A while ago I noticed that I wasn’t getting consistent pressure readings with my Slime digital tire gauge. So I started checking it against a few pencil style tire gauges and found that none of the pressure readings matched. Among all of the gauges, the pressure measurement varied by 5 PSI.
Needless to say, I thought it was time for a new tire gauge, but I wasn’t sure which type I should buy. So I went to one of my go-to sources, ToolGuyd.com of course. I found Stuart’s review on Joes Racing Tire Pressure Gauge and saw a comment from Paul saying he liked the Accu-Gage.
The Accu-Gage is Bourdon tube pressure gauge; I had to look up what that means. Basically there is tube inside that changes shape when it is pressurized. The movement of the tube is translated by mechanical linkage to the dial to indicate the pressure.
The gauge has a bleeder valve that you can press to release air and reduce the pressure in a tire. The dial is very readable and it is graduated in increments of 1 PSI. I’m not sure why the scale goes from 4 to 60 PSI rather than 0, other than this type of gauge probably isn’t accurate measuring that low of pressure.
I paid $10 for mine back in July, but I see the price is currently $7.68.
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Here’s a video I posted earlier this summer on Instagram:
Probably the most important aspect of a tire gauge is its accuracy and repeatability.
The problem is that I don’t have another trusted gauge to test the accuracy of the Accu-Gage. To do so properly I’d need a pressure gauge with a NIST traceable calibration, which isn’t going to be cheap and is only usually good for a year or so before you have to get it recalibrated. You’re just going to have to trust the gauge is accurately calibrated from the factory.
I have my suspicions that the one I purchased is at least within 2 PSI, because unlike my old gauges, the readings are usually where I expect them to be.
The other aspect I mentioned was repeatability. When you stick a tire gauge on the valve stem you want it to read the same pressure every time. My experience with the Accu-Gage is that the needle pretty much hits the same hash mark every time. Of course, if you try too many times the pressure will drop by 1 PSI or so.
What I like about the Accu-Gage is that it’s simple to use and read one-handed. You stick it straight onto the valve stem and hold it there, and while you are holding it there, you can actually read the dial and actuate the bleeder valve with one hand.
One thing I noticed was that the gauge does not hold pressure when it’s removed, it slowly leaks and the dial slowly spins anti-clockwise towards zero. The description of the product says that it has a “check valve and bleeder button to hold pressure,” which implies that it’s supposed to.
This doesn’t, bother me though because that’s not the way I use it. Since it’s an inline dial, I haven’t run into a situation where I couldn’t read the dial pretty much straight on — I don’t need to remove the gauge to see the reading. Also if the tire is over-pressured, you want to keep it firmly pressed into the stem so you can use the bleeder valve to remove air.
Another thing to be aware of is that when you are bleeding air, the reading on the dial goes “wonky,” It doesn’t read the actual tire pressure because you are letting out air and the gauge is no longer under the same pressure as before. As soon as you release the bleeder valve, the reading goes back to the actual pressure inside the tire.
In short, if you haven’t used this type of tire pressure gauge I highly recommend it over the pencil type and digital gauges with the readout on the side. I personally like the one-handed operation and the easy to read dial. And the fact that it’s purely mechanical means that it’s always ready to go — you never have to worry about turning it on, or changing the batteries.
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Stuart’s Note: I still love my Joes Racing Tire Pressure Gauge – here’s that review, but will likely buy one of these Accu-Gage tire gauges as well, for comparison purposes and because it looks more portable. I would think that my Joes Racing gauge is more user-friendly especially when a valve stem is at an awkward angle. I noticed that there are a number of negative reviews on Amazon, but a closer look shows that most are from a few years ago, and complain about a seller sending different gauges than was ordered.
I love it already, without ever using it, for two reasons: no useless kPa or bar numbers, and a max of 60 psi, instead of 100 or more. Ordered through your link. Thanks, Ben.
I love my Accu Gage 0-60psi: Enough resolution to set cold recommended pressure precisely. I can really feel it in the handling.
Yes: I sadly have dropped more than one of these models, from less than 1m height, and they are pretty much recycling material after that.
I’m ready to go the digital route though, and here is my question: Are there any digital tire gauges out there, under $50US, that resolve pressure to ONE-TENTH PSI, as opposed to just half-PSI? Yes, it matters that much to me.
