If you’re sick of having to pull in and use the air compressor at your nearest gas station or garage, or looking to avoid getting stranded with a flat, a portable tire inflator to keep in your car is the way to go.
Usually versatile enough to use on bikes, soccer balls and, well, anything you want to inflate, you’ll be able to give all four tires a pick-me-up no matter where you are, and check the pressure before every journey.
To make things easy for you, we’ve done the busywork and found five high-quality, reliable inflators available for you to purchase today, considering a variety of customer needs and budgets for a product to suit everybody.
If you’d like to know the ins and outs of tire inflators before you commit to buying one, we salute you! Our handy buyer’s guide collates everything you need to know in one concise section, so there’s no need to open twenty tabs.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a thorough article if we didn’t round it off with some answers to the internet’s most Frequently Asked Questions, so if there’s something stopping you from hitting check out, why not see if we’ve got the information you need.
Sick And Tire-d Of Flats? Here’s Our Top Pick:
OUR TOP PICK
With over 11,000 five star reviews from satisfied customers, we have no reservations at all to recommend this portable air compressor to any customer who doesn’t have time to make up their own mind about it.
Plugging directly into your 12 V cigarette lighter socket, this baby can produce up to 70PSI (double what you need for the correct tire pressure on most vehicles) and works at 1.06 cubic feet per minute, which is super speedy.
A universal schrader valve works on the majority of tires you’ll want to inflate, whilst additional adapters thrown in for free allow you to add air balls, bike tires, inflatable accessories and much more.
The clear, backlit LCD screen displays everything you need to know, in four different units: KPA, PSI, BAR and KG/CM. You can use the measurement system you prefer, and the inflator automatically shuts down when complete.
Need to inflate in the dark? No worries! A bold, bright flashlight is built into this compressor, so there’s no need to hold your phone in one hand and the machine in the other, which makes things much easier.
Users who are scared of over-inflation can rest assured that not only will it shut down if too much pressure is detected, but should things overheat, the unit stops in its tracks to cool down too, for even more reassurance.
- Lightweight - it only weighs a pound!
- Plugs right into your car’s cigarette lighter port
- Automatic inflation in minutes
- CE certified to guarantee your safety
Even easier to operate than ever before and built with your safety in mind, this durable, lightweight plastic air compressor from Fortem is extremely portable and great for use on the go, plugging straight into the car’s lighter outlet.
Thanks to the compact and clever design, you can store the cables and hosing neatly away in the unit to prevent tangles and make sure it’s ready to use right away, every single time.
A large, clear digital display gauge makes for swift and simple PSI reading, compatible for inflating tires on any vehicle with a DC-12V output, whilst adjustments are as simple as hitting the relevant button.
It also includes multiple bonus attachments, for use on sports balls, balloons, air mattresses… you name it, you can inflate it with this bad boy. No more huffing and puffing and embarassing yourself in front of the kids!
Capable of a maximum pressure of 150 PSI (though this should only be reached when inflating 150PSI), with a continuous working time of 8 minutes, you can inflate all four tires in one fell swoop, without a cooldown period.
- Automatic inflation within +/- 1 PSI
- Fast AND quiet with extra long power cord
- Comes with carrying case, fits easily in the trunk
- Bonus adapters for inflating basically anything!
- MUST rest every 8 minutes
Capable of inflating a tire from 0 to 35 PSI in under five minutes (and much swifter for just a quick increase) the AstroAI certainly lives up to its name, thanks to advanced accuracy offered by a professionally calibrated pressure gauge.
Ten feet of power cord ensure you’ll be able to navigate around your car with ease, conveniently plugged into the 12v cigarette lighter port; simply set your desired pressure and the machine automatically stops when it’s done.
Simply press once and you can switch between pressure units with ease on the large, backlit LCD, which is clear and easy to read even in the dark - if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a built in LED flashlight for emergencies.
Small, sleek and with a convenient carry handle, at a lightweight 2.2 lbs, it’s more than portable, you can attach the nozzle using either the quick connector or more precise screw rotation, depending on your urgency!
Having undergone rigorous and repeated safety testing to guarantee safety and protect both you and the device, as well as featuring an auto shut-off feature, you can use this inflator with peace of mind, every time.
- Takes from 4-6 minutes to hit perfect pressure from zero
- 100PSI capacity which is triple the maximum for your tire
- Extra long 3 meter cable for your convenience
- Fifteen minute maximum operation time
- Not recommended for use with trucks or trailers
Capable of inflating your tires in seconds, this compressor from VacLife has so many five star reviews for a reason: all you need to do is plug it in to your vehicle’s 12V power outlet, connect the hose to your tire, and you’re ready to go, just hit he switch!
At thirteen feet long, the power cable offers more than enough room to easily navigate your car; weighing just over two pounds, it’s super portable and you won’t struggle to carry it from tire to tire, especially in a hurry.
Immediately read your tire’s current PSI on the backlit LED screen once attached, then simply select your desired pressure increase and hit the button, for a quick inflation that will get you going in no time.
Boasting four additional nozzles, you’ll be able to use this air compressor to inflate pretty much anything you want to, though it can’t be used on the larger tires you’d find on trucks or trailers as it’s not capable of producing enough pressure.
Thanks to the VacLife promise, customers are entitled to a full refund if dissatisfied, as well as a two-year replacement warranty that ensures your satisfaction, even if the product doesn’t meet your expectations.
- Built-in LED flashlight for night time use
- Extra long cable helps you move around the car easily
- Multiple uses - bikes, toys, sports equipment
- Decrease your pressure with the included tool
- Max PSI of 50 - not suitable for use with larger tires
Last, but certainly not least, is the most extravagant inflator on our list, from the gang at Avid Power: not only can you use it cordlessly thanks to a rechargeable battery, but it also features a 12V adaptor too, just in case of emergencies.
