Testing the Small and Mighty Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

It’s not the cheapest or the lightest, but there’s a lot to love about this powered inflator.

byWilliam Byrd|
Testing the Small and Mighty Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

A good air compressor is a must for any automotive enthusiast. I’ve lost count of the number of times I had to add psi in between a track run or autocross session or when life throws a flat tire my way. Having a compact, easy-to-use powered compressor is a must, cause I certainly am not blowing up a tire with my lips.

There are dozens of options on the market. And it may be overwhelming to figure out exactly which one of those is best for your needs. There are portable, handheld, DC-powered, garage-outlet-powered, and battery-operated inflators. Manufacturers make it even more complex with a laundry list of available options, additions, and gadgets to go along with each air compressor. 

Let's get after it!, William Byrd

We’ve been making our way through the litany of compressors for a bit now, and this Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor is an intriguing option. After some use and abuse, it’s one we’d definitely recommend being on your shortlist because it’s a solid option at a reasonable price. Let’s get into its details.

Unboxing the Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

What’s in the box? No, not Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, it’s actually a bag. The Viair inflator comes with a nice-looking brown canvas bag. Don’t expect heavy-duty material, though. It’ll do a good job protecting the compressor in your workshop or garage, but it won’t stand up to a 40-foot fall off the nearest office building. 

What’s in the bag, you ask? You’ll get the Viair tire inflator with a built-in air hose and power cord plus three adapters. 

I immediately liked the overall weight and feel of the inflator. It’s not huge, which is fine, but the overall size to weight feels right. The Viair inflator is built around a central air chamber with caps on either end. There’s a grab handle running down the middle connecting the gearless direct-drive motor on one side and an easy-to-read analog pressure gauge on the other.

The 35-inch air hose, which is a bit longer than most, is built into the end with the gauge. The power cord is attached to a red cap at the same end, which also houses the power button and a small LED work light. There are four rubber feet on the bottom of the inflator, and they do seem to help to keep the vibration (and the noise) down. No frills, all function. 

There are no external storage options for the air hose or power cord, but it does come with an adjustable zip-tie-style cord manager.

Finally, the Viair has been extracted., William Byrd

Getting Our PSI On With the Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

  • Good: Compact, fairly light design, screw-on brass nozzle, and an easy-to-grab central handle. 
  • Bad: Only comes with a car accessory adapter, no psi cutoff.
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I put the Viair 85P through a series of non-scientific but standardized tests, starting with inflating a car tire. My BMW M4 has a recommended 33 psi from its German manufacturer. I was able to use the brass twist-on tire chuck to quickly get the tire to the proper psi. It was stupid fast. They advertise up to 60 psi maximum working pressure, but it feels quicker.

The inflator isn’t extremely loud, measuring 85.1 decibels on my meter. The average for air compressors is reportedly 70-90 decibels, and most of the recent products I’ve tested have been louder than this one. The CDC notes that one to two hours of exposure to 80-95 decibels could damage your hearing, so wear ear protection if you plan to use the unit for a prolonged period.

Next, it was time to see if the Viair was up to some non-automotive tasks. I pumped up my son’s bike tires, inflated a flat volleyball, and tested it on a few other items. There is no psi shutoff, so you just have to pay attention to the dial. 

The adapters included are all threaded and screw securely into the nozzle. There are even spots to snap them onto the chassis of the inflator for storage. Bonus points there, Viair. It took 5.35 seconds to fill up a Kangaroo Emoji ball, which is a 12-inch pool toy I had in my garage. That number is quite a bit lower than most of the other power inflators I’ve tested, but you’ll have to wait for our big inflator comparison bonanza to see more (#teaser).

Solid like a rock., William Byrd

What’s Good About the Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

The Viair inflator feels solid, almost like it’s built out of a solid block of material. It’s not — there are a variety of plastics and metals screwed together — but it feels cohesive. The inflation rates were staggeringly rapid compared to some other inflators. I think I almost popped the darn pool ball at one point. 

During a three-foot drop test, it would likely depend on how it landed, and what type of surface it landed on, on whether or not it would break. A direct hit on the gauge might do it in or at least make it less usable. One thing I love is that the adapters actually screw into the brass end. They feel much more stable while in use than ones that do not. Plus, as I said, bonus points for having a place to store them on the unit itself. 

This could be a go-to track-rat air compressor. It has a small footprint for your trunk or gear bin, already runs on accessory power, and isn’t too heavy. 

That's one long power cord. , William Byrd

What’s Not So Good About the Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

During testing, some of the equipment I was putting through the paces used a household AC power cord. Switching over to this unit one meant running in to find the car keys. So, while it’s super helpful to have alongside your car emergency kit, using it at home means relying on your car battery or buying an adapter.

Other than that, there were just a few less-than-perfect details. Other inflators have some sort of cord-management option, even just a slot to snap the air hose in would help keep it safe. However, it does come with a bag. 

Will it PSI?, William Byrd

Our Verdict on the Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

You can find cheaper power inflators out there, but they might not be this good. The price, around $65, is definitely more than a few others, but there’s a reason that it’s a bestseller at Amazon. It’s got pretty solid ratings as well, 4.6 out of 5 stars for more than nearly 3,000 reviews, if that matters to you.

The little Viair 85P is a powerhouse for its size. I would not hesitate to add this to my track bag, camping bin, or just have it handy around the house. You can spend less, you can spend more, but the 85P might be just right. 

Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor Specs

  • Price: $64.99
  • Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Dimensions: 9.25 x 5.5 x 6.75 inches
  • Max PSI: 60 psi 
  • Gauge: Analog psi and BAR
  • Voltage: 12 volts
  • Power Type: Accessory power car adapter
  • Included in packaging: Inflator, user manual, and three adapters
  • Hose length: 35 inches long
  • Corded or wireless: 10-foot AC power cord
  • Adapters: Sports-ball needle, raft/mattress nozzle, Presta valve adaptor
  • Case: Included
  • Warranty: Limited manufacturer warranty

You can spend less, you can spend more, but the 85P might be just right.

FAQs About the Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q. Can you check pressures with the unit off? 

A. Yes. Just screw the brass connector onto your valve stem, and it will show the current pressure. 

Q. Is the gauge easy to read?

A. Quite. The black and red text overlaid on white contrasts well, and the gauge is a good size.

Q. Can I use it to blow out dust and debris from an engine bay?

A. Not really, no. That’s not what it’s intended for. Viair sells a heavier-duty compressor that can do that.

Q. Can it deflate as well as inflate?

A. Not really, the screw-on tire chuck isn’t built for that. 

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