Tire pressure gauges are an essential tool for all automobile owners both on and off the racetrack. While the run-of-the-mill, pen-sized gauges may suffice for ordinary driving, motorsport enthusiasts know that there is a dizzying variety of professional-grade gauges to choose from. Picking the right one is a matter not just of convenience and cost but of the overall performance and safety of your vehicle.
Racing tire gauges come in two broad categories: digital and analog. Analogue gauges are further subdivided into dry and liquid-filled models. Digital gauges read wide ranges of pressure at high degrees of accuracy and are ideal for fine-tuning your tires or comparing different pressure readings. Analogue models, by contrast, are less expensive, do not require batteries, and are often sturdier and longer lasting than their digital counterparts. A healthy knowledge of both is crucial for proper maintenance of your car.
Because gauges tend to lose accuracy near the endpoints of their respective ranges, you should choose a gauge such that your car’s optimal tire pressure falls squarely in the middle of the range. This article includes several top-quality gauges with a wide variety of pressure ranges, pricings, and additional features to help you choose the best one for your particular vehicle.
Intercomp 150-PSI Digital Air Pressure Gauge
The Intercomp Digital Air Pressure Gauge.
This quick and highly accurate digital gauge comes from Intercomp, a brand specializing in professional-grade scales, tools, and testing equipment for all forms of racing. It covers the entire spectrum of tire pressures, reading up to 150 PSI at increments of 0.1 PSI. This gives it a certified accuracy of 0.1% and makes it ideal for any tire pressure monitoring system. It can display units of PSI, BAR, or kg/cm2, features an easy-to-read 0.5″ LCD display, and includes a backlight for nighttime use. It comes with a 22” hose and a “peak-hold” feature allowing for quick and easy pressure comparison, as well as a thumb-operated bleed-off switch and a unique “dual bleeder” for faster and more efficient tire bleeding. You can also purchase the “Fill, Bleed, and Read” version of this gauge that includes an industrial-grade bleeder valve and attaches directly to your air or nitrogen hose. This allows you to fill your tires and bleed off the excess without ever detaching the air chuck from the valve stem. Like all Intercomp gauges, this model comes with a protective rubber cover for maximum durability and reusability.
Brandon Linquist, a customer service representative at Intercomp, stressed that that these gauges are all fully rebuildable. Should something go wrong with the gauge or if a part gets lost, you can order replacement parts from Intercomp and fix it yourself without having to drop several hundred dollars on a replacement. For a small charge, you can also have Intercomp recalibrate your gauge at any time using their certified air tank. Brandon also told us that, unlike most gauges that lose accuracy near the endpoints of their pressure ranges, this digital gauge remains fully accurate, to 0.1 PSI, throughout its entire range. While this gauge is expensive, its accuracy and sheer versatility make it well worth the price for serious racers and mechanics.
Sources: Intercomp; phone interview conducted with Intercomp customer service representative Brandon Linquist (05/13/2020).
Longacre Pro Precision Tire Pressure Gauge
This analogue gauge with a large 4.5” dial face has a range of 0–60 PSI and reads in increments of 0.5 PSI. This gives it an accuracy of 0.5%, which lets you quickly and easily get within 0.25 PSI of your desired pressure. The gauge features a 17” hose and a swivel-angle chuck. An additional swivel-ball chuck is included in the package. Its large 4-GID dial face glows in the dark for easy nighttime readability, and it has a peak operating temperature of 130º F. Dual bleed buttons allow for faster setting and the gauge lets you hold the last reading when you release from the valve. An interesting bonus feature is the sleek and stylish carrying case (pictured below).
Instead of cramming your gauge in the glove compartment or under the seat, keep it safe in this tough yet stylish carrying case.
While this model is on the expensive side as far as analogue gauges go, its unparalleled fusion of range, accuracy, durability, and ease of use make it an excellent gauge for high-performance racecars.
Longacre Basic Digital Tire Gauge
Customers have concluded that this model offers excellent value for a digital gauge.
Longacre also makes several affordable digital gauges. Coming in at about $34, this model has a range of 0–60 PSI and reads to intervals of 0.2 PSI with 0.8% accuracy. A 100-PSI model with the same accuracy is also available. Since comparably priced analogue gauges can have a margin of error of up to ± 4%, this degree of accuracy is quite the achievement. All of Longacre’s digital gauges feature an air pressure release button, an external gauge bumper, and a 14” “Hi-Flex” hose with an angle chuck attached and a separate ball chuck included as well. You can convert the units to BAR, kg/cm2, or kPa by pressing and holding the “units” button on the front face. This model can run approximately 500 hours on a single CR 2032 ‘coin’ battery.
Be aware that, unlike other digital gauges, this model has no memory display and will lose the reading as soon as it is removed from the valve stem. Somewhat unusually for a digital gauge, no backlight is included, making this model suboptimal for nighttime or low-visibility environments.
Joes Racing Tire Pressure Gauge
This 30-PSI gauge from Joes Racing is one of the most popular professional-grade analogue tire gauges on the market.
