Aside from conventional models, which can be massive or portable to some extent, there are even smaller types that can be handy when in a pinch. This usually refers to instances when you need top-up various items that require pressurized air, e.g., airbrushes, sports equipment, tools, and tires.
What we are going to focus on this time around is to find out which is the best portable air compressor for truck tires. Unlike the rubber used by bicycles, motorcycles, and smaller vehicles, truck tires have different requirements in order to inflate them properly.
Therefore, this guide will go into detail on what are the key features that a consumer should look for before they purchase their next air compressor. Models that tout more functionality than the others will clearly rank higher in our opinion. Thus, let’s learn more about how the equipment works and what we need to look out for.
What Are Portable Air Compressors?
Depending on the number of tools and the type of performance that is required, consumers have a huge selection available from the get-go. Nevertheless, we would like to offer a short background on a particular type of air compressor that will be up for discussion later on
While some workshops rely on electricity to power their equipment, others rely on pressurized air instead. Unlike their electronic counterparts, pneumatic power tools are supposedly more reliable and tend to last longer. Moreover, these are the types that are often considered to be lighter in weight and cheaper as well.
However, instead of a power outlet, these rely on air compressors in order to operate. Traditional ones are often heavy, but there are those that feature wheels or casters for mobility. Bigger ones are usually bolted in place to counteract the vibration generated by the motor.
Then there are the more compact options which can be lifesavers when you are regularly on the road. Unless there is a gas station or auto shop close by, you will find that a manual pump will take you almost forever to fill a tire. Since we are dealing with bigger vehicles such as trucks, a portable air compressor that efficiently inflates LTs gets you on your way much quicker.
Two Types Of Tires
It is easy to assume that all types of tires are created equal. Still, industry experts will gladly explain the fact that there are different models available to service a specific type of vehicle. Most passenger cars or smaller SUVs are normally equipped with P-Metric (Passenger tires). In contrast, bigger SUVs and other heavy-duty trucks rely on LT (Light Truck tires).
For the former, consumers might notice that there are some that are listed as Metric (also called Hard-Metric or Euro-Metric). These are practically the same as the P-Metric ones that are designated for domestic vehicles but can handle a little more load than normal.
The latter, on the other hand, is intended for workhorses that frequently haul heavy cargo or pull massive trailers. LTs sport thicker rubber and tougher sidewalls that can withstand more than just the regular weight of the vehicle. Furthermore, inflation will require a more powerful air compressor than usual.
Portable Air Compressor Or Tire Inflator
Unlike regular air compressors, which are versatile enough to handle various types of tools. When referring to portable models, there are those that are designed for heavy loads such as pneumatic tools and machinery. While these can be considered compact, the assembly often comes with casters and a handle for transport.
On the other hand, what we are going to focus on are defined as portable inflators specifically intended for roadside emergencies that involve truck tires and such. Since the equipment is commonly used when tire pressure is below normal, added features such as lighting and automatic shutoff are just some of the useful extras that consumers would love to have.
Design, Size And Durability
As with any other products available in the market, consumers should always consider the build quality and the warranty coverage of the item. Since portable air compressors (as the name implies) are intended for use during travel, the size will be an important factor.
Some models are designed to slide into the spaces under the seats, while others can be stored in the trunk or inside a mounted toolbox for pickup trucks. Don’t let the size fool you because some brands prefer to use heavy-duty materials to ensure long-lasting performance.
Therefore, be on the lookout for handles that are integrated into the shape of the housing or the more traditional type that’s either fixed or foldable. In our opinion, the latter would save you the headache of juggling space during transport.
Some will come with traditional analogue pressure gauges while others that are more modern ship with digital displays and gauges. Prepare to encounter a lot of products that mostly use plastic — a lightweight material — yet susceptible to damage. Metal models or those with metal reinforcements would make a big difference when it comes to durability, just like the extent of the warranty coverage.
