Last Updated on September 14, 2020
Many truck owners use their vehicles to haul stuff, sometimes to places that are off the main roads and out of the way. That could be miles from phone service and inconvenient if something happens and you need to call roadside assistance.
Smart truck owners plan ahead by carrying tools that will help them out of a jam. That means a way to jumpstart a dead battery or to replace a flat tire. You probably have a spare, but swapping out tires can eat precious minutes and maybe force you to empty your bed. If it’s raining or dark, it’s miserable and inconvenient.
An alternative is a portable air compressor to inflate your tires just long enough for you to get to the shop. There are a lot of them to choose from, so we wrote these reviews to help you figure out which one is best for you. We also tossed in some guidelines at the bottom so you know how to shop for one.
|Best Overall||Viair 00088||
|Best Value||Nilight 50028R||
|TIREWELL 12V Direct Drive||
|NoOne Tire Inflator||
|Yome Portable Air Compressor Pump||
Sometimes we give our Top Pick based on overall performance. Sometimes it’s because a certain product is just such a great deal. In the case of the Viair 00088 88P, it’s because of one feature that we like.
Portable air compressors get their juice from your vehicle’s electrical system. Your vehicle needs to be running or else the compressor will drain the battery. Most of them need to get plugged into a cigarette lighter, which means your door needs to be open. The Viair 00088 88P hooks directly to your battery. Considering the unreliability of cigarette lighters, it’s a more reliable source of power. The compressor also works on most large tires and inflates quickly.
It also gets pretty hot, so be careful after using it to let it cool down and wear gloves. It’s also expensive.
If you want to maximize the value of your investment, we’d suggest starting with the Nilight 50028R. It can inflate tires requiring up to 150 psi of pressure and does it at a price that offers tremendous value.
There are two features that make it especially attractive. One is that it comes capable of programming to shut off at your desired tire pressure. That is a big deal if you’re not confident in your auto repair skills. Another is it’s one of the lightest compressors we looked at—weighing a mere two pounds. That’s always a great plus.
One thing that makes it less attractive is the length of the power cable. In general, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got enough cable for your car. In this case, you’ll definitely want to do that.
If you’re looking for something to service a bigger vehicle, we like TIREWELL’s 12V tire inflator. It’s a good heavy-duty alternative to the Viair 00088 88P, which is an all-around compressor unit. We also really like the little extras built into it.
It’s fast, cranking out enough power to fill any tire pretty quickly. Its double-cylinder construction means it won’t get hot during operation, which is important if you’ve got multiple tires to inflate. It’ll also give you an accurate read on your tire pressure so you don’t over- or under-fill the tire. We think that an overlooked extra is its rubber feet, which are great for stability. It’s one of those things that frequently go unappreciated.
The Tirewell is at the high end of the price spectrum, so be prepared to shell out as much as twice as what you’d pay for a cheaper inflator unit. The power cord is also pretty short. You’ll want to double-check when it arrives to make sure that it’ll reach your tires.
When it comes to sheer ability to inflate, few come close to the performance of the NoOne Digital Tire Inflator. It can handle just about any job you throw at it, and it’s simple enough to use so that even novices won’t have a problem if they get a flat.
It’s readout and programmability make it one of the most user-friendly portable air compressors available. Plug in the number you need your tire inflated to, and let it go to work. Once it gets to your desired pressure, it’ll shut itself off. It can also easily handle jobs up to 100 psi and is rated by the company to 120.
While the compressor itself is easy to use, the hose that connects to the tire stem requires that you screw it on, not clip it on. That might make it a bit tricky to use in difficult conditions. The unit is also kind of bulky, which you’ll want to consider if your storage space is limited.
If you’ve got a lighter truck, we’ve got an air compressor for you. Yome’s Portable dual cylinder is fast, accurate, and constructed to stay cool while working. It owes that to its dual-cylinder construction, a decentralized design that disperses heat generation.
The Yome is also smart. We don’t mean that it can think for you, but pretty close. You can program your desired pressure and it will inflate your tires to that and then stop. You can track it on a display that is easy to read.
When it comes to trucks, however, the Yome has limited application. At 50 psi, it has trouble filling tires. Anything beyond and it’s not a good choice. If you’ve got a full-sized truck that you use to haul stuff, you’ll need to look for something stouter.
FORUP’s Dual Cylinder Air Compressor Pump has a lot going for it. It’ll inflate just about any passenger vehicle tire you have. It can use multiple power sources. It’s also programmable so that you can plug in your desired tire pressure and let it go to work.
One feature we like is that while the main power source is a cord going to your cigarette lighter, it comes with an adapter so that you can clip it to your battery. If you’re in a pinch, options can be a godsend.
On the downside, you also have to screw it to your tire stem. If it’s dark and cold, that could create issues. It’s also a little more expensive than other compressors that frankly have pretty much the same level of performance. So, while it’s a workhorse, if you don’t need a heavy-duty compressor you can find a better deal.
The joyroom CZK-3631 is an option if you’re looking for something that comes light. That is light in terms of both the weight of the compressor and the bite that it puts on your wallet.
