Getting a flat tire is one of the most common driving emergencies. Well, in general, it’s no big deal and takes minutes to resolve. However, if a driver is unprepared and has no air inflator at the hand’s reach, handling flat tires can get considerably complicated.
Thus, an air pump is essential for any road trip. In case you don’t have one or the one you own is unreliable, consider changing it for a newer model. This post is a full guide to buying car inflators – you will also be able to see the review of the most popular models on the market.
What Are The Types of Car Inflators?
Before choosing the right model for your car, find out more about different modifications of vehicle inflators there are on the market. Usually, they come in three main kinds:
- Hotdog inflators. This inflator is the most common model most drivers use. The model consists of a single frame and an air tank.
- Pancake air inflator. These modifications are known for flat, round-shaped tanks. There’s a small motor attached to the upper part of the inflator. Many motorists love the model for portability and a stylish look.
- Wheelbarrow inflators. These air compressors have an easy-to-spot cylindrical shape. The tanks usually come with handles attached – you can use them to move the tank from side to side.
Choosing an Inflator: Getting the Hang of Definitions
Reading descriptions of inflator models is not easy since there are many abbreviations you might not understand at first. To make the selection process easier and more informed, we broke down the most common technical specs you need to be aware of:
- CFM (short for cubic feet per minute) – the air volume you can expect the unit to push out every minute. The higher the value is, the faster the air output will be. CFM can be sued as an indicator of the amount of time it takes to push the air back into the inflator.
- PSI (short for pounds per square inch) – you can find out how compressed the air will be by looking at this number. Car drivers are advised to choose inflators with high PSI.
- HP – horsepower. All air inflators have a motor and a tank. Horsepower helps determine how powerful a built-in motor is. It’s correlated to PSI – if the unit has more horsepower, it will be able to build up more pressure.
Main Factors For Choosing Air Inflators
Before you hit the market and start researching all possible alternatives, come up with a defined list of selection criteria. Here are the main variables that come into play during the selection process.
Being able to transport the inflator easily is an important selection criterion. Choosing portable models over the bulky ones is a common-sense decision since you are going to be able to pump the tires easily. Also, most drivers store inflators in the trunk – it’s better to make sure it doesn’t take too much space and allows you to put road bags and suitcases in.
Time to full inflation
When looking through options, pay attention to the amount of time the unit requires to fully pump up the tires of different dimensions – small, medium-sized, and large ones. The short inflation period comes in handy if you got a flat tire during bad weather or it’s dark outside. By being able to inflate the tires faster, you can get to a safe neighborhood in no time rather than being stuck on an open road.
When choosing an inflator, you want to ensure it works well with tire dimensions you specified. Make sure the opening of the tank fits the tire valve and the power value of the tank is sufficient to pump up large tires. If a model is not compatible with your vehicle tires, it’s going to be a useless purchase and nothing but the extra weight to carry around.
After inflation, all models usually need some time to cool before they can be used again. The amount of time needed is referred to as the duty cycle. The top-tier models have a duty cycle of 50 percent – essentially, they can run for a long period of time with no breaks.
Additional Features to Consider
As you are researching tire inflators, you will be surprised by the plethora of features manufacturers offer. Let’s take a look at the most common perks you will see when reading online listings and examine each of them:
- Pressure gauge – prevent a car owner from over-pumping the tire;
- Shutting the system off automatically – a similar tool, the model stop working as soon as the pumping is complete;
- LED illumination is helpful in case you need to fix the tire at night since it increases the visibility of the tire;
- AC/DC compatibility – a car owner will be able to plug such an inflator both into an AC connector and a cigarette lighter port;
- Long cord gives a possibility to reach all four car tires effortlessly. There are hoses over 6 feet in lengths and cords that can stretch up to 12 feet.
If you got serious damage to the tire – you will need to replace this wheel, so don’t forget to take with you the car jack.
Top 12 Car Inflators – Review
To make sure you are choosing your next inflator among top-tier models, take a look at this review of the most popular inflator modifications. We reviewed them thoroughly and highlighted the pros and cons of every model.
1. EPAUTO 12 Volt Pump
You don’t need an outlet nearby to use the pump – it works by being plugged into the cigarette lighter. Using this model is quite convenient thanks to four built-in displays and an LED flashlight. Once the peak level of pressure has been reached, the unit will shut off on its own – there’s no need to be concerned about putting too much pressure on the tire.
There’s an overheat protection that increases the lifespan of the inflator. The model comes in four colors – red, blue, green, and yellow.
|• Broad vehicle types support -sedans, SUVs, |
• Has a plug for a cigarette lighter
• Four easy-to-navigate display modes
• LED flashlight
|• Is not compatible with truck tires|
• Short hose
• Heats up quickly
• Slow inflation
2. VIAIR 12V 0008 Air Inflator
This is one of the newer inflator models that allow drivers to pump up the tires up to 33 inches in thickness. The model runs thanks to battery clams a driver has to attach to the vehicle’s battery. There’s a protective gauge to control the tire pressure and make sure it doesn’t burst open.
A unit can be connected to tire valves – the entire setup process usually takes up to 2-3 minutes.
|• High level of air compression|
• Fits ATVs, SUVs, and smaller trucks
• Is portable
• LED indicator
|• Inaccurate gauge data;|
• No fuse in the package;
• Short cables.
3. DBPOWER 150 PSI Air Pump for 12 Volt Outlets
The model is praised among vehicle owners for its adaptable and stylish design. To improve inflation efficiency, apply different nozzles and change the direction of the airflow. You can read the display in three units to make sure there’s no extra pressure on the tire.
