Even if your vehicle is equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), you don’t want to solely rely on that to know when you need to put air in your tires. The reason being, TPMS is designed to notify you when your tires are 25 percent below the recommended pressure, and you really don’t want to wait that long. Driving on underinflated or overinflated tires can be detrimental to your tire’s life and your fuel economy. That ultimately costs you money in the form of premature tire wear and wasted gas.
Owning a portable tire inflator means you can check your tire pressure at anytime, from anywhere, and inflate them if necessary. Most of our recommendations are relatively affordable, especially if it means you’re not wearing out your tires sooner than you should, or losing fuel economy because your tires are underinflated. In other words, owning a portable tire inflator will pay itself off, so long as you’re diligently checking your tire pressure on a regular basis.
Below, you’ll find our recommendations for the best portable tire inflators, along with more information about proper tire inflation and how underinflated or overinflated tires affect your car.
1. Best overall: EPAuto portable tire inflator
- Auto shutoff
- Built-in digital gauge, LED flashlight
- Uses car’s 12v outlet
- Inflation speed is average (30L/min)
- Doesn’t support larger tires (truck/SUVs)
This isn’t the fastest portable tire inflator on the market, nor is it really the “best”. But when you consider price, performance, and reliability as a complete package, this is our recommendation. For the average car owner, this portable tire inflator will do the job with little fuss or headache. Simply set the desired tire pressure on the digital gauge and the pump will automatically inflate the tire and shutoff once complete. This option uses your car’s 12-volt cigarette lighter receptacle for power.
The built-in digital gauge displays in four units (psi, kpa, bar, kg/cm) and the built-in LED flashlight does come in handy if you’re having to inflate your tires in a dimly lit environment or on the side of the road at night. The company also includes a few adapters so you can inflate common household items, though you’ll have to use your car for power.
EPAuto’s portable tire inflator is available in blue, green, red, and yellow.
2. Best cordless: Avid Power cordless tire inflator
- Cordless, handheld inflator
- Auto shutoff
- Can also be plugged in if battery dies
- Average inflation speed (30L/min)
- Heats up quickly
If you prefer a handheld option that’s similar to a cordless drill, Avid Power’s portable inflator fits the bill. The tool uses a 20-volt rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, but it also comes with a 12-volt adapter if you run out of juice. The auto shutoff feature makes it easy to use — just set the desired pressure and it’ll automatically shutoff once the tire is properly inflated.
Since it is a more compact inflator, its speed is about average at 30L/min, which is comparable to our best overall pick. One thing to note, this unit does tend to get hot quickly, so it’s not the best to use if you’re having to fill up a completely flat tire.
This inflator comes complete with the battery pack, the adapter, battery charger, three nozzles, and a tool bag for convenient storage and transport. Choose from red, blue, or orange finishes.
3. Best multipurpose: BLACK + DECKER inflator
- Designed to inflate all sorts of objects
- Versatile power options
- BLACK+DECKER name
- Auto shutoff
- Battery sold separately
- Short power cord
If you’re looking for a product from a reputable brand and already have a couple BLACK+DECKER cordless tools in your garage, you’ll want this portable inflator. It can use BLACK+DECKER’s 20V MAX batteries for power, or you can plug it into your standard household outlet, or your car’s 12-volt outlet. It’s the most versatile option on our list, allowing you to use it at home. Unfortunately the battery is sold separately, so this inflator can get costly if you haven’t already invested into BLACK+DECKER batteries.
Auto shutoff allows you to set it and forget it, and you’ll get a variety of adapters with the inflator. There is also a deflate function that comes in handy if you need to quickly take air out of an inflatable raft or mattress. This is a great option if you often find yourself needing to inflate household items — also a great recommendation for campers!
4. Best for trucks/SUVs: GSPSCN heavy duty tire inflator
- Fast inflation speed (70L/min)
- Works on larger truck/SUV tires
- Uses car’s 12v outlet
- No auto shutoff
- Has a 5-10 minute cooldown period after 20 minutes of use
If you own a truck or SUV and have larger tires on your vehicle, you’ll want a heavy duty tire inflator like this one from GSPSCN. Available in silver, red, or titanium finishes, this portable inflator has a double cylinder design that allows you to inflate up to 150 psi. It’ll take a standard 18-inch tire from zero-to-40 psi in about 1.5 minutes with its 70L/min airflow rating. If you’re planning to use this on much larger off-road tires though, keep in mind it’ll take a lot longer to inflate. While it’ll work, this is ultimately a tire inflator designed for your everyday vehicle.
Unlike our other recommendations, this inflator doesn’t have a digital gauge. That means there’s no built-in auto shutoff feature, so you’ll have to manually monitor and turn off the inflator once it reaches your desired tire pressure. This is our recommendation if you own a truck or SUV, as the other options won’t do a great job inflating larger tires.
How do underinflated tires affect your car?
Driving on underinflated tires can increase the chance of a blowout, which is obviously something you want to avoid. In addition, underinflated tires negatively affects your fuel economy as well as your handling since the sidewalls on your tires are flexing more. Ultimately, underinflated tires result in less traction and grip. Also, underinflation increases tire wear which means you’re not getting the full life of your tires.
How do overinflated tires affect your car?
Similar to underinflated tires, overinflated tires can also increase the risk of a blowout and will cause premature wear. What you’ll mostly notice however, is that excess tire pressure causes your vehicle’s ride to be harsher and you’ll feel all the bumps in the road. Overinflated tires are also more susceptible to damage if you run into a pothole.
How do I find the recommended tire pressure for my car?
On most vehicles, you’ll find a label on your driver’s side door jamb that has the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. Note that some vehicles may have different recommended tire pressures for the front and rear tires. If your label isn’t on the driver’s side door jamb, take a look at your fuel door. In very rare cases, it may be in your car’s glove box. Still can’t find it? Check your owner’s manual.