Master Dial Gauges 5 Types, Parts, Pros, Cons & Uses [PDF]

Introduction to Dial Gauge

A dial gauge just like other types of gauges is a precision measuring instrument that is commonly used in mechanical engineering, manufacturing, and quality control departments. It is a tool that is used to measure the variation in distance between two surfaces or the deviation from a set position. Dial gauges are known by different names such as dial indicator, dial test indicator, and lever indicator, but they all essentially function the same way.

Using a dial gauge involves setting the gauge to zero by turning the bezel until the needle points to zero on the dial. The stylus is then placed on the surface being measured, and the spindle is adjusted until the needle points to the measurement being taken.

Dial Gauge

Dial gauges can measure various dimensions, including thickness, height, and distance. It is essential to ensure that the stylus is perpendicular to the surface being measured when using this gauge, as any deviation from this angle can result in inaccurate measurements. Proper maintenance and calibration of the gauge are also crucial to ensure its accuracy.

What is a Dial Gauge?

A dial gauge is a precise measuring tool used in mechanical engineering, manufacturing, and quality control. It consists of a metal body, spindle, and stylus to measure the variation in distance between two surfaces. The gauge displays the measurement on a dial in increments of 0.001 inch or 0.01 millimeter. It is used to measure dimensions like thickness, height, and distance accurately.

Dial Gauge

Types of Dial Gauges

Dial Test Indicator: This type is used for detecting and measuring small variations in flatness or straightness. It has a lever arm that can be positioned in multiple directions to measure the deviation from a reference surface. Dial test indicators are commonly used in the field of machining.

Dial Indicator: This is the most common type, which is used for measuring small distances and variations in machinery. It has a spring-loaded plunger that can be extended or retracted by turning a knob or rotating the gauge body. As the plunger moves, the dial display shows the distance traveled in thousandths of an inch or millimeters.

Digital Dial Indicator: This features a digital display that shows the distance traveled in real-time, rather than relying on a physical dial display. Digital dial indicators are often preferred in situations where high precision and accuracy are required.

Dial Gauge

Dial Thickness Gauge: These are used for measuring the thickness of materials such as paper, plastic, and metal. It has a flat base and an adjustable anvil that can be moved up and down to measure the distance between them.

Bore Gauge: These types are used for measuring the diameter of a hole or cylinder. It has a telescopic arm that can be extended to touch the sides of the hole, and the measurement is displayed on a dial or digital display.

Parts of The Dial Gauge

These components work together to provide accurate and precise measurements in various industries and applications.

  • Metal Body: The main component of the gauge that houses the internal parts.
  • Spindle: A cylindrical shaft that extends from the body and connects to the contact point/stylus.
  • Contact Point: The part that touches the measured surface, typically made of hard material.
  • Bezel: The outer ring on the gauge that rotates to set the zero position or adjust the measurement range.
  • Dial: The part that displays the measurement, marked in increments of 0.001 inch or 0.01 millimeter.
  • Needle: The part that moves across the dial to indicate the measurement being taken.
  • Back Plate: The part that attaches the gauge to a fixture for stability during measurements.

How to Use a Dial Gauge?

These are some general steps for using a dial gauge which are as follows

  • Attach the dial gauge to a fixture or stand, if needed, to keep it stable during measurement.
  • Set the zero position of the gauge by rotating the bezel until the pointer/needle is at zero on the dial. Some gauges have a button to zero out the gauge instead.
  • Place the contact point/stylus on the surface being measured, making sure it’s perpendicular to the surface and applying a gentle pressure to ensure it’s in contact with the surface.
  • Read the measurement on the dial where the pointer/needle stops. Be sure to read the measurement from the correct side of the pointer/needle to account for any backlash or hysteresis.
  • Move the gauge to the next location to take a new measurement, repeating the steps above.
  • After use, reset the gauge to its zero position or store it in a safe place.
Dial Gauge

How to Read a Dial Gauge Scale?

To read a dial gauge scale, follow these steps

  • Identify the units of measurement being used on the scale, which are typically displayed on the dial.
  • Observe the position of the pointer or needle on the dial. The pointer will typically indicate the measurement value in relation to the zero point or reference position.
  • Determine the value of the smallest division on the dial, which is typically indicated by the smallest tick mark or increment. This value represents the resolution or sensitivity of the gauge.
  • Read the measurement value on the dial by identifying the position of the pointer in relation to the tick marks or increments on the dial. To get a more accurate reading, you may need to estimate between tick marks.
  • Record the measurement value and units.

