With car costs skyrocketing right now, it’s vital for most of us to try and save money whenever possible. An easy way is to make sure your tires are always correctly inflated. With the right pressure, they last longer and you get a better return while reducing emissions. And as a bonus, your car’s handling, braking and cornering are maximized.
While there are gauges in most garage forecourts, they are often knocked over and are inaccurate. It’s better to use your own well-maintained gauge, and make sure your pressure is as recommended in the vehicle handbook, Haynes owner’s manual, or a decal on the car itself, usually on the door jamb or in the fuel filler cap.
How we tested them
All gauges were tested at 20, 25 and 30 psi on both alloy and steel wheels, and we noticed the differences on the three points. We liked gauges that stayed live for a while, so we didn’t have to wait for a restart as we worked our way around the vehicle.
We expected the display to be clear, preferably lit with a nose light on the gauge to help locate the valve when it’s dark. All gauges can measure in psi, while the other options are bar, kpa and kg/cm2. The more the better, especially if the tire pressure is on a metric scale.
The instructions have been revised for important information and safety requirements, in particular to check tire pressures on cold tires and, where depth gauges are included, legal tread requirements. A suitcase is always handy, and we have also taken online prices into account.
It’s hard to resist Ring’s RTG4, which was accurate yet the cheapest we tried. Also good value for money was the Draper 01071, while the Sealey TSTPG12 balanced price and accuracy with a built-in tread depth gauge, and was the best unit combined.
- Ring RTG4 Digital Keychain Gauge
- Draper digital tire pressure reader 01071
- Sealey Digital Tire Pressure Gauge TSTPG12
Ring RTG4 Digital Keychain Tire Gauge
Less than £7 for a gauge that is highly accurate (it was only 0.5psi adrift at the 25psi mark) and fits in the palm of your hand is certainly a good deal. We wouldn’t have a precision device crashing on a chain though, suggesting it would be better to keep it in the glove compartment.
It had a nose light and the bright, blue-lit display kept the reading live for about 10 seconds and the device itself 70, so moving from band to band was no problem. It didn’t warn against cold tires, but otherwise it’s hard to fault.
Draper digital tire pressure reader 01071
This Draper was another device that led on price, although the perfectly accurate score cannot be ignored. It had the usual four shells, but had no backlighting or nose light, which was a shame, although the low price makes up for it.
We loved the design, which was comfortable in the hand and allowed the right amount of pressure on the head, making it easy to fit on the valves. We also liked the beep that confirmed a reading had been taken and the device stayed live for about 30 seconds.
Sealey Digital Tire Pressure Gauge TSTPG12
The boxy Sealey won’t win any design awards — and it really was way too bulky to hang on a key ring — but in most other ways it didn’t do the trick. We loved the nose light that accompanied the huge backlit display, where it was easy to cycle through the four scales for pressure and tread depth.
The latter was also digital and had neat colored blocks turning green at 3.3mm and red at 2mm. It was perfectly accurate and the display stayed live for 30 seconds, although there was no mention of cold tires or the legal requirements for the profile.
Ring RTG6 Digital Tire Gauge
Clearly akin to our RTG4 winner (opposite), this model was larger, with a larger display and depth sounder in the base. We loved the design – which was easy to hold – and the large, blue, backlit display. The nose light was operated with a button, giving you the choice of using or turning off and extending battery life.
It was only 0.5 psi overall, with the reading going live for 10 seconds and the display for another 55 seconds. The instructions stated cold tires and covered the legal tread depth and requirements for the tyre.
Halfords 2015 Digital Programmable Tire Pressure Gauge
A great meter to much praise, not least the auto-on function, which kicked in when plugged into the valve. We found that all valves mounted easily and the beep announced a reading, which remained live for 10 seconds.
The blue backlit display was sufficiently large and gave access to the menu for programming the front and rear pressures, which then appeared next to the actual level. The nose light had a separate button that had to be pressed, which was not ideal. We liked the cool tire reference and the breather valve, but not the price.
Sealey TST001 Digital Swivel Head Quick Release Tire Pressure Gauge
Sealey’s design appealed because it mimicked old-style analog meters and was covered in a thick, band-like rubber protective sleeve. It didn’t have a nose light, but it did have a built-in vent valve and a bright blue switchable backlit display.
Pressures were reported in tenths and were 0.8 psi across the three measurements. Unlike most meters, which use watch-type batteries, this one has two AAs, which may be why the display was able to stay live for nearly 10 minutes. Although the device itself was quite short, access to the valve was easy thanks to the swivel mouthpiece.
Laser tire pressure and depth gauge 4886
Laser’s pistol-type was comfortable to use, and the third unit tested also had a depth sounder, although this time it was a simple, extendable affair that was a little tricky to read at times. The instructions covered tread depth and width, but not cool tires.
The screen was backlit and bright, if a little small, and readings were 0.5 psi low at both the 25 and 30 psi marks. The display stayed live for a long time – Laser says it should be 85 seconds, but for us it stayed on for almost five minutes. For this relatively high price, we would have liked to see a nose light in the spec.
Halfords LED Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
The Halfords LED has been around for a while, but it doesn’t fall short compared to the competition, even though it only had three shells. Accuracy was only 1 psi across the three readings and it automatically turned on the small backlit display when placed on a valve.
There was a nose light, but this worked via a button. We really liked the solid brushed aluminum finish and protective rubber end, although the scale selection slider seemed a bit small and fragile. This meter would increase ratings if it had a more competitive price.
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