Not all tire gauges are created equal. And when gauging gauges, there are a number of factors to consider.
Adding to its periodical updates on passenger and light truck tires, Consumer Reports magazine recently rated a handful of tire gauges.
Rated in a variety of categories, six of the eight gauges were given high overall scores, ranging from very good to excellent. The categories included accuracy, ease of use, readability and ruggedness. Three rated best across the board, the magazine said.
Scoring best were the Accutire MS-4000, Accutire MS-4020B and Monkey Grip M8867. Slightly behind were the NAPA 90-389 and Monkey Grip M8862, followed by the Pressure Inc. DT-105. Scoring lowest were the AccuGauge H100X and Monkey Grip M8854.
Retailing for just $3, the Monkey Grip M8862 could be seen as the best buy, while the high-scoring Accutire MS4000 was also high-priced at $30 retail. The others fell in the $10-$20 range or so.
All eight gauges tested yielded repeatable readings over a wide pressure range, with only two varying by more than 1 psi, Consumer Reports said. Those two, the Monkey Grip M8862 and M8854, were within 2 psi.
Seven of the eight scored well in ease of use, a rating which depended on the gauges' ability to seal easily to the valve stem and allow little if any air to escape during reading.
The magazine said the Monkey Grip 8854 was the lone gauge to not hold its reading when removed.
All eight gauges tested scored high in readability, the magazine said. The two pencil-style units-the NAPA model and the Monkey Grip M8862-scored slightly lower due to ``vertically oriented hash marks'' being a little more difficult to read.
To test for ruggedness, the gauges were dropped from a height of 3 feet onto a hard floor.
The publication said none of the gauges showed any physical damage.
It did say, however, the two dial-type guages (the AccuGauge H100X and Monkey Grip M8854) were ``knocked out of calibration by an average of more than 5 psi'' and the Pressure Inc. DT-105's digital display ``went blank for about a minute but then returned to normal.''
In its recommendation section, Consumer Reports noted that while the digital gauges ``performed flawlessly,'' they are more expensive. Among digital gauges, it recommended the Accutire MS-4020B, citing its five-year warranty as a plus.
The publication preferred the NAPA 90-389 among the pencil-style gauges.
It noted the pencil gauges had a maximum reading of 50 psi, rendering them unsuitable for space-saver spares.
It seemed to recommend against the two dial-style units, mainly because of the lack of ruggedness.
The publication encouraged consumers to buy a gauge rather than rely on those at service stations. Citing a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration survey, it said ``only about half are equipped with a gauge, and these are often inaccurate.''
It also recommended motorists check their tire pressure at least once a month.