Tire inflation plays a significant role in safe driving and vehicle durability. Don’t worry. This is an easy task to master when using tire pressure gauges the right way.

A tire pressure gauge is a tool used to measure the pressure of the tires on a vehicle. All tires are specifically made based on maximum speeds, load sizes, and more to emphasize the importance of proper inflation. Using this tool correctly is how you can keep your vehicle’s tires intact.

You have probably heard about tire pressure gauges before. But if you have never used one, it can be difficult to understand right away. This guide will cover everything about tire pressure, the gauges, and why they are so essential to use for your vehicle.

All drivers should own a tire pressure gauge and be comfortable using one. It is an essential tool to determine if your tires are inflated correctly and driving correctly. Our team has compiled all the must-know information to help you understand. So keep reading to learn exactly how important a tire pressure gauge really is.

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What is Tire Pressure?

Tire pressure is the amount of air in your tires. It is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI) to quantity the correct amount a tire or object should have.

The average PSI for passenger cars is between 30 and 35 PSI. But this number can vary. The exact PSI level desired depends entirely on your vehicle and the specific tires you are using with your car.

The air inside a tire exerts pressure through the expansion and movement of atoms. As a result, atoms move faster when the temperature increases. This is why tires tend to deflate when the weather is frigid.

The average tire PSI during 80-degree weather is about 30 PSI. However, this number drops to only around 25 PSI when temperatures fall under 30 degrees.

Tires naturally lose air pressure little by little over time. Even when a vehicle is only parked and not driving. The vehicle’s weight does not cause this to happen, but the air naturally escapes through the wall of the tire.

The best way to determine the current tire pressure level is by using a tire pressure gauge.  

What is a Tire Pressure Gauge?

A tire pressure gauge is a tool that reads the air pressure level in your tire. They are simple to use and highly effective in determining the tire PSI levels quickly.

All tires have a rating that is relevant to their pressure level. That means they can only handle certain loads based on PSI levels, emphasizing the importance of why you need to stay on top of your tire pressure levels.

Vehicles are now being manufactured with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems to maintain readings of PSI levels on each tire. However, not all systems give individual readings, making it critical that every vehicle carries a small tire pressure gauge.

Overinflating your tire is just as dangerous as underinflating your tire. Both errors will decrease the performance of your vehicle and put your tires at risk for damage. Proper inflation is one of the most efficient safety tips for all drivers.

Three different tire pressure gauges can be used on commercial tires.

Types of Tire Pressure Gauges

Stick Pressure Gauge

A stick pressure gauge resembles a pen or pencil and shape made with a metal exterior. It contains a stem attached to the end to perform proper PSI measurements. In addition, there is an attachment in the middle that extends while the measurement is occurring to display the PSI number.

As a beginner, it may be challenging to read a stick pressure gauge. If you are not entirely familiar with PSI levels and how they work, the numbers might not make sense. We recommend using either a digital or dial pressure gauge for newbies.  

Pros

  • Compact shape and size making it easy to store.
  • Easy to use.
  • Lowest cost tire pressure gauge option.

Cons

  • Least accurate tire pressure gauge.
  • Accuracy decrease with wear and usage.
  • Requires some expertise to understand the reading.

Digital Pressure Gauge

A digital pressure gauge is a modern-looking tool that improves the simplicity of the PSI checking process. It takes under three seconds to get a reading from the tire, and it displays on a small digital screen that is much easier to read than the stick pressure gauge.

They are bigger in size but still compact enough to fit in your tire repair kits or glove compartment for easy access. The digital gauge directly attaches to the valve stem and runs on battery power. It is a handy tip to stash extra batteries just in case.

Pros

  • Most accurate tire pressure gauge.
  • Moderately priced option.
  • Screens are LED with plenty of visibility at night.
  • More expensive options can be programmed to know your ideal PSI level.

Cons

  • More expensive than the stick pressure gauge.
  • Battery power can be a problem at times.