When shopping for your next portable air compressor there are other important facets to review so that you can get the best value and performance. The goal here is to have a handy piece of equipment that will be ready to deploy and get you back on the road in the least amount of time possible.
Let’s begin with power. Consumers should understand that these are intended for emergency purposes only. Thus, if there are available facilities nearby such as ones you can find in a gas station those would be the most efficient and ideal option. However, if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, then it’s time for your portable tire inflator to shine.
Most manufacturers equip their products with a DC connector, which is the standard that interfaces with your vehicle’s cigarette lighter port. While some modern automobiles are equipped with USB ports, but it is not optimal. Thus it must be why the aforementioned receptacle can still be found in automobiles until now.
There are some brands that offer both DC and AC connectors. This lets you plug it into a regular power outlet at home when needed. Moreover, some portable air compressors have rechargeable batteries as well, which can be handy for more than just inflating your tires.
Duty Cycle, PSI, CFM
Nobody wants to be stuck on the road much longer than necessary. Therefore, there are key performance features to keep in mind. Depending on the configuration of your portable air compressor, the duty cycle will determine how long you can operate the machine. Keep in mind that the mechanical components will generate a lot of heat and will need to have a cooldown interval.
Thus those with a higher rating of 80% can practically remain functional much longer, those upwards to a 100% can operate virtually indefinitely. However, since we will be working with portable models, this will factor into our decision on what to recommend.
CFM and PSI are numbers that are essential for inflating truck tires. The former should be on the top of your list since it determines how fast your portable air compressor can fill a fully deflated tire. The higher the number the faster it can get you back on the road again.
As for the latter, most consumer-grade machines can easily match the requirement of LTs, but as long as it can manage up to 45 PSI or more, it should be good enough for most types of vehicles such as passenger cars, SUVs, and trucks.
Additional Features And Functionalities
Now that we have nailed down the important bits of what consumers should be aware of. Let’s break down some of the extra features that can make it even more convenient for the user. Auto inflation and auto shutoff take the grunt work out of the equation as the machine operates to fill the tires up to your desired pressure and disengages once the PSI number has been reached.
Depending on the circumstance, you might need to inflate more than just one of your tires. Thus, ensure that the package includes a lengthy power cord and air hose. We also recommend that you consider purchasing a heavy-duty air hose just to be on the safe side. Just keep the spare one handy in case the other gets damaged.
Even though its main function is intended for inflating tires, most models regularly include adaptors for other products. These let you use it for sporting equipment, air mattresses, inflatable pool toys, and so much more. It would be easy to lose these items due to their size, which is where a carrying case comes in. It keeps the portable air compressor safely protected from the elements. Additionally, it can be used to store the extra accessories that ship with the product.
Finally, let’s talk about lighting. This is a feature that is often overlooked due to the availability of smartphones and EDC flashlights. Nonetheless, an integrated LED lighting is useful when inflating your tires in the dark. In addition to the flashlight, some have built-in warning lights to alert oncoming traffic for reliable safety purposes.
Proper Usage And Safety Tips
Before going on a trip plan your route and check if there are gas stations or service centres along the road. Make a mental note of where you spotted one because these establishments will be essential in case of a mechanical emergency. Proper precaution can go a long way and save you time from unnecessary worry.
Double-check that your portable air compressor is in proper working condition. Ensure that all accessories essential for operation are intact and regularly test the air hose for leaks or wear. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where the product fails when you need it the most.
Some vehicles have tire pressure monitoring systems that will notify you if any of your wheels need to be checked. Before hooking it up, understand the manufacturer’s requirements when it comes to PSI. You can use a stand-alone tire gauge or the one integrated with the equipment.
Never fill your tires beyond the recommended PSI level as this would be dangerous. This can cause it to burst and damage your vehicle or cause injuries. Additionally, always discharge the nozzle away from any parts of your body and securely attach it to the tire valve before operating your portable air compressor.
