12v air compressor

best 12v air compressor

Are you searching for a good 12v air compressor? This article is for you, then.

Trying to choose an air compressor can cause a headache, but knowing the best air compressors on the market will help you narrow down your options.

Down below is a list of the seven best 12v air compressors with their specifications, advantages, and disadvantages.

Comparison Table

Air CompressorPsiLbs
Viair 400P 1508.5
Kobalt1206.35
Viair 88P1204.5
AstroAI1002.25
MasterFlow MF-10401506
AutoVirazh Dual Cylinder1505.3
SuperFlow1404

The 7 Best 12V Air Compressors 2019

1. Viair 400P Portable Compressor

Viair 400P Portable Compressor

The VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor is probably one of the strongest compact air compressors around in the market.

With a compact design of 13 x 11 x 9.5 inches, the 8.5lbs air compressor is really easy to carry and transport with you wherever you want.

The VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor is operated with 12v outlets, which you can connect to your car’s cigarette lighter socket.

The 8-foot power cable is not especially long compared to other air compressors in the market, but its 25-foot open-ended air hose is a monster.

The VIAIR 400p Portable Compressor is able to offer inflation to inflate tires up to 35 inches at an astonishingly rapid rate. It can operate at its maximum air pressure setting of 150 PSI for up to a continuous 15 minutes in one go.

With a break afterward to cool down, the air compressor usually requires 30 minutes to cool sufficiently. The VIAIR can be easily powered by a temporary connection to a 12v battery power source with the included alligator clamps.

The open-ended air hose is included with a 100 PSI air pressure gauge that offers multiple functions like air up, air down, air up intermittently, air down intermittently, and check tire pressure.

If you want to check the tire pressure, you can easily turn off the portable compressor to halt inflation, and then you can use the air pressure gauge to check the pressure of the tire.

Pros:

  • Portable
  • Lightweight
  • Comes with accessories

Cons:

  • Used for specific types of vehicles

Bottom Line:

If you need an air compressor for your truck tires, then this is the one you should buy. You should also buy it if you need an air compressor that is easy to carry around. It can only work with certain types of vehicles, though.

2. Kobalt Air Compressor

Kobalt Air Compressor

The KOBALT 12volt & 120volt portable air compressor has an appropriately compact design as it measures 12.9 x 7.4 x 9.2 inches and weighs 6.35 pounds.

The DC power cord can be plugged into a vehicle’s 12v power outlet. For the standard 120v household outlets, you can use the AC power cord.

KOBALT’s strong motor ran by the 12v outlet can reach a powerful PSI of 120, which is guaranteed by the use of either the 12v or 120v cord.

There is also an automatic shut-off feature that shuts of the inflator once you reached the preset pressure level, preventing any chance of over inflation and making the process even easier.

The KOBALT 120v comes with an LCD display feature that shows the real-time current pressure in addition to the target pressure.

Moreover, there’s also an LED work light on the back of the Kobalt 120v to make it easier to get the work done even if it is dark around.

The kit comes with a Presta valve adapter, which is perfect for bicycle tires, 2 sports needles for inflating sport balls, and a raft nozzle to inflate your pool floats with complete ease.

With its compact design, you can keep the compressor in the trunk of your car to use it in case of tire malfunction and when you are on your summer vacation.

Pros:                  

  • Space saver 
  • Powerful
  • Used for many purposes
  • Adaptable
  • Digital Display

Cons: 

  • None

Bottom Line:

This is a useful device that you can tuck in your car for safety purposes. Its digital display makes it easy to read anywhere. This is one of the best 12v air compressor 4wd.

3. Viair 88P Air Compressor

Viair 88P Air Compressor

Viair is well-known for its air suspension systems, and the 88P is just as impressive as all their products.

This unit has the ability to fill tires up to 33 inches in diameters thanks to the 120 PSI maximum pressure.

And you can count on its durability as it’s made from premium materials and has alligator clamps to keep everything in place.

The Viair 88P also comes with an LED work light that illuminates your work area so that you can work as accurately as possible. The pressure gauge on top of the unit allows you to check the flow of air and start or stop it as needed.

This unit comes with a 10-feet long power cord and a 16-feet long air hose. They’re not the longest, but they’re good enough to reach all wheels with no trouble.

Finally, the 88P comes with all the accessories you’ll need, so you won’t have to buy anything extra. This justifies the higher price level of the model.

Pros:

  • Long hose and power cord
  • Highly affordable
  • Quiet operation
  • Compact and lightweight design

Cons:

  • Operation is a little on the slow side
  • Must be off to get an accurate pressure reading

Bottom Line:

The Viair 88P is a great pancake air compressor as it strikes a balance between being powerful and compact. Although it’s a little slow, it comes with many features that give you superb value for the price.

