With the condition of some roads deteriorating rapidly it’s not unusual to see vehicles stranded beside the road with one or more punctured tires. Equally common are the number of vehicles on the road with underinflated tires – either due to a slow puncture or quite often because the driver is making a quick trip with an additional load, and doesn’t have the time to stop at a gas station to adjust tire pressures.

Fortunately there’s a quick and cost-effective solution to all these tire-pressure problems: A good portable tire inflator, sometimes also referred to as an air compressor. Instead of having to change a tire in the middle of the night or calling a friend, a good portable tire inflator in your car, SUV, or pickup truck’s emergency kit can save you time and money and get you back on the road in a flash.

See also: The Best All-Season Tires For Cars, Performance Cars, SUVs, Vans, and Trucks

If you’re looking for the best portable tire inflator on the market, here are three “best in class” portable air compressors we recommend:

Portable tire inflator. Viair 88P

Review Of The Best Portable Tire Inflators

Viair 88P Portable Air Compressor

PROS

CONS

MAIN CHARACTERISTICS

  • BRAND

    VIAIR
  • MODEL

    88P
  • WEIGHT

    4.5 lb
  • AIR FLOW

    1.47 CFM
  • PRICE RANGE

    $67

This air compressor ticks just about all the boxes if you’re looking for a rugged, heavy-duty, portable tire inflator. With the vehicle’s engine running, this inflator delivers 120PSI (Max Working Pressure) and 1.47 CFM free airflow (@ 0 PSI), capable of inflating a 225/60/R18 tire from flat to 30 PSI in under three minutes. This performance and the 3 piece inflation-tip kit make it ideally suited to inflating tires on small ATVs, trucks, SUVs, and sedans with up to 33″ tires. Its extra-long, 10 ft power cord and 16 ft air hose, mean you can easily reach any tire on the vehicle. And its compact size makes it easy to stow in just about any vehicle’s stowage or cargo compartment, while the built-in power indicator/work light make it easy for you to see what you’re doing at night.

DEWALT Tire Inflator Cordless 20V MAX

PROS

CONS

MAIN CHARACTERISTICS

  • BRAND

    DEWALT
  • MODEL

    DCC020IB
  • WEIGHT

    2.94 lb
  • AIR FLOW

    15.2 SCFM
  • PRICE RANGE

    $99

If you’re looking for the best of the best, you need search no further: The DeWalt 20V MAX cordless tire inflator is as good as a portable air compressor gets. You can take it anywhere and use it cordlessly, with the same 20V Max battery used in other DeWalt tools – or you can plug it into a car’s 12-volt port or a household AC outlet (using the optional adapter). What is more, in addition to its high-pressure hose, for inflating tires and sports balls, the versatile DeWalt also has a separate, high-flow hose for quickly filling larger inflatables such as air beds, pool floats, lawn decorations, and more. Further enhancing the quality and functionality of this inflator, the digital gauge and auto-shutoff make setting the preferred air pressure a breeze. Confirming DeWalt’s quest for quality, the well-designed housing also cleverly incorporates large buttons and a work light.

AstroAI Portable Air Compressor

PROS

CONS

MAIN CHARACTERISTICS

  • BRAND

    AstroAI
  • MODEL

    A220B
  • WEIGHT

    2.16 lb
  • AIR FLOW

    1.24 CFM (35 L/Min)
  • PRICE RANGE

    $30

Who says a good portable tire inflator will cost you an arm and a leg? The AstroAI air compressor, tire inflator and portable air pump for car tires not only delivers great performance and functionality but does so at a reasonable price. With a 35 L/Min airflow rate this air compressor can inflate a 195/55/R15 car tire from 0 to 26 PSI in approximately 2 minutes or less, and a standard mid-sized car tire from 0 to 36 PSI in only 4 to 6 minutes. Powered through the vehicle’s cigarette lighter or power outlet, this inflator has many features usually only found on compressors costing considerably more: A One-click switch changes the readout units from PSI, kPa, BAR and KG/CM, while the large white backlit LCD screen is easy to read even in the dark. To further enhance the inflator’s use in the dark it is equipped with an integrated LED flashlight with an independent switch for emergency use.

GSPSCN Tire Inflator Double Cylinders

PROS

CONS

MAIN CHARACTERISTICS

  • BRAND

    GSPSCN
  • MODEL

    SKEY
  • WEIGHT

    6.6 lb
  • AIR FLOW

    2.47 CFM (70 L/Min)
  • PRICE RANGE

    $75

The GSPSCN SKEY portable air compressor for the car is well established among its users. It is outstanding for its design with two 30 mm aluminized alloy cylinders that deliver up to 2.47 [email protected] of airflow at the output. With long power and air cords and a direct battery power connection, this pump is great for inflating large vehicle tires. Another argument for this is the higher maximum working pressure, which is limited to 150 PSI.

The case holds everything nice and neat, so you can carry everything in one place. It’s also worth noting that it’s the direct connection to the battery that’s highly recommended for the smooth operation of this portable compressor. It is always best to consider this because when connecting to the cigarette lighter it will all depend on the fuse that is installed in your car model.

However, given the wide range of products to choose from, it might be difficult to decide on the best portable tire inflator to invest in. So to help you make the right decision, in this guide we’re going to go through everything you need to know about portable tire inflators.

Shopping for the Best Portable Car Tire Inflator

Before deciding on which product best fits your requirements it is important that you carefully consider each product in light of its features and functionality and whether these meet your needs.

If you’ve never purchased a portable tire compressor before, it is quite easy to be overwhelmed by the volume of marketing hype and claims made by the manufacturers. Thus, in this section we will highlight the most important features you should be on the lookout for.

