Reviews

Best RV Air Compressor: Keep Your RV Tires Inflated

Winterize your RV and fill up your tires with a high-quality air compressor.

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BY Alice Musyoka , Linsay Thomas , Nikola Petrovski / LAST UPDATED ON December 26, 2019

RV travel is one of the best ways of capturing the beauty of the outdoors while reducing travel costs. You can avoid expenses such as trip fare or hotel costs, and can carry almost everything you need for your vacation. It’s also an affordable way of traveling with a large group of people. The RV life can be an even more enjoyable experience if you prepare for the emergencies that may come up such as flat tires. In such situations, you need to have an air compressor.

An air compressor works by forcing air into a container, pressurizing it, and then forcing the pressurized out through an opening in the tank fitted with an air hose. The pressurized air can be used to fill your tires, power air tools, or inflate air cushions, sports balls, and other inflatables that are necessary for your trip. During winter, when it’s not so comfortable to stay in the RV, you can use the air compressor to flush out the plumbing system before filling it with RV antifreeze. Therefore, an air compressor is an important tool for every RV owner. We will help you find the best one.

Best Value
Viair 88p Portable Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

This small air compressor connects directly to your RV’s battery for maximum power. It’s a highly portable unit that can be stored in small spaces.

Pros
Pros
  • Power cord and hose are long enough to reach all tires
  • Can inflate tires of up to 33 inches
  • Powerful working pressure of 120 PSI   
  • Works well on other types of vehicles
Cons
Cons
  • Replacing the air hose and power cord may be a hassle 
  • Pressure gauge might have some inaccuracies
Best Value
Viair 88p Portable Air Compressor
Best Overall
Tirewell 12V Tire Inflator
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Summary
Summary

This is a robust air compressor that puts out 2.12 cubic feet per minute at 0 PSI. It connects directly to your RV’s battery or cigarette lighter to draw ample power.

Pros
Pros
  • Operates with minimal noise and vibrations 
  • Stays steady on the ground when in use 
  • Can also inflate bikes or inflatables
  • Stable and easy to control when in use
Cons
Cons
  • Takes a long time to inflate large tires
  • Pressure gauge might give inaccurate readings 
Best Overall
Tirewell 12V Tire Inflator
Honorable Mention
California Air Tools 2-Gallon Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

This is a 2-gallon air compressor with a horizontal-style tank and an oil-free pump. It is designed to run more quietly than similar air compressors.

Pros
Pros
  • Reasonably compact for storage and transportation
  • Durable and rust-free construction using heavy-duty metal 
  • Prodies 25 percent more air than similar air compressors
Cons
Cons
  • More expensive than standard air compressors
  • Only connects to a 110-volt power outlet 
Honorable Mention
California Air Tools 2-Gallon Air Compressor

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Benefits of RV Air Compressors 

  • Multifunctional. Since most air compressors come with multiple nozzles, you can use them to inflate other automotive applications besides your RV. You can also use it to fill pool toys, inflate soccer balls, bike tubes, motorcycles, and other inflatable equipment. Therefore, an RV compressor acts as multipurpose and versatile equipment.
  • Easy to use. When using portable RV air compressors, you are exempted from the guesswork. You can simply set the air pressure for the car tire inflation and rest assured that your tires will not be over-inflated or under-inflated, thanks to the automatic shutoff. The compressor ensures the specified amount of pressure is inflated into the tires to keep you going throughout the journey.
  • Long-lasting. A quality RV air compressor serves you for the longest time. Most of the models are made of high-quality stainless steel material that is resistant to rust and corrosion. Also, some RV air compressors can withstand high pressure because they have insulated rubber valves. 
  • Convenience. Air compressors for RV tires make your traveling easy and convenient. They are easy to use for inflating your vehicle tires quickly. You can attach the compressor to the cigarette lighter or on your car battery, and it will automatically start inflating the tires. With a digital tire inflator, you do not have to visit the gas station anymore for tire inflation.

Types of RV Air Compressors 

Positive Displacement

These air compressors for RV tires work by forcing air into an empty chamber until it reaches a specific volume. On reaching the specified volume, the compressor opens a port valve and discharges the air. It has an outlet system within the compression chamber that it uses to discharge the air when inflating the tires. In this category of air compressors, there are piston-type, rotary screw compressors, and vane compressors. 

