The Best Gauges and Tire Pumps, Inflators, and Portable Air Compressors Can Help You Easily Maintain Proper Tire Pressure so You Can Increase Your Fuel Efficiency, Drive Safer, and Save Money
At Driving2Save, if we could recommend only one tip to help conscientious drivers save lives, money, time and the planet, it would almost certainly be this: Maintain proper tire pressure. It takes very little time and is very easy to do with the right gear. To make your life easier, we put all the leading products through rigorous testing (you won’t find a more thorough review anywhere online) and identified the best tire pressure gauge and the best plug-in tire pump/inflator/portable air compressor. Even better, they are inexpensive.
And the return on your modest investment is enormous in terms of increased safety, improved fuel economy, reduced wear and tear costs, and fewer emissions. To put it bluntly: There is no excuse for driving on underinflated tires.
What did we do?
We identified and carefully tested every leading gauge and plug-in pump/compressor on the market for ease of use, performance, accuracy and quality.
What did we find?
- There are an overwhelming number of products available to help you monitor and inflate your tires. Plug-in tire pumps (or plug-in air compressors) – pumps that are powered by your car battery and automatically turn off at a desired pressure – make it super easy. Some are good, most are not. There are many traps for the unwary.
Tire pressure gauges are handy, but it’s also smart to have your own pump in the car so that you can do something about low tire pressure no matter where you are. We learned this lesson the hard way when we had a flat tire on our very first road test for Driving2Save and the spare tire barely had any air. Do as we say…
For those with older cars that do not have tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) – systems that monitor your tire pressure and typically alert you via a tire pressure warning light – or for those with a TPMS that does not provide actual pressure readings for each tire, investing in an aftermarket TPMS is a very good option as well.
What did we like?
Best Plug-in Pumps:
How did we figure this out?
Underinflated tires increase your risk of a serious accident, decrease your miles-per-gallon (MPG), and cost you a lot of money. Under-pressure[d] is, as we like to say, unsafe and unsustainable. For all these reasons, it’s important to know where to find your correct tire pressure (it is on a sticker on the right as you open the driver’s side door), monitor your tires, and to have the right equipment to be able to inflate them when required.
THE SOLUTION(S) WE TESTED
We believe that if monitoring and maintaining proper tire pressure in our cars were easier, faster and more convenient, it would increase the likelihood that people would actually do it – saving lives, money, time and the planet. So, we did the research, identified all the products that could make this process as simple and quick as possible and tested those that appeared to have promise. We tested 4 different gauges, 2 different hand pumps, 1 foot pump and 15 different plug-in tire pumps/inflators/portable air compressors to get a handle on what works and what doesn’t.
- Gorilla Pencil Gauge
- Astro AI 150 psi (Digital)
- TEKTON 150 psi (Digital)
- Jaco Deluxe 150 psi (Analog)
Plug-in Tire Pumps/Inflators/Portable Air Compressors:
- Archeer Vacuum/Pump
- AHAOO 150 psi
- AAA LifeLine 300 psi
- EP Auto 12V
- EQ Live Vacuum/Pump
- MAXZOLA 150 psi 4-in-1
- AUPERTO 150 psi
- SUAOKI 150 psi
- Jaco SmartPro 100 psi
- PI Autostore 150 psi
- GOOLOO 100 psi
- Kiasaki 150 psi
- FamilyTool 150 psi
- RoyPow 12V
- DBPower 100 psi
- AerGun X-1000
- Avenir Air Source
- Game T
We tested each product for quality, ease-of-use, and accuracy to figure out what solutions are most effective for monitoring and maintaining your tire pressure. To do this, we tested the products side-by-side, under the same conditions – allowing us to compare results.
For gauges, we measured a single tire’s pressure multiple times with each, taking note of differences in the way they measure and in the measurements themselves. Gauges that were more difficult to use or less accurate received worse scores.
