How to Use a Tire Pressure Gauge

March 7, 2012

Gauging tire pressure by eyeballing leads to inaccurate results. Learn how to use a tire pressure gauge, the best models, and PSI recommendations.

A tire pressure gauge is an essential item in your tool box. You can't tell whether your tires are at the correct pressure just by looking at them, and if you are driving on over or under-pressurized tires you can increase your gas usage, experience poor handling and increase your chances of a blowout. Follow these simple steps and tips to help you correctly check your tire pressure.

  • Find the correct air pressure specification for your vehicle's tires. This information is printed on a sticker which you will find either on the driver's side door jamb, in the glove box or in the trunk. Don't simply go by the pressure amount imprinted on the sidewall of the tire as this specifies the maximum pressure the tire can take
  • Unscrew the plastic cap on the air valve and be sure not to lose it
  • Press the tire pressure gauge against the air valve and hold it there firmly. If you hear any hissing, air is escaping from the tire and you need to hold the tire pressure gauge to the valve more firmly
  • Read the measurement on the tire pressure gauge. Remove the gauge and if your tire pressure is correct, replace the plastic cap. If air is required, add more using a tire pump, or one of the air compressors you will find at gas stations. Be careful not to add too much air to your tires

Tips for Using a Tire Pressure Gauge

  • Check the pressure in all four tires once a month, to monitor their condition. Don't just check one tire as they can all experience different pressure changes
  • The tire pressure gauges at your gas station may not always be accurate, so buy a good quality gauge. A digital tire pressure gauge such as an Accutire will give you a reliable reading and can even be programmed to remember the settings required for your vehicle
  • Make sure you choose the right tire pressure gauge for your vehicle; before you buy, check the psi your car's tires should run at. The tire pressure gauge you choose should allow your tire pressure to be tested in the middle of the gauge's range. For example if your car tire runs at 32 psi, choose a 60 psi gauge. A truck tire gauge will be different from that used on a standard car, so to check the tire pressure in a light truck with a 50 psi rating, choose a 100 psi truck tire gauge
  • Check the running psi of your spare tire too, as this is often higher than the other tires, sometimes up to 80 psi. If the difference between your spare and your regular tires is this significant, you should consider purchasing two tire pressure gauges

Having the correct tire pressure is important for the longevity of your tires and your vehicle, as well as for your safety. However, to check the tire pressure is a very simple process, so make sure it becomes a habit for you and your family.

The Best Tire Pressure Gauges on the Market

There are many tire pressure gauges available. Some come with more advanced technological features. When it comes down to it, though, you want an accurate tire gauge, whether it's digital or not.

  • Accutire MS-4021B Digital Tire Gauge. This provides durability and digital accuracy for less than $10
  • Accutire MS-5010 Heavy Duty Tire Gauge. With a protective rubber hosing, 5 to 100 PSI and easy-to-read scale, this gauge comes with a bleed valve to reduce air pressure, all for about $8
  • AutoSport Balancing Tire Pressure Gauge. Coming in at about $42, this standard tire gauge lets you simultaneously inflate two tires at once
  • Eddie Bauer Digital Tire Gauge. For just under $30, this digital tire gauge comes with an LCD screen backlit for easy nighttime viewing
  • Slime 20017 5-150 PSI Digital Tire Gauge. With a lighted tip, this digital model costs about $10
  • Standard Tire Gauge. For around $5 you can purchase the most familiar type of tire gauge: the pen-shaped model with protruding pressure indicator

Digital models offer a lighted screen for nighttime viewing, while standard models are more affordable and have fewer parts that may fail. The choice, ultimately, is yours.