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There are few car-related annoyances that pop with the frequency of a low tire pressure warning. Whether due to dropping temperatures, a run-in with a pothole, or just plain neglect (shame on you), the warm glow of a low tire pressure warning light usually means a trip to a gas station, or worse. Those of us who drive older cars may not have Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMSs), so staying on top of our tire pressure is paramount.
With the ability to inflate your tires swiftly and effortlessly, a reliable portable air compressor or tire inflator ensures you can resume your journey promptly. This not only saves time but provides peace of mind.
Things To Consider
Whether you're looking for a portable air compressor to keep in your car or truck, or just want one for the garage, there are many factors to consider.
Type: Portable inflators are generally smaller and can be kept in your vehicle, while console inflators are typically more powerful and suitable for heavy-duty tasks.
Power Source: Tire inflators can be powered by 120-volt plugs, your vehicle's 12-volt outlet, or rechargeable batteries. Choose one that fits your intended usage scenario.
Attachments: Check if the inflator comes with various nozzle attachments for inflating sports equipment, air mattresses, and other inflatables.
Pressure Range: Make sure the inflator can achieve the required psi for your vehicle's tires. Some models have a limited range, while others can handle higher pressures for various applications.
Features: Tire inflators can include some other features that make them easier to use and more versatile, including LED work lights, digital readouts, deflation, and auto shutoff.
Our colleagues at the Gear Team recently performed an exhaustive hands-on test of a handful of portable tire inflators. We consulted with those experts to compile this list. If you're in the market, here are some of the best portable tire inflators out there.
Best Portable Tire Inflators
During Gear Team testing, the AVID Power was named "Best Overall"because of its knockout combination of ease of use, efficiency, and affordability. It's battery-powered, but gets backup power via the car's 12-volt socket. It also includes two valve adapters and a bonus 12-volt DC power cord. Its rubberized handle offers superior grip and less noise compared to competitors. With quick inflation, a USB charging port, and versatile power options, it was the Gear Team's top choice at under $100.
At less than two pounds, there may be no more "portable" tire inflator than this Airmoto. At first glance, the tiny compressor doesn't even look like a tire inflator, much less one that can inflate your tires up to 120 psi. It features a built-in rechargeable battery, Schrader and Presta valves, needle and general adapters (for inflatable cushions and such), an LED flashlight, an LCD display, and my personal favorite feature, a deflation mode.
Craftsman is known for making a wide variety of power tools. The V20, as with many of Craftsman's products, offers the promise of strong reliable performance if nothing else. It has several power options including an AC wall plug, a 12-volt car outlet, and a rechargeable battery pack (sold separately). While it is relatively large and heavy, its auto shutoff, digital readout, and 3-year warranty make up for it.
The Teromas was tested by our Gear Team, and they found that when compared to similar-style inflators it reliably inflated flat tires more quickly. It's powered by a 120-volt household outlet adapter, in addition to the 12-volt outlet plug. It makes a strong case for "best bang for the buck" on this list given its price, features, and accessories. It features programmable inflation with auto shutoff, an LCD display, LED lights, and multiple nozzles for all your inflating needs.
20V Max Inflator
The DeWalt 20V Max Inflator offers versatile power options: It can be used cordlessly with a 20V Max battery and can be plugged into your car's 12-volt port or a household AC outlet. It features a high-pressure hose for tires and sports balls and a high-volume hose for inflatable items. The inflator boasts a top-notch digital gauge, convenient auto shutoff, large buttons, and a built-in work light. Its larger size makes it less portable than others and it uses DeWalts's 20V Max battery and charger, sold separately.
The AstroAI Pistol Grip is powered by a 20-volt 2.0Ah Li-ion battery that charges rapidly in just about an hour. Alternatively, it can be connected via a cord to a wall outlet or car cigarette lighter using an adapter. Its intuitive pistol-style design simplifies usage: Set the desired psi, attach the connector, and pull the trigger.
During testing by our Gear Team, it demonstrated relatively quick inflation, albeit with a bit of noise. Included in the package are two USB-equipped batteries and a convenient carrying case, enhancing the device's portability. Surprisingly budget-friendly, the AstroAI Pistol Grip defies the typical cost-quality standards, making it a compelling choice.
When tested, the Milwaukee M18 Inflator impressed with rapid inflation: 30 psi in just over a minute and 45 psi in around two-and-a-half minutes, outpacing competitors. While powerful, it's not practical for daily transport or emergency use due to bulkiness and reliance on the M18 Li-ion battery, which is not included. Ideal for existing Milwaukee M18 users, off-roaders, or household inflation tasks. For occasional or emergency use, smaller portable options are probably better.
The first thing that stands out about the Vortex S6 is its sleek techy design. But it's not all show and no go: This inflator includes a few features that make it stand out from the group. For one, it's completely wireless. Its built-in battery claims to be able to inflate as many as 18 standard Ford F-150 or similar tires to about 35 psi on a full charge. In addition to this, you get a powerful LED light, preset pressure memory, auto-stop, and a USB-C port for charging other devices.
Having been satisfied with AstroAI's more portable Pistol Grip inflator, we thought it would make sense to include one of its more affordable console units as well. It has an easy-to-read digital display that allows you simply to set your desired pressure and forget it. It comes with a few different nozzles and a couple of replacement fuses and features an LED light. While it does only run on your car's 12-volt port, the wire is long (10 feet) and robust.
What types of vehicles can portable tire inflators be used for?
Portable tire inflators are versatile and can be used for various vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, bicycles, SUVs, trucks, and recreational vehicles (RVs).
What is the power source for portable tire inflators?
Portable tire inflators can be powered by various sources, including the vehicle's 12-volt power outlet (cigarette lighter), rechargeable batteries, or connection to a power outlet at home or in a garage.
Are portable tire inflators helpful in emergency situations?
Yes, portable tire inflators are excellent for emergency situations, such as flat tires on the road. They allow you to inflate a flat tire temporarily to reach a nearby service station or a safer location.
How do I determine the correct tire pressure for my vehicle?
The recommended tire pressure for your vehicle can usually be found in the owner's manual or on a label inside the driver's door jamb. It's important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines for the specific make and model of your vehicle.
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