Portable

Portable compressors are the most common air compressors on the market today. They come in different types based on their PSI, CFM, and horsepower. Portable compressors are lighter than most of the traditional compressors. They are mostly used by motorhome owners, campers, and other off-road enthusiasts. 

Types of RV Air Compressors 

Tankless Air compressor 

A tankless or mini air compressor is a compact unit that’s perfect for quickly inflating your tires. As the name suggests, it’s not fitted with a tank for storing air so it doesn't take time to build pressure. Ideally, it will run continuously to supply air when connected to a power source, and automatically shuts off when the preset pressure is attained.   

Air Tank Compressor  

Most RV air compressors on the market have an air storage tank with a capacity ranging from 2 to 60 gallons. Having a reservoir for compressed air means that you can give the air pump a rest while you run air tools or inflate your tires. The design of the compressor is based on the shape of the tank, and this is why we have the hotdog, pancake, and vertical air compressor.

Top Brands 

PORTER-CABLE 

This is a popular manufacturer of quality RV air compressors today. It started as a tool shop back in 1906 and has grown over the years to become a successful tool company. The company is based in Jackson, Tennessee. Some of the best-selling RV air compressors from this company include the Porter-Cable CMB15 Compressor Kit and PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor. Most of the air compressors from this company are electric-powered and made of durable parts.

VIAIR

VIAIR is one of the leading suppliers and distributors of quality RV air compressors worldwide. The company has been in operation for many years now and is proud of its excellent reputation in the global compressor market. It is based in Irvine, California. Some of the best-selling products from this company include the Viair 40047 400P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit and VIAIR 45053 Silver Automatic Portable Compressor Kit (450P-RV). The company has set a record in the provision of standardized 24-volt and 12-volt air compressors.

Craftsman 

Craftsman is an American tool and equipment manufacturer that was founded in 1927. It’s a subsidiary brand of Stanley Black & Decker. Craftsman specializes in designing work gear, hand tools, power tools, storage, and outdoor equipment. Check out the Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor if you would like to try out one of its air compressors. 

RV Air Compressor Pricing 

  • Under $100: These are some of the most affordable RV air compressors you can buy. They are highly portable, lightweight, and compact in design. They have a lower air discharge rate of about 2 cubic feet per minute. However, these air compressors might not be suitable for large tires.
  • Over $100: Air compressors in this category are some of the best. They are equipped with specialized functions and equipment such as an automatic shutoff function, 100 percent duty cycle, changeable inflation gun, and a carrying case. Their air discharge rate is also a bit higher compared to other cheaper air compressors. These devices give faster inflation at maximum working pressure. Additionally, they are made of more durable materials and are suitable for inflating large tires.

Key Features 

Working Pressure 

RV air compressors come with different working pressures depending on their model. The working pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). The PSI can range from 0-150 and determines the air discharge speed (CFM) of the compressor. Compressors with low working pressure have a low runtime and take more time to inflate tires.

Power Cord 

The power cord is an essential feature in every air compressor. Compressors with longer power cords are more flexible and easier to use. The power cord length ranges from 4-30 inches. Therefore, when selecting an RV air compressor, you should go for one with a longer air hose and power cord for ease of use. 

Cylinder or Tank Size 

When choosing the best air compressor for your RV, you must check for the right cylinder or tank size. Tank size determines the volume of air pressure the compressor can store. Ideally, air compressors with larger tanks store more air than those with smaller tanks. Also, those with large tanks are a bit heavier and difficult to transport. 

Other considerations 

  • Noise Level. Some of the cheaper RV air compressors can be very loud, making it difficult to stay close when they are running. When buying an RV air compressor, you should go for one with a sound range below 65 decibels; this sound limit is safe for your ears. Most RV air compressors give off sounds between 40-90 decibels. Therefore, you should always find out the noise level before buying the machine.
  • Weight. RV air compressors come in various weights because they are made of different materials. If you are going to be carrying your air compressor in the car, then you should ensure that it is portable and lightweight. A lighter air compressor is easier to transport and store. The best portable air compressors are those below 40 pounds. 