Neither the stores that sell them nor the manufacturers themselves of digital gauges seem capable of providing this BASIC information, so I continue with my trusty Accu Gage.
Thanks in advance!
You want a gauge that has 1/10 psi accuracy for $50? No problem. You can find one at Home Depot in the aisle with the $30 toaster oven that has 1/10 degree temperature accuracy. Happy measuring!
Apparently you don’t know the difference between accuracy and RESOLUTION.
0.1psi defined the smallest increment the digital gauge can read. That’s resolution.
1%, 2% defines the accuracy at full scale(maximum reading). On a 0-60psi model, 1% = 0.6psi error plus or minus. At a typical 35psi, that’s about 0.4psi error, quite acceptable.
If a gauge reads consistently(repeatably) 0.3-0.4psi low, that’s pretty accurate for most drivers.
I hope that clears “accuracy vs resolution” for everyone concerned.
I have had this one https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006O2S0U for year. I prefer the pig tail because it just make it easier to get into tight spot.
I have heard that the dial type tire gauge is more accurate but not as durable as the pencil type when subject to physical abuse such as accidental drop.
I have this gauge and really like it. Much better than the pen type.
I use the “Accutire MS-4021B Digital Tire Pressure Gauge” which is currently $11.50 from Amazon. It is recommended by Consumer Reports and displays to half a pound of pressure. I own several, one for each car, and have been using them for years.
…and the batteries last a long time, haven’t replaced one yet.
From Amazon description: Accurate to within 0.05 PSI, reading air pressure from 5-150 PSI in 0.5 pound increments
I have one of those, and it’s decent.
But after owning both, I definitely prefer analog.
Just used the AccuTire gauge reviewed in this article. I’d filled the tires the day before ordering and just went out to check them. I set my tires to 32PSI and a few were between 32-33. It was great to be able to get them all to 32 using the air release button. This is my new style gauge.
I have two of these and yes they are great. However I wish they went to 100 psi, my truck (f350) tires call for 80 psi
Old school here and of all the tire gauges I have owned I like the Dial Type Pressure gauges the best! I can’t stand those pencil type gauges and have always despised them! I have tried a couple of digital guages included a set of Goodyear gauges I bought in a 2 pack at Sam’s Club years ago but it seemed whenever I used them, the batteries had to be changed or it was something else wrong and finally tossed them into the trash and went back to the dial type. My number one gauge is the dial type combo hose so I can fill the tire and measure the pressure at the same time including releasing some pressure if too much! Sorry but my gauge doesn’t have a name on it for referral but it is accurate and simple to use! It also doesn’t have the valve clip on it like some and I like it better without it i.e. You have to hold it onto the stem will filling the tire.
Just don’t drop it. One drop could throw the calibration off.
You can use a water column to measure the pressure of an air source with pretty good accuracy, no NIST cal cert required.
Good point except that I’d need a tube 66 feet high just to measure in the range I’m looking — 30 PSI, and that’s on the low end.
Yes indeed – and we all learned that mercury filled manometers were not good for our or other’s health if we dropped them. You would also need 5+ feet of mercury.
I’m old enough to have used them – along with lead ladles, asbestos rope joint runners an many other tools that were not good for our health and safety.
Koko The Talking Ape
Hm. Could you use 66 tubes that are each one foot high (or 33 tubes two feet high, etc.) if they are all connected to a manifold? The point is just to lift 66 feet of water, no? Still, kind of a pain.
I thought about using saturated brine instead of water, but it turns out it is only about 20% denser, so you might need 52 feet of tubing. Not much help.
You are basically talking about a Well Type Manometer — where the cross sectional area of the output is many times larger than the input.
The problem with well manometers is that you lose resolution and if you aren’t 100% accurate with the measurement of the cross sectional area of each leg, you’ll introduce errors. Your setup might eliminate some of that error though.
Yes, I still have the one mentioned in Stuart’s original article and it’s still the one I use the most. Looking at pictures of the race car I mentioned, I probably bought this one around 1992ish.
My biggest issue with the stick ones today is the lettering is small and hard to read for me.
