Keeping your car's tyres properly inflated and pressurised is obviously vital for safe driving, and checking your tyre pressure frequently is the best away to avoid any nasty surprises on the road. There are a variety of pressure gauge types available, and while they can be dramatically different in terms of form and function, they are all extremely useful accessories for any driver. However, these different types of tyre pressure gauge come with their own pros and cons, so make sure the type you choose is the most suited to your needs before you buy.
Stick pressure gauges
These small, sleek devices are about the same size and shape as a fountain pen and are inserted directly into the valve of the tyre you are inspecting. Operating a miniature pneumatic piston, the air pressure inside the tyre pushes a rod marked with pressure measurements out of the top of the gauge.
As you can imagine, these compact and simple gauges are not ideal for precise measurements, and owners of high-performance vehicles or tyres will probably want to look elsewhere. They are, however, extremely cheap and very reliable, and can be easily stowed away in a glove compartment or pocket when not in use. You should, however, make sure that you can actually read the reading the gauge gives you—the small numbers on the measuring piston can be difficult to read, particularly for people with vision problems, and can be particularly difficult to interpret at night.
Dial pressure gauges
Often resembling a small stopwatch, these gauges give accurate readings with a clock-style analogue gauge and are generally attached to a short extension hose to make inserting the gauge into your tyre valves easier.
These gauges combine general robustness and reliability with surprising accuracy and are available in a wide variety of scales for larger vehicles and high-performance tyres. A variety of accessories are also widely available, including bleeder valves to ensure accurate readings and illuminated faces for easy measuring at night. Unfortunately, these gauges are generally more expensive than stick pressure gauges, and cheaper models may be too fragile for extensive use on the road. They are also quite bulky compared to stick gauges, although they are still small enough to fit in most glove compartments easily.
Digital pressure gauges
These gauges measure air pressure electronically when inserted into your tyre valves, and they give extremely accurate readings on a large and easily interpreted digital screen.
These devices are compact and quite robust (although equivalently-priced dial gauges are often more durable) and many feature built-in illumination for use at night. Because no air actually enters the body of a digital gauge, they also do not suffer problems with clogging—although, they can still be damaged by excessive dust and grit and rarely take well to water. They are also surprisingly inexpensive, but you do have to shoulder the added expense of buying and replacing batteries.