Simply preset the PSI level you want and the air compressor automatically pumps up the tire and shuts down again when complete - all you have to do is push a button, no need to worry about overinflation or low pressure any more.
With an accuracy rating of +/- 1 PSI, you can be sure there’s no danger of any mistakes, and you’ll be able to fill all four tires with no rest time; this baby only takes approximately 4 minutes to take a tire from completely flat to full.
Lightweight and space-saving, you could fit this under your seat or in the corner of your trunk with ease, so there’s no reason to take it out of the car and no opportunity to get caught short without it!
Also included are additional nozzles for inflating bike tyres, pool accessories, sports equipment, air mattresses and beyond, as well as a handy carry bag for storing, this versatile and easy-to-use tool will soon become a valued part of your kit.
- LED light to easily work at night or in poor conditions
- Auto-inflate, auto shut-down - just push the button
- Rechargeable for cordless use, PLUS 12V car port adaptor for emergencies
- Buy a bundle with an extra battery / waterproof spotlight
- Pricier than other models we’ve featured that work just as well
Best Portable Tire Inflator Buying Guide
Perhaps you think picking out an air compressor to inflate your tires is as simple as finding a product that works, but you’d be unfortunately mistaken.
In order to get something you’ll be satisfied with, consider all of the following features:
You want a compressor that’s going to fit in your car easily, and isn’t likely to weigh you down and increase fuel consumption, as well as one that’s light enough to quickly move between all four tires.
Therefore, a big, bulky machine that takes up half of the trunk is not what you’re looking for here: the key words are lightweight and portable, especially if you tend to drive (and therefore inflate) by yourself.
However, if you’re looking to inflate truck or trailer tires, it’s likely that a portable inflator isn’t going to have the firepower to fully increase their pressure, so you’ll probably need to opt for a larger, less transportable device.
Automatic Vs Manual
Of course, a machine that does everything for you is going to be much easier to use if you can simply select a pre-programmed PSI setting or enter one you’d like, and an automatic shut-off function once complete is always a bonus.
However, if you don’t mind making sure everything is done correctly yourself (or would rather not rely on the machine to do it properly!) then you’ll probably save some money without those fancy features.
Some tire inflators - though you won’t find any of these on our list - are actually powered by a foot pedal, which takes forever and relies on your own strength and determination - not exactly useful in an emergency!
A lot of inflators will run on a 12 volt, DC power supply, meaning they’re suitable for use with your car’s cigarette lighter socket (if it has one), and are able to run anywhere, even on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
Others are rechargeable and need to be taken in the house for re-fuelling every so often, which isn’t great if you are forgetful, as you might find yourself in an emergency with a flat battery on your air compressor.
You’ll also notice some units are powered by mains electricity and need to be plugged into an outlet to work, which also usually means they have much greater inflation capabilities for bigger tires.
When you’re freezing your ass off on the side of the road, waiting forever for the machine to inflate your tires is not what you paid for: you want a machine that can perform a small, medium or large inflation at top speeds.
Whilst pricier gadgets will boast much quicker inflation times than those at an average cost, it doesn’t need to be instantaneous - two minutes or so per tire is easily attainable, even at a budget-friendly price.
The best inflators can take your tire from 0-36 PSI (the ideal pressure for most vehicles) in under five minutes, which gets you back on the road in no time, even if you’ve had a flat.
You might also want to make sure that the inflator is capable of adding air to larger tires if your car is sizeable, as some aren’t suited to the behemoths found on SUVs, ATV’s and other massive vehicles, otherwise it’ll be pretty useless when it arrives.
Essentially describing how long your compressor takes to completely cool down after continuous use, this determines whether or not you need to take a break in between tires or whether you can fill all four up in a flash.
If your tire’s duty cycle is 50%, then that usually indicates that you should be good to run the compressor pretty much constantly whilst you inflate the tires and you shouldn’t have any problems.
You’ll usually find the time that your inflator can run for before needing a break clearly stated in your device’s instruction manual, but if it has an auto shut-off function, you don’t need to worry about making sure you remember.
All of the inflators on our list proffer an integrated LED flashlight, which is super handy when it comes to middle-of-the-night tire emergencies, and enables hands-free air compression when you need it.
Some of them also include nozzle adaptors, which allow you to adjust the pressure of tires on bikes and smaller vehicles, inflate balls and other sports equipment, even blow up balloons for a party so you don’t have to waste your breath.
Of course, these are ‘bonus’ features because they aren’t necessary to perform the functions of the product, just make it a little easier, so if the inflator you go for doesn’t have them, you don’t need to worry about it.
Frequently Asked Questions
At what PSI will a tire explode?
Yes, it is possible to fill your tire with so much air that it bursts, especially during hotter spells and when driving in difficult conditions. Your tire will burst at 200 PSI: you never ever want to exceed your recommended pressure, which is way lower.
Most tires should probably be inflated to around 32 and 35 PSI, which is worlds away from that bursting point, so there’s no reason you should ever get up there, especially if you’re ensuring the tires are cold before you re-inflate them.
Is it bad to overinflate tires?
In a word: yes! By over inflating, you’re going have much less control of your car, which will be very difficult to handle, as well as probably bouncing all over the road. They will also of course be more prone to bursting if overinflated.
Likewise, an uninflated tire will very quickly wear away at the tread, which can cause balding as well as affecting the performance of your vehicle, and you’ll likely need to replace them with a fresh, road-worthy set eventually.
Should you turn your car’s engine off when inflating the tires?
ALWAYS! Never, ever run the vehicle and the inflator at the same time.
Your car should be parked, with the engine turned off, before you even think about adjusting the pressure - we thought this would be obvious!