“One thing I noticed was that the gauge does not hold pressure when it’s removed, it slowly leaks and the dial slowly spins anti-clockwise towards zero”
Odd that a new one would do that. My 20+ year old one started to leak and I found a web page somewhere with instructions for cleaning the check valve. Works like new again.
Regarding my previous comment on the check valve, see the FAQ page at getagauge.com
today makita listed a lot of new tools for the uk market: http://www.makitauk.com/products.html?new=1
not sure if these have previously been announced for other countries or not, you’d have to look through the different models.
You can get this on Amazon. It’ll likely fit:
Koko The Talking Ape
“Also if the tire is over-pressured, you want to keep it firmly pressed into the stem so you can use the bleeder valve to remove air.”
Maybe I am being ridiculously geeky, but I always take the gauge off the stem, bleed out some air with my fingernail or something, then take another reading, etc. until the pressure is right.
The reason is that the escaping air is pretty cold, and I wonder if the cold air rushing through the gauge could throw off its readings. I see the Bourdon tube seems to be made of copper or brass, which is relatively sensitive to temperature.
But maybe the exiting air only goes through the stalk on the gauge, and not through the body of the gauge?
It exits through the stem of the bleeder valve.
If you were trying to bleed a lot of air out of a large truck tire, eventually you might lower the temperature of the whole gauge enough to have an effect.
But you are holding the gauge with your hands which is warming the gauge.
This sounds like something that might be up Stuart’s material science alley.
I suppose if the JT cooling that came with the escaping air really “froze” the gauge – the modulus of elasticity of the Bourdon Tube might change and the tube might also shrink a wee bit.
In the plumbing/steam fitting business we usually worried more about bourdon tube gauges that might be a bit off due to excessive heat. Liquid-filled gauges in particular do not fare well in really high ambients.
I’d need to hit some books to offer an educated opinion on the matter.
But I’m comfortable guessing that in the context of a handheld gauge with 1 PSI markings and maybe 1/4 to 1/2 PSI eyeballed resolution, bleeding off a few PSI won’t substantially change the pressure readings, especially considering the pressure range a tire goes through in a day.
For example, it was 46°F this morning, 78° this afternoon, and 66° now. That ambient temperature is likely going to have a greater affect on the tire pressure, and possibly the gauge, than bleeding a few PSIs.
Can the cool exhausted air affect the temperature of the gauge by means of direct conduction with the tire chuck and bleeder valve? Sure. But what if one side of you car – and the gauge – is in direct sunlight, and the other in shadow?
There are going to be a lot of factors that throw things off. If the question is whether there will be enough influence to cause a measurable shift in pressure, I’d guess no.
This is one of those things that are open to subjective opinion. It’s beyond my capabilities to really answer this definitively – there are too many things I don’t know, too many factors that would need to be taken into consideration.
I’m hoping someone else knows better, now I’m really curious as to what the right answer is.
Koko The Talking Ape
nice conversation. Part of why I like this place.
It’s not the answer to this question that’s significant, what is significant is getting left and right front tires the same and left and right rear tires the same. Two or three psi isn’t going to make a lot of difference that anyone would normally notice, if it’s too low it’ll set off your TPMS alarm anyway. The temperature of the tire and the air in it is very significant as Stuart points out, I find the conundrum of one side sunny interesting. Also, let’s say you’re airing up your tires to haul a heavy load or tow a big trailer with your truck. The book says 36 psi normally but for maximum towing and loads use 44 psi. You accidentally put in 55 psi, now you have to bleed out 20 % of what is in there. Increasing the pressure heats up the air and temporarily increases the pressure, bleeding out that much air reduces pressure and temporarily cools the air inside. Does this warming and cooling cancel each other? Should the pressure be checked again after time to let the temperature equalize? When new tires are mounted the pressure goes from zero to 34/44/60/80/100 depending on the car or truck. Does that increase the temp enough to affect the pressure later? Consider this: when the valve core is removed from a semi truck tire stem to let out 100-120 psi, the stem gets frosty cold and it shoots out tiny ice particles.
I had one just like this years ago and it also bled down, which I found very annoying. But this thing’s a no-go for me. I can’t for the life of me understand why you’d exclude Load Range E tires by topping the gauge at 60. Honestly given the price point and the fact that it bleeds down I’d guess this is a lower quality unit and they thought they could fool some people by putting “Accu” in the name.