4. AstroAI Portable Air Compressor Pump

astroai portable air compressor pump

AstroAI makes some of the best high-quality products. And the AstroAI follow suit.

At a very affordable price, this air compressor is a great budget choice for anyone looking for a compact and portable 12V tire inflator to use for car and bike tires.

The two cone inflation adapters and needle also allow you to work with different objects such as inflatables.

The AstroAI comes with a round LCD display that functions as a pressure gauge and displays pressure values in PSI, KPA, and bar. Its maximum pressure reaches 100 PSI with a maximum amperage of 15 amps.

Being a cordless air compressor means that you’ll get a lot of maneuverability. But it also means that you don’t get long extended use, this unit can only work for 30 minutes before needing to be charged again.

It can pump 35 liters per minute and 30 PSI for car tires. It also comes with overheat protection.

Pros:

  • 3-year warranty
  • Equipped with brass connectors
  • Compact and portable
  • Sleek design

Cons:

  • Plastic construction
  • Inaccurate PSI delivery
  • Doesn’t have an auto shut-off feature

Bottom Line:

The AstroAI does have a pretty attractive design and an equally appealing design. However, it’s not the best performer. So if you’re looking for something top-notch, skip this one.

5. MasterFlow MF-1040 Air Compressor

MasterFlow MF-1040 Air Compressor

The MasterFlow MF-1040 runs very smoothly and quietly as it has one of the best construction on the market.

And despite how sturdy it is, it’s still compact and easy to use. It’s even more portable than a pancake or hot dog air compressor.

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t compromise the solid build as it has a high-grade steel construction that makes it one of the most durable units on the market.

With a 150 PSI maximum pressure, it can take on any task you throw its way. It can deliver an impressive flow of 30 liters of air per minute. This combination makes it a top-notch 12V air compressor for truck tires.

And to keep an eye on how much pressure is flowing into the hose, the MasterFlow MF-1040 comes with a built-in air pressure gauge.

With this unit, you’ll also get a 16-foot coil hose and a 12-foot electrical cord, so you’ll effortlessly reach all the four tires of your vehicle.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Quick and efficient
  • Very portable
  • Comes with a storage bag
  • Value for the price

Cons:

  • Loud operation
  • Design is a little inconvenient

Bottom Line:

This item can quickly inflate tires and doesn’t take long to charge. Moreover, its portability, lightweight, power, and unique design make it the top 12v air compressor for motorcycles specifically.

6. AutoVirazh Dual Cylinder Portable Air Compressor

AutoVirazh Dual Cylinder Portable Air Compressor

The AutoVirazh is a mini air compressor that makes it very convenient to carry around.

The reliable motor can deliver 35 liters per minute to inflate a medium-sized tire in only 5 minutes.

To provide you with maneuverability and convenient use, the AutoVirazh comes with a 3-foot hose and an even longer power cord.

Moreover, the unit has a metal body and a powerful motor that extend its lifespan.

It’s equipped with a large pressure gauge that displays the readings in PSI and BAR. Additionally, three universal adaptors and a protective storage case are included with the package.

Pros:

  • Heavy-duty metal frame
  • Super compact design
  • Long hose and cord to extend the reach of the unit
  • 1-year warranty on all parts

Cons:

  • Not very durable
  • May draw too much current and causes the cigarette lighter to overheat

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for a very compact air compressor that you can store in the trunk of your car in case of an emergency, the AutoVirazh is an ideal choice for you.

7. SuperFlow Portable Air Pump

SuperFlow Portable Air Pump

The Portable Air Pump SuperFlow hv-35 is a compact and really powerful 12volt air compressor.

The hv-35 has a particularly high max pressure of 140 PSI, making it one of the best kits of car tire inflators in the market.

Moreover, it has a compact design of dimensions 8.3 x 2.4 x 7.9 inches, and it weighs only 4 pounds.

With its 140 PSI capacity, the hv-35 can bring your tire pressure from 25 to 35 PSI in less than a minute and a half. This makes it perfect for inflating sport balls.

Also, thanks to its great portability if you are a concerned driver, you can feel safe keeping one in the trunk of your car as the hv-35 has the ability to fill up car tires up to 33 inches.

The Superflow hv-35 has a powerful 14 amp direct-drive motor and comes with a 10 feet power cord. The power cord can be connected to your car’s lighter adapter to power it.

With a 10-foot power cord, the air hose is considerably shorter, measuring only 3 feet.
Also, there is a pressure gauge on-board of the hv-35 on par with the higher-priced air compressors despite its price being really budget-friendly.