Dial Pressure Gauge

A dial pressure gauge is often referred to as an analog pressure gauge. This is because it resembles a stick gauge but uses a dial instead of the measuring stick to give a reading.

When using a dial pressure gauge, the extension hose attaches to the valve stem to get the reading. The hose will be used to send the air through the hose and causes the needle to move on the dial face. When the reading is complete, the PSI reading will appear.

Pros

  • Extremely easy to use.
  • More accurate option compared to a stick gauge.
  • The dial reading is straightforward to read.
  • Most dependable tire pressure gauge option.

Cons 

  • Less durable because the dial face is made of glass.
  • The spring is calibrated and can easily be thrown off from any movement.
  • Harder to store in small spaces in a vehicle.
  • The extension hose is harder to attach.
  • Most expensive option.

Benefits of Tire Pressure Gauges

When you know the accurate PSI levels of your tire, it provides tremendous benefits for both you and your vehicle. Your car drives better when your tires are at their best, damages are less likely, and the vehicle lasts longer.

Improved Braking

When you are driving with nearly flat tires, you will feel the difference when using your brakes. This is because the tires slide much easier on dirt and other surfaces, and they lack a smoothness to their performance.

A tire pressure gauge will ensure your tires are at their ideal PSI levels to get you better road grip and short distance stopping ability.

More Enjoyable Driving

Like braking performance, low PSI tires do not provide an enjoyable or comfortable feel on the road. As a result, the entire driving experience feels slightly off and below average.

By keeping your tires properly inflated, driving does not strain you or your vehicle, especially when hitting bumps on the road.

Better Fuel Efficiency

An underrated factor of tire pressure is the amount of gas mileage you are getting with your vehicle. Low tire pressure will cause you to use more ga inefficiently and decrease the fuel efficiency of your car.

Low PSI tires force your vehicle to work harder on the road with added stress with braking, cornering, and overall driving.  

Improved Vehicle Life

Better tire pressure simply makes your vehicle and tires last longer. The tires tend to damage much quicker when they ride on the wrong PSI, only putting your vehicle at further risk.

By improving PSI readings, the tires will drive more evenly on the road and allow for slower wear on your car.

Enhanced Driving Safety

You are much safer behind the wheel when your tires are correctly inflated according to the optimal PSI levels. This eliminates the risk of flat tires or blowouts on the highway that can cause severe accidents.

How to Check Your Tire Pressure

Before you even begin the process of checking your tire pressure, there are a few considerations you need to keep in mind. First, the temperature can play a role in your current pressure level. If it is cold out, that is a perfect time to perform a check.

Another is to have your pressure gauge ready before even starting. You don’t want to begin the process and struggle to find where you last kept it. Now that you are prepared let’s check the tire pressure.

1. Determine your recommended PSI level

Finding the recommended pressure level for your vehicle is located inside your car. All vehicles have a sticker or equivalent inside with critical information for drivers to know, including recommended PSI.

2. Perform the reading

Start by connecting your own gauge to the tire and performing the reading. The process is slightly different based on the gauge you will be using to determine the current PSI.

Remember, it is best to take your reading when it is cold and after the vehicle has been turned off for a few hours.

3. Write down the readings

Write down the current PSI readings on your tire and compare them to the recommended number for your vehicle. If the number matches, you are all set.

However, if the number does not match, you need to make a few adjustments to reach the correct PSI.

4. Fill your tires (if necessary)

Now you can use the air compressor to start filling up the tires that require air. We recommend buying an air compressor for your home, but if not, you can always rely on one at a local gas station.

5. Perform another tire pressure reading

After filling the tire, repeat the same process to check if the PSI level is correct. It is best to overfill the tire a bit just in case. It is easier to let a little air out rather than fill it up again.

How Much Does a Tire Pressure Gauge Cost?

The pricing range for tire pressure gauges is pretty broad, with plenty of low-cost, low-quality options. However, there is a sweet spot where plenty of reliable products can be purchased.

