Choosing the best portable tire inflator can be a difficult task. There are so many to choose from, and some of them can be quite tricky to use.
After a lengthy review process we’ve set out our top seven picks based on size, ease of use, price and user feedback.
All of the portable tire inflators in our list have received hundreds of positive reviews from independent users. They’ve been put to the test and passed with flying colors.
We’ve summarized their key features to give you an idea of what kind of bang you’ll be getting for your buck.
They each have their own individual characteristics, but one thing you can be sure of is that they’ll get the job done so you won’t need to look any further to find the right one for you.
***Our Number 1 Pick***
This is, quite simply, the best selling portable tire inflator of all time.
It’s an affordable product with a number of useful features that make it a pleasure to use.
Rather than relying on a foot pump – which can be a lot of work to get up to a decent PSI – this is an electric system that can be powered by your cigarette lighter socket.
That makes it highly convenient, as you’ll always have the power you need right there.
It features a useful readout screen to tell you the pressure in your wheels as you pump (in PSI, KPA, BAR, KG/CM), while an auto-shut-off mechanism helps to ensure that you don’t over-inflate.
Another great feature is the inclusion of a powerful LED flashlight to ensure that you can see what you’re doing. And it comes with multiple attachments and adaptors to fit with any car.
In short, it’s a very well designed pump that will get you out of a scrape.
At the time of review the EPAuto Inflator was on SALE, came with FREE SHIPPING, and averaged an impressive 4.4 stars out of 5 from a whopping 3,497 reviews.
***Best Portable Air Compressor For The Price***
This inflator has a very flat and compact design, with a body roughly the size and shape of a compact radio.
Despite its diminutive stature, this is nevertheless a heavy duty and powerful inflator that will see to it that your tires are filled. Specifically, it can inflate a standard spare car tire in 8 minutes.
It works not only with cars, SUVs, and vans but even pickup trucks (which is not the case with all compact air compressors). It can also be used for motorcycles… and footballs too!
It’s powered from your cigarette lighter, and comes with a useful 10 foot power lead.
It’s one of the most affordable options on this list but it’s not perfect: it doesn’t have a torch and also doesn’t come with auto shut-off.
There is however an analogue readout on the top to show PSI levels.
The AAA Lifeline is actually the cheapest option on our list, REDUCED to JUST $16.81 with FREE SHIPPING at the time of review.
But it packs a real punch and represents great value for money, averaging 4 stars out of 5 from 1,877 reviews. Probably the best small air compressor on the market.
This unit is built to last with a protective outer casing and quite a striking combination of red and black patterned plastic.
It comes with a useful carry case to provide extra protection and easy transportation. Given the adaptors and attachments, this also serves as a useful way to keep everything in place rather than let it rattle around in the boot.
Fortem’s car tire inflator is very easy to operate. It has a digital LED readout that you can use to monitor PSI. And you can set the threshold and then simply let the inflator go to town – resting assured that it will shut off automatically once it reaches the desired value.
There is a flashlight too for additional convenience.
This 12V air pump is powerful and versatile, and will work with a wide range of vehicles – cars, bikes, jeeps – as well as sports balls and even mattresses!
The Fortem is an excellent choice. It looks great, it’s priced well, it’s compact, and it performs.
It’s currently on offer with FREE SHIPPING and averages a solid 4.3 stars out of 5 from 345 independent reviews.
***Best Cordless Air Compressor***
The Ossser is designed quite differently from a lot of the other items on this list. With no cord to get in the way, or restrict the distance that it can travel, it’s the best cordless tire inflator that we came across and the only hand held air compressor to make our list.
You hold it like a screw-driver: attaching the nozzle at the end using one of the supplied attachments and then simply squeeze the trigger.
Also like a screwdriver, this unit is powered by a battery pack that attaches to the bottom of the handle. That is both a good and bad thing. It means that you don’t need to worry about wires, but at the same time it means that you can’t rely on your car battery to continuously supply power when your tire goes flat. Instead you’ll need to charge the battery pack first.
As long as the battery pack is charged, this car air compressor is a dream to use.
Some may find that the design means there is a bit if bending down involved. Still though the cord-free design and the hand-held operation make this a very quick and versatile tool to use.
With this model you get a powerful and versatile tool with useful built-in flashlight, auto-shut-off, and useful LED readout, and it’s suitable for a wide range of vehicles.
The Oasser is the most expensive option on our list, but that’s not without merit as it’s the most versatile, and, provided the batteries are fully charged, outperforms most of its competitors. If you’re looking for a cordless tire inflator, this one’s for you.
It averages a solid 4.3 stars out of 5 from 150 reviews, is currently REDUCED by $20, and comes with FREE SHIPPING.
This portable charger looks predominantly like a large torch! But this fan’s favorite and does an awful lot more.
You have the flashlight on one side and the rest of the controls and LED readout are located on the flat surface at the front.
It’s a nice, sleek design that is pleasing to look at and easy to use.
There’s everything you might need here: auto-shut off and a powerful enough motor to fill a 30PSI tire from flat in just 4 minutes.