In terms of performance, there isn’t anything that sets this one apart. It’s got an auto-shutoff feature and it can handle most vehicle tires—neither of which are unique. If you’re looking at the joyroom, it’s because you don’t want to spend a lot of money and don’t want some heavy thing rattling around in your trunk.
When in use, you will want to be careful because it gets hot quickly. That reduces the value of the auto-shutoff feature. It also generates more noise than most of the compressors we’ve looked at. It’s also got a high center of gravity and easy to tip over.
Don’t let the marketing materials fool you. WindGallop’s Air Pump is not designed for anything but the lightest of trucks. It says it’s rated to 150 psi, which means it should handle most passenger trucks and SUVs, but in the fine print, it says it’s intended only for tires up to 35 psi, which is good for passenger car tires.
If you’ve got a light truck, this is an option that is affordable and portable. It’s lightweight and comes in bright colors so you can keep track of it in the dark.
As a portable compressor for trucks, however, the WindGallop is so limited in what it can do that we’d suggest giving it a miss and finding something more capable.
Kensun’s Portable Air Compressor Pump is a great option if you want an inflator for a long trip that you start by inflating your tires at home using wall current and keep filled on the road through your cigarette lighter. The ability to switch between the two with the push of a button is great if you need that feature.
That’s really about all it has going for it, however. While Kensun says it’s rated to 120 psi, in reality, it can inflate tires to maybe 100 psi. Anything above that and you risk burning out the engine. It will also take its sweet time inflating your tires and make an extra racket doing it.
Oasser’s portable air compressor fills a different kind of niche than the other compressors we looked at. Attractive in design and construction, and easy on your wallet, we think it makes a fine piece for people who want to show off that they have a lot of pretty, pretty toys. But when it comes to performance, you can do much better.
We like the Oasser’s aesthetic departure from the typical air compressor design of a pump and a motor on a frame. Instead, this inflator has a very modern space age appeal. Meanwhile, it’s also affordable compared to some of the compressors we looked at.
The Oasser gives up quite a bit to achieve the lower price point. We also found that the inflator doesn’t work to the manufacturer’s specifications. It will fill a passenger car’s tires, but anything bigger than the lightest of trucks and you need something more powerful. On top of that, it’s noisy for an electric air compressor.
There are a few features to consider when buying a portable air compressor for truck tires. We should start with a couple of external issues that ought to guide your thinking.
The first is your truck. Not every air compressor is going to work with every vehicle, mainly depending upon its size and the weight you’re carrying. Trucks are heavy and can be a lot heavier if you’re carrying a full load. When you shop for a portable air compressor to get you out of a jam, make sure it’s capable of supporting your truck with a fully loaded bed.
Consider the worst weather imaginable, too. Misfortune isn’t going to wait until it’s sunny and dry to strike. Stormy nights bring degraded conditions that make mishaps more likely. So, look for air compressors that are suited for the worst weather you’re likely to be out in.
Most passenger car tires require about 35 psi pressure. The lightest trucks start at around 50 psi and go up from there. You must find a portable air compressor that can hit the pressure requirement for your truck and even exceed it. You want some room to work with because the longer you use your air compressor, the more it loses power. That little bit of buffer will also be important if you have a heavy load of cargo. You’ll still need to inflate your tires to the manufacturer’s recommended limits, but it’ll need a little extra juice to do it.
It’s raining. It’s dark. It’s miserable. You just want to get your truck home for the night and crawl into a nice, warm bed. It’ll take a few minutes to inflate your tire first. If you look around, however, you can find compressors that can get the job done more quickly.
Keep in mind that air compressor speed is a moving target. If your truck is extra heavy because you have a lot of wood in the bed, the tires will take a little longer to fill. Again, if you often haul heavy loads, look for a compressor that can handle harder jobs, because the overall weight is going to affect the speed by which your tires are inflated.
The smaller, lighter and more compact the compressor, the easier it will be to find a place to store it, pull it out, and set it up for use. You won’t always be able to use the smallest one you find because of size and weight requirements for your truck, but it’s a good criterion especially if you tend to load up your truck with other stuff, too.
We don’t recommend buying any emergency equipment on the cheap. The last thing you want is to be stranded in the middle of a driving snowstorm with a flat tire that you can’t inflate because the tire stem fitting on the bargain basement compressor you bought blew out.
That said, it’s very possible to comparison shop and find a sturdy compressor with all the features you want for a few dollars less than the most popular ones. Go for it. There’s no reason to spend money you don’t need to, plus because trucks tend to get terrible gas mileage, you’ll need the cash for fuel.
On the search for an air compressor?
Not everyone will want to buy the same portable air compressor. Some people will place a premium on power and speed, some people will choose on based on price, and some people will look for one that is easy to set up and use. We wrote these reviews to help you figure out which criteria are most important to you and help you make the right choice.
We liked the Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor. It works for tires at a wide range of pressures and can do the job quickly. Our Best Budget But, the Nilight 50028R Black/Yellow 12V DC 150 PSI Air Compressor Pump, offers dollar-for-dollar the best performance. If you’re looking for value, it’s a great choice.
When you shop for yours, we think you’d be smart to look for one that suits not only your truck but the worst imaginable conditions you’d need to change your tire in. Anything less will be a snap.
Featured Image By: Alan Levine, flickr
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!