Last Updated on April 21, 2020 by Tim
One of the most neglected maintenance issues on a car is the tire pressure. Not only can this affect comfort, a properly inflated tire will last longer, handle better, and improve your gas mileage as long as your tires are rotated per the manufacturer’s schedule. Unfortunately, the air pumps at your local gas station won’t help on the road or if you find a saggy tire at home. Owning a portable air compressor will help keep those tires inflated year-round and on the go.
The best portable air compressor for car tires may not be the same for every vehicle owner. Someone with a truck or Jeep with oversized tires will need something more powerful than a small car such as a Honda Civic or Kia Forte. Sometimes you may want to have the option of running a couple smaller pneumatic tools in your garage off the compressor. Any of the models below will handle inflating such things as basketballs, bicycle tires, and pool toys.
Our 5 Favorite Portable Air Pumps
|Product||Power Source||CFM||Max PSI||Duty|
|Viair 88P||Car Battery||1.47 @ 0 PSI||120||med/heavy|
|Kensun EHRComp A58A||Car Lighter or AC||n/a||90||medium|
|Viair 85P||Car Lighter||1.26 @ 0 PSI||60||medium|
|Bostitch BTFP02012||AC||2.6 @ 90 PSI||150||heavy|
|EPAuto AT-010-1Z||Car Lighter||1.06 @ 0 PSI||100||light|
Portable Tire Inflator Reviews
The following air compressors are small enough to keep in your car and can be used to inflate tires for cars and small trucks, not to mention the odd inflatable toy during summer vacations. Before choosing one, make sure to note how it’s powered and whether or not it will be compatible with your vehicle.
#1 – Viair 88P Portable Air Compressor
The 88P is a perfect addition to your car’s emergency kit. Able to inflate tires up to 32-inches and powered directly by your car’s battery, the 88P is capable of a 1.47 CFM at 0 PSI and a maximum working pressure of 120 PSI. A pressure gauge on the top allows you to monitor levels without becoming a contortionist.
The box is sturdy enough to double as storage when the compressor isn’t in use, and the combination of 10-foot power cord and sturdy 16-foot air hose gives you the ability to reach every tire on all but the longest vehicles.
The long reach of this mini air compressor has made it very popular among consumers. They also love the 88P’s durability and have used it on a wide range of vehicles from Minis to SUVs. In each case, they have reported a quick fill time without having to pause due to overheating. The ability to to screw the brass hose fitting directly to the valve stem is a big positive.
Viair has a very good reputation, but the return policy for this product has left some consumers feeling just as deflated as their tires. Customers have noted that defective or damaged items had to be returned at their expense for review, at which time Viair would determine whether the product needed repair or would be sent back to the consumer without repairs.
Fortunately, Viair’s products have an excellent reputation and the chance of a problem with their compressors is very low. Out of the various Viair models, we believe the 88P hits the sweet spot as far as performance and value is concerned.
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#2 – Kensun EHRComp A58A Portable Tire Inflator
When you want a good light-medium duty air pump, it doesn’t get much better than the A58A. This ultra portable compressor can be plugged into either a standard AC outlet or your car’s cigarette lighter. It includes a digital pressure gauge, LCD display, two attachment nozzles to handle tasks ranging from beach balls to SUVs, and a digital preset function. It can run for up to 30 minutes at 35 psi and has a maximum psi of 90. Rounding out the list of features is an LED work light for nighttime use.
If there’s one thing that owners of this compressor can’t stop raving about, it’s the automatic shutoff. Regardless of the task at hand, the A58A will shut down at the exact pressure you program in every time. As programming the desired psi is quick and easy, owners find themselves using this compressor for a multitude of tasks at home and on the road. Filling a tire will be a bit slower than the Viair above but it’ll get it done up to about a 31″ tire.
There are two common complaints about the design of this compressor in regards to the power cable and hose storage. When using it to inflate car tires at home, consumers have often needed to use an extension cord, even if the outlet was near the vehicle. A storage compartment is located under the unit which can hold the hose and cable, but often only after a struggle. Thankfully, the included storage bag has enough room to fit everything.
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#3 – Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor
Able to quickly fill up to 31-inch tires, the 85P is perfect for smaller cars all the way to small trucks and SUVs. A tire pressure gauge is built into the top of the unit for easy monitoring, and the small compressor includes a bright LED work light for nighttime maintenance.