For tire pumps, we intentionally reduced the pressure in a tire by 4 psi. We then selected an automatic pump, set it up, and timed how low it took for the pump to return the tire to its recommended psi. Tire pressure measurements were taken before and after with a separate gauge to test each pump for accuracy. We noted differences in gauge accuracy, time taken, noisiness, ease of use (programming, set up, reading the gauge), and any other additional functionalities (for example: emergency flashlight, vacuum, etc.). Pumps that were inaccurate, slow, noisy or difficult to program, setup or read, received lower scores.
For hand pumps, we used a similar procedure – testing the number of pumps it took to bring a tire up to proper pressure and the ease of the pumping itself. We also monitored the accuracy of the attached gauge (if any) by measuring tire pressure before and after use. Pumps that were inaccurate or difficult to use were eliminated.
Although it can be nice to have an analog gauge (especially when you don’t have batteries), we liked the digital gauges best. They were intuitive, gave readings instantly, lit up for use at night and were accurate when tested against their analog counterparts – even besting them by reading down to the nearest 0.1 or 0.5.
We were pleasantly surprised by the performance of the best automatic pumps – they definitely made the process of monitoring and maintaining tire pressure very easy. They were compact, quick, functional and eliminated the work of a hand pump. All of our recommended products took about 60 seconds to fill 4 psi. On the downside, none of the automatic pumps we tested were perfectly accurate, so an extra few seconds of run time or adjustments in desired psi settings may be required. Most pumps were about 1 psi off – the most accurate was off by 0.3 psi, while the least accurate was off by 2.2 psi. We would also recommend against automatic pumps with analog gauges, as they were difficult to read due to the vibrations that occur during pump operation. Most importantly, we would note that the drop in performance form our top 3 recommendations to the remaining 12 pumps was severe. This is not a product category marked by consistent quality or ease of use. Follow our recommendations or “caveat emptor.”
We did not recommend any of the hand pumps we tested. When compared to automatic pumps, they took longer and were more burdensome to operate. Their gauges were also highly inaccurate or unusable (off by 5-10 psi).
THE RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS
1 for $19.99, on sale for $8.47
With just one button, the Astro AI gauge was simple to use and provided immediate readings. It reads pressure in 4 different settings: psi, kPa, bar, and kgf/cm2. It reads accurately to the nearest 0.5 psi – all you need for an everyday tire pressure gauge. We also enjoyed the very similar TEKTON 150 psi gauge, but the model we tested is no longer available through our partners.
Overall Grade: A-
$59.99, on sale for $29.99
DB Power is our top pick for several reasons. It was well-rounded and its dial-to-set design made it the fastest and most-intuitive to program. And while automatic pumps aren’t exactly quiet, DB Power was one of the least noisy of those we tested. Its 7-LED multifunction light for nighttime and emergencies was an additional selling point. Our check found it off by 0.5-1 psi – among the stronger performers in this category. It offers value at its base price. On sale, it is a steal.
Overall Grade: A-
$79.95, on sale for $39.90
In close second was Jaco SmartPro 100 psi. It performed very similarly to DB Power in accuracy (off by 0.8 psi) and noise categories and had a multifunction light as well. It was fairly simple to program, though not as intuitive as our top performer, earning it a second place finish. That said, the difference from DB Power were in some cases positive – it was the only one of our recommended products that came with a case and the only one with a metal, rather than plastic, valve.
Overall Grade: B+
$49.99, on sale for $33.65
With a maximum capacity of 150 psi, this was the most powerful of our recommended products. Off by 0.3-0.9 psi, it was also one of the most accurate pumps we examined. While the majority of the products we tested – including our top two choices – had screw-to-attach valves, Auperto had a flip-to-attach valve (similar to most hand pumps), which we felt was easier to install and remove. A small detail, but it can mean a lot on a cold day or on the side of a highway. On the downside, its LCD display system was subpar and its flashlight had no emergency setting. Meanwhile, according to our tests, all the extra power did not appear to make the pump fill the tire up any faster, though it did make it a tad noisier.
Overall Grade: B
It does not have to be complicated or time-consuming to check and maintain tire pressure. We have identified products that make this process easy and quick and can be stored in your car so they are there when you need them most. Do yourself a favor and make the small investment in these products today. It might save your life. It will definitely save you money and help save the planet.