LIFELINE DIGITAL PRESSURE GAUGE
The Lifeline Digital Pressure Gauge is a dual-headed model coming in at under a tenner. Much cheaper than some established favourites, its packed with features and a few, minor niggles.
Pros: Seemingly accurate, decent specification, reasonably solid, dual head valve.
Cons: Display window could be larger and read out clearer, less user-friendly than some.
Nudging the scales at 80g, construction is predominantly composite but feels reassuringly solid. A grippy, yet tactile rubberised coating runs around the perimeter, improving purchase, while offering the unit some protection, should you accidentally drop it on a hard surface.
You’ll also notice a protruding lens-this is a light, designed to locate the valve stem. Flip it over and on the back, there’s the battery cover. It runs from a single CR2032 button type, common to cycle computer head units, calculators, and indeed, some lights.
This is designed to be opened with a coin - 2/10p seem ideal. Be wary of using flat bladed screwdrivers/similar implements, as it seems quite soft. Again, I’ve had no issues during the test period but giving the battery contacts a quick lick of Vaseline, or silicone grease doesn’t go amiss. Especially if it’s an on-bike, rather than workshop/kitchen drawer companion.
At the business end, we’ve a rubberised Presta/Schrader heads. Thankfully, this one can be swivelled 180 degrees for easy, damage free access to the valve stem and features a pressure bleed button.
Dual-heads might lack the outright convenience of “smart heads” but they’re also less prone to failure, long term. I’ve had a couple that went for several years apiece and certainly didn’t owe me anything. However, in both models the spring-loaded mechanisms exploded without warning, rendering them bin-fodder.
So, to the display window: this is a little small, even compared with my compact SKS Air checker. Thankfully, there’s a backlight and having got past this, it will read pressures in 0.1 psi increments, which should appease the most obsessive/pedantic of fettlers.
Continuing this accuracy narrative, Lifeline reckon its accurate to within .5PSI. You'll also notice two little buttons. The left powers up and allows you to turn the backlight function on/off the right powers down and flicks between Psi, bar Kg/cm2 and KPA. More about this later...
Ease of Use 2.75/5
Though hardly difficult to use, its less intuitive than the others I have mentioned here. If you want to take a single pressure reading, ensure it's in CAL (calculation) mode. ADJ (Adjust) is what’s needed, to track pressures, say when you’ve over inflated, or want to drop pressures for increased traction. Thankfully, the gauge will hold the reading when it’s been removed from the valve head. Useful if you couldn’t see it clearly, at the time, or got distracted by something.
To reset the settings, summon STA. Accidental/unwanted switches are unlikely, since the buttons require a definite prod and there’s an audible beep denoting every change. An auto shut down function kicks in after 45 seconds of inactivity, which gives a sporting chance of a long and useful battery life. Ideally, keep it in a carefully organised compartment/pencil case etc if it’s coming along for the ride.
No phantom power-ups to date. At the other extreme, the metal bleed button is surprisingly low profile and a little too positive, which can make it trickier to operate, depending on valve stem length, rim depth etc.
Back on the plus side, the shape and serrated rubberised “skirt” ensures comfortable grip, even with sweaty/oily hands. In low light, the backlight is useful, the “valve locating” diode less so, although still welcome. Some of this serves to illustrate just how far output and LED technology has come, in recent years.
Practice makes perfect. Though less intuitive to use than some, once I’d become familiar, accuracy is on par with those discussed and as close as most of us will want/need. I’ve used ours to check bicycle tyres of varying widths/pressures but cars and motorcycles too. Using my SKS Air checker as the control, the Lifeline has consistently mirrored its readings.
This is probably the cheapest digital gauge on the market, and we’ve seen it discounted online. So, why haven’t I awarded it full marks? Well, it certainly represents excellent value on paper and compared with others.
However, there is no getting away from the fact we get, what we pay for. More expensive models such as the SKS Airchecker are more intuitive to use. Then of course, there are some minor, though tangible compromises. Specifically, the small display and the bleed valve’s location.
Bottom line, the Lifeline is a very accurate pressure gauge, for not a lot of money. Its comfortable to hold and with a little practice, straightforward, rather than intuitive to use. However, I would welcome a clearer display and a better designed bleed valve. Even if it meant paying an extra couple of quid.