The 5 Best Portable Air Compressors for Trucks
1. Smittybilt 2781
- 5.65 CFM airflow for quick inflation
- Capable of up to 150 PSI
- An excellent duty cycle of 40 minutes of continuous usage
- Quick-connect fittings for the air hose and inline PSI pressure gauge
- Assembly mostly crafted out of metal for superior durability
- 24-foot coiled air hose
- Oil-free direct-drive electric motor (maintenance-free)
- 10-foot power cord with heavy-duty alligator clip connectors
- Free nylon storage bag
- Metal sand tray for uneven surfaces
- Rubber feet for stability and reduced vibrations
- Additional air hose adapters for various equipment.
- No automatic fill/shutoff function
- Analogue PSI pressure gauge not as accurate as digital models
- Heavier than most portable tire inflators in the market
- No built-in lighting system
- The operation can be noisy
- No deflator function
Rounding off our buyer’s guide is probably the most powerful of the bunch – the Smittybilt 2781. One look at this portable air compressor and you know that it is built for heavy-duty usage. Most of the components of its construction are made of metal which makes it very durable to withstand all manners of abuse.
To keep it stable on rough terrain, the assembly is mounted on a rugged metal tray with additional anti-vibration rubber feet. For added safety, the powerful 12V oil-free direct-drive electric motor is equipped with a thermal cut-off switch that automatically disables operation once it reaches its temperature threshold.
You know that this is one robust machine thanks to its duty cycle numbers which is listed at 40 minutes at 40 PSI. It can even handle up to 150 PSI which is more than enough for truck tires and other items that need inflation. Boasting an airflow of 5.65 CFM, you can expect to be back on the road in no time flat.
The 10-foot power cord ends with two alligator clamps because portable air compressors of its calibre require a direct connection to your vehicle’s battery. Using a DC power adapter would likely cause the receptacle to overheat, which is why the Smittybilt 2781 does not sport that option.
We like how the manufacturer included an optional inline PSI pressure gauge. The quick-connect fittings make it easy for owners to attach or detach the 24-foot coiled air hose. It weighs a little on the heavy side at 15 lbs and measures 15-inches long, 12 inches tall, and 11 inches wide. The fixed handle is made of a perforated metal tube to dissipate heat for safe handling.
The electric motor is practically maintenance-free due to its oil-free nature, but you should regularly check and clean the air filter to ensure optimal performance. Smittybilt throws in a nylon carrying case that can fit the air compressor, cables, air hose, inline PSI pressure gauge attachment, and air hose adapters.
So far, the only thing missing that would make this a perfect portable tire inflator is an automatic fill/shutoff function, a built-in LED lighting system and a digital pressure gauge and sensors for accuracy and additional safety.
2. VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor
- Maintenance-free electric motor
- 8-foot power cord
- Aluminium sand tray with vibration isolators for stability
- 25-foot air hose with inline PSI gauge
- Carrying bag included
- 150-PSI maximum working pressure
- IP54-rated construction
- No additional lighting system
- No cigarette lighter socket option
- Duty cycle rated at only 33%
- No automatic fill/shutoff system
- No deflate function
Since we are talking about truck tires or LTs as they call it, we’re going to need a portable inflator that is equipped to handle the demand. Let’s start off with the size. The VIAIR 300P stands 7.51 inches high, 9.06 inches long, and 4.96 inches wide.
Without the accessories, the entire assembly weighs 8.70 lbs. The package includes the portable air compressor, a deluxe dual-compartment carry bag, dual battery clamps with an 8-foot power cord, a 25-foot coiled air hose with an analogue PSI gauge, and three inflation tips for various items.
This model sits on an aluminium sand tray equipped with vibration isolators for extra stability even on uneven surfaces. It can handle a maximum working pressure of 150 PSI, which is more than enough for standard truck tires. Airflow is rated at 2.30 CFM which is good enough to get the job done quickly
The duty cycle rating for 100 PSI at 72° F is 33%, which means you can operate it for 20 minutes max before it needs to cool down for 40 minutes. Nevertheless, it is capable of quickly inflating tires ranging from 33 to 42 inches. VIAIR states that it can inflate a 33” x 12.5” tire from 0 to 30 PSI in 5 minutes and from 15 to 30 PSI in 2 minutes and 45 seconds.
