Turbocharging is an effective way to add performance to your vehicle, even if it didn’t come equipped with it from the factory. And if you already own a car with a turbocharged engine, there are many options open to you if you want to make it even more powerful.
Whether you want to add turbocharging or tweak your existing system, you need to know how much boost your engine is generating so that you can stay within its mechanical limits, and the easiest way to get that information at a glance is with a boost gauge. To help you find one that will work with your vehicle, we’ve compiled a list of the best boost gauges you can buy.
For more information on the best boost gauges, refer to our table of contents.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor’s Pick: GlowShift Tinted 7-Color Turbo Boost Gauge
- 2. Best Basic Boost Gauge: Auto Meter Ultra-Lite Mechanical Boost/Vacuum Gauge
- 3. Best Digital Boost Gauge: Innovate Motorsports Solenoid Boost Controller
- 4. Best Match for Modern Dashboards: ProSport EVO Series
- 5. Best for Trucks: MaxTow Double Vision
- 6. Auto Meter Z-Series Mechanical Boost Gauge
- 7. TruckMeter Hewitt Industries Combo Pyrometer & Boost Gauge
- 8. KKmoon Turbo Boost Gauge
- 9. Turbosmart Boost Gauge
- 10. Bosch Mechanical Boost Gauge
- Why Should You Install a Boost Gauge in Your Turbocharged Car?
- How Does a Boost Gauge Work?
- What do You Need to Know if You Live at a High Altitude?
1. Editor’s Pick: GlowShift Tinted 7-Color Turbo Boost Gauge
This boost gauge by Glowshift gets the nod as our Editor’s Pick partly for its simple design, which lets you quickly read your engine’s boost or intake vacuum level. But we think you’ll also like a few of this gauge’s aesthetic features. For one, it lets you choose from seven backlighting colors so that you can match this gauge’s look to the rest of your car’s display lighting. Changing the color is easy too: you control it by pressing a button on the front of the gauge. Regardless of which color you choose for the display, the needle glows red for easy visibility. Meanwhile, the italic typeface lends the dial an impression of speed.
If you wire this gauge to your vehicle’s dimmer switch, the brightness will vary with the rest of your gauges. When you turn off the car, the gauge face fades to black. GlowShift’s gauge shows you turbo boost levels from zero to 30 PSI, and measures manifold vacuum between -30 and zero inHg. When you buy this gauge, you get 6 feet of silicone hose, a 1/8” T-fitting, two hose clamps, 2 feet of power wire, installation instructions, and all necessary mounting hardware.
2. Best Basic Boost Gauge: Auto Meter Ultra-Lite Mechanical Boost/Vacuum Gauge
The Auto Meter 4303 is a more straightforward boost gauge than the GlowShift model we named as our Editor’s Pick. To fit in with the rest of its Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite line, Auto Meter sticks with a plain typeface to create a more utilitarian dial.
To go with Auto Meter’s simpler approach, this gauge doesn’t have backlighting, never mind customizable LED colors. Instead, there’s an incandescent bulb behind the gauge face that casts a glow around the perimeter of the dial. The sole nod to customization is a set of red and green bulb covers if you’re not happy with the warm glow of the bare bulb.
However, because this gauge is all mechanical, it will work without an electrical connection if you’re not concerned about nighttime visibility. This dial’s mechanical nature means it is compatible with any vehicle.
The Auto Meter 4303 displays boost levels between zero and 30 PSI and vacuum up to -30 inHg. What you’ll find in the box with your gauge is a length of 1/8” nylon tubing, a T-fitting, vacuum and compression fittings, a bulb and socket assembly, mounting hardware, and installation instructions.
3. Best Digital Boost Gauge: Innovate Motorsports Solenoid Boost Controller
From Innovate Motorsports comes the most comprehensive boost gauge in our list. The SCG-1 provides a fully digital readout that we think will appeal if you’re going for a high-tech look in your car’s cabin. The SCG-1 is also a good choice if you’re running relatively high boost levels, as it reads to a maximum of 43.5 PSI. It also shows vacuum readings down to -29 inHg.
In addition to boost and vacuum readings, the SCG-1 also displays your engine’s air/fuel ratio thanks to a wideband oxygen (O2) sensor that monitors your vehicle’s exhaust composition. The O2 sensor works with a variety of fuels, including leaded gas and diesel. If you use data logging technology, the SCG-1 accommodates that, too. Innovate Motorsports’ product also lets you set a shift light so you don’t have to look away from the boost reading when doing full-throttle acceleration pulls.
