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Types of Tire Gauges

Pop quiz: What type of maintenance should you perform on your vehicle once a month? If you guessed check your air pressure, well done! Driving on properly inflated tires improves the safety, handling and fuel economy of your tires. To make it easier to check your tires frequently, you’ll need to have on hand one of the three types of tire gauges: stick, dial or digital.

What’s the difference and how do they work? Here is your guide to the three different types of tire gauges:


The Stick Gauge

Pen-style, Stick Gaugefig. Stick PSI gauge (with pen style pocket clip)

How it works:

The old stick gauges look a bit like a metal pocket pen. Inside is a bar or rod that slides out when the valve end of the stick gauge presses the valve stem of the tire.

First, take the cap off your tire valve. Take the open end (not the side that releases air) of the stick gauge valve and press firmly. The white stem will begin to push out the other end and indicate a number—probably a number between 20 and 40 PSI. Be sure to wait until it stops moving to get your reading.

Pros: Stick gauges are easy to use, they’re small enough to fit into just about any nook or cranny in your car, and they’re really inexpensive.

Cons: To the untrained eye, this type of tire gauge can be tricky to read. They’re also less likely to be accurate.

Here’s a great video on how to check the pressure of your tire with a stick gauge:


The Dial Gauge

Analog, dial air pressure gauge.fig. Analog, dial air pressure gauge.

How it works:

Dial gauges, also known as analog gauges, have a round, clock-like face. After taking off the valve cap on the tire, apply the valve end of the gauge. Wait until the needle on the face stops moving to read the pressure.

Pros: Dial gauges tend to be more accurate than a stick gauge, and they’re also pretty easy to read.

Cons: This type of gauge can be a bit clunky (you’ll need two hands) and they take up a bit more space (you’ll have to store it in the trunk or the garage).

Dial gauges, which use a calibrated spring, are also sensitive to getting knocked around (A Consumer Report test on types of tire gauges noted that one dial type brand “lost accuracy permanently when dropped onto a concrete floor from a heigh of 30 inches (76 centimetres).”

They’re also a bit pricier than stick gauges.


The Digital Gauge

Battery operated, Digital Air Pressure Gauge.fig. Battery operated, digital air pressure gauge.

How it works:

Just like a digital watch that uses an electronic LCD display, it’s simple to get your tire pressure reading on a digital gauge.

Pros: Digital gauges tend to be the most accurate. Some models are less expensive than dial gauges, and only a little more than stick gauges.

They also tend to resist wear, and a few models have back-lit screens so you can see your readings in the dark. Best of all, digital gauges are easy to use.

Cons: These types of tire gauges use batteries, so you’ll have to replace those from time to time and ensure low power isn’t causing a faulty reading. They’re a little more expensive than stick gauges, but not by much.

When it comes to easy and accurate tire pressure readings, there’s one more option you may want to exercise: Visit one of our Kal Tire locations near you, and our tire experts will check your pressure for you! And if your tires need air, it’s free!

A few more hints and tips for using these types of tire gauges to check your tire pressure:

  • If you need to check the pressure on RV tires, check to make sure the gauge you’re buying will test for a higher inflation pressure. Some gauges only check up to 60 PSI, while some RV tires are inflated to 100 PSI.
  • Try not to knock or drop the gauge. Tire gauges can easily become inaccurate with improper handling.
  • Use it regularly! We mentioned once a month. If you really want to be a stickler, check your tire pressure every time you fuel up.

Have any thoughts to share, or comments to make? #TalkToKal

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