It goes all the way up to 150PSI for those that need it. It can be powered from a cigarette lighter and will work with a variety of different vehicles, sports balls, and other equipment.
The cable is also especially long here – up to 15 feet to easily get around any car. There’s a money back guarantee and a couple of free gifts thrown in as well, including a very useful carry case.
This model is unlucky not to be higher on our list. It represents great value for money, stores away well, and, most importantly, inflates tires quickly with minimum fuss.
At the time of review it averaged an impressive 4.4 stars out of 5 from 169 reviews.
***Solid Mini Air Compressor***
When you think of a car tire pump, the last thing you probably expect is an ‘eye catching design’.
Well, the Audew has one with its unique triangular shape and practical yellow and black color scheme.
The digital LED display adds to the overall aesthetics thanks to its bright blue lighting. This also makes it easy to use in the dark, though it’s a shame there’s no flashlight this time around – even though the device itself is lit.
Using the tool is very easy. You simply set the desired pressure and then press the on button. It automatically switches off once the target pressure has been reached.
It’s not the best portable air pump for car tires on the market, but due to its versatility it does deserve a good write up.
The design is very compact and portable and it’s easy to pack away thanks to its flat shape – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
***Best 12V Air Compressor – One To Watch***
This portable tire pump uses a similar looking design to the EPAuto. That is to say that it has a bright flashlight on the front along with the nozzle.
It has a fan at the back and an LED readout on top. This light is particularly powerful and will make it easy to see what you’re doing if you need to top up tire pressure when out at night.
Again, it comes with a variety of different attachments and has a convenient auto shut-off feature to prevent over inflation.
It can be powered by any 12V DC cigarette lighter. Also very practical is the 10 foot long power cord which will ensure you can easily get around to all of your tires.
As with many others on this list, the Tcisa Car Air Compressor Pump is designed with versatility in mind and can be used to inflate tires on a variety of vehicles. Those include motorbikes, cars, bikes, ATV compacts, sedans, SUVs and more.
Another pump that is unlucky not to be ranked higher on our list, but with a mighty average score of 4.8 stars out of 5 from 28 reviews so far the Tcisa is definitely deserving of its place.
REDUCED in price, and available with FREE SHIPPING, it’s a great option.
All of the pumps on this list are tried and tested and have passed the test of time. They’ve been independently reviewed by thousands of users, and time and again they’ve received excellent feedback.
We’re therefore happy that they each deserve their place on this list, and we’re confident that they can all do the job that you’ll need them to when called upon.
Any one of them will do, however if you really pressed us we’d have to say that the first one on our list, the EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, is the best. It’s compact, it’s the most highly regarded, it’s the most reviewed, and it’s priced really well.
The AAA Lifeline comes in a close second, offering exceptional value for money, with the Fortem, Oasser and the Brill all providing stiff competition.
Any of these five would be a great addition to your vehicle.
Portable tire inflators are incredibly useful tools that all drivers should keep on them at all times. Here we answer the most frequently asked questions about them.
Q – Why Get A Portable Tire Inflator?
A – As the name suggests, a portable tire inflator is a pump that you can easily take with you in the car that can then be used to put air back into your wheels.
This is useful if you have a slow puncture and need to regularly top up with air, it’s useful if you have a flat tire and need to inflate just long enough to get to a garage, and it’s useful simply if you have gotten caught out or you want to avoid having to go to gas station every few weeks.
Driving with an even slightly flat tire is a mistake that can put you and your vehicle at risk. Not only does it mean you’ll use up your gas more quickly as the engine needs to work harder to turn the wheels, but it also means that you’ll be slower to react to hazards and you’ll be much more likely to get a puncture.
If you have to go to the gas station, spend money, and queue every time you want to top up, then the temptation to put off inflating your tires might be great. So, investing in a portable tire inflator is a great way to stop making that mistake.
Q – How Do You Use A Portable Tire Inflator?
A – We’ve written a detailed post about it here. The answer to this will obviously depend upon the exact make and model of your car air pump, but in short: park your car on flat ground with the handbrake engaged and the engine off; leave your tires to cool if you can; amend the settings on your inflator to the correct PSI level for your tires (see further on this below); remove the dust caps from your tires; use a tire gauge to check the current pressure level (you might have a tire inflator with gauge readings attached); take note of how far away the current PSI is from the recommended level; remove the gauge and connect the air hose of your portable compressor to the valve; turn on the electric tire pump to start inflating the tire; watch the readings on the monitor closely so you know when you reach the appropriate level; disengage the portable tire inflator and take a further reading to check that you’ve got the PSI right; repeat the process until you are satisfied that you have.
Q – What Is A Slow Puncture?
A – The term slow puncture refers to the situation when the pressure of a tire reduces slowly over a period of time due to a problem with the tread. This is often caused when driving over a sharp object, like a nail, a pin, or a piece of glass. The object becomes embedded in the tire, with a tiny amount of air able to escape around it, but not enough to experience or notice a real difference in the short term.