Do you happen to have a preferred brand or model of pressure gauge?
Funny enough I had the exact opposite problem a few year ago. I wanted a tire gauge that doesn’t go up to 100psi and I had a tough time searching for one. So why would I want a lower pressure tire gauge while a higher one would do the job? Simply because for an analog dial gauge a lower pressure gauge give me finer resolution hence easier reading. I would imagine they are slightly more accurate as well but I can’t vouch on that.
I also have several pencil type gauge because they are much more compact and durable. A lot of time I don’t need a perfect reading, I just need a good enough reading to know whether I need to fill up the tire or not.
I don’t think it is considered a low quality tool. It’s used at racetracks where a PSI or two makes a real difference and it has a lifetime warranty.
They offer versions with ranges of zero to 15, 30, 60, 100 and 160 PSI.
I keep a quality dial gage and I think I barely paid 10 for it – but that was a decade ago.
I have another that came with my car but it was a holden marketing gimmick – works great – is a bit small – only reads in kPa though. (I like to use it occasionally)
but today I mostly use my tire inflator – it’s marketed as a cambell hausfield . Basically like most others on the market – biggest favor. it used a AL handle that is the manifold – with a fill valve and a bleed valve – but on the side going to the tire – there is a split for a threaded on gage. Such that if that gage were to go bad you can go get another and use a 1/4 npt (I think) to put it back on. gage reads in psi from 0-60 in 1 psi increments around the circle. It was 15 dollars easy to read – doesn’t require batteries and even better if I need to fill the tire I can. I highly recommend getting one of these if you have an air compressor. I hate stick gages – they are inaccurate.
An accurate tire gauge is not easy to find. I’ve got an old Schrader Balloon style tire gauge made for the Ford model A. Still accurate after nearly 100 years. I trust it far more than anything that is available today. Its made by the same company that makes just about every valve in every tire made. Digital is inaccurate garbage. The dial ones ain’t bad but it depends on who makes it. If you took 5 dial or pencil gages & checked psi, none of them would be the same. They’re not all calibrated the same way. As long as they’re within 1 psi of each other, your good. Too many variables make it impossible to calibrate a gauge for a 100% accurate reading in every single driving situation for every single tire. Road surface(dirt, gravel, asphalt, etc) road temp, tire temp, air temp, temp of air inside tire before & after driving, expansion & contraction of tire, potholes & bumps in road, leaks, fix a flat. Proper Tire Size. Stay away from used tires. Most people have no idea what each number in their tire size means & how much it effects tire pressure if size is incorrect or if tires were seated improperly. Always refer to the factory size. Also temp of air used to fill tire. Moisture in air used to fill tire. Humidity. The list goes on and on. The best thing to do is to check your tires every time you put gas in the tank and to keep the psi consistent.
Most of mine are pencil and digital, glad I saw your review, order placed…
I had one of these, and it was unreliable and tended to measure low. I ended up chucking it out and buying this Longacre gauge for $25. https://www.amazon.com/Longacre-50417-0-60-Pressure-Gauge/dp/B00DL6T2YK
It works a lot better.
While the old stick gauges were notoriously inconsistent / unreliable and this IS easy to read, I far prefer a modern digital gauge to this. The mechanics of any analogue gauge make them relatively fragile. This uses the same principles as a traditional barometer.
You tend to get what you pay for so a better quality digital gauge that has been properly designed will have minimal moving parts and will give good accuracy and consistency over time.
Of course digital can be junk too – like the one that does the auto shutoff on my 12v tyre inflator. It put 45psi in the tires when set to 32 !
Stuart – you need a fluke master pressure gauge 🙂
As you discovered, digital can be junk too, because digital can be analog hardware with a digital display. The problem with digital is measuring varying pressures, like a fast leak- you get a lot of flashing numbers, instead of a needle that tells you what is really going on.
I have this one from Craftsman…I find the backlit LED to be invaluable since i usually check the tires on the way home at night…works well for me and can usually be found on sale for less than $14…http://www.sears.com/craftsman-programmable-digital-tire-gauge/p-02830048000P?plpSellerId=Sears&prdNo=1&blockNo=1&blockType=G1
To reduce the number of variables, check the tire pressure after the car has been sitting for at least 4 hours and inside the garage.