12v air compressor

best portable air compressor for car

If you travel a lot by car, it’d be a wise precaution to have an excellent portable air compressor in the trunk in case you’re faced with any roadside emergency.

Most portable air compressors for cars can be plugged into the 12V cigarette lighter socket in your car, so you can inflate anything practically anywhere. They also come with a variety of nozzle adaptors, so you’ll have all the functionality you need.

Read on to discover the best portable air compressors for cars on the market, their pros, and cons, and to be able to decide which of them to buy.

Portable Air Compressors for Cars – Comparison Table

Air CompressorPSILbs
Viair 88P1204.5
Oasser Electric Inflator1303.4
Kensun-EHRComp-A58B1004
EPAuto Digital Tire Inflator
701
FORTEM FRTM-DAC1501.9
Breezz Air compressor Pump1502.4
Helteko1502.5

The 7 Best Air Compressors for Cars for 2019

1. Viair 88P

Viair 88P

If you’ve had some experience with the automotive market, you’ve probably heard of the Viair for its air suspension systems.
The company gave us the Viair 88P with a bunch of impressive features.

From the ability to fill up 33-inch diameter tires thanks to the 12 PSI maximum pressure to durable materials and alligator clamps, the Viair 88P is a quite powerful and reliable portable air compressor for cars and balls.

Moreover, it features an LED work light that illuminates the work area for you, and a pressure gauge that is placed on top of the unit.
On top of that, its power cord measures 10-feet long, and the air hose is 16-feet long.

You practically won’t need to buy any accessories or extras for this unit, so it’s worth the high price tag as it gives you huge value for your money.

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:

This pancake air compressor is a compact yet very powerful device. It provides you with all the features you might need, giving you fantastic value for the price.

2. Oasser Electric Inflator

Oasser Electric Inflator

If you’re looking for maximum maneuverability and reach, you’ll find none better than the Oasser.

This air compressor is powered by 2200 mAh rechargeable batteries, making it a cordless solution to inflate your car tires.

It comes with a built-in LCD display that shows you the reading of the pressure –which you can change from PSI to BAR or kg/cm2.

And although it’s battery-powered, it’s still quite powerful and can reach a maximum pressure of 130 PSI. It received direct power both from the included batteries and from the car’s cigarette lighter.

Moreover, it comes with various nozzles and air hoses that provide you with a high degree of versatility as you can also use it to inflate toys, bicycle tires, and sports equipment.

And while it’s not the most compact with a 10.4 x 3.5 x 3.1-inch footprint, it’s still portable thanks to its 3.42-pound light weight.

Pros:

  • Battery-powered operation
  • PSI, BAR, and kg/cm2 readings
  • High maximum pressure (130 PSI)
  • Corded and cordless operation
  • Included storage bag

Cons:

  • Battery only lasts 30 minutes

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for a very portable, maneuverable, and practical quality air compressor for cars, opt for the Oasser electric inflator.

3. Kensun-EHRComp-A58B

Kensun-EHRComp-A58B

This 12V portable air compressor for car is packed with functionality.

With a built-in digital display, you’ll get the most accurate reading on the actual pressure gauge.

And with the programmed presets, you can choose a certain ideal pressure for inflation and then sit back to only monitor the operation of the unit.

The LED work light provides you with more visibility over the work area. And even with a built-in screen and flashlight, the compressor isn’t too large.

It measures 11.8 x 4.3 x 6.7 inches, which is compact enough. However, it’s on the heavier side as it weighs around 4 pounds.
Moreover, the Kensun-EHRComp-A58B comes with multiple nozzles to enable you to take on different inflating tasks –not only your car tires.

It has a 100-PSI maximum pressure, which is just enough for most car tires.
A practical feature on the Kensun-EHRComp-A58B is its dual power functions. It has a power cord for the car’s cigarette lighter and another for the wall’s AC socket –making it a truly versatile option.

Pros:

  • Dual power functions
  • Digital display
  • Built-in flashlight
  • Equipped with several attachment nozzles
  • Woven air hose for extra durability
  • +/-1 PSI accuracy

Cons:

  • Can only work for 5 continuous minutes

Bottom Line:

What the Kensun-EHRComp-A58B lacks in speed it makes up for in versatility, reliability, and strength. It’s a great all-purpose air compressor overall.

