In his article on tire gauges, Steve Larson of Motorcycle Consumer News gives this important advice: "Buy a good gauge, take care of it and you won't regret it." The amount of air in your tires affects how much of your tire touches the ground. The wrong tire pressure -- whether it is too much or too little -- can change the way your car handles on the road, leading to an uncomfortable ride or even unsafe handling. It can also wear out your tires faster and give you poor gas mileage.
Tom and Ray Magliozzi, columnists and hosts of the radio program "Car Talk," classify checking your tire pressure as one of the easiest auto maintenance duties. Most importantly, they say, start with an accurate tire gauge that is easy to use.
Some brands list a measure of accuracy. For example, if your tire gauge says that it is rated at +/- 5 percent, then a reading of 30 psi means that your tire pressure is between 28.5 to 31.5 psi. Buying a gauge with a lower number on that accuracy rating ensures that your measurements are as precise as possible.
Most tire gauges only display the tire pressure measurement while the gauge attached to your tire's valve stem. This means that you need to be able to see the tire gauge display while it is still on the tire to read the measurement. Some gauges feature a hold button, which "holds" the reading after you remove the tire gauge, but this option typically comes on more expensive models.
Once you find the right tire gauge, make sure you are using it correctly and often. Experts recommend that you check your tire pressure at least once a month and only when your tires are cold. To get a good reading, press your tire gauge firmly onto the valve stem. Though a little air may leak when you push on the gauge, you shouldn't hear any loud hissing after that. Refer to the sticker in the doorjamb of the driver's side door (it's placed there by the manufacturer of your car) to find the recommended tire pressure for your tires.
Tire gauge prices range from a couple of dollars for a basic stick tire gauge to a few hundred dollars for a professional model. Though higher-priced tire gauges sport more features, reviewers say they're overkill for most drivers who just want to quickly and accurately check their tire pressure. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable options.
Things to consider when buying a tire gauge: