Owning a car comes with owning other certain essentials. One of these essentials, right next to the floor jack and portable jump starter, is a top rated tire inflator. The last thing you want is to be strung up in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire. So yea, a tire inflator does come in handy to avoid such unfortunate scenarios. Aside from a flat tire, it is common for tires to lose pressure after continued usage. While your car could still run on tires that are not at optimum pressure levels, your fuel efficiency suffers. A tire inflator will help ensure that your tires are always at optimum levels.
Furthermore, high-end tire inflators do not only inflate vehicle tires. These premium inflators often come with features that enable them to inflate other inflatables as well such as balls, other forms of tires (bicycle, motorcycle tires), and air mattresses. Tire inflators are long-term buys. Therefore, it is important to buy a high quality model with the power, adaptability, and durability to booth. The aim of this guide is to help you do this.
Best Tire Inflator Complete Guide
Black & Decker ASI500 12-Volt Cordless Air Station Inflator
Kensun YS-205 (Home 110V)/ DC (12V Car) Portable Air Compressor Tire Inflator
Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor
Bell Automotive 22-1-34000-8 BellAire 4000 Tire Inflator
Slime 40022 12-Volt Digital Tire Inflator
What Is A Tire Inflator?
You can ascribe the purpose of a tire inflator from its name alone. However, tire inflator come in different forms and sport different features. The forms and features are numerous, which underscores the reason why you have to be certain of what you want in an inflator. Failure to do so may result in you purchasing a model that is barely useful to you and/or is a waste of money.
With that said, the importance of having a tire inflator cannot be overemphasized. In the previous section, we explored the influence of tire pressure levels on fuel efficiency. In addition, a car with deflated tires of any substantial degree will be a ton of effort to drive. Furthermore, with gas stations currently charging for air, your pocket will thank you in the long run when you make a timely, economical, and brilliant decision to purchase a durable tire inflator. If you also do regular work on vehicles in your garage, then that’s another good reason to get a tire inflator.
Should I Purchase A Commercial Grade Tire Inflator?
A common question that arises when the topic of purchasing a tire inflator pops up is if a commercial grade tire inflator is suitable for personal use. It may seem like it has got a lot of high-sounding features, but unless you run a major auto repair business, then much of those features are useless to you. To put it simply, a commercial grade tire inflator is overkill, when you have just one or a limited number of cars to worry about. The better decision is to purchase a mid-range tire inflator. There are plenty of choices, with features all over the board, to choose from. Additionally, most of the best products are under $100, so you can get the right mix of power, adaptability, and durability in an affordable package.
Tire Inflator vs Air Compressors
Air compressors have a variety of uses. One of them is inflating inflatables. Thus, a comparison is in order. Power and inflation capacity are the main differences between air compressors and tire inflators. In addition, an air compressor is not adapted for the versatility of inflatables, nor are they as equipped as tire inflators for the task. Then there is the cost factor to take into account and lastly portability. An observation is that a regular air compressor inflates tires faster than tire inflators do. However, the time difference is not huge enough to justify choosing the former over the latter for inflating tasks.
Important Buying Considerations
Earlier on in this guide, we emphasized the need to decide early on what you want in a tire inflator. The considerations we highlight in this section should make that stage of the buying process seamless. Many features listed below are standard functionalities baked in any tire inflator model worth its salt. Others are more like perks that can be incredibly useful and are usually the deciding features.
In current premium models, compatibility with both AC and DC power sources is a standard feature. The convenience is satisfying and you shouldn’t settle for less. You can use an AC/DC tire inflator in the garage by connecting to a regular AC electrical outlet. You would also not get agitated if you happen to want to use it on the road, as you can also plug it into the 12v cigarette lighter of your car.
Adaptors for Inflatables
It is not exactly a must-have feature, but there is actually no reason why the tire inflator you purchase is not versatile. An increasing number of tire inflator models include adaptors with which you can inflate other inflatable objects.
Air Pressure Gauge
Maintaining precise air pressure levels of your tires is very important. This is because too much or not enough do lead to performance issues. An air pressure gauge is therefore useful to determine the air pressure in your tires at any time. Additionally, the tool also guides you during the inflation process.
More or less this feature emphasizes convenience. With this feature all you need do is stipulate the amount of air you want to inflate a tire with. Hit the “go” button and the tire inflator does the rest without any manual input from you. The auto inflate functionality performs better when you use it in conjunction with the air pressure gauge.
This is more of a protective feature. What it does is to shut off the inflator automatically after the proper tire inflation is complete. One obvious yet important benefit of this functionality is that it drastically reduces the possibility of over-inflating your tires.