4. EPAuto Digital Tire Inflator

EPAuto Digital Tire Inflator

The EPAuto12v DC digital inflator is a great portable choice that you can plug directly into your cigarette lighter socket in your vehicle so that you can rest assured that you won’t be in the unfortunate situation of having a flat tire on the road.

Its motor can run at 10 to 15 amps and 120 to 180 watts and produces a maximum pressure of 70 PSI, so it can be used to inflate a wide variety of vehicle tires, including cars, bikes, midsize SUVs, and sedans.

And although it’s not powerful enough for LT, HT, or truck tires, it’s still versatile enough to fill up balls and inflatables thanks to its adaptors.

Moreover, you can read the pressure level easily on the bright display in any of the 4 units: PSI, KPA, BAR, and KG/CM.
To provide you with ease of us, the EPAuto comes with an LED flashlight torch and has an auto-shutoff feature that prevents over-inflation as well as overheating.

Pros:

  • Multi-purpose unit
  • Compact and solid build
  • Auto-shutoff feature
  • Over-inflation and overheating protection

Cons:

  • LED flashlight is always on
  • Loses considerable air while loosening nozzles if the user isn’t very careful

Bottom Line:

The EPAuto Digital Tire Inflator is a very budget-friendly choice that still performs well with various tires. It’s not the most powerful, but it’ll finish most jobs with ease.

5. Helteko Air Compressor

Helteko Air Compressor

If you’re looking for a great mix of affordability and portability, I highly recommend the Helteko air compressor.

It has a durable stainless steel and ABS plastic construction, so you can count on it during rough times.
And whether you get the red or yellow model color, you’ll get a clear LCD digital display that shows you the tire’s pressure not only in PSI but in BAR, KPA, and kg/cm as well.

Rated at 35 liters per minute, the Helteko can inflate a standard, midsize care tire in around 3 to 5 minutes.
Its operation is as easy as it gets. You simply set the desired air pressure on the unit, and it automatically shuts off once that value is achieved.

Moreover, it comes with an 11.5-foot long cable that allows you to reach all your vehicle’s tires comfortably.
It also comes with three additional nozzles that you can use to inflate other items such as basketball or sports equipment, so it’s a great option for versatility.

Measuring 9.8 x 6.2 x 4.5 inches and weighing 2.58 pounds, the Helteko is pretty portable.

Pros:

  • Quick inflation rate
  • Auto shutoff feature
  • LCD display
  • Long power cable
  • Comes with additional nozzles
  • Durable construction
  • 18-month warranty

Cons:

  • Can work continuously only for 10 minutes
  • Some reports of early failure

Bottom Line:

For the price level that the Helteko comes at, it delivers amazing performance. It’s fast, versatile, and portable enough to carry around in the trunk of your car without occupying too much space.

6. FORTEM FRTM-DAC

FORTEM FRTM-DAC

The FORTEM digital tire inflator comes with a stylish design, built-in LED flashlight, and a bright LCD that allows you to check its readings easily.

It’s quite easy to use and has all the controls on the face as well as a cord storage on the back to keep everything tidy and organized when not in use.
Its 150 PSI maximum pressure allows you to fill your tires up in little to no time, and it can work for 8 minutes straight before needing to cool off.

Apart from the air compressor itself, the kit comes with three nozzle attachments, an extra fuse, and a carrying case to make transportation and storage easier.
Moreover, the FORTEM weighs only 1.9 pounds and measures 8 x 6.5 x 3.3 inches, so it doesn’t occupy much space in the trunk of your car.

The power cord measures around 9.84 feet while the hose measures 1.64 feet. And while they’re not the longest, they still offer plenty of mobility.

Moreover, the unit comes with an automatic shutoff that prevents the tire from getting overinflated.
It has a maximum pressure value of 150 PSI, although that’s only for bicycle tires. It can continuously work for 8 minutes before needing to cool off.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and compact design
  • Automatic shutoff
  • Built-in LED light
  • Bright LCD display
  • Affordable price

Cons:

  • Need to cool down after 8 minutes of operation
  • Power cable and hose are shorter than most rivals

Bottom Line:

The Fortem air compressor is an affordable unit that will serve you well when you’re stuck in an emergency. It comes with great extras that make it a great bang for your buck.

7. Breezz Air compressor Pump

Breezz Air compressor Pump

The Breezz combines power and speed when it comes to inflating a tire. It can do so from 0 to 35 PSI in less than 4 minutes.