Best RV Air Compressor Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Tirewell 12V Tire Inflator

The Tirewell 12V Tire Inflator is another high-quality RV air compressor with all the features you may need for ease of use and portability. It comes with a 2.12 SCFM technology that inflates the RV tires at 0 PSI. It also conveniently connects to the cigarette lighter or RV battery to start working.


The compressor comes with a screw connector that will keep the inflator valve in the right position when you inflate the tires. It also has three adapters that make it applicable to different brands of cars and bikes. The base of the machine comes with rubber tips that will keep it stable. It has a fuselage that reduces the motor vibrations and makes it more comfortable to use.


One of the main downsides of using this air compressor is that it does not inflate car tires very quickly. Also, because some parts of the machine are made of plastic, it can be more susceptible to damage and vulnerable to heat. Lastly, it sometimes gives inaccurate readings, which makes it hard to gauge the SCFM when inflating RV tires.

Best Value
Viair 88p Portable Air Compressor

This is a small and highly portable air compressor. You can easily transport and store this machine because it is lightweight. It is also easy to start because it comes with alligator clamps that you can use to connect it directly to the RV battery. It takes up very little space in your car, thanks to its compact design.


The manufacturer has included a 20-amp fuse on the machine, which reduces the chance of electric shock and damage to the electrical components. It also comes with a 10-foot power cord and a 16-foot hose, which makes it more flexible. With a 1.47 SCFM and 30 PSI storage tank, it can inflate your RV tires faster. The three-piece compressor kit is also lighter, making it easy to transport and store.


One downside of this air compressor is the quality of its parts. If one of the crucial parts such as the power cord or hose gets damaged, it can be difficult finding replacement parts. Also, the pressure gauge readings can sometimes be inaccurate.

Premium Pick
California Air Tools 2-Gallon Air Compressor

Most air compressors may not compare to the noise-free performance offered by this two-gallon air compressor from California Air Tools. It has a 60-decibel sound rating, which is as tolerable as a normal conversation. The tank features a horizontal design and durable aluminum construction. 


It takes just 50 seconds to fill it, and can be emptied at a rate of 2.2 cubic feet at 90 PSI or 3.1 cubic feet per minute at 40 PSI. An oil-free, dual-piston pump system allows for maintenance-free operation, and it can be used in almost any terrain or weather condition. 


However, you should know beforehand that the unit connects to a 110-volt outlet so this may not be ideal for roadside emergencies. You should only consider it if your RV camping site has access to power outlets with a similar rating.

Most Portable
Kensun Portable Air Compressor

What makes the Kensun Portable Air Compressor standout from other similar air compressors is its compact and lightweight design featuring an ergonomic handle that makes it ideal for roadside emergencies. This unit plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt socket, but it also comes with a 120-volt power cord so you can plug it into an AC wall outlet at home or in a workshop. 


This means that besides inflating your RV tires, you can also use it to inflate a variety of equipment, including sports balls, bicycles, motorcycles, standard vehicle, and truck tires. If properly connected, it can provide a maximum pressure of 120 PSI, or a continuous pressure of 35 PSI for 30 minutes. You can rely on the analog pressure gauge on the front panel for accurate pressure readings. 


The main complaint we noted about this product is that it tends to shut down for a few minutes (even mid-operation) to cool down. While this may be a reasonable safety feature, it means that you will take quite a while to fill all four of your RV’s tires. 

Honorable Mention
Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor

The Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor is your companion during the cold weather. It starts up easily even in cold weather so you can rely on it to winterize your RV. It features a pancake-style, six-gallon tank that is lighter than most vertical-style tanks. The tank has a 150 PSI maximum pressure storage and can deliver 90 PSI at a steady flow rate of 2.6 cubic feet per minute. 


Maintenance will not be an issue as it’s designed with an oil-free pump. What’s more, you also get a 13-piece accessory kit, which includes a rubber tip, three inflator adapters, a tire gauge, a tire chuck and blowgun with a plug, a 25-foot PVC air hose fitted with a coupler and plug, and an OSHA-approved safety nozzle. 