It’s important to note that reading a dial gauge scale can vary depending on the specific type and model of gauge being used. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper usage and reading of the gauge. Additionally, always ensure the gauge is properly calibrated and maintained for accurate and reliable readings.

Advantages of the Dial Gauge

  • High accuracy: They are precise and accurate, allowing for the measurement of small variations in dimensions or position.
  • Versatility: It can be used for a wide range of measurements, including thickness, height, and distance, making them a versatile tool for many applications.
  • Ease of use: These are generally easy to use, with straightforward operation and clear readings on the dial.
  • Durability: Mostly are constructed from durable materials, such as metal or hardened plastics, and can withstand harsh environments and frequent use.
  • Portability: They are relatively small and portable, making them easy to transport to different locations or use in the field.
  • Cost-effectiveness: It is relatively affordable compared to other high-precision measurement tools, such as laser interferometers or coordinate measuring machines.
Dial Gauge
Photo By GrabCAD

Disadvantages of the Dial Gauge

  • Limited measuring range: These are designed to measure small variations in dimensions or position, and are not suitable for measuring large distances or heights.
  • Limited resolution: Their accuracy is limited by their resolution, which is typically increments of 0.001 inch or 0.01 millimeters. This may not be sufficient for some high-precision applications.
  • Parallax error: The readings can be affected by parallax error, which occurs when the operator views the dial from an angle rather than directly above it. This can lead to inaccurate readings.
  • Fragility: Some ones have delicate mechanisms that can be easily damaged, making them unsuitable for use in harsh environments.
  • Calibration: It must be calibrated regularly to ensure their accuracy, which can be time-consuming and costly.

Applications of the Dial Gauge

  • Mechanical Engineering: They are used to measure dimensions, runout, and alignment in machinery and mechanical components.
  • Manufacturing: In manufacturing processes, it is used to ensure the accuracy and quality of products by measuring dimensions and tolerances.
  • Quality Control: These are used in quality control processes to inspect and verify the accuracy of manufactured parts and components.
  • Construction: Useful in construction projects to measure distances, levels, and alignment of building components.
  • Automotive: In the automotive industry they are used to measure engine components, wheel alignment, and suspension systems.
  • Aerospace: Dial gauges are used in the aerospace industry to measure critical components and ensure the safety and reliability of aircraft.
Dial Gauge
Photo By GrabCAD


How to read the dial gauge?

Make sure the gauge is properly positioned on the surface to be measured, with the stylus or contact point in contact with the surface. Look at the dial gauge and note the position of the needle or pointer. Read the value indicated by the position of the needle or pointer on the dial. The value may be displayed in increments of 0.001 inch or 0.01 millimeter, depending on the model. Note the position of the needle or pointer before and after taking the measurement to determine the deviation or variation in the surface being measured. When finished, reset the gauge to zero or its starting position.

Torque wrench with dial gauge

A torque wrench with a dial gauge is used to tighten bolts or nuts to a specific torque value with real-time monitoring. It’s commonly used in automotive and mechanical engineering applications where precise torque settings are critical for proper functioning and safety. It helps to prevent over-tightening or under-tightening, reducing the risk of equipment failure or safety hazards.

How much does a dial gauge cost?

The cost of a dial gauge can vary widely based on its brand, quality, and features. Basic models can cost between $10 and $50, while more advanced models with additional features like digital displays or higher accuracy can cost several hundred dollars. It’s important to consider your specific needs when choosing a dial gauge.

Where are dial gauges used?

Dial gauges find their application in various industries such as mechanical engineering, manufacturing, and quality control to precisely measure the difference in distance between two surfaces or the deviation from a set position. Their accuracy is particularly helpful when measuring dimensions such as thickness, height, or distance. In addition, dial gauges are utilized in automotive and mechanical engineering settings to confirm that bolts and nuts are fastened to the correct torque value. This aspect is essential for ensuring the smooth operation and safety of the equipment.


Dial gauges are accurate measuring tools widely used in different industries. They come in different types, each with unique features for specific applications, and have various parts that work together to ensure precision. Although they offer benefits like easy readability and durability, they also have drawbacks like high cost and damage susceptibility. Despite these limitations, dial gauges are essential tools for professionals who require accurate measurements. Proper use and handling are critical to maintain their accuracy and longevity. Dial gauges are vital in ensuring the quality and safety of industrial applications, and their importance cannot be overstated.


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