You’re probably already aware that adding a portable air compressor to your truck gear or 4×4 setup is mandatory. Whether you prefer sand, mud, trail racing, or tamer overland camping, there’s a high probability you already have a compressor on board – but is it the right compressor? If you’ve never attempted to air up a flat 35-inch General Grabber All-Terrain with the underpowered air compressor, rest assured – it’s not a mistake you make twice.
Considering you may already be loaded with other gear, you may want to opt for a handy package. Are small air compressors worth it? It depends. Physical size can be deceiving. A small portable air compressor with the right PSI rating and build quality can pack the right punch to deal with any situation you and your truck may find yourselves in.
This list features some of the top rated portable air compressors in the market today.
What the Right Portable Air Compressor Can Do for You
If you’re new to off-roading, it won’t take long to discover the value of a quality air compressor. However, these staple off-road kit components deliver capability far beyond re-inflating after you’ve aired down or airing up a patched flat.
Expanding your arsenal to include air tools can make your life much easier. Having the means to blow dirt, dust, mud, and sand from critical, hard-to-reach places around the engine could make the difference between getting stuck or pressing forward. Serious off-roaders will enjoy having the luxury of adding Air Locker locking differentials to help conquer nearly any terrain and condition.
And sometimes, one of the most significant advantages of owning a superior portable air compressor is being able to quickly inflate air mattresses after a long day on the trail.
However, before you can enjoy these benefits, you need to find the most efficient tire inflator for the job. Luckily, a great deal of research on the top four mobile air compressors based on air pressure, features like quieter operation, which models provide the shortest wait, and deliver satisfactory prices.
The Best Portable Air Compressors for Truck Tires Is: Gobege 12V Portable Air Compressor
This portable tire pump is compact, but don’t let its size fool you. The Gobege 12V delivers 150 PSI, enough to handle your compressed air needs. Venting on the front and back of the Gobege allows plenty of air to flow into the motor, keeping things cool while it’s operating. Strategically placed rubber bumpers significantly reduce noise and prevent this model from “walking away” during use.
What Are the Best Portable Air Compressors for Truck Tires?
Here’s our quick list of our top-rated portable air compressors:
|Gobege 12V Portable Air Compressor
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|VIAIR 400P Series Air Compressors
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|Smittybilt 2781 5.65 CFM Universal Air Compressor
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|VIAIR 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor
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Gobege 12V Portable Air Compressor: Best Portable Air Compressor Overall
If your main priority is quick inflation over all else, the Gobege 12V fills truck and car tires at a rapid pace. This is thanks partly to the 160-liters per minute (5.65 CFM) of airflow, which is one of the highest of all compressors in the same class. Just to give you an idea of the airflow and PSI of this model, you could potentially power a pneumatic nail gun or paint sprayer for a short time.
In addition, you won’t find any cheap metals on this model. Gobege opted for only the highest quality materials to make this compressor as durable as possible – and they succeeded. The rubber footing features keeps noise and vibration to a minimum, while two open sides maximize airflow to prevent overheating. If that isn’t enough, the auto-thermal cutoff switch guarantees no heat damage. The only downside of this compressor is its weight. At 26 pounds, it’s substantially bigger than most portable models.
- Maximum effort to prevent overheating
- Hushed operation and no walking
- Intense airflow and max PSI make for quick inflation
- Durable construction stands up to damage
- Quite heavy at 26 pounds
VIAIR 400P – 40043 Portable Compressor Kit. Tire Pump, Truck/SUV Tire Inflator, For Up to 35 Inch Tires
One of the coolest features of the VIAIR 400P is its dual voltage operation. Using the standard 12-volt power source, your airflow rate is about 2.3 CFM, enough to fill a 35″ tire from 0 to 35 psi in about eight minutes.
However, the CFM increases for vehicles with higher electrical output (which your 4×4 is likely to have), allowing you to knock about 20-30 seconds off the previously mentioned fill time and potentially run air tools. The VIAIR 400p is on the quiet side thanks to the anti-vibration tray, and you can get 20 continuous minutes of operation before a 40-minute break is required. This is a reliable compressor but is a bit on the higher end of the price spectrum.
- Quiet and lightweight
- Dual 12 and 24-volt operation
- 33% duty cycle
- Heavy-duty clamps
- A little higher-priced than other models
Smittybilt 2781 5.65 CFM Universal Air Compressor
The Smittybilt 2781 is a compact compressor that delivers big results, filling a 35″ tire from 10 to 35 psi in two minutes, which is thoroughly impressive. An anti-vibration tray installed on the bottom of this model keeps it relatively quiet and stops significant movement while in use.
Out of the box, this model comes with a 24″ coil air hose and 10″ power cables with heavy-duty clamps. The length is enough to keep the unit on the hood or in the engine compartment and inflate the rear tires without moving it. One warning you should heed when using this model is that it gets extremely hot, so you’ll want to wear gloves for protection. However, this isn’t irregular, as extreme heat is a common occurrence with any oil free compressor.
- Fast filling time compared to air compressors in its class
- Anti-vibration tray stops most movement
- No assembly, ready to use out of the box
- Long hose makes it easy to use without moving
- Gets hot quickly
VIAIR 88P – 00088 Portable Compressor Kit with Alligator Clamps, Tire Inflator, Tire Air Pump, 12V, 120 PSI, for Up to 33 Inch Tires
The VIAIR 88P might not be the most heavy-duty portable compressor, but it does the job for tires 33″ or higher – going from 18 to 35 psi in about three and a half minutes. This is the smallest and most lightweight compressor on the list, tipping the scales at less than five pounds, making it incredibly easy to store in any vehicle compartment.