The hv-35 kit also comes with a nylon carry bag, a ball inflation needle, and two adapter nozzles. So besides car tires and sports balls, you can also inflate bicycles tires, water tubes, and beach toys for the beach or the pool, making the hv-35 essential for summer activities.

Pros:

  • Portable
  • Lightweight
  • Comes with accessories
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • The air hose can be a little longer

Bottom Line:

This could be your “go-to” device because it is portable and effortless to use. It is the best 12v portable air compressor for cars, so it is a significant gift for people who have just bought their first car.

How to Pick a 12V Air Compressor?

Before you set out to buy a specific air compressor, there are a couple of features that you should consider.

Portability and Storage

If you’re getting an air compressor to use in your car, it should be easy to move around. The length of its hose should be long enough to reach all the four tires of your car without any hassle.

Moreover, if you’re going to store the compressor in your car when you’re not using it, it should be compact enough to fit in the trunk without occupying all the space.

Automation

Automation makes operating the air compressor a lot easier as it makes it feel like your tools know what you need.
Preprogrammed pumps spare you the need to input PSI settings manually. Moreover, some air compressors automatically turn off when they reach the desired pressure.

And although these extra features can make the tool a bit more expensive, they add a lot of conveniences.

Inflation Capabilities

The size of tires an air compressor can inflate and how long it takes to do so are essential aspects that you should research.

Some can inflate larger tires while others cannot –so make sure that the model you choose can inflate the size of tires on your vehicle.

Moreover, the faster the air compressor can inflate your tires, the less time you’ll have to spend on the road, facing risks such as bad weather.

Duty Cycle

The duty cycle refers to the complete amount of time your inflator takes to cool down after it’s been used for a specific amount of time.
Longer duty cycles mean waiting longer to be able to use your inflator again.

How to Use a 12V Air Compressor?

  1. Connect the pressure line to the pressure outlet on the 12 Volt Compressor.
  2. Before connecting to the power source, make sure the ON/OFF button and the ball valve handle on the side of the compressor are on the OFF position.
  3. Connect the compressor to a 12 volt DC power source (such as a car battery) using the alligator clips. You can do that by connecting the red clip to the positive terminal on the power source, and the black clip should connect to the negative terminal or a proper ground. 
  4. You can switch the compressor once it has been connected to the power source and all pressure lines. This will charge the tank up to its maximum PSI.
  5. Once the tank has been fully charged, switch the ball valve to the ON position.
  6. Once pumping begins, the air pressure in the tank will drop a bit. The compressor will then recharge to its maximum PSI or to the selected pumping rate.
  7. To release the air pressure from the compressor, turn the compressor OFF and remove the clips from the power source. Make sure that the ball valve handle is in the ON position. With the drive and sample lines still connected to the pump control unit, select “Drive” on the pump control unit until the compressor’s pressure gauge shows 0 PSI.

How to Repair a 12V Air Compressor?

If you’re sure that you’ve provided your unit with proper maintenance including draining the tank, then there are three cases in which you’ll have to fiddle with your compressor to work, and these are:

It Doesn’t Turn On

If the compressor is connected to a battery, you can check the power cables for damage.

If the compressor is connected to a cigarette lighter, check the integrity of the fuse that is installed in the plug. Replace the fuse if it is blown.

In some extreme cases, the motor damage may be the reason why the compressor does not turn on. In such a case, it is better to buy a new one because repairing the motor saves you 20% of the money you will spend if you buy a new unit.

The Engine Works but Doesn’t Pump Air

In this case, you have to disassemble the unit for diagnosis.

Steps of disassembling:
Loosen four screws that hold the crankcase cover.

Unscrew four screws installed on the piston head
Remove the cylinder head.

One of the common reasons the device does not pump is a valve in the cylinder head. To repair this, you must remove the seal and the disc with the valve from the piston head.

Over time, the small o-ring located under the valve wears out. This makes the valve not tight and therefore passes the air.

Sometimes, this ring moves from its seat, which makes the valve unable to close. When the valve plate breaks, you must replace it.

The Compressor Fails to Create the Necessary Pressure 

If the compressor does not create the required pressure needed to inflate tires, the problem might be in the valves or the ring.

If the problem is in the valve, it may be because various contaminants accumulate before them and interfere with good conformity. To repair this, you must disassemble the piston head and clean all the parts from the accumulated dirt.

If the problem is in the ring mounted on the piston, it is because it has been deformed due to the overheating of the unit. In order to remove the ring, it is necessary to take off the line, and in order to align it, it must first be softened.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this article made it easier for you to know which choice is the best 12V air compressor for your needs.

If you’re looking for a very compact and portable choice that will come in handy on the road, go for the AutoVirazh.

You can buy Kobalt if you need an air compressor that is space saver, powerful, can be used for many purposes, and adaptable.