At under $30, the standard analogue gauge from Joes Racing offers excellent quality at an affordable price. It comes in three models with pressure ranges of 0–15, 3–30, and 5–60 PSI, which read in increments of 0.25, 0.5, and 1 PSI respectively. The face is separated into three quadrants, and the maximum accuracy of ± 2% is achieved in the middle quadrant (10–20 PSI, in the case of the 30-PSI model). All versions of the gauge include an internal gauge damper, a 17” hose, both swivel-angle and swivel-ball chucks, a bleeder valve, and a glow-in-the-dark face. A hold valve for storing a fixed pressure in the gauge until it is released can be purchased separately.
According to Robert Osaki, the resident tire specialist at Joes Racing, the 30-PSI version is the company’s “bread-and-butter” gauge. It was originally conceived as an affordable upgrade to the pen-sized gauges commonly available in gas stations. Robert told us how professional racecar drivers quickly took to the product and began using it with their personal and consumer vehicles as well. From that point on, the gauge was marketed to ordinary consumers as well as racers and has seen great success with both.
Joes Racing Pro Tire Gauge with Hold Valve
The Pro Gauge is extra-durable and can withstand all manner of abuse.
Robert also recommended we check out their new Pro line of tire pressure gauges with an internal pressure diaphragm design. These models come with the same pressure ranges as the standard pressure gauges detailed above and include many of the same features, such as a high-flow pressure release button, swivel and angle chucks, a glow-in-the-dark face, and a 17” rubber hose. It can be purchased with or without a hold valve.
In addition, these gauges feature a tough steel housing, an external rubber cushion, and an internal spike suppressor to protect from sudden increases in pressure. They are certified ANSI grade B40.1 and measure with repeatable and dependable accuracy. All this adds up to a durable and longer lasting gauge and can take plenty of use and abuse, all without any loss of accuracy. The only drawback is that the Pro gauges show a smallest increment of 1 PSI, whereas other models from Joes read in increments as small as 0.5 or 0.25 PSI.
Joes Racing Precision Digital Pressure Gauge
The Precision Digital Gauge from Joes Racing is expensive but offers a remarkable array of features and functions.
Not to be outdone in the digital gauge department, Joes Racing also offers this ultra-accurate digital gauge that can measure up to 100 PSI at 0.1 increments. Its LCD screen can read in units of PSI, BAR, or kPa and can display up to four recorded tire pressures at once. The gauge’s memory can store information for up to eight sets of tires. To record a pressure, you simply select a “bank” to store the reading to, pick a wheel position (right front, left rear, etc.), take a reading, and hit the “save” button. Moreover, you never need to worry about zeroing out the gauge manually. With its atmospheric scale and temperature compensation features, this model will automatically calibrate itself to its environment.
The Precision Digital Pressure Gauge lets you take precise readings and store data for each wheel in the device’s memory.
In terms of hardware, this gauge includes a shock-absorbing bumper, a study billet aluminum housing, a 45-degree high-flow chuck with optional ball chuck included, and a backlit display. Four ultra-lithium AAA batteries are required. Most notable is the special High-Flow Bleed Button with an adjustable ergonomic design. Two plugged holes, sealed with a thread sealer, are located on either side of the button; to adjust the position, remove the plugs with an Allen wrench and move the Bleed Button wherever you feel most comfortable. Additionally, like the Intercomp digital gauge above, this model is fully serviceable. It’s the complete package, and its three buttons belie its wide array of features, functions, and customizability. If you routinely work with multiple high-performance vehicles and care about consistency and accuracy, this gauge may be well worth the splurge.
Sources: Joes Racing; phone interview conducted with Joes Racing tire specialist Robert Osaki (05/13/2020).
Intercomp Liquid-Filled Air Pressure Gauge
This liquid-filled gauge from Intercomp reads up to 15 PSI at 0.5 increments while resisting external disruptions such as vibrations or pressure spikes.
The advantage of liquid-filled gauges lies in their reliability. It is widely known that external pulsations, vibrations, and pressure spikes are the most common cause of poor readings in pressure gauges. Liquid-filled pressure gauges remedy this problem with a typically non-aqueous fluid that dampens vibrations while lubricating and protecting the delicate moving parts. These gauges achieve great accuracy and precision while also keeping out dirt and humidity and preventing condensation inside the gauge. The most commonly used fluids are glycerin, silicon, and halocarbon. Because of the fluid medium, the needle takes several seconds to move in response to pressure and will take longer on cold days.
Intercomp makes a series of deluxe liquid-filled gauges. Like other Intercomp products, they come with pressure ranges of 15, 30, and 60 PSI. All use glycerin for their liquid medium and are designed with reliability front and center. The deluxe gauges incorporate a patented internal mechanism that provides far greater resilience and stability.
Intercomp’s 0-60 PSI Liquid-Filled Deluxe Gauge uses intervals of 1 PSI and runs at about $55.
Intercomp has made a conscious effort to minimize moving parts and reduce the possibility of malfunction: their deluxe gauges feature only four moving parts, whereas other comparable gauges often include fourteen or more. Other components include a thumb-operated bleeder, swivel nozzle, and a 17” hose. One notable feature that should be pointed out is that Intercomp liquid-filled gauges can be safely stored on their sides, unlike other models that must be kept face-up at all times. This makes them ideal for motorcycles or other smaller vehicles with limited storage space.