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There are few quicker ways to ruin an afternoon than a flat tire, particularly on a road trip, and the best portable tire inflators can be a lifesaver (as well as saving you time spent waiting for triple-A or money having your car serviced). And portability doesn't mean a dearth of power: some of the pumps on our list can inflate even big commercial tires.
If you’re looking for a handheld tire inflator that’s versatile enough to work with home AC and car DC sockets, the Kensun AC/DC rapid performance portable air compressor is a great option. The five-pound Kensun includes an auto shut off, which should alleviate concerns of over-inflating (the LCD screen allows you to determine a preselected PSI level). The included LED lamp can point and illuminate a small area and provide better visibility during evening conditions where eyesight is decreased. When it comes to portability, the Kensun’s grab handle makes it among the easiest to carry and transport. Rated a maximum of 90 PSI, the Kensun will handle nearly every car or SUV on the road, RV and other inflatables because it comes with three different connector types.
The Viair 00088 880 portable air compressor is a suitable for all types of vehicles, but can even inflate commercial and 33-inch tires. Equipped with a 10-foot power cord and a 16-foot air hose, the Viair connects directly to a car or truck battery for power with its attached alligator clamps. The lengthy cords ensure that it can reach almost anywhere on a regular-sized truck or SUV and fill tires up to a maximum 120 PSI. Measuring PSI is handled courtesy of an analog tire gauge that accurately measures pressure within one PSI. Weighing 4.5 pounds and measuring 6.25 x 6.25 x 10.75 inches in size, the Viair is a highly portable option that’s easily stored in the back of a car, truck or SUV.
Incorporating its own smart pressure technology, the Jaco SmartPro portable tire inflator adds auto shutoff for setting a target PSI level and then pumping the tire exactly to that level. A 10-foot long power cord and 24-inch air hose make all four tires of a car, SUV or small truck accessible as power is drawn from a connection to any 12V outlet. Measuring the accuracy of inflation up to one PSI is a built-in digital air gauge that’s backlit for nighttime use and can measure up to a maximum of 100 PSI for bike tires and up to 45 PSI for auto tires. Two adapters are also included for use with sports balls, airbeds and other inflatables. A bright LED light that can double as a flashlight can also flash red and notify other drivers on the road of an emergency.
A budget option that provides plenty of features, the EPAuto portable air compressor is the inexpensive choice to beat. It plugs directly into a car’s 12V-DC cigarette lighter and the easy-to-read display includes PSI information. Navigation buttons allow for auto-selecting the appropriate PSI for tires, so the device shuts off when the desired tire pressure is reached. A maximum PSI of 100 is ideal for compact and mid-sized sedans and SUVs. Additional adapters are available for balls, inflatables and other sports equipment and a one-touch LED Torchlight can help brighten up the darkness for nights when visibility could be compromised. Weighing 2.17 pounds, the EPAuto is highly portable with a nine-foot cable for reaching all four tires from a single 12V charging point.
Our writers spent 40 hours researching and testing the most popular portable tire inflators on the market. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.
Type of adapter - Sure, you might need a portable tire inflator when you’re out stranded in the middle of nowhere—that’s the scenario we all fear. But what about if you’re closer to civilization? While many models can be powered off a car’s 12V adapter, you can buy tire inflators that also plug into a regular AC adapter as well. The versatility might be useful, depending on when you think you might need the device.
Maximum PSI - If you’re buying a portable tire inflator for a large truck, you may want to look into a larger model than if your vehicle is a small sports car or coupe. Differently sized vehicles have varying ideal PSIs, depending on how heavy they are, so you want to make sure you buy one that works with whatever the recommendation is for your specific vehicle.
Auto shut-off - When using a portable tire inflator, getting your tire filled with air as quickly as possible may be the only thing on your mind. However, you also need to pay attention to make sure you don’t overinflate your tire. Many models will automatically shut off when the desired PSI is reached, ensuring you don’t have to think about putting too much air into your tire.