What people may not realize is that a tire inflator can be a life saver. If you’re stranded in the middle of a snow storm and have a flat tire with no way to call for help, a 12v portable air compressor can inflate that tire and get you back on your way within minutes. Yes, minutes.
So, how do you know which is the best tire inflator and which one you should consider buying. We’ve created this guide to help you with that. We are going to talk about some of the things you should consider when you’re looking for the best car tire inflator and then we’re going to give you an overview of six products we feel are worth your consideration. By the end of the article, we’ll give you our top pick of those six products.
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What To Consider When Choosing The Best Portable Tire Inflator
When it comes to choosing the best tire inflator, you will want to take these things into consideration before making a purchase:
- Portability and Storage – The air compressor that you choose should be easy to move around your car. You’ll want an inflator that is going to be able to reach all tires with as little effort as possible. Also, if you intend on storing your air compressor in the car when it’s not in use, you’ll want to make sure that it is small enough so that it doesn’t take up much space in your trunk.
- Automation – It’s always nice when you have a device that seemingly knows what you need. Do you want an air pump that has a few settings already programmed in it, or do you want to manually input the PSI settings? Also, do you want a unit that is going to turn off on its own once the desired pressure has been reached, or do you not mind turning the device off manually? These extra little conveniences will make the device you choose more expensive, but sometimes that convenience is worth it.
- Inflation Time – When looking at some of the best portable air compressors for car tires, check to see how long it takes for the unit to fully inflate small, medium, and large car tires. This is going to give you a good indication of how long you can expect to be waiting before your flat is filled. The faster the inflator works means that you can be on the road that much quicker, which could be a matter of your safety if you’re in a bad neighborhood or caught in bad weather.
- Tire Size – Some tire inflators are capable of inflating large tires while others are not. It is important that the compressor you choose is going to be able to inflate the tire size you have, otherwise you’ll just have a fancy paper weight in the back of your trunk.
- Duty Cycle – The duty cycle is referring to the complete amount of time your inflator will take to cool down after it’s been used for a while. The longer the duty cycle, the longer it will take before you can use the inflator again. To read the duty cycle, if your compressor is listed at ‘50% duty cycle’ then that means it can run continuously without needing to cool down
Slime 12-Volt Digital Tire Inflator
Slime has been creating innovative products for tire care since 1989 and they’ve grown to being one of the most trusted names in the business. They have dedicated themselves to creating tires that are going to be safe to use, not just for the user but for the environment as well. Slime’s latest technological advancements prove to deliver fool-proof results.
Notable features of the Slime 40022 12-Volt Digital Tire Inflator:
- Inflates a standard mid-sized car tire in 6 minutes
- Uses Inflate Right technology to automatically shut off when desired pressure is reached
- Bright and long-lasting LED light for easy night use
- Plugs directly into car cigarette lighter, 15 Amp fuse required
- Powerful and compact, with rubberized feet for stability
When looking at the reviews for the product, 76% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said they appreciated how affordable this air compressor is when compared to other compressors on the market.
One customer even said that this air compressor had all the features they were looking for and half the price of more expensive air compressors. Customers have also said that they found the digital pressure gauge to be relatively accurate, with it being within 2 PSI of a manual gauge.
Of the remaining 24% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was that when they try inflating sports balls, it shuts off within seconds of turning it on. Another customer said that when the air compressor is working, it overheats really quickly—it even “start smelling a burnt smell” after only using it for 1 minute.
Goodyear 120-Volt Direct Drive Tire Inflator
When it comes to tires for your vehicles, Goodyear is a well-known and highly trusted brand. It would make sense that Goodyear is would be considered one of the best air compressors for tires! With this inflator, you’ll be able to inflate a plethora of products that requires air like tires (naturally), balls for sports, air mattresses, rafts, and other inflatables.