Despite a max PSI of 60, those who own the 85P are reluctant to part with it. They are quick to point out the fast inflation times, slower overheating, and high portability. Consumers have had few problems with the unit itself, and have noted excellent customer service on those few occasions a problem does arise.
The biggest drawback to this model is the cord and hose lengths. With a power cable of only ten feet, this compressor barely reaches the rear tires of may mid-range cars. Customers generally bypass this flaw using a socket to battery extension. This also reduces the risk of blown fuses, which is more common in this model than other Viair products.
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#4 – Bostitch BTFP02012 Air Compressor
On the larger end of the portable spectrum, this best-selling Bostitch pancake compressor is built to last. More of a garage air compressor, it has a 6-gallon tank and can run a maximum PSI of 150 with long run time and quick cool-down. This type of compressor offers a lot more airflow than any other model on this list so in addition to use as a car or truck tire inflator, owners have employed it for a variety of workshop and home improvement tasks with excellent results.
It is quieter than many competing models of this size, and is completely oil and maintenance free. The high efficiency motor starts up easily even in cold weather, while the flow regulator and two universal couplers allow for two simultaneous air tools being used.
Customers love the speed and durability of this pancake compressor. Instead of taking minutes to inflate a tire, we’re talking seconds with a larger unit like this. The ability to use regular utility extension cords also means you won’t have to worry about the reach.
One of the most common complaints about this compressor is in the shipping. Depending upon the seller, you may get a 25-foot hose, 15-foot hose, or no hose at all. When ordering online, be sure to confirm which, if any, hose will be included prior to purchase to avoid issues upon delivery. Even better, upgrade to a higher quality air hose and not worry about it.
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#5 – EPAuto AT-010-1Z Portable Air Pump
Rounding out our list is a 100 max psi compressor that can supply anything from the smallest car to a mid-range SUV. A built in overheat protector automatically shuts the unit off when the internal temperature exceeds 167 degrees for added safety. The unit also includes a bright LED flashlight for night time use and includes a backup 15 amp fuse for the power cable.
Buyers of this pump note a very quick inflation speed up to 45 psi, and the low noise when compared to similar models. The auto-shut off is precise, meaning you won’t have to monitor it constantly. Long-time owners also note how easily the unit stores and how efficient the AT-010-1Z is when tackling multiple tires.
Despite high overall quality, many consumers have received defective products and have had to request replacements. In addition, it is highly important to follow the usage instructions precisely, as the AT-010-1Z can be a little more fragile than some other models.
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Portable air compressors have been around for quite a few years. More commonly associated with airbrushing or workshop use, there are actually many models available for automotive use. Now that air pumps at gas stations are becoming increasingly rare, this is the perfect time to consider getting a portable model for your car. Along with car jack, some type of air compressor is another must-have item.
How do I use a portable tire inflator?
Here’s a good video from Viair. Other brands will be similar but with slight differences.
Should I get a bigger air compressor instead?
Size isn’t always better, and this will prove especially true when you’re on the road and get a flat tire. Larger compressors make useful additions to your home garage when you have bigger vehicles. For the average car or truck, however, owning a portable air compressor means you can incorporate it into your vehicle’s emergency kit or store it near the spare tire. Portable compressors also tend to have enough fine control that you can use them for inflating pools, balls, and other household objects that may be too fragile for a larger compressor.
Will a portable air compressor inflate my truck tires?
Trucks come in a variety of sizes, weight classes, and thus have a wide range of requirements when it comes to their tires. Most of the compressors we’ve listed will work on pickups and mid-range SUVs. To fill truck tires on larger vehicles, it is generally best to use a larger compressor capable of handling a higher max PSI.
My car tire won’t inflate. What’s the problem?
There are two common problems that can keep your tires from inflating. Sometimes you will break the bead when filling. This issue can often be solved by filling the tire while there is no pressure on it. In a few cases, you may need to take the car to a tire replacement center and have the rim resealed for little or no cost.
The second potential problem is a puncture, which can be a little harder to fix. To check for a puncture, add a little dish soap to warm water in a spray bottle and spray it all over the tire. Turn your compressor on and pay attention for any bubbles forming, which indicate escaping air. Some small punctures can be patched by a local tire shop, but you may wish to replace an older tire when a puncture occurs.
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