In the short term the vehicle will probably drive and handle itself the same, however if the correct pressure level for the tire is not maintained, serious problems could follow. You could have a blowout or worse.
In the event of a slow puncture you should have the tire repaired, if that is possible, or replaced if it is not.
You can see why, in the case of a slow puncture, having a portable air compressor on hand to check your tire pressure on a regular basis is a good investment. It could help you save a lot more than your money!
Q – What Does PSI Stand For?
A – PSI is a measure of tire pressure. It refers to the amount of air inside a tire’s inner lining. It is calculated in pounds per square inch (thus the phrase PSI).
Q – Why Is PSI Important?
A – It’s important because your vehicle and its tires have been designed to operate within certain parameters. If the tires operate for too long outside of these recommended parameters they can become damaged. Tires can be costly to repair, which is an inconvenience, but even worse, damaged tires are dangerous to drive.
Q – What If My Tires Are Under Inflated?
A – If your tires are under inflated, contact with the road will not be spread as evenly across their surface as it should, leading to degradation. If left for long period you will notice balding on both the inside and outside tread of the tire.
Q – What If My Tires Are Over Inflated?
A – This can be just as big a problem. Opposite to under inflated tires, over inflated tires can have a higher proportion of contact with the road surface in the center, leading to degradation and wear there. If left for long periods this will need replacing. A further concern is that because a smaller surface area of tire is in contact with the road than at the correct PSI level there could be serious issues with the ability to break. Less traction could obviously lead to skidding, and that really is worth avoiding if you can.
To make sure you’re safe, get the best portable air compressor that you can find any one from our list will do – check your tires regularly, and keep it stored away safely in your car for when you need it.
Q – So What Should My Tire Pressure Be?
A – The correct tire pressure for your vehicle can be found in a number of places. It will be in your owner’s handbook, printed on the fuel cap, and also printed on the sills of the front doors of the car. It may be the case that you need a different PSI level for the tires at the rear and the rear. The places above will tell you if you do.
Check out this handy post on Cars.com for more help.
Q – Do I Need To Change It If I Am Carrying A Heavy Load?
A – This is a good question that is often overlooked. Depending upon the extra weight you may well need to adjust your PSI levels. Your owner’s handbook should have the relevant calculations for you.
Q – So… How Do I Check My Tire Pressure?
A – Good question, we thought you’d never ask! We’ve written a more detailed post about it here, but in short, the best way to do it is to use a portable tire inflator with gauge functions. In short: make sure that your handbrake is on and the ignition is off; let your tires cool for at least two hours; find the correct PSI levels from your handbook or the door sills; remove the dust cap from each tire; press your gauge onto the tire’s valve until it engages and you hear a hissing noise which is then cut off; let the gauge settle before taking the pressure reading. If your PSI reading is too high for the tire let a little air out using the gauge and take further readings until you’re at the right level. If your PSI reading is too high use your portable air compressor to top it up.
Check out this great video for further info:
Q – How Does An Air Compressor Work?
A – Without getting too technical an air compressor converts power (using a battery or electricity from your car) into potential energy which is held as pressurized (or compressed air). This is called displacement. The pressurized air builds up, in the case of a car air pump, until a level is reached where the potential energy is sufficient to force its way into a tire. When the compressed air is released from the pump into the tire the pressure decreases and so further conversion needs to take place. A typical mini air compressor linked to your car’s battery might repeat this process continuously until the correct PSI level is reached. If you have a car tire inflator, check the manual to see.
Q – How Do I Use A Tire Inflator?
A – See the video above or our detailed article here.
Q – Can I Use A Portable Air Compressor For Car Tires On My Bike?
A – Yes, but you need to make sure that the bike tires have the correct valves to take the air hose of the portable air pump. You also need to be careful when using an electric tire pump with a bike not to over inflate the tires. This could be dangerous for the same reasons as over inflating car tires (mentioned above) and you could even end up blowing the tire if the pressure is too great. The AAA Lifeline and the Brill (reviewed above) are both good options.
Q – What Is The Best Air Compressor For Home Use?
A – It depends what you plan to use it for. This post is centered around auto use. For use in the home you might want to look for the best cordless air compressor. In our view that would be the Oasser, which is very versatile given its standalone battery pack. But if auto use around the home is your main objective (i.e. in your garage or driveway) in our view the EPAuto is the best portable air compressor and should be given serious thought.
Q – What Is The Best Portable Air Compressor For The Money?
A – Our reviews above take price into account and we have to say that each compact air compressor on the list represents great value for money. The EPAuto is our first choice, but if you really want to spend as little as possible and still get the best portable tire inflator you can afford we’d say go with the AAA Lifeline.
Well, hopefully the FAQ section above together with all of the reviews has given you plenty of info to help choose the best portable air compressor for you.
Have you used any of the models on our list? If so, what did you think of them? Which is the best portable air pump for car tires in your opinion? We’d love to hear from you, so please let us know below.
What next? Well, why not check out our new post on how to change a tire here, or take a look at our detailed article about repairing and patching tires here.