It uses an oil-free permanent magnetic motor with a thermal overload protection system and features a 40-amp inline fuse holder for added safety. Finally, the 300P’s IP54-rated construction is one less thing to worry about when you’re caught in a downpour
3. Fortem Digital Air Compressor
- Automatic inflation/shutoff function
- Digital display/PSI gauge
- Soft-touch button controls
- Compact for easy storage
- DC power cable and air hose can be stored at the bottom section
- Built-in LED lighting
- Includes a carrying case
- Accurate performance
- Affordable price
- Slow fill rate
- Underwhelming duty cycle
- Short air hose
- Housing seems fragile
Among the items we have featured on this buyer’s guide this next portable air compressor is perhaps the most compact. Fortem introduces this digital air compressor that measures 7.64 inches long, 6.14 inches wide, and 2.95 inches high. This makes it easy to store within the floor wells underneath the seats. Moreover, it is quite lightweight at only 1.94 lbs thanks to its plastic housing.
We are impressed that an air inflator of this size is capable of handling truck tires. Nevertheless, the only downside here is the short duty cycle. From what the product page indicates, it can be used for 8-minute bursts before the motor requires rest. Yet, it can handle up to 150 PSI (bicycle tires only) but can manage to inflate LTs without any problem.
The unit features a digital display with soft-touch buttons for controls and features an automated fill/shutoff function for convenience. There’s also a super bright LED light ready for when the situation calls for it.
The air hose is somewhat short at 1.64 feet, but Fortem tries to make up for it with the 9.84-foot DC power cord. Both can be stored within the unit which comes with a carrying case. Overall, this is a great portable air compressor which can step up to any task at hand.
The simple operation combined with a stylish design adds to its charm. But those seeking a more robust type of product will find it lacking compared to some heavy-duty models.
4. Potek JS88 1500A Peak Jump Starter
- Portable power sources
- Rechargeable 18-Ah lead-acid battery (removable/replaceable)
- AC sockets
- 150-PSI maximum
- LED lighting
- Can be used to jumpstart most vehicles
- A USB port for charging
- AC/DC charging compatibility
- Two storage compartments
- The battery needs to be pre-conditioned before the first usage
- Duty cycle is quite poor
- Slow fill rate at 6-8 minutes for a normal car tire
- Short jumper cables
- PSI gauge integrated to the body
- Plastic housing with fixed handle
- No carrying included
- Short air hose
- No automatic inflate/shutoff feature
- No deflate function
After browsing through some of the best portable compressors, we were in luck and bumped into this versatile model. The JS88 from Potek goes beyond being your run-of-the-mill tire inflator. What makes it so special is the additional function detailed in the name.
Yes, this handy tool is equipped to handle flat tires as well as a dead battery. It is equipped with an 18-AH lead-acid battery with power indicators so users can quickly check if it is ready to use. It doubles as a portable emergency power source with two integrated AC sockets and a single USB port.
Use it to jump-start your ride anywhere, which makes it perfect for those who love to the great outdoors and unplanned road trips to wherever they want. Keep your favourite gadgets charged and plug in other small appliances when you absolutely need to. Owners can charge it with the supplied AC charging cable directly connected to a power outlet. Another option is the use the included DC socket and adaptor and plug it into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter receptacle.
Moving on to the air compressor function, the Potek JS88 can handle a maximum of 150 PSI which can be measured using the built-in air pressure gauge on the body. However, do not expect to be quickly back on the road as it might take anywhere between 6 to 8 minutes to reach 30 PSI for regular car tires. Be aware that For LTs it would take longer.