As is the case with most portable air compressors, the motor may need to shut down mid-operation so it can cool down even after just a few minutes of running time. But on the upside, it cools faster than similar-sized air compressors.

Honorable Mention
Stealth 4.5-Gallon Portable Air Compressor

The Stealth Portable Air Compressor is a dual-cylinder RV air compressor that offers better output and speed than its single-cylinder counterparts. The tanks have a 2.5-gallon capacity and can provide a peak pressure of 150 PSI. It’s designed with a 1.3-horsepower induction motor that offers a steady airflow rate of 3 cubic feet per minute at 90 PSI. It then takes just 70 seconds to recover after the tank has been emptied. 


You will have no trouble starting the machine even in cold weather, and the heavy-duty steel housing coupled with rubber-reinforced wheels ensure you can use it on any terrain without fear of damage. With a 64-decibel noise rating, you can enjoy the heavy-duty power provided by the machine without having to wear earmuffs to drown out the noise. Moreover, it’s designed with collapsible handles that fold down to a compact design for easy storage. You can use this machine to refill tires or to power pneumatic tools.


The main trade-off with the dual-cylinder design is that it packs quite some weight, but the wheels and collapsible handle make it easier to move it around. 

Honorable Mention
Pittsburgh Automotive Compact Air Compressor

Maintain the correct tire pressure with this portable air compressor from Pittsburgh Automotive. It’s a 12-volt air compressor that comes with an 11-foot power cable with clamps so you can plug it directly into your RV’s battery. It comes with a maximum working pressure of 150 PSI, and can deliver up to 1.35 cubic feet per minute airflow. The sled-type base provides steady support so the compressor doesn't topple when you’re filling your tires. The base also helps to keep dust and dirt at bay. This compressor will fill your tires in about three minutes, and comes with a coiled 25-foot air hose that can easily reach all four tires if the air compressor is conveniently positioned. Also, it comes with an analog pressure gauge and two inflator nozzles so you can fill up your tires and other inflatables. 


However, a few users have noted that the hose is somewhat stiff, which can make it a bit difficult to move from tire to tire. Also, the pressure gauge might overread at times, hence you may end up with under-inflated tires.

Tips

  • Turn on your RV’s engine when using an air compressor. This makes sure that you get the correct tire pressure reading or the closest possible reading. However, use the compressor once the tires have cooled off. 
  • To check the tire pressure, allow the tires to cool off if you’ve been on the road. This is because hot air and friction increase tire pressure. You can deflate the tires a little to make sure you get the best reading. 
  • Don’t go beyond the manufacturer’s recommended maximum inflation pressure. Overinflation compromises traction, which might lead to a tire burst. Even if the tires don’t burst, their lifespan may be shortened. 

FAQs

Q: How does an RV air compressor work?

A: An air compressor has a tank filled with air. This air is passed from the tank to your RV’s tires through an air hose. When the tank is connected to a power source, it automatically fills with air. You can use the stored air the next time you need to inflate your RV’s tires.

Q: How long does an RV air compressor last?

A: The longevity of RV air compressors depends on their usage and storage. Regularly cleaning the air intake and draining the receiver tank keeps a compressor dry and reduces the possibility of rust. A well-maintained compressor can last many years. 

Q: Does the tank size limit the usage of an RV air compressor?

A: The tank stores the air needed to inflate an RV’s tires. While a bigger tank holds more air than a smaller tank, it may not be very easy to store. A small tank can be stored in a small compartment in an RV.  

Q: What is the best air compressor size for inflating RV tires? 

A: The size of the air compressor isn’t as important as its performance. What you mostly need to consider is the pressure rating of your air compressor. Most RV tires need about 35 to 80 PSI of pressure. Therefore, you need an air compressor that can deliver pressure within that range to fill up your tires. 

Final Thoughts

The Viair 88p Portable Air Compressor stands at the top of our review because, with a 120 PSI rating, it can effortlessly inflate tires of up to 33 inches. It’s also easy to carry around and is decently priced. The Tirewell 12V Tire Inflator is a great fit if you are traveling in a smaller RV and would like an affordable and lightweight air compressor.