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TYRE PRESSURE GAUGES

TYRE PRESSURE GAUGES

by Gary Stretton, 21st April 2017

Ensuring your tyres are correctly inflated will prolong their life, save fuel and optimise handling. Gary Stetton tests a selection


Do you sometimes guess how close your Land Rover’s tyre pressures are to being correct just by looking at the tyres? Me too, but not anymore, because air equates to fuel consumption, so air is money and, at 18 mpg, guessing tends to hurt my wallet. Tyre gauges have moved on from the old limited choices of inaccurate pencil types and are now so accurate and inexpensive you’d be crazy to own an all-terrain vehicle and not carry your own. Some gauges are basic but effective, others aim to make your regular checks accurate and as easy as possible, regardless of outdoor conditions, day or night. Using random air lines and their equally random pressure gauges is a hit and miss affair, so bringing trusted consistency to your pressures has to be good for tyre life and optimum efficiencies.

CHOOSING A TYRE GAUGE

How often? How much you’re prepared to spend on a tyre gauge is closely linked to how often you’re likely use it. For example, if your local petrol station’s gauge is notoriously inaccurate, why not use a more accurate gauge of your own to achieve the optimum pressures for your vehicle after you’ve inflated them? If you off-road and need to adapt pressures to varying terrains, then an accurate gauge is crucial.
 
Digital or mechanical? The gauges on test offer a cross section of the gauges you should consider. Digital, battery-powered gauges are easier to read, especially if backlit. Mechanical gauges are simple devices and maintenance-free. Both types will operate in most climatic conditions, though I recommend checking specs carefully for use in especially hot or cold extremes.
 
Value for money With prices ranging from less than five pounds to over £50, suiting your budget shouldn’t be difficult.
 
Pressure hold One function I recommend you prioritise is a ‘hold’ or store feature. Being able to take a reading and not forget it is extremely useful, especially in low-light conditions for unlit gauges, or for tyres mounted on bonnets or a roof. It only takes a phone call to make you forget what you were doing two minutes ago.



^ Mechanical or digital? Digital is easier and can offer backlit read-outs. Mechanical dials are zero maintenance



^ Nozzle quality. A good seal against the tyre valve is essential for checking pressures without losing air



^ Flexible hose or rigid? Flexi-hoses need two-handed operation but are good for accessing spare wheels and trailer wheels




PRICE: £24

RING PROGRAMMABLE GAUGE

Ring Automotive’s gauge is loaded with features that make it the most versatile on test. The swivel head allows for the valve being at any position, assisted by the LED torch in the dark. With four pressure ranges, and a front/rear memory function, tyre checks are quick and easy, day or night. One issue – the plastic inner nozzle doesn’t always seat easily on the valve.
 
KEY FEATURES:
• Sturdy metal body
• Pressures read: psi, kpa, bar, Kg/cm2
• Pressure range: 0-99 psi
• Accuracy: +/- 1 psi
• Tyre tread depth range: 0-20 mm
• Backlit LED pressure readout
• Auto shut off
• Carry case
• LED Torch
• Memory function for front/rear pressures
 
SEARCH FOR: Item RTG7 www.ringautomotive.com

*Carry case protects from dirt and scratches. LED aids location of the valve and sealing the nozzle. Tyre depth gauge is manual and easy to use. One-handed operation is possible.


PRICE: £30

LASER DIGITAL GAUGE PROFESSIONAL

The quality of the materials and construction is very reassuring, particularly the brass head and fully-swivelling nozzle. Attaching the nozzle is easy and creates a good seal against the valve regardless of its position on the wheel. The flexi-hose is optional, so one-handed use without it is possible and easier. The only minus I had is that the digital read-out is not backlit and the read-out zeros as soon as the nozzle is disconnected.
 
KEY FEATURES:
• Pressures read: psi, kpa, bar, Kg/cm2
• Pressure range: 0-100 psi
• Digital readout • Accuracy: +/- 1.5 per cent
• Removable 30 cm flexible braided hose
• Brass nozzle and neck
• Pressure release valve
• Rubber cover for casing
 
SEARCH FOR: Item 2961 www.toolconnection.co.uk

* Good construction and easy to use. Pressure release valve for accurate deflation Swivelling brass nozzle is well-made and works very well. Quick and easy read-out, though not backlit.

PRICE: £15.00

DRAPER TYRE PRESSURE GAUGE

There’s a no-nonsense feel to Draper’s gauge which is well-made and quite weighty. The brass nozzle has a smooth swivel action and it seals very well against a valve. The manual gauge dial offers psi or bar, and both are easy to read. The air release valve works well and holds the reading until it is zeroed again.
 
