LAST UPDATED: April 5, 2019
Best Portable Tire Inflators: Avoid Getting Stranded With These Top Inflators
Quickly and efficiently add air to your tires with these top portable tire inflators
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON April 5, 2019
Tire inflators are pumps that use compressed air to inflate truck and car tires. The compressed air enables you to do the job quickly and efficiently. The best portable tire inflators can fit into the trunk or cargo area of your vehicle so you’ll have easy access to it during a roadside emergency. If you’re looking for the best portable tire inflator on the market, check out our reviews below.
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Benefits of Portable Tire Inflators
- Fill your tires quickly. The fastest and easiest way to put air into your vehicle's tires is by using a portable car tire inflator. It takes just a few minutes, and you don't have to go anywhere.
- Avoid the gas station. Instead of driving across town, fill your tire at home or on the road. You know it will work versus some gas stations that have pumps that are out of service and cost a little bit of money.
- Avoid the dealership. All new cars feature a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that informs you if your air pressure is low. Instead of driving to the dealership for a fix, pump the tire with air yourself.
- Make your tires last longer. Overinflated or underinflated tires can cause a number of problems. They may wear quickly, or worse, burst. To get the most life out of your tires, check every so often to make sure they are properly inflated, particularly if your vehicle does not have a TPMS.
Types of Portable Tire Inflators
The best portable car tire inflators and best portable truck tire inflators can be used while you're on the road. During an emergency, you can supply some models with power by plugging them into the cigarette lighter socket/12-volt power source in your vehicle. This is particularly useful if your car or truck has 12-volt DC outlets in more than one place.
The best cordless inflator is typically powered by a lithium-ion battery. They are generally easy to use and are very portable. These inflators are handheld and provide a good amount of power. It's critical that you keep the battery charged or else you may get stuck with a flat tire.
These tire inflators clamp-on directly to the battery for maximum power so you don’t have to have the vehicle running. However, a tire pump can suck the charge out of a stand-alone battery in about 20 minutes.
The US-based Kensun, Inc. was established in 2009. While their most popular products are aftermarket vehicle headlights such as HID and Xenon bulbs, the company also produces inflators for tires, such as the Kensun Tire Inflator AC/DC Portable Air Compressor Pump.
VIAIR Corporation, based in Irvine, Calif., was founded in 1998 and produces fractional horsepower DC oil-less air compressors and air accessories for on-road, off-road, and industrial markets. One of its high-end tire inflators is the Viair 40047 400P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit.
Helteko is a new company that was founded in 2017 by S.G. Royals. It makes consumer products for cars, including vacuum cleaners, car seat protectors, and digital air compressors. One popular product is the Helteko Portable Air Compressor Pump 150PSI 12V Digital Tire Inflator.
JACO Superior Products
JACO is an automotive accessory company that began as a two-person enterprise in 1983. The original warehouse and office remains in Crystal Lake, Ill., where the company also does quality testing. They have another quality testing plant in Evergreen, Colo. One of its top products is the JACO FlowPro Tire Inflator with Pressure Gauge.
Portable Tire Inflator Pricing
- $30-$40: There are many high-quality, small, and portable tire inflators in this price range, particularly if they are on sale. You don't need to spend a lot of money to find one that successfully inflates tires on passenger cars and SUVs.
- $40-$100: Portable tire inflators in this price range typically have more features and may work faster than their less expensive counterparts.
- Over $100: Tire inflators in this price range are generally more heavy duty and can be used on vehicles such as RVs and trailers.
The best digital tire inflators will display the inflated pressure on the gauges. Some newer models will show this information on an LCD screen, while the more traditional products will display the pressure with dial and needle gauges. A digital display will give you readings that are a bit more precise. Another added benefit is you will be able to read it in low light if the screen is backlit.
The auto shutoff feature enables you to set the desired PSI, and the car tire inflator will run until it reaches the desired pressure. This is a practical feature because the tire inflator will not over inflate the tire. You can walk away from the device as it does its job and not worry about the tire bursting.
- Inflation Speed: Generally, you’ll want to fill your tire with air as quickly as you can. Heavy-duty models that connect to a battery's terminals typically inflate tires much faster than models that are plugged into a 12-volt outlet. It can take as little as two to three minutes for heavy-duty models to do the job versus four to 10 minutes for plug-in models.
- Extra Nozzle Attachments: The best tire air pump can serve multiple purposes. A model that comes with several attachments will be very useful at home and on the road. They can be used to pump air into bicycle tires and sports equipment as well as car tires. The added functionality is a big bonus.
- Portability: The best handheld air compressor for tires is typically lightweight. They generally weigh between two and six pounds, and some smaller ones weigh less than one pound. Some models have handles, while others don't. Weight and carrying capacity are two things to consider, especially if you're leaving the device in your vehicle.