On top of that, the seller offers a yearly guarantee – feel free to try the product out and return it in case the inflator doesn’t suit your needs.
|• Long charging cable|
• Portable design
• Fast inflation process
• Fits different vehicle types – cars, trucks,
|• Deliver issues|
• Cheap component material
• Only basic functionality
4. HELTEKO Air Compressor 12V
Helteko inflator is a safe model that prevents drivers from shooting too much air into the tire by using both a protective gauge and an automatic system shut-down. The interface is highly readable thanks to an LED light. A driver can use the flashlight to illuminate the tires as well.
If there’s a 12V cigarette lighter inside the car interior, you can enable the unit by plugging it inside. The inflation is quite fast – it usually takes a short while to pump up a car tire of medium size.
|• LED-illuminated display|
• Long charging cable
• Nozzles for air flow management
• Sleek design
|• Shipping box can arrive damaged|
• Glitchy working process
• Loose cigarette lighter adapter
5. P.I. AUTO STORE 12V Portable Car Inflator
Although the inflator mainly gits medium-sized tires only, it’s still a reliable model many drivers rely on. It’s is extremely convenient to use – there are a long cable and an LED light to illuminated the tire valve. The inflator is fully compatible with car valves – try an adapter to adjust it to any tire.
To make the transportation process easier, the manufacturer added a carrying case to the package.
|• Connects both to 12V outlets and 100V |
• Anti-pressure gauge
• Stylish and durable design
|• Heats up quickly|
• Hard to reset the PSI value to zero
• Not compatible with some common car tires
6. OASSER Air Compressor, 12V, Rechargeable
This inflator is extremely flexible – cords are not needed to handle it, and it has high flexibility. Other than its beautiful, stylish design, there’s an LCD display. There’s a display that allows tracking the pressure level in three values – BAR, PSI, and Kg/cm square. To increase the visibility of the working area, the manufacturer mounted the Led light into the air compressor.
|• The package includes all the accessories |
needed for setup and transportation
• High portability and transportability
• Digital pressure protective gauge
|• The air comes in slowly|
• Lacks durability
• Small air hose
7. VACLIFE 12V Air Inflator
Other than offering a next-generation, stylish look, the inflator is easy to plug into any 12V outlet and use. There’s an LED-enabled display that allows you to monitor the pressure even in pitch-black darkness. Once you are done pumping the tires up, the inflator will turn off on its own, helping drivers consume electricity efficiently and eliminating the concern of putting too much tire pressure.
|• 1.5ft of LED-light range|
• 4 nozzles for ultimate air management
• Fast inflation
• Long power cord
|• Heats fast|
• Loud during the inflation process
• The display panel is hard to read during bright
8. FORTEM Air Inflator
The inflator is a cut above the rest in terms of inflation power – it lands up to 150 PSI. The operating principle is quite intuitive – just plug the cord into the outlet, setting the PSI value, and waiting till the tires are completely pumped is all it takes. There’s a bag of setup tools in the package, along with a range of inflatable attachments.
The seller offers a satisfaction guarantee as well – remember to reach out for a refund if the inflator was not what you were looking for.
|• High compatibility and portability|
• Intuitive digital display
• Ab built-in LED light
• Auto shut-off
|• High odds of blowing of the airline|
• Low pressure gauge precision
• Short plug-in cord
9. HAUSBELL 12V Air Compressor
The compressor is a powerhouse in terms of technical specs – it pumps 25 liters of air per minute and offers 150 PSI of power. Once the tire is pumped, the pump will stop functioning. The manufacturer ensured the unit’s high versatility – drivers can adjust the pump to the size of the tire valve using adapters.
The unit comes in with nozzles, a protective gauge, and an LED flashlight to ensure your safety and high visibility on the road.
|• Takes little time to set up|
• Portable and lightweight
• Safe – you can enable an LED light and an automatic system shut-off
|• A built-in protective gauge is not accurate|
• Some attachments arrived broken
• Lacks sturdiness
10. VIAIR Air Compressor
This is not the highest-power compressor out there – car owners can increase the level of air compression to 120 PSI. Other than that, it’s quite a convenient model – there’s a long power cord, a durable fuse that is unlikely to be blown off.
Although the Viair compressor is hardly fit for trucks, it’s a solid choice for SUV and sedan drivers. There’s a storage bag that comes with the unit. The length of the hose is 5 ft.
• Comes with accessories
• In-package inflation kit
• 1-year warranty
|• Low wire amp rating|
• Low knob stretchability
• Attachments lack durability
11. ASTROAI Portable Air Compressor Pump
This is a basic inflator – having said that, it appears to be rather sturdy. There’s everything a driver would want from an inflator – a durable fuse, an overload protector, and a range of adapters. There’s a detailed LED display – you can see multiple specs for getting the ultimate control of how much air you are pushing into the tire.
There’s a three-year warranty as well.
|• Easy setup and use|
• A lot of information on the LCD monitor
• Easily connectable to the outlet
|• Low accuracy of gauge precisions|
• Is not priced reasonably
12. Skey Air Compressor Tire Inflator
Skey Air Inflator is pretty much a standard model. The compressor packs a mean punch of 150 PSI, there’s a highly functional LED monitor. You can read the display in KPA, PSI, or BAR. The design lacks compatibility but appears to be quite sturdy. There are built-in overheat mechanisms and a pressure-controlling gauge.
|• Detailed display|
• LED monitor
• Nozzles in the package
• Pressure presets
|• Pump ends are hard to attach and detach from |
the opening valve of the tire
• Air leaks are common
Having a good air inflator on standby can make or break your driving experience. Being able to rely on a powerful air compressor certainly promotes confidence when driving on the highway. If you are considering changing an inflator, use our buying guide as a reference point to make the right buying decision.
See also: Air Compressor Hoses