KEY FEATURES:
• Pressures read: psi, bar
• Pressure range: 0-100 psi
• 25 cm flexible braided hose
• Swivelling brass nozzle
• Pressure release valve
• Pressure reading hold function
 
SEARCH FOR: Item 69924 www.drapertools.com
 *Simple but well-made and no batteries required. Air release valve readily operated in one hand. Brass nozzle with full swivel is well made. Two-handed operation is quick and easy.

PRICE: £54.00

SEALEY TWIN NOZZLE PROFESSIONAL

Sealey’s professional gauge offers quality alloy construction and commercial use conformity. The angled, twin-nozzle head is rigid but easy to seal against a valve, whether pulling or pushing, making single-handed use no problem. The rotating bezel is a neat touch for accurate reading. Quick, easy and accurate.
 
KEY FEATURES:
• Pressures read: psi, bar
• Pressure range: 0-140 psi
• Accuracy: +/- 1 per cent
• Twin connectors
• Angled neck
• Alloy body
• Rotating bezel
• Pressure release valve
• Pressure reading hold function
• Suitable for twin-wheeled testing
• EN837-1/6 for air- and water-filled tyres
 
SEARCH FOR: Item TST/PG2 www.sealey.co.uk

*Twin-nozzle gauge suitable for twin-wheel use. Rotating bezel and pressure release valve for accurate readings. Nozzles are sturdy and excellent quality. Rigid neck makes sealing against valves simple and quick.

PRICE: £4.25

FAITHFULL TYRE GAUGE

Though it offers only a psi range, this handy gauge was the easiest to use with one hand. It even has a hold function and air release valve. The gauge case is protected by a rubber casing, and the swivelling nozzle sealed very well against the tyre valve.
 
KEY FEATURES:
• Pressures read: psi
• Pressure range: 0-60 psi
• Swivelling chrome nozzle
• Pressure release valve
• Pressure reading hold function
• 45 degree nozzle for easy attachment

SEARCH FOR: Item 117263 www.axminster.co.uk

*It could quickly save you its purchase price in fuel efficiency. Swivelling chrome nozzle set at 45º angle. Pressure release valve included. Simple, easy to use and less than £5!


LRM VERDICT!

Don’t rely on an unknown tyre gauge for setting critical pressures. Invest in your own and achieve consistent readings. All the gauges tested were within 1.5 psi of each other, with the benchmark being set by Sealey’s Pro model. I made a recommendation earlier of choosing a gauge capable of storing a reading, so with that in mind the Laser digital gauge loses out. Although it performs admirably and is well constructed, it zeros as soon as the nozzle is removed from the valve. Not the end of the world, but it’s the only one on test that doesn’t. In addition, the digital read-out is not backlit, compounding the lack of either function unless you can see the gauge easily. The Draper gauge is similarly well-made and easy to use. And, as with the Laser, it’s two-handed to use, so a torch is required for low-light conditions. Unlike the Laser, the flexible hose is not removable unless you forgo the hold function. That said, both are inexpensive and accurate. The surprise of the bunch is the humble-looking Faithfull. As simple as possible, it offers only a psi scale but is easy to read and very easy to use with one hand. Add the pressure hold function and you have superb value for money for less than £5! Sealey’s professional gauge will appeal to anyone using a tyre gauge in testing conditions. Its robust alloy casing and rigid, angled extension typify its build quality. Achieving a good seal against a valve was faultless and the rotating bezel assists in reading the gauge at any angle. If you tow a twin-wheeled trailer or use water-filled tyres, this should be the gauge for you. Ring’s all-singing, all-dancing digital gauge is in many ways out on its own here, and is my overall winner though it does have one flaw. Whether you can live with it will determine if it’s the gauge for you.

All the gauges have brass or metal inners to depress the valve pin and work well. Ring’s doesn’t seat as easily so some air might escape until you get the hang of it. Use two hands though and you’ll quickly master it. The memory function for front and rear pressures means you input those pressures once and never have to remember them again. The LED torch is a clever and effective two-for-one function you’ll appreciate in the dark. With four pressure ranges to please everyone and its own storage case, it’s a very accomplished, accurate and ergonomic gauge you’ll want to use regularly.

THE LRM AWARDS

1. Overall winner: Ring RTG7

2. Value for money: Faithfull

3. Pro choice: Sealey TST/TG2



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