You’re advised to check your tyre pressures at least once a month, but be honest, when was the last time you checked yours? If you can’t remember, it’s probably a good time to dust off the tyre inflator compressor. If you haven’t got one, you need to hope that the machine at the local petrol station is in good working order. To save you a trip, why not invest in a tyre inflator of your own? They are pretty affordable, after all.
Why do you need a tyre inflator compressor?
Tyres are the only part of a car that comes into contact with the road, so it’s vitally important to keep the rings of rubber in optimum condition. Although tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in the UK, it’s your responsibility to ensure the tyres are in good health. This includes inflating them to the recommended pressure, as outlined in your vehicle handbook.
A tyre will naturally lose air over time, but a slow puncture or porous alloy wheels will result in a slower loss of pressure. You’ll also find that the recommended tyre pressures are different when your car is loaded to the rafters with holiday gear. It’s for these reasons that a tyre inflator compressor should be a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have accessory.
It is certainly worth noting that under-inflated tyres roll on to have other effects too.
Under-inflated tyres increase rolling resistance, which simultaneously makes your engine work harder and increases fuel consumption. Under-inflated tyres also cause uneven wear on the tyre tread and can have a detrimental effect on braking performance.
Which tyre pressure compressor should I buy?
With hundreds of tyre inflator compressors to choose from, you might be feeling the, er, pressure when it comes to selecting the best one. From basic foot-operated pumps to the kind of machines that wouldn’t look out of place at a truck stop, there are tyre inflators to suit all budgets. Here are a few of our favourites, along with some things to look out for when deciding which one is best for you.
The best tyre inflator compressors
Ring RAC635 Tyre Inflator
For the optimum blend of price, ease of use and portability, look no further than the Ring RAC635 digital tyre inflator. This multi-award-winning compressor features a 3.5m cable and a 70cm hose, with power supplied by the car's 12v socket. The digital display makes it easy to check the progress of the inflation, while an automatic cut-off stops the machine when the desired pressure is reached. You also get a carry case, an LED light, plus valves for bicycle tyres and footballs.
|• Very easy to use||• Not the fastest inflator|
|• Quite compact|
|• Well made|
Sealey CTI120 Compact Rechargeable Tyre Inflator
Most portable tyre inflator
For a compact option, this is your best bet. Sealey produces an enormous array of quality tools and this is no exception. The CTI120 weighs less than 500g and has an output of 12 litres per minute, with a higher maximum pressure than the Ring RAC635 (120psi). It has all the features for tyre inflating you need: pressure preset with auto-shutoff; pressure gauge reads psi, kPa, kg/cmu00b2 and bar; comes with adaptors for balls, balloons, and bike tyres.
The CTI120 is not only a great tyre inflator, it bears other features too, which is how it cements its Silver Award place from Parkers. The CTI210 is rechargeable via a micro USB for convenience and it can also act as a power bank.
|• Very compact||• 2000mAh battery doesn’t last that long|
|• Fast inflation for its size|
|• Well made|
Hyundai HYJS-950 Tyre Inflator and Jump Starter
Most versatile tyre inflator
Hyundai makes some excellent air compressors but they are big units for workshops and somewhat overkill for most of us. This, on the other hand, is perfect for someone wanting an all-in-one unit that can deal with flat tyres and drained car batteries.
The compressor delivers a maximum of 150psi and can jump start vehicles of up to 2.5-litres petrol or 2.0-litre diesel. There's more too. It has two USB ports for charging devices; two 12V ports; and an LED flashlight above the display. It weighs three kilograms so while it is considerably heavier than most of our other recommendations, there is still no reason you can't take it with you as an emergency pack on trips.
|• Very versatile||• Relatively bulky compared to the others here|
|• Fast inflation|
|• Great for trips|
AA 12 V Compact Tyre Inflator
Best for buying on a budget
This is a pretty basic tyre inflator, but it could be just the thing to keep in your glove box or the boot. The flexible hose and 3m power cord fold neatly away when not in use and there's a handy gauge for keeping track of the pressure. We wouldn't trust it to provide an accurate measurement of the pressure, but it scores well for price and portability.
|• Amazing price||• Slowest electric unit here|
|• Light and compact|
|• Basic but well made|
Heyner Premium Double Barrel Foot Air Pump With Manometer
Best for old-school foot pumping
The Heyner foot pump is a low-tech solution in a digital world, and that is exactly why we have included it here. This isn't a particularly cheap unit, but some of the foot pumps at the lower end of the market are prone to failure after a few uses. They also tend to move about when you're in mid-pump, which is far from ideal. This German unit is stable, heavy-duty, and has a foot pump you can pass on to your grandchildren. The double-cylinder design allows for relatively efficient inflation too, provided your fitness is up to it.
|• Reliable||• Performance depends on your fitness|
|• Will likely outlive you|
Michelin Programmable Rapid 4X4/SUV Tyre Inflator
Best for fast inflating and large vehicles
This unit is ideal for anyone with a larger vehicle or who is after a robust and fast tyre inflator. You still get a digital display and an LED light, but then it can inflate a 13" tyre in just two minutes - 50% faster than the Ring RAC635, yet is still a 12V.
At 2.3kg it remains quite light and portable. It also comes with adaptors that allow the unit to inflate balls and the like.
|• Quiet||• A bit bulky for the glovebox|
|• Perfect for SUVs or campervans|
|• Fast inflation rate|
Tyre inflator compressor buying advice
A mid-range digital tyre inflator like the Ring RAC635 is perfect for most people. To use, you simply remove the dust cap from the tyre valve and attach the hose to the inflator. It’s then a case of setting the desired pressure and allowing the unit to do its job. If the system has an automatic cut-off, it will stop at the correct pressure, so you simply remove the hose and replace the dust cover.
A tyre with the incorrect pressure could reduce your car's fuel efficiency by around three per cent, so it pays to get it right. You will also improve your car’s braking and handling performance.
What to consider when choosing a tyre inflator compressor
What is the rate of inflation?
Some tyre inflators will fill a tyre from empty in four to five minutes, while others will complete the task in 90 seconds.
How long is the power cable?
Having a cable long enough to fill the tyres in one go is a nice-to-have feature.
How noisy is the tyre inflator?
Your neighbours will thank you for choosing one that doesn’t wake the baby.
How robust and strong is the unit?
Consider things like the quality of the hose, the plastics used and even the vibration. A cheap unit will dance along the driveway like a demented dog when in use.
Does it offer alternative uses?
Being able to inflate a paddling pool, bicycle tyres and a football could come in handy. An LED light could also be useful.