A portable air compressor/tire inflator can be a useful tool for certain situations, but…there is a ‘but’.
When you’re heading out into the bush, it’s usually a good idea to air down your tires if you’re on a surface where doing so can help improve traction. Naturally, we end up doing that quite a bit in all the videos we film for TFLoffroad. When we’re back on the road, however, we usually have to run to a nearby gas station to get the tires aired back up to their proper spec so we don’t run into problems on the asphalt. That can be a real pain, or even impossible if you’re remote enough that a gas station isn’t within easy reach. Fortunately, there are portable air compressors on the market to help in that task, should you not have some epic overlanding build with an onboard compressor.
In the video below, Alex tests out three examples ranging from around $50 to $150. On the lower end of the price spectrum, there’s the fairly simple Eastvolt 12V tire inflator, powered by a 1.5 Amp-hour lithium-ion battery. Depending on when and where you find it, you can pick one of those up for just a bit under $50. Then there’s the DeWalt 1400-amp jump starter, which also has a digital compressor built in. That’s the most expensive option of the three units we’re testing — coming in at $150. Finally, there’s Alex’s own Ryobi ONE+ 18-volt high-pressure inflator. The tool alone only costs about $25, but buying the tool, battery and charger will set you back about $100.
Full disclosure: This test is not sponsored by any of the manufacturers or the products we’re testing here. TFL bought two of the three units, while Alex uses his own Ryobi unit for airing up his motorcycles’ tires.
The test and the results
We’re using our 2020 Land Rover Defender as the test vehicle for this video, and the parameters are the same for all three inflators. Alex deflates one of the tires down to 25 PSI, then uses the portable compressor to bring it back up to 50 PSI. Whichever one can do it in the least amount of time (and without running into any issues), is the one we’d go for.
After 12 minutes and 29 seconds, the small-capacity Eastvolt inflator ran out of juice. It also inflated just one tire back up to 46.2 PSI. So, it ended up as a DNF since it couldn’t manage to get the Defender’s tire back up to 50 PSI. The Ryobi was able to finish filling one tire, on the other hand, in just 12 minutes and 8 seconds. It actually overfilled the tire a bit, as the Motion Pro gauge we’re using to check the onboard gauge for the compressors came in at 52 PSI.
Finally, there’s the DeWalt DXAEJ14 jump starter pack. Unlike the other two, DeWalt rates their tool up to just 120 PSI, rather than 150. Still, despite the higher versatility and price tag, it took the jump starter nearly 30 minutes to inflate a single tire to 50 PSI. It did still indicate it had enough battery to keep going, but that result is painfully slow.
Check out how they did in full below, and Alex’s verdict on the compressors after the test: