Here are three common types of measuring calipers: A digital caliper for quick, easy measuring, a precision machinist caliper for ultra-accurate jobs, and a plastic dial caliper for ordinary household use. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Whether it’s for a holiday or birthday, this Tools Under 30 Dollars Gift Guide Series shows you important, yet somewhat uncommon, tools that any gearhead would want.

Today, let’s talk about Measuring Calipers.


A lot of jobs, particularly in the automotive universe, require a ton of precision measurements. And in many situations, you can’t just slap a ruler down to take a reading.

A precise measuring caliper is the ONLY tool for the job here.

But the good news is, a measuring caliper is really easy to use. And even better, most offer plenty of different ways to take a measurement, which means you’ll probably find them handy for a ton of other applications around the house. We’ll walk you through some common use cases:

Need to take a quick measurement on the outer diameter (OD) of a piece of tubing or pipe? A dial caliper can help. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
Conversely, most calipers can flip around so you can take inside diameter (ID) measurements too. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
Or you can use the other side of the caliper to measure length/height. Here we’re adjusting the float level on a Honda CB350 carburetor using a digital caliper to ensure it’s in spec. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
Digital calipers can offer excellent precision. Here’s our carburetor float height from the above picture—dang-near perfect. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Here’s the tricky part though. As you may have noticed in the pics, measuring calipers come in a handful of different flavors, particularly analog and digital.

There are pros and cons of each. For instance, a digital caliper may offer greater precision and easy readability, but depending on how often you use it, you may struggle with battery life. Whereas a basic mechanical caliper can sit happily in your toolbox for decades.

It’s important to realize that the price of measuring calipers will increase significantly, as the demand for more precise measurements increases, so you have to consider your needs.


If you’re an engine builder, a sub-30 dollar caliper may not be the best choice. But if you just want to take some quick, easy measurements on say, the outer diameter of some tubing, then a measuring caliper under 30 bucks can be a great gift to give and receive.

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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.