Air compressors that plug into the cigarette lighter socket/power-supply

While the best portable tire inflators are typically equipped with these plugs, there are a few devices designed to be connected directly to the battery. Unless you really need to connect directly to the battery – for instance you may want to inflate a large tire on a trailer in your garage – make sure the tire inflator is fitted with the correct plug for easy use.

Cordless portable tire inflators

The cordless compressor is probably the best portable tire inflator as it really is portable. For example, powered by its own lithium-ion battery DEWALT 20V MAX (Best in General) Cordless Air Compressor is easy to use as it does not need to be plugged into the vehicle or connected to any external battery. It is however important for the battery to be kept charged at all times.

Sufficient air flow-rate and pressure

While not all tire compressors will clearly display this information, heavy-duty inflators that connect directly to the battery’s terminals usually inflate tires much faster than models that are plugged into the 12-volt outlet or cigarette lighter. It can take a plug-in compressor up to 10 minutes to inflate a tire, whereas a heavy-duty model connected directly to the battery could do the same job in two to three minutes. One of the main factors, that impact inflating efficiency is an airflow rate measured in SCFM (CFM) or in liters per minute.

Automatic pressure control

This feature enables you to set the required tire pressure and not worry about over-inflating the tire. This comes in handy on the occasions when you have something else to attend to while inflating a tire.

Duty cycle

This is an indication of how long the compressor can operate before getting hot. Tire inflators with longer duty cycles can operate for longer, so that a device with a 20-minute duty cycle can run uninterrupted for 20 minutes.

Quiet operation

Depending on the size and purpose, air compressors can be notoriously noisy, especially when operating in a confined space such as a garage. Wherever possible select a product that claims to be noise-suppressed.

Digital display

The best tire inflators are increasingly moving away from analog displays to digital LCD screens to show the inflated pressure. Besides being easier to read, these displays are also more accurate.

While these are the key features to take into account when shopping for the best portable tire inflator, there are a few more considerations that may sway your purchasing decision.

Important Notes Regarding the Best Portable Tire Inflator

Choosing a portable air compressor that checks the boxes on some of, or all the following points could significantly enhance your user experience.

The length of the hose and power cable

The best portable tire air pumps usually have at least 18 to 26 inches of hose and a cord that is at least eight feet long. This is particularly important if you have a larger vehicle and wish to be sure you can easily reach all the tires. The best-overall VIAIR 88P extra-quality tire inflator in our list has a 10 ft power cord and 16 ft air hose.

Cord storage

While this may not be a top priority when selecting the best portable tire inflator, it does make life a lot simpler if the cord is neatly packed away and not left to get entangled with the other emergency equipment in the stowage compartment. While some models have overly small storage cavities that make it difficult to store the hose and cord, others allow you to easily role the cord up into a compact compartment.

Extra nozzle attachments

The best portable tire inflators are often required to serve multiple purposes: as well as inflating car tires, they must also be able to pump up bicycle tires and sports equipment. Thus a device equipped with multiple attachments can be invaluable.

Convenience

The best portable tire inflators are lightweight, weighing between two and six pounds, and usually come equipped with handles. These factors can significantly impact the convenience of using the equipment – especially if the inflator has to be hauled out of a cramped stowage compartment.

Built-in lighting

There’s nothing worse than trying to connect an air-hose fitting to the tire’s valve in total darkness. Thus, a tire inflator with a built-in flashlight will not only illuminate the tire you are inflating, but can also alert passing motorists to your plight.

So, armed with this guide you’re now able to identify and purchase the best portable tire inflator that satisfies all your requirements, but you may well ask yourself: “Why spend any money on a portable compressor? Why is it so important that my tires are correctly inflated?”

The Importance of Correctly Inflated Tires

While the reason for inflating a damaged or completely ‘flat’ tire is obvious, you may still have lingering questions about tire inflation and pressure:

Why is tire pressure so important?

Not only will over-or under-inflated tires affect your car’s handling, but they could also reduce tire life by as much as 10%. Both of these could have serious safety implications.

Where do I find the recommended PSI for my tires?

The recommended inflation pressure for your car’s tires can easily be found in any one of three places:

  • In the owner’s manual
  • A sticker just inside the driver’s-side door
  • An internet search

It is important to note that heavily laden and normally loaded vehicles require different tire pressures.

How to properly check your tire pressure?

At the outset, it’s important to understand that a visual check is hopelessly inaccurate. There is only one way to check tire pressures – with a tire pressure gauge. You can purchase a tire pressure gauge specifically for this purpose, or you could use the inflation equipment found on any filling station forecourt: or you could opt for a portable tire inflator fitted with a gauge.

To accurately check the pressure, the tires need to be at ambient temperature. So it’s best to check them before setting off on your journey.

How to properly inflate your tires?

As is the case with checking tire pressure, it’s best to check and adjust your tire pressures before setting off on your journey, while the tires are cold. Starting with any tire check the pressure and adjust until the gauge shows the appropriate reading. Note that front and rear tires have to be inflated to different pressures. Once again using a portable tire inflator before you set off from home is the most convenient method of properly inflating your car’s tires.

So, there you have it: If you want to keep your tires correctly inflated and ensure the safety of your family while getting the best mileage out of your tires, follow this guide and select the best portable tire inflator for your needs.

With some modern vehicles coming equipped with run flat tires and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), a common misconception is that a portable tire inflator or air compressor is no longer a necessity. But that’s not the case because tires can lose air over time even if you don’t have a puncture. Owning your own tire inflator means you can conveniently and routinely check your tire pressure, making sure they’re in an optimal range. Underinflated or overinflated tires can have a myriad of adverse effects on your driving experience, potentially affecting your fuel economy and tire wear. Purchasing a tire inflator is a small investment in helping make sure your tires last as long as possible, saving you money in the long run.

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