- Hose and Cord Length: The longer the cord and air hose are, the easier it will be for you to reach all four tires on your vehicle. The best tire inflator will usually have a hose that is 18 to 26 inches long and a power cord that is at least eight feet long.
- Cord Storage: If you like to keep your tools organized, this is a key option. Some models have a storage cavity that allows you to coil up the cord into a small compartment. Others do not offer this feature or have tiny cavities that make it challenging to contain the hose and cord.
- Built-in Lights: This option is particularly beneficial if you carry a portable air compressor with you when you're on the road. If it's dark outside, a tire inflator with a built-in flashlight can make your job a lot easier. Not only will it illuminate the tire you are inflating, but it will also alert passing motorists that you're stranded.
- Noise: Portable inflators are notoriously loud, depending on their size and purpose. When you're leaning on the ground to fill a tire while an air pump is rumbling next to you, it can be distracting and irritating if it's exceptionally loud. Be sure to select a product that won't bother your ears too much.
- Duty Cycle: This is the amount of time the inflator needs to cool down before you can use it again. Inflators with short duty cycles are preferable because they don't require as much time to cool off. Tire inflators that have a 50-percent duty cycle don't require a cooling down period.
Best Portable Tire Inflator Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This portable air inflator comes with a rechargeable battery and a USB plug for charging. It also comes with a cigarette lighter plug to give you more versatility in how you use your portable inflator. It has four pressure measurement units: PSI, KPA, BAR, and KG/CM2. You can look at the display screen to see the inflator’s status and battery life.
Having two options to power this inflator lets you use it for a variety of uses, including inflating your car tires. It also comes with several inflating needles. This inflator is lightweight and has a carrying bag for easy transport.
Unfortunately, the power sources aren’t reliable, and either the car's auxiliary power plug or the recharging function could stop working. This will limit the inflator’s functionality. Over time, the battery will begin to struggle to hold a charge. The air pumping power of this inflator isn’t very strong.
The Ryobi tire inflator is cordless and runs on an 18-volt lithium ion battery (which is not included). It is one of the top handheld air compressors for tires because it's small and features an ergonomic pistol grip handle, making it easy to use and store. It features two high-pressure nozzles, a sports equipment needle, and an onboard pressure gauge.
If you already possess Ryobi batteries from other tools, this device is a great value. The inflator is lightweight, very portable, and requires little storage space. The battery charge lasts long enough to inflate several tires in one sitting. It also lets you see the pressure as you work.
This tools is not a high-flow device, so it will take more time than a more powerful compressor to inflate a tire that has lost a lot of pressure. The inflator takes about 30 seconds to raise a passenger car tire 5 PSI. Another issue is that the trigger does not have a lock, and it’s easy to actuate the pump when carrying it.
The Fortem Digital Tire Inflator is easy to use, versatile, and very handy to have on hand in your car’s emergency kit. This portable tire inflator plugs into your car’s outlet, includes a hose that easily attaches to the unit, and allows you to choose the PSI and fill your tire with one button.
It’s compact and lightweight, and it features a large digital display gauge that makes it easy to see PSI readings. It’s compatible with all vehicles that have a 12-volt power output, and it comes in a carrying case, so you can easily store this tire inflator inside your vehicle in case you need it.
There’s even an LED flashlight built into the device to help you see in dark settings. The tire inflator also includes additional attachments and nozzles, so you can use it on other items, like sports equipment, air mattresses, and pool inflatables.
You can use this portable air compressor in your home with the 110V wall plug or in your car with the 12V plug. This air compressor also comes with a set of accessory nozzles so you can use it for a wide variety of inflating tasks. There is a large and easy-to-read analog tire gauge to monitor the tire pressure. You can achieve a maximum of 120 PSI or 30 minutes of continuous run time at 35 PSI.
The dual power plugs give you more freedom when it comes to where you can use the air compressor. Plus, at just over four pounds, you can easily carry this compressor to the places where you need it. The carrying case also makes it easy to keep everything together.
Unfortunately, the power cords aren’t very long. This can be frustrating as you need to get the tire close enough for the compressor to reach it. The unit may also be missing the 12V plug for the car, which significantly limits its portability.
This compact air compressor combines high-quality materials, reliable performance, and innovative technology. The unit weighs just under 2.5 pounds and features a futuristic design. The top of the tool has a large LCD digital display and LED lights to tell you the status of the compressor.
This compressor may be small, but it’s powerful. It can inflate a mid-size car tire in three to five minutes. It has a maximum pressure of 150 PSI. There is also an auto shut-off function that engages when the tire reaches the desired pressure. The carrying case and detailed instructions make using this compressor an easy task.
Unfortunately, you may find that this unit doesn’t live up to the manufacturer’s claims. While it does well with inflating smaller things like bicycle tires and pool toys, it may struggle with a full-sized truck tire. It also lacks some adapters and accessories that other compressors have.