The SCG-1 kit includes all the necessary hardware, plus interchangeable black and white gauge faces and black and silver bezels. The O2 sensor comes with 8 feet of wiring and a bung to weld onto the exhaust.
4. Best Match for Modern Dashboards: ProSport EVO Series
ProSport makes our list with a good-looking boost gauge that mimics the appearance of digital displays in some modern vehicles. The design uses an all-electric circular indicator that is reminiscent of the way a traditional analog gauge needle sweeps around the dial. An added bonus is a true digital readout in the center of the gauge, giving you a bit of both worlds.
ProSport’s gauge reads boost up to 35 PSI and also displays manifold vacuum down to -30 inHg. The dial can be toggled between red and blue lighting, and goes completely black when the car is off—again, a nice nod to the all-digital displays that have become common in late-model vehicles.
The ProSport EVO comes with mounting hardware, a T-fitting to tap into your car’s intake, an unspecified length of tubing, and a module that converts mechanical manifold pressure readings into the digital signal displayed by the gauge. While some buyers complain about poor visibility in bright daylight, ProSport also sells a hood that reduces glare.
5. Best for Trucks: MaxTow Double Vision
We know that sports car drivers aren’t the only ones interested in monitoring boost, and so does MaxTow. That’s why the company makes the Double Vision model, and it’s also the reason we’ve named it the best choice for truck owners. This is an electronic gauge that displays boost via a pointer needle and a digital readout. It reads up to 60 PSI and uses a stepper motor for smooth needle movement and accurate readings.
The Double Vision has green backlighting that can’t be customized. However, MaxTow has built in six light dimming levels—three for daytime driving and three for nighttime. The MaxTow will remember your preferred dimmer settings even after you turn off your truck. When it’s powered down, the MaxTow’s analog dial markings are white on black and the needle is red.
MaxTow ships the Double Vision gauge with a 9-foot length of wire for the boost pressure sensor, a 5-foot power wire, mounting hardware, and installation instructions. Your purchase also includes a 1-year warranty and lifetime tech support.
6. Auto Meter Z-Series Mechanical Boost Gauge
Here’s another Auto Meter boost gauge that is a model of simplicity. This one differs from the 4303 model we named Best Basic Boost Gauge in that it reads only boost and not vacuum; also, the 2617’s dial goes up to 60 PSI, doubling what the 4303 can handle. This might be the gauge for you if you drive a truck and want to keep track of how much boost the turbo is generating while towing. It would also suit high-horsepower car applications, such as a turbocharged engine you’ve built for racing.
Another hint that this gauge is best for high-boost applications is seen in the dial’s gradations. From zero to 10 PSI, each mark is an increase of 2 PSI, while from 10 PSI and up, each tick denotes a 1-PSI increase. That means you’ll only be able to accurately judge changes in boost levels above the 10-PSI mark.
Like the other Auto Meter product in this list, the 2617 is backlit by an incandescent bulb, but the light only shows around the perimeter of the dial and customization is limited to red and green bulb covers. Any way you install it, though, this is not the ideal gauge for nighttime driving. If you decide you don’t need backlighting, installing this product is a simple all-mechanical job.
The Auto Meter 2617 comes with 1/8” nylon tubing and compression fittings, a 1/4” NPT adapter, bulb and socket assembly, mounting hardware, and instructions.
7. TruckMeter Hewitt Industries Combo Pyrometer & Boost Gauge
If you drive a truck, this Hewitt Industries gauge set is a useful pair of tools. This bundle combines Hewitt’s boost gauge with a pyrometer, a dial that measures your truck’s exhaust gas temperatures. The boost gauge reads to 50 PSI, which should suit most truck drivers’ purposes, while the pyrometer measures temperatures up to 1,600-degrees Fahrenheit.
Both Hewitt’s boost and pyrometer gauges sport white numbers on a black background with a red pointer; the backlighting is dimmable, and all of Hewitt’s gauges are designed to be wired to a single dimmer so you can control them all with one switch.
Both gauges come with most of the hardware you’ll need for a clean install. The pyrometer includes 1/4″ and 1/8” fittings designed to work with an existing exhaust bung, or you can drill a new one. A 7-foot wire promises to be long enough to reach from the exhaust mounting point to your truck’s dash. The boost dial comes with an 8-foot pressure line.
