As most racers know, these “contact-less” thermometers are extremely handy. Just use the built-in laser pointer to target a specific area and the gun’s IR sensor accurately measures the intensity of the IR energy radiating from it to give you an almost-instantaneous temperature reading. It’s great for looking for the hottest item under the hood and checking your tire temperatures — or, for that matter, your competitor’s tire temps in the pit next to you.
The IR sensor averages the temperature within its “sight,” and that area gets bigger as range increases. Most units (like the one above) shoot an area about the size of a quarter at close range (6″ or so) and work up to 5′ – 10′ away (with an area a couple of feet across).
If you need more accuracy — or a laser “circle” to show you the measured area — more expensive “industrial” versions are available from a wide variety of sources. Try “heat gun” or “infrared thermometer” on Google for lots and lots. Besides those features, the other bang you’ll get for your bigger buck is increased temperature range and accuracy.
The Craftsman gun measures up to 1000 degrees F with a 2% accuracy, which isn’t bad for most home/shop purposes. It wouldn’t work to measure brake disc temps, though, as they get a lot hotter than that.
Sears sells the Craftsman unit for $80, and we found similar quality units for the same price around the ‘net. Watch out for cheap-o units that only measure to 600 degrees F or so.
Note: Sorry for the lame photo. We chose to write about the Craftsman (instead of all the similar units we found online) because the price/performance balance was pretty good and you can actually go put your hands on one if you want to know more. The bad news is that the Sears site doesn’t have anything approaching a decent photo. One would think that if a family-owned tool store on Amazon can put out a good photo of their product, Sears could. But sadly, one would be wrong.