Battery-powered tire inflators are niche inflators. They usually do not require external power input, which can be convenient. However, the major drawback is that you always have to ensure that you fully charge the battery at all times. This can be demanding. In addition, there may be power and adaptability shortfalls when compared to corded units, although this is not huge in high quality battery-powered models. Regardless, you would have to pay mind to how long the device can function before it needs a recharge, especially in occasional circumstances when you have to inflate multiple tires.
Carrying Case or Bag
On paper, this might not sound like a must-have feature. However, for many high-quality tire inflators with detachable parts and adaptors, you would find a carrying case or bag to be very useful to keep all the components in one place. This is not the case for all models anyway, so if you can easily store the tire inflator as-is in the trunk, then a carrying case is not that essential a feature.
There is a linear connection between the size of the compressor of a tire inflator and the efficiency (or to put it simply how fast) of the inflator. The metric you have to pay attention to is PSI (Pounds per Square Inch—a unit of pressure). The rule of thumb is “Higher is Better.” This is very important because while a model with small PSI may be sufficient to inflate less demanding inflatables like sport balls, it would be inadequate for vehicle tires.
Durable Air Hose
When considering the air hose, your concern should be on three qualities: durability, length, diameter. Neither is less important than the other is. Typical length of hoses extend from 2 ft to 16 ft. The watchword is suitability; therefore, you have to factor in your usage and needs to what you settle for.
Duty cycle measures how long a tire inflator unit will operate continuously before needing a cool down period. Many buyers do not bother about this feature because it is an accepted reality that taking breaks after using an inflator continuously for some time is mandatory. The other reason is that making sense of the duty cycle, measured in percentages, is not a straightforward task. For example, a 45% duty cycle inflate will operate continuously at pressure of 100 PSI at temperature of 72 degrees for a period of 4 minutes. Alter any of these factors (pressure, temperature, or time; and the other unaltered factors will change). Regardless, the simple rule of thumb is that “Higher is Better”.
This metric is very important, in that it greatly affects how long it will take you to inflate your tires. The speed of inflation of a model has a direct connection with the power capacity of the model.
LED Work Light
You wouldn’t really miss this feature until you need to inflate your tire at night in a pitch-dark location. That wouldn’t happen often, but it’s smart to have such situation covered in the event that it occurs. The LED work light in a tire inflator would typically illuminate the area where you are carrying out the inflation tire to boost your vision. In addition, and just as important a benefit, the LED light will help other road users acknowledge your location for safety reasons.
Long Power Cord
For corded tire inflators, having adequate power cord length is almost as important as the purchase. The standard length range is 6 to 12 feet. However, if you have a valid reason to think that you would need more leash, then endeavor to find models that have longer power cords, as they abound.
Across the board, the best tire inflators are small, lightweight, and so you can tuck them away easily in the trunk, behind the driver’s seat, or you carry them easily. However, if you have strict portability requirements, then go for it. There is bound to be a model that fits your preferences.
Warning lights may appear to have a similar function to LED work light. However, the primary functions of both are different. The primary function of the LED work light is to provide illumination while inflating under low-light conditions. The added benefit of alerting other road users is secondary. On the other hand, the primary and often only function of the warning lights is to alert other road users of your location, especially in nighttime and low light/visibility conditions. Therefore, this feature is primarily a safety feature.
Safety and Usage Tips
- Always shut the car engine completely before you begin the process of inflating the tires.
- Never try to guesstimate or assume the air pressure of a tire. Rather, always use a gauge for this purpose. Furthermore, ensure that you are aware of the proper numbers for your tires, which generally falls within 30 and 32 PSI.
If your tire inflator does not have an inbuilt air gauge, then endeavor to purchase a handheld air gauge—it is very affordable. A typical inflation process involves cycles of two periods. A working period where you use the device continuously for a certain amount of time and a resting period immediately after the working period where you let the inflator cool.
The typical amount of time for the working and resting period are 10 minutes and 25 minutes respectively. If you do not adhere to these timeframes or methodology, you risk overheating the inflator. This can lead to the motor burning up and resultant malfunction of the tire inflator. Accordingly, never let the tire inflator run unsupervised. Never use a DC-compatible tire inflator with the older cigarette lighters that an 8 amp rating. Currently, most tire inflators use cigarette lighters whose ratings are at least 15 amps. Always keep the tire inflator out of the reach of children. However, individuals in their late teens can be shown how to operate a tire inflator safely. Endeavor to instruct and educate other drivers of your vehicle on how to operate the tire inflator safely.