With a respectable 25 minutes of running time at 30 psi, you could potentially handle all four tires in one sitting – impressive for this petite model. The VIAIR 88P yields an extremely modest price – the lowest on our list but delivers fantastic value for the money. One downside to remember is that it will potentially blow a fuse here and there – an easy fix, as long as you bring extras. You won’t power any pneumatic tools with this model, but it does the job just as well as other air compressors.
- Great price point compared to other air compressors
- Powerful for its size
- Fits almost anywhere
- Light than other air compressors but durable
- Could potentially blow a fuse
Portable Air Compressors for Truck Tires Buying Guide
If you’re still a bit confused with the what’s what in air compressor features and specifications, just keep in mind that the ratings and labels do matter. Luckily, the following short buyer’s guide highlights the most pertinent terms and what to look for when you weigh your options while searching for an appropriate air compressor.
Maximum Airflow Rate
When dealing with air compressors, the two most important specifications are PSI and CFM. PSI stands for pounds-per-square-inch, or ultimately, how many pounds of pressure is behind the air that the tank produces. The PSI, in essence, dictates the strength of the compressed air released from the tank.
CFM stands for cubic-feet-per minute, or how much air the compressor produces at any designated PSI level. For example, you might see a compressor’s specs read “2.3 CFM Free Flow a 0 PSI.” In a roundabout way, the PSI dictates the tire size you’re able to fill, and the CFM dictates the speed of the inflation. Your PSI should be 10 pounds higher than your desired inflation weight. If you’re inflating to 70 PSI, ideally, you’d want at least an 80 maximum PSI rating. In addition, you want at least 1 CFM for your desired PSI. For example, if you’re inflating to 70 PSI, ideally, you’d want a 1 CFM@70 PSI rating.
If you’re wondering, what is a good PSI for a portable air compressor? Portable air compressors for truck tires typically have 150 PSI which is more than sufficient – ideally, 2 CFM or higher allows you to air from 0 to 35 PSI on a 35″ tire in about six to seven minutes, which isn’t bad. Keep in mind that the higher the CFM, the faster the job. Some of the higher-priced models are rated at upwards of 6 CFM. It’s also worth noting that plans to power pneumatic tools require additional PSI and CFM.
A compressor’s duty cycle alternates on/off time that gives the engine a break to avoid overheating. The ratio of on to off time during a 1-hour window calculates the compressor’s duty cycle rating. For example, a compressor with a 33% duty cycle can safely run for about 20-minutes before requiring a break.
Based on the average that a high-quality, modestly priced portable air compressor takes six to seven minutes to inflate a 35″ tire from 0 to 35 PSI, a 33% duty cycle is more than enough. Considering you usually only reinflate two tires after airing down and typically one for a repair, a 33% duty cycle should give you plenty of continuous operation with some to spare.
The type of power source your compressor uses is a highly critical element and something you’ll want to give the proper attention. Nearly every portable air compressor runs on 12V power, with specific models crafted to operate on dual power supplies that handle 24V as well. Certain portable models run via cigarette lighter adapter or onboard 12V outlet, while some hook directly to the battery terminals.
Generally, models that clamp directly to the battery generate more power. Rarely are cigarette adapter models powerful enough to inflate anything larger than a 30″ tire with the standard 12-amp, 120-watt power source in most vehicles. However, upgraded cigarette adapters powered by 15-amp, 180 watts of power are enough to inflate sizable truck and SUV tires. These are the most critical points to remember regarding power when choosing your portable compressor.
The gauge or display commonly shows how much pressure is in the tire while the compressor is connected. However, some models, especially those with digital displays can even show you more information such as the output air pressure and input power. Some might say this isn’t as important of a feature nowadays since newer truck models would have air pressure sensors. However, it’s still pretty convenient to see how much air pressure is already in the tire while you’re inflating.
Weight and Wire Length
The weight of your portable air compressor comes into play for several reasons – including stow-away options, portability, ease-of-use, and potential damage to components the compressor rests upon. For example, if you want the ability to place the compressor in the engine compartment, you’ll want something lightweight that won’t damage or dislodge any components, primarily while operating.
One crucial point is that sacrificing weight usually means sacrificing stability, as smaller models tend to “walk” more while in use. Wire length comes down to convenience. 6 to 10″ of battery cable length provides workable convenience. If you want the ability to air all four tires without moving the compressor, you’ll want at least 24″ (give or take a few feet), depending on the model.
You may be wondering why most portable air compressors don’t have the conventional tank that your typical air compressor has. If you’re using a true portable air compressor, tank size doesn’t come into play as much as a stationary compressor at your house that runs on electricity. A compressor continuously runs to create the compressed air, which is why a duty cycle comes into play (how long the compressor can continuously operate before requiring a break).
For Flats and Much More
A substantial number of dynamics go into choosing an appropriate portable air compressor. It’s difficult to pin down a model based on vehicle usage or the type of off-roading your future holds. Naturally, exposing your vehicle to the elements creates an element of unpredictability that rivals mother nature herself.
If you’re going to be outdoors, you have to be prepared for any eventuality. Murphy’s Law says whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, which is why a model like our Best Overall Gobege 12V Portable Air Compressor is the perfect solution. Portable enough to stow away, has plenty of stability, is exceptionally durable, cools efficiently, has an extra-long cord, and has quick, easy inflation.
You can’t predict what the most challenging situations will bring, especially when you chase them – but you certainly can cover your bases.