8. KKmoon Turbo Boost Gauge
KKmoon’s turbo boost gauge stands out for its flashy design, which puts black numbers on a white face that’s backlit by a blue LED. Like many of the other car boost dials in our list, a red pointer measures boost up to 30 PSI and vacuum to -30 inHg. Another notable trait is the bargain-basement price of KKmoon’s gauge, which makes it the least expensive product here by a wide margin.
While the design of the gauge face is a bit cluttered, we like this gauge for its use of black-on-white and blue lighting, which will look good in many sporty cars from the 1990s and 2000s. One thing we’d be curious to learn is whether the center of the dial actually glows reddish-pink as is shown in the company’s photos. Overall, this gauge looks more expensive than its low price suggests.
KKmoon says it ships its gauge with a T-fitting and 5.5 feet of PVC tubing, along with wiring to run power for the backlighting.
9. Turbosmart Boost Gauge
This Turbosmart boost gauge is the only one in our list that claims to improve your turbocharger’s performance rather than simply measure it. Upon further reading, however, the company makes that claim in reference to one of its boost controller products, and this gauge is designed to work with that controller. Turbosmart’s gauge sports a standard design that reads from zero to 30 for boost (PSI) and to -30 for vacuum (inHg).
The TS-0101-2023 is backlit, but it does not include a dimming function. It is possible to wire in a dimmer switch, but to do so you will have to buy extra hardware not included with the gauge.
Turbosmart ships this gauge with tubing to connect to your engine’s intake, but it may not be long enough for all vehicles. You’ll want to be careful about how you install the tubing too, as it can kink easily and cause inaccurate boost readings.
10. Bosch Mechanical Boost Gauge
The final product to make our list of boost gauges is this entry-level model from Germany’s Bosch. We would have expected an item from such a well-known company to place higher in the ranking, but it’s clear Bosch wants to expand its reach with a basic product. To be fair, Bosch markets this product as part of its entry-grade “Style Line,” its most straightforward set of gauge designs.
Note that the boost portion of Bosch’s gauge reads to a modest 20 PSI, so this product will work best if you want to measure turbo pressure in a stock vehicle or one that is lightly modified. At first glance, installation options appear limited by the fact that the gauge is shown with a bracket designed for bottom mounting. However, the gauge can be removed from that bracket so that you can install it in a pod with other dials or mount it independently in your vehicle’s dash.
Bosch offers you the choice of a white or black dial face with numbers reversed. An incandescent light bulb provides basic backlighting that is dimmable if you wire it into your car’s dimmer switch. When you buy this Bosch gauge, it comes with 6 feet of nylon tubing with 1/8” and 1/4″ fittings and all mounting hardware. Instructions are not included but can be downloaded from Bosch’s website.
Why Should You Install a Boost Gauge in Your Turbocharged Car?
Photo credit: VORT3X / Shutterstock.com
Turbocharging is a performance-adding technology that has become common in mainstream vehicles in recent years. It has allowed car manufacturers to extract more power from smaller engines and improve fuel economy without sacrificing performance.
Modifying a turbocharged car for extra speed means tweaking and testing to see how much boost you are applying to the engine. Too much boost can severely damage a factory-installed engine. More robust aftermarket pistons, connecting rods, and crankshafts will take more abuse, but you still have to be aware of their physical limits.
A boost gauge is a simple way to measure turbo intake pressure and view that measurement at a glance while driving the car.
How Does a Boost Gauge Work?
To use a boost gauge, you must connect it to your engine’s intake, where a mechanical or electronic sensor will monitor how much pressure the turbocharger generates. Generally, you will see more pressure under harder acceleration.
Once you get the performance of your turbo engine dialed in, the gauge can be used for diagnostic purposes, with unexpected changes in pressure potentially indicating a mechanical fault.
In the U.S., boost is most commonly measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), but you may also see it represented in the metric unit, BAR, which relates to barometric pressure.
What do You Need to Know if You Live at a High Altitude?
If you live well above sea level, lower atmospheric pressure can affect a boost gauge’s accuracy. If the gauge reads lower than it should, your engine may be receiving more boost than you’re aware of, which could damage it. Before you buy a boost gauge, contact the manufacturer to find out if there’s a way to calibrate it to the atmospheric pressure where you’ll drive the car.
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