Can You Check Your Car's Tire Pressure With An App? Should You?

September 26, 2013

The smartphone is an amazing invention. It lets us place video calls to friends around the globe. It can sniff out cancer and chemical weapons. It even entertains us while we're waiting in line to buy the latest, greatest smartphone. 

But smartphones also have a dark side. They preoccupy us when we should be focusing on the people and objects around us. They're a major cause of distracted driving. And some would argue that they make us lazy.

As an example of that third point, look no further than the TireCheck app for the iPhone. More specifically, look no further than the second paragraph of the latest press release from TireCheck's maker, Neomatix:

Tire pressure is often overlooked by car owners as they go about their daily commute and everyone knows why. It’s a hustle [sic]. You have to get down, get your hands dirty, and fumble with an alien looking pressure gauge that no one really understands. It just takes too much effort, yet, it needs to be done to assure your safety and fuel efficiency as well as minimize damage to the environment. Driving on under-inflated tires can cost the average driver over $200 each year. This is what TireCheck was built for. Instead of being a pain, checking your tire pressure becomes as easy as pulling out your iPhone and pointing it at your tire.

Which raises several very important questions:

1. How is a pressure gauge "alien looking"?

2. Is it true that "no one really understands" how to use a pressure gauge?

3. Really?

4. No, really?

5. Is pulling out your iPhone, cracking open the TireCheck app, and lining up four perfect shots of your tires really that much faster than popping a tire gauge onto a few valve stems? Because at best, it seems like a tossup.

Please note, we're not criticizing the TireCheck app itself, which seems fine. We've found it to be perfectly functional, if occasionally exacting about the way in which pictures are taken. And we like the way TireCheck estimates how much fuel we're wasting because of under-inflated tires. That's some very useful info.

On the other hand, in order to make the most of the app, your vehicle has to be in the TireCheck database. (Ours wasn't, despite being a fairly well-known model.) If it's not in the database, you have to punch in details about your car, some of which you may have, some of which you may not.

Also, we're suspicious of an app that claims to judge tire pressure simply by looking at said tire, no matter where you're parked or what the weather may be. Our parents insisted that you can't determine air pressure by sight, and we're not so sure that iPhones can do it either. Call us old-fashioned.

If you really want to know the air pressure in your tires, shell out two bucks for a gauge, and if you've never used one of those alien-looking things before, spend two minutes learning how.      


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