Notable features of the Goodyear 120-Volt Direct Drive Tire Inflator include:
- 24 feet of air hose and power cord included
- Powerful direct drive motor is extremely quiet and virtually vibration free
- Includes adapters to inflates nearly anything
- 120 volt direct drive inflator with Whisper Soft technology provides a quiet and efficient operation
- Includes inflation adaptors for all sporting equipment and rafts
- Plugs into any standard 120-volt wall outlet for power
- Inflates P185/R14 from 0 - 28 PSI in approximately 2 1/2 minutes or less
- 1’ rubber air hose, 17’ PVC air hose with quick connect valve and 6’ power cord for a total of 24'
- The maximum tire pressure is 150 PSI
When looking at the reviews for the product, 73% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said they were very pleased by easy and quickly this air compressor was able to inflate their car tires. Customers felt that the attached nozzle was able to create a tight seal on the tire valve.
They particularly enjoy the length of cord and hose made the unit capable of reaching all the tires on the car with no problems. Of the remaining 26% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was the screw on connect for a car tire was ridiculous and they would have much preferred the typical “flip down” connector as other compressors have.
One customer has said that their units had internal failures and it wouldn’t work anymore—they were only able to use it 10 times before it died. Another complaint customers had was that although the pump was nice to look at, it was poorly constructed and it was “a piece of crap.”
EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump
The EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump is designed to meet all of your inflation needs, from car tires to rafts, to ATV tires and basketballs. This small, but powerful air compressor is able to accommodate multiple needs and it can fit in the trunk of your car without taking up too much precious cargo space. All you need to do to get this unit working is plug it into your car’s cigarette lighter socket and turn it on!
Notable features of the EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump include:
- Convenience: plug directly into cigarette lighter socket of your vehicle
- 12vdc 10~15 amps, 120~180w (port must support 15 amps)
- Multiple uses: inflate tires on cars, bikes, sedan and midsize SUV
- Adaptors for balls and inflatables included
- Easy to read: 4 display units: PSI, KPA, BAR, KG/CM
- Led flashlight: bright torch
- Prevent over inflation: auto shut off when reaching the desired tire pressure
- Overheat protection shuts off automatically when overloading
When looking at the reviews for the product, 87% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said that they were impressed by how quickly the compressor was able to fill a tire. They liked that you could set the air compressor to the desired PSI and when it reached that setting, the compressor turned off so it didn’t overfill the tire.
Of the remaining 13% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was that the air compressor had a tendency to overheat and shut off when trying to fill multiple tires. Several customers were disappointed that the air compressor doesn’t shut off when it’s reached the designated PSI, although the product is advertised to do that.
VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor
Viair is a company that specializes in air compressors and air accessories for all types of vehicles. The compressors and components are frequently used in the OEM segment and they’ve become the go-to brand for 12v and 24v air compressors around the world.
This particular model is the successor to the widely popular 70P model. You’ll find that the VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor works quickly and efficiently, although it can only inflate up to 31 inch tires.
Notable features of the VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor include:
- 12 VOLT - 60PSI Max Working Pressure, engine must be running during use
- 1.26CFM Free Flow @ 0 PSI
- Portable air compressor powered by 12v (or more) auxiliary power outlet
- Easy to read tire pressure gauge mounted on the compressor
- Super bright LED work light included
- Engine must be running when in use
When looking at the reviews for the product, 86% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said they were impressed they were by the speed at which the air compressor was able to fill their car tires. Customers liked that you can see the quality of the materials and construction of the unit and felt that the unit overall was made well.
Several customers have stated that they much prefer the fact that the air hose screws onto the tire’s valve rather than it using the typical switch because the screw creates a better seal. Of the remaining 14% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was that the air compressor requires too much electricity and had a tendency to blow 15 amp fuses, although the manufacturer says this air compressor requires a minimum of 15 amps.
Another complaint a couple customers had was in regards to the plug. They said that the plug can be damaged easily.
P.I. Auto Store Premium Digital Tire Inflator
Tires will leak air from time to time, there’s no way to get around that. However, you can avoid being caught off guard when the light comes on when you’re nowhere near a gas station to fill the tire by being prepared! When you have a P.I. Auto Store Premium Digital Tire Inflator in your car, that pesky low tire light won’t be a problem.