Its body is made from stainless steel and ABS plastic to give durability and a long lifespan.

Moreover, it comes with a bright display that is easy to read and that shows you the pressure and comes with an auto-shutoff feature that prevents over inflation.

And if you should ever get a flat tire at night, the darkness shouldn’t worry you as this unit comes with bright LED lights that make inflation possible at any time.

It’s also equipped with a 10-foot power cord that enables you to reach all the tires of your vehicle easily with no restrictions.
With a 10 amp motor and a 150 PSI maximum pressure, you can use this unit to use it to inflate not only car tires but also air mattresses, motorbike tires, ATV, bicycle tires, and sports equipment.

Measuring 7.8 x 7.1 x 2.4 inches and weighing only 2.4 pounds, the Breezz is pretty easy and convenient to carry around and store.

Pros:

  • Long cord reach
  • LED light
  • Display is easy to read
  • Auto-stop feature
  • Easy to use
  • Durable stainless steel and ABS construction

Cons:

  • Cord can be too short to reach the back tires of some cars
  • Can be slow for some

Bottom Line:

With enough compactness, portability, and reliability, the Breezz air compressor is simply one of the best you can get for an active lifestyle.

How to Pick a Portable Air Compressor for Cars?

CFM (Speed)

CFM or cubic feet per minute indicates the speed at which the compressor will provide air to your tires, tools, or inflatables.
Every tool requires a certain amount of CFM to operate, and if the air compressor doesn’t provide that, then it won’t work.
To help you make easier comparisons, air compressors are tested at a 90 PSI standard.

Versatility

While you may intend to use your air compressor just for your car tires, I’d recommend that you look into other tasks it can tackle.
If you own inflatables such as an outdoor pool, balls, or tires on a bicycle or if you go camping, it could serve you so much more intensively.

Tank and Overall Size

Air compressors come in a huge array of sizes, they can range from a 1-gallon tank and up to a 60-gallon one!
Of course, since you’ll be carrying your tool around you in the car all the time, you want something that isn’t too big as to not occupy too much space. Yet, you want it big enough to be able to inflate your tires reliably.

Built-in LED Light

This is a very important feature if you ever get a flat tire in the dark or in a dim-lit area. It illuminates your work area for you so you can see what you’re doing.

Wire Length

Make sure that the length of either the pressure hose or the 12 volts is long enough to reach all the tires of your vehicle from the connector.

How to Use a Portable Air Compressor for Cars?

Know the Tire Pressure

Identifying your car’s tire pressure is essential because some manufacturers state that for every 3 PSI below the recommended pressure, you lose 1% more fuel and add 10% extra wear on the tire.

Most vehicles require around 100 PSI but check the sticker on the tire or the manual to make sure. You can use a tire gauge to determine how much pressure you need to add.

If you get a flat tire while driving, wait around 30 minutes for the tire to cool down before you measure its pressure. This is because the heat can tamper with the reading.

Get the Tire Ready

The tire should have a stem cap screwed to the top of the valve system. Remove this cap and make sure to keep it somewhere safe.
Don’t remove the cap unless you’re ready to work as leftover air could escape when it’s taken it off.

Turn the Air Compressor On

Connect your air compressor to a power source –either the 12V cigarette lighter or your car’s battery.

Try to keep the compressor near your flat tire as you can’t move the whole vehicle. Attach the air hose to the compressor, including the couplers at the end.

If you can locate a safety position on the nozzle, toggle it.

Finally, secure the hose to the valve system and turn your compressor on.

Detach the Hose

Keep an eye on the pressure reading unless you have a digital inflator that automatically turns off at the right pressure level.

If you’ve accidentally overinflated your tire, push down on it to release some air.

Finally, remove the hose and put the stem caps back on.

How to Rewire an Air Compressor from a Car Plug to Wall Plug?

The most straightforward way to do this is to buy an adaptor that safely allows you to use a wall plug without having to remove the car plug.

Final Thoughts

While all the products I’ve mentioned above work perfectly as the best air compressors for cars, some are superior in their performance and feature combinations.

For example, I’d recommend the Viair for someone who’s looking for top-notch strength and power. However, if you’re looking for portability and affordability, it won’t be the best option.

If that’s the case, opt for the FORTEM FRTM-DAC as it delivers a high maximum pressure without breaking the bank or occupying too much space.

For an unconventional and cordless solution, opt for the Oasser Electric Inflator.

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