At four pounds, you can easily carry this portable compressor to the spot where you need it. It’s also battery powered, so there’s no need to find a power source. The compressor comes with an air hose. On the face of the unit is a digital display screen and several buttons for operation. It will fill a car tire to between 28 and 35 PSI in under one minute. If you need 30 to 45 PSI, then it’ll take under four minutes.
Since this compressor is battery powered it’s useful for most inflation jobs. It’s compact size also makes it easy to carry. The display is large, which makes it simple to read the pressure and work the buttons. There are several safety features, including protection from overfilling and over temperature.
Unfortunately, this compressor doesn’t come with a battery charger, so you need to buy one separately. What’s worse is it doesn’t come with the battery, so you need to buy one of those too. It’s also not as compact as other portable compressors.
This compressor is lightweight and weighs just two pounds. It has a 12V plug as its power source. There is an illuminated digital display, so you can use this compressor in all types of weather conditions and any time of day. It can inflate a car tire to 30 PSI in about three minutes.
This compressor comes with extra adapters and fuses. This gives you more functionality, and gives the compressor a longer lifespan. With the right adapter, the automatic shutoff feature will give you the control and finesse to inflate everything from a car tire to a beach ball.
While the additional adapters are useful, the compressor doesn’t come with a carrying case or bag, so you could easily lose these pieces. This compressor only has a 12V cigarette lighter plug, so if you don’t have access to this type of plug, you can’t use the device. It also has a maximum PSI of 100, which is lower than many other portable compressors.
If you’re searching for an efficient and effective portable tire inflator, the Teromas Tire Inflator is a great choice. This versatile device works with AC/DC 12-volt car outlets as well as 110 or 120-volt traditional outlets, which means you can use it to inflate tires and for other purposes at home.
It includes three adapters to suit both tires and other inflatable products. When plugged in, this portable tire inflator delivers up to 150 PSI to inflate car tires in under four minutes. It comes in a compact carrying bag, and you can keep it inside your car without sacrificing too much space.
With an auto-off function and the ability to preset your desired pressure, this portable tire inflator can shut itself off once your tire is properly inflated. Thanks to the bright digital LCD display with LED lights, you can see the readings and gauge in all settings.
The VacLife Tire Inflator is an affordable, easy to carry portable tire inflator, and it’s great to have on hand in case of a flat. This air compressor/tire inflator works quickly, and it can inflate a car tire in just seconds. It plugs into the 12-volt outlet in your car, and with the flip of a switch, this small device will get the job done.
There are four nozzles, so you can achieve the right fit for your car tires. It includes an auto shut-off feature, which automatically turns the device off once your tire is at the desired pressure level. This prevents issues like over-inflation and low tire pressure.
And when you’re using this tire inflator on the go, you’ll appreicated the LED light that provides brightness at night and the 13-foot power cable that makes it easy to move around your vehicle.
- Even the best portable tire inflator should be stored properly and kept in a dry environment. Since it is an electrical device, moisture can damage it. You’ll want to keep it as rust-free as possible.
- Carefully watch the gauges as you fill your tire. Unless the machine has an automatic shutoff feature, it's up to you to make sure to turn it off after it reaches the desired PSI.
- Do not underinflate your tire. This may lead to dry rot on the rubber on the sidewall of the tire. This damage will eventually lead to tire failure, which can be dangerous.
- Tires that are underinflated also use more energy, draining your car’s fuel faster than properly inflated tires. In addition, underinflated tires can contribute to handling issues, which may lead to an accident.
- Check your tire pressure about once a month. Tires lose air for several reasons, including a drop in air temperature or normal seepage. It can be a gradual loss, and you may not even realize it.
- Typically, portable tire inflators shouldn't be used for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time. To avoid overheating, let them cool for 10 to 30 minutes after each use.
Q: What does PSI mean?
A: PSI stands for pounds per square inch, and it's used to measure tire pressure. For example, 300 PSI means 300 pounds per square inch. In air compressors, a PSI gauge is the equivalent to a fuel gauge.
Q: How do I determine maximum PSI?
A: Look at the tire’s sidewall. Tire dealerships also have charts to give you PSI information that take into account factors such as the amount of weight your car or truck is carrying.
Q: How do I check my tire’s air pressure?
A: Remove the valve stem caps and press the tire pressure gauge into the valve stem. Check the reading on the pressure gauge to determine the tire’s air pressure. Reinstall the valve stem caps.
Q: How do I inflate my tires with a portable tire inflator?
A: Remove the valve stem caps. Push the compressor's hose fitting onto the valve stem and check the gauge. Fill the tires to the recommended pressure (it's best to do this when the tires are cold). Reinstall the valve stem caps.
Our pick for the best portable tire inflator is the Avid Power Tire Inflator Air Compressor. It’s fast and efficient and includes an automatic shutoff feature.
For something with even better value, consider the Ryobi P737 18-Volt ONE+ Portable Cordless Power Inflator for Tires.