Notable features of the P.I. Auto Store Premium Digital Tire Inflator include:
- Able to be used on car, bike, motorcycle, RV, SUV, ATV and truck tires
- Inflate a flat tire to 30 PSI in 4 minutes
- Max pressure 150 PSI
- Backlit LCD display gauge
- Can be used with 12v DC cigarette lighter plug
- 8 spare dust caps, Presta valve and an exclusive digital guide to tire care included
- 100% satisfaction money back guarantee
When looking at the reviews for the product, 85% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said the compressor is able to fill their tire quickly and it was incredibly easy to use. They felt the cord from the device to the plug and the length of the hose is more than enough to be able to reach all four tires with ease.
Of the remaining 15% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was the that digital gauge wasn’t accurate—it would be off by 2 to 3 psi. Customers have complained that if you need to use this to fill several tires, it will overheat and you’ll have to stop using it until it’s cooled down.
Kensun Rapid Performance Portable Air Compressor Tire Inflator
There’s nothing more annoying than being on a car trip and you’ve got to change a tire, but the spare is flat. Things like that can happen from time to time, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day when you’re prepared and have a Kensun Rapid Performance Portable Air Compressor Tire Inflator in the trunk. But, not only can use it to fill bike tires, trailer tires, and even pickup truck tires with ease.
Notable features of the Kensun Rapid Performance Portable Air Compressor Tire Inflator include:
- Trusted name in automotive accessories
- Usable in the home (with a wall socket) or in the car (cigarette lighter socket)
- Digital presets and additional attachment nozzles for versatility
- Can pump up to 90 PSI—can work continuously for 30 minutes at 35 PSI
- White LED work light so you can see in the dark
- Hose measures 23.6 inches
- Cable measures 5’10”
- Airflow rate 7.9gpm
- 2 Year Manufacturer Warranty from date of purchase
When looking at the reviews for the product, 98% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said the air pump worked wonderfully. They liked that it could be used in the house or in the car which adds to its versatility. Customers also like that this device has an automatic shut off function so they never have to worry about over inflating a tire.
Of the accuracy, customers feel that it is pretty spot on, give or take 1 PSI. Customers feel that this is a great air compressor and they are particularly glad for that built in LED work light because it has helped them see in the dark, even if it wasn’t to fill the tires.
Of the remaining 2% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was that the automatic shut off had a tendency to be temperamental and would shut off before the tire was completely full. Another complaint was that the DC connecting cable could have been a little longer. Other those small complaints, there weren’t any other major complaints about the device.
It doesn’t matter if you are putting together an emergency kit for the car or if you are getting gear ready for a camping trip, an air compressor can be a great thing to have in your car. By choosing the best air compressor for tires, you’ll be prepared for situations where you’ve got a flat tire, but if you have an air compressor that has attachments for other inflatable products, you can also use it for your next camping trip or day at the beach.
We looked at six products that we feel are worth your consideration. All of these items are capable of inflating car, truck, and ATV tires, but they also come with adapters so they can inflate other inflatable products. Also, you’ll notice that these air compressors are all priced under $100, which is respectable.
Of these products, we have two top picks based on user reviews. The top choice is clearly going to be the Kensun Rapid Performance Portable Air Compressor Tire Inflator with an astounding 98%. Customers absolutely enjoy the product and feel that it is far more accurate than its competition.
The complaints customers had were minor and because there were so few complaints, we feel that those minor issues were just of their particular device and the product as a whole. Well, except for the DC connecting cord. That, however, could just be a matter of personal preference. Priced at just under $80, it is more expensive than other air compressors, but you get what you pay for with this unit.
Or second choice, the EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, is a bit more affordable at under $40. Among its users, it has received an 87% approval rating, which isn’t as high as the Kensun unit, but it is still pretty respectable in its own right. With the EPAuto air compressor, customers were impressed by how efficient and fast the compressor was able to inflate a flat tire.
Customers also liked that the unit had a feature where you could choose the PSI setting you wanted and once the tire achieved that setting, the unit would shut off and they didn’t have to worry about accidentally overfilling the tire (or any other inflatable you were using the compressor for).
Whether you are looking for a budget friendly air compressor like the EPAuto unit or if you want the absolute best tire inflator your money can buy like the Kenson model; we believe that you’ll be more than grateful for your purchase the first time you need to use it to get yourself out of a bind due to a flat tire.