reduce fuel wastage costs and prevent permanent tyre damage. Under-inflated tyres can lead to faster and more uneven tyre wear. The excess heat built up while driving can even result in dangerous tyre failure.
You can check your tyre pressure at petrol stations. However, the gauges at petrol stations are often weathered or damaged and may provide inaccurate readings.
If you don't want to read your tyre pressure yourself, it is recommended to get an expert to check for you. If you are worried that your tyre could get punctured or burst on the road, check out our guide to tyre and rim insurance to see what could be covered.
A tyre pressure monitoring system is only there to warn you of a tyre puncture or active air leak. The low-pressure warning light will only be activated when your tyre pressure is 25% below the vehicle's recommended level. You can't tell just by looking at your tyre whether it's under-inflated. If it does look under-inflated, it could be dangerously under-inflated. This is not a substitute for regularly checking your tyre pressure with a tyre pressure gauge to ensure it is maintained at the optimal level.
For more information, check out our guide to tyre pressure monitoring systems.
What types of tyre pressure gauges are available?
There are three types of tyre pressure gauges: analog, digital and pencil.
Analog gauges, also known as dial gauges, resemble a round clock face with a simple needle that indicates the pressure and use a calibrated spring. More-advanced versions often have a glow-in-the-dark dial, a rubber cover to protect from accidental drops and 360-degree swivel chuck that makes it easy to access your valve stems.
Digital gauges have an electronic LCD display similar to an electronic calculator and are simple to use.
Pencil or stick-type gauges resemble a ballpoint pen and are small, light and compact.
- Those who prefer a mechanical tool
- Easy to read
- No battery required
- Some include a built-in air pressure inflator to adjust tyre pressure
- More accurate than pencil gauges
- Can be bulky
- Requires two hands to use
- Sensitive to damage if knocked or dropped
- Can be less accurate in cold temperatures
- Most accurate option
- Easy to read
- Resistant to damage from dirt and dust
- Some are backlit, making them useful for checking pressure in the dark
- Bulkier than pencil gauges
- Requires batteries that need to be replaced every few years
- Limited pressure range
- Plastic construction is not as durable
- Simple to use
- Easy to store conveniently in a glove compartment
- Usually comes with built-in deflator valve
- More difficult to interpret than most digital gauges
- Limited pressure range
- Plastic construction is not as long-lasting
How to compare tyre pressure gauges
For most people, the deciding factor will be how much you are willing to pay for a tyre pressure gauge. A basic pencil gauge could cost just $6, while a high-end multipurpose gauge could cost you $50 or more. Generally, gauges will all come with similar basic features and as long as they are accurate, they will do the job.
When looking for a pressure gauge, consider the following essential factors:
Professionals and car enthusiasts generally opt for a heavy-duty mechanical gauge which is durable and doesn't require battery replacement.
Ease of use
A digital gauge is easy to read from an LCD display and will usually offer the most-accurate readings.
If you have a truck or RV, it might be useful to choose a gauge with a specialised long-stemmed neck design to make gauging easy and simple. For accuracy and portability, a compact digital gauge may be the best tool for bicycle and motorcycle users.
Pressure and temperature range
Some gauges have a limited pressure range only up to 60PSI, so check that your gauge can test a higher inflation pressure suitable for your vehicle. Keep in mind, some RV tyres could be inflated to 100PSI.
Valve type compatibility
Check the tyre pressure gauge is compatible with your vehicle's valve type. For example, some digital gauges are not compatible with Presta stems, commonly used in bicycle tyres.
Consider how compact and portable you need your gauge to be. Some gauges can fit in your pocket or glove box, while others will need to be stored in the boot of the car or your garage.
- Manual or modern design preference. Are you more comfortable using a mechanical or digital tool?
- Multifunctional. Some gauges can check tyre pressure and inflate your tires, with air bleed and air inflation modes. Additional functions such as a safety hammer, flashlight, seatbelt cutter or red safety-light are also be available.
- Warranty and money-back guarantee. Most gauges come with a one- to five-year warranty. Some manufacturers also offer a money-back guarantee, incase you're unhappy with the product.
- Number of measurement ranges (PSI, BAR, kPa, Kgf/cm). Not all gauges will display all four measurement ranges, so check to see which measurement ranges you require.
- Built-in air compressor/inflator. An air compressor removes excess overfilled air in your tyre, while the air inflation mode will pump in air when your tyre is under-inflated.
- Lights. A lighted nozzle will give you more visibility at night.
- Interchangeable heads. Normal and 45-degree angle heads cater for varied use.
For 4x4s, it's essential that your gauge can withstand changes in temperature, pressure, altitude or humidity to provide accurate readings when driving off-road and altering load and tyre pressures for different situations.
Look for a tyre pressure gauge that can read accurately at both lower and higher pressures suitable for your vehicle. Ensure your gauge allows for easy removal of the valve core for quick tyre deflation. A large, easy-to-read backlit display would also be handy so you can read and adjust tyre pressures quickly on the road.
How do I check my tyre pressure?
- Begin with cold tyres. For an accurate reading, tyre pressure should be measured when your vehicle has been parked for three hours or more, or if your vehicle has been driven for less than 1.6km at moderate speed.
- Check the recommended pressure. To find the recommended pressure for your vehicle, look for the placard on the driver's door jamb. On older cars, it may be located on the boot lid, fuel door, glovebox, centre console lid, passenger's door jamb or in your owner's manual. If you cannot find it, consult your dealer, manufacturer or qualified tyre professional. Keep in mind, your front and rear tyres may require different pressures.
- Use your gauge to read tyre pressure. Remove your valve stem cap and place the gauge on the stem. A reading will appear on the gauge. If you are using a mechanical gauge, you can check two or three times for a more accurate reading. After you've finished checking the pressure on all four tyres, replace the valve stem cap.
- Fill to the recommended PSI and check pressure again. Use an air compressor to refill tyres with low pressure. After refilling your tyres, re-check the tyre pressure using your gauge. If you have overfilled your tyres, you can let some air back out.
- Store your gauge properly. Keep your tyre pressure gauge in a protective sleeve to help reduce wear and maintain accuracy. A gauge that is old, worn, dirty or damaged may be less reliable. Try to avoid knocking or dropping your gauge.
- Check tyre pressure monthly. It's important to keep an eye on your tyre pressure at least monthly.