In the next section, we unveil our list of the best tire inflator models currently available. Our selection follows a rigid review process where we took note of vital features and paid uncompromising attention to the twin qualities of performance and reliability. For the selected models that make our list, we provide detailed information about the features and benefits of each tire inflator for each inflator.
What You Can Do
With the information in the sections above, you can afford to contrast the pros and cons of inflator models that pique your interest. You should do this in line with your preferences and desires in a tire inflator. In the section below, we do the hard work for you by unveiling top-end tire inflators that would very likely meet your references. You can avail of the options provided to make a well-informed and high quality tire inflator purchase.
Best Tire Inflator Reviews
1. Black & Decker ASI500 Review
The Black & Decker ASI500 is a cordless tire inflator, which weighs in at just over 5 pounds and can be powered by its own internal battery. While this reduces clutter and cuts down tremendously on setup time, it does require you to maintain its own internal charge (there is also the option for you to plug the machine into your standard 12 V socket in your car if you don’t want to worry about charging beforehand). The rechargeable battery takes around 5 hours to completely charge – an LED indicates the level of charge and is a convenient touch.
The Black & Decker ASI500 has a maximum operating pressure of 160 PSI and a digital pressure gauge is available for accurate pressure readings. The indicator is intuitive and has an accuracy of ±1 PSI. Like many other of its competitors, the ASI500 is suitable for not only filling your car tires but many other inflatable products or devices including air mattresses or pool toys. Two pressure settings allow you to choose the desired option depending on which item you are inflating. If you want to inflate your car or bike tires, the high setting is the way to go. For other low pressure, high-volume items (air mattress or inflatable raft), go for the low setting.
The auto-shutoff feature allows you to set a certain pressure level beforehand – once this is reached the ASI500 will automatically shut off to avoid over-inflating your tires or other items. Another cool feature is the high-volume pump deflate capabilities, allowing you to remove the air fast and efficiently from your inflatables. Because there happen to be many features like the auto-shut off option and the high/low settings, using the ASI500 is less intuitive than some of its competitors. However, if you have no problem taking a few moments to learn how to properly use this device, you’ll soon realize that the Black & Decker ASI500 is a high-quality tire-inflation device that packs many features into its small-budget frame.
2. Kensun YS-205 Review
The Kensun YS-205 Portable Tire Inflator is as well rounded as it gets amongst tire inflators. For starters, it is incredibly portable and wouldn’t take much space in your trunk. Therefore, it is always ready for usage regardless of time and location.
Going forward, the model has AC/DC current compatibility, so you can use it anywhere whether in the garage or on an interstate highway. The power of the device is also top-notch at pressure of 40 PSI and air flow rate of 11 liters per minute. The Kensun Portable Tire Inflator also features three different forms of nozzle adapters that enhance its versatility. Accordingly, the inflator works perfectly with different kinds of tires as well as other inflatables. Below is an abridged list of supported inflatables.
- Tires of cars, SUVs, minivans, trucks, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles
- Camping equipment
- All kinds of sport balls, for example basketball, soccer ball, football, volley ball
- Air mattresses
- Inflatable toys such as beach and pool toys
To facilitate convenience and ease of use, the Kensun Tire Inflator features a durable rubber air hose with an impressive length of 21.7 inches. Combined with the 11 L/min air flow rate, there is plenty of air available to fill inflatables very quickly and effortlessly. Furthermore, it has lengthy power cords for both AC and DC currents so you never have to worry about not being able to inflate your tires because the power cord is inadequate. The DC power cord measures 9’10”, while the AC power cord measures 6’7”.
- Easy to use
- AC/DC Compatible
- 7” durable air hose
- Lengthy power cord
- Highly versatile thanks to multiple adaptors
3. Viair 88P Review
The Vlair 88P portable air compressor is powered with the car battery and happens to be a high duty cycle tool coming in at 45% (to put it into perspective, most tire inflators are around 15%). Extension clips for the car battery are included and we find are generally more efficient and require very little replacement parts than the cigarette lighter plug-ins that other compressors often utilize. The Vlair 88P is lightweight and weighs in at around one pound – portability is definitely a plus, though you probably wont need to be moving it around too much when in use. The extension cord plus the air hose can reach nearly 20 feet, so gaining access to each tire is hassle free.
Its built-in automotive fuse is another plus and should prevent any electrical shortages in your car. Pair this with the ability to inflate a tire in less than a minute with 120 PSI and the fact that it is one of the quietest tire inflators on the market, and you’ll soon realize the Vlair 88P is a pleasant tire tool to work with. The brass twist-on tire connector prevents air seepage and ensures a proper connection.
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