Any pressure gauge under $10-$15 will typically be low quality with minimal functionality. They provide the most basic performance features and give inconsistent, inaccurate readings often.

Pressure gauges priced around $20 and higher are where you should be shopping. You can find gauges with excellent performance, reliable durability, and higher PSI reading capabilities in this price range.

High-end pressure gauges typically range anywhere above $50 in price. These are premium products with all functionality you could need and then some. They also have integrations with your smartphones and last extremely long.  

Best Tire Pressure Gauge Brands

Shopping for the proper tire pressure gauge can be overwhelming. However, we have worked with plenty of gauges and found the most reliable products to be produced by two specific brands that provide the highest quality product.

Rhino USA

Rhino USA is an American company that designs and distributes plenty of accessories like tire pressure gauges, towing tools, tire repair kits, and much more. They create products that are known to last a long time at affordable pricing. As a result, they rank as a premium retailer for middle-tier prices.

Tekton

Tekton is another American company that manufactures excellent products like tools, air pumps, and of course, tire pressure gauges. They provide one of the most popular digital tire pressure gauges on the market that sells for under $20.

How to Inflate Your Tires Safely

Let’s assume you just performed a tire reading on your tire. Unfortunately, the PSI levels are too low. The only way to fix the problem is to add air to inflate the tires to reach the recommended levels again. But you have no idea how to inflate your tire while keeping essential safety tips in mind.

We can help. Follow these steps to fill your tires quickly and safely.

1. Locate an air compressor

It does not matter if you own a compressor or need to drive to a local gas station and pay a dollar or two to use theirs. They all work very similarly. However, if you do drive, remember that the tire movement will cause the PSI level to rise a bit.

2. Hook up the hose nozzle to your tire

Start by unscrewing the valve cap on your tire and hooking up the hose nozzle to your tire from the compressor. Depending on the gas station, you may need to pay first to get the air flowing before starting.

The air will start to hiss, but do not be alarmed. Once it is connected to the tire correctly, the noise level the hissing sound makes should significantly decrease to indicate it is connected correctly.

3. Push the button to add air

In some cases, you may not even need to press a button. The air flows automatically out from the compressor. Continue to push the nozzle onto the tire while the air fills to ensure the seal is tight and nothing escapes from your tire.

4. Check the PSI level with your gauge

Once you finish filling up the tire, we can use our tire pressure gauge one more time to check the PSI level. Then, assuming everything went well and the numbers match, we can put the air compressor pump away.

5. Screw the valve cap back onto the tire

Finish off the process by screaming the valve cap back onto the tire to ensure there are no air leaks in the future.

How Often Should I Check My Tire Pressure?

While it may seem extreme, the professional recommendation is to check the pressure of your tires at least once per month. By doing so, you ensure that you are always driving safely without any risks presented towards you, your tires, or your vehicle.

The chances of seeing low tire pressure lights pop up in your vehicle are much lower compared to the winter, but taking a few minutes to ensure everything is operating the way it should be is the safest solution.

Any time you see a tire light come on, check your tires as soon as possible. It may only be a slight drop in PSI level but checking to make sure is the best way to avoid a flat or tire blowout.

Other Tips to Remember When Checking Your Tire Pressure

  • Only check your tire pressure after being parked and turned off for a while, preferably three hours or more.
  • Always increase the amount of tire pressure checks you perform as the weather changes—cold weather results in more significant drops in PSI.
  • The average tire pressure gauge can read up to 60 PSI. Premium products can read as high as 100 PSI.
  • If you plan to carry a heavier load in your vehicle, adding a few extra PSI is a reliable way to offset the extra way. Make sure you deflate the tire back to the recommended setting after you are finished.
  • Never ignore the recommended PSI setting on your vehicle. Both your tire and your vehicle have a specific PSI that they perform best at.  

About THE AUTHOR

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

Read More About Charles Redding