So far, we are not big fans of the duty cycle listed for this item. The recommended operating time is a short 10 minutes before it needs to cool down for another 30 minutes. However, if the tires are not fully flat, it should be shorter than what is stated.
The unit measures 12 inches long, 8.6 inches high, and 9.4 wide. There are two storage compartments on each end for storing the charging cables and other accessories. It also sports LED lights for working in the dark.
5. Slime Heavy Duty 2X Pro Power
- Direct-drive motor with dual cylinders
- Integrated LED torch
- Durable carrying case with interior padding
- Twist-Connect system for secure attachment
- Removable inline PSI gauge
- Heavy-duty design and construction
- CFM rating is smaller than others in its range
- No automatic fill/shut-off feature
- No deflate function
- Might not be stable on uneven surfaces
With a label like Slime, it might be difficult to take this portable air compressor seriously. However, do not let the odd branding get it in the way of its dependable performance. The Heavy Duty 2X Pro Power looks and feels exactly as the model name implies with its durable construction intended for the most demanding situations.
Some of you might recognize the brand for its tire repair kits and special sealants. This portable air compressor measures 9.1 inches high, 12 inches long, and 6.5 inches wide, which makes it quite compact. This tire inflator supports up to 150 PSI with a CFM rating of 1.9.
Its direct-drive motor comes with dual pistons that can quickly inflate a standard car tire in 2 minutes. Meanwhile, for truck tires, it should get the job done a couple of minutes more. Slime claims it can operate quietly but did not list down specific numbers. Nonetheless, we appreciate that it sports an LED torch, which can be handy in low-light conditions.
The included coiled air hose measures 22 feet and uses a Twist-Connect system for a secure fit. Additionally, the inline analog PSI gauge is removable. This feature is for those who prefer to use a stand-alone tire pressure gauge for added accuracy. Next is the power cord which is 8 feet long with alligator clips on the end.
What’s awesome about the Heavy Duty 2X Pro Power is the included rugged carrying hard case that features foam padding to keep the contents from moving around. There are also cutouts to hold the air compressor, the air hose with the gauge attached, power cables, and air hose adapters.
After reviewing the pros and cons of each of the models we have featured on the list, we have selected the Smittybilt 2781 as the clear champion of our best portable air compressors for truck tires buyer’s guide. Since in an emergency where someone needs to quickly fill up their flat tires CFM and PSI matters a lot. At 5.65 CFM and support for up to 150 PSI, this machine can handle LTs like a pro.
Furthermore, we found the heavy-duty build quality that comes from the metal components a big value for the consumer. This is a compact tool that is designed to last for a long time and ultimately endures harsh conditions and all manners of abuse.
Although it was not specified, most products in this category are engineered to withstand moisture – because the weather is an unpredictable factor.
Another cool addition is the metal sand tray, which helps keep the air compressor from sinking into sand or loose gravel during operation. Then there are the quick-connect hose fittings, which will save time when you are in a hurry to assemble and disassemble the coiled air hose. Smittybilt likewise made sure that owners have the option of using a stand-alone tire pressure gauge, which is why the inline PSI pressure gauge is removable.
Others might argue that it lacks a DC connector for the cigarette lighter receptacle found on most vehicles. However, there is a perfectly good explanation behind it. If you check out the other models we have featured, those with higher performance outputs are armed with bigger electric motors that will draw more power.
A regular DC connector will quickly heat up and even damage the automobile’s fuses. Hence, these types are normally connected directly to the batteries.
Another huge selling point for the Smittybilt 2781 is the duty cycle. Since most truck tires rarely go beyond 35 PSI, and it is rated for 40 minutes at 40 PSI, users should not worry about overheating the motor.
Plus, the automated thermal cutoff system will detect extreme heat and disable the motor from running until it reaches normal operating temperatures again. If the consumer needs one for a smaller vehicle, the Smittybilt 2780 should have all the right specs to meet the demand.
The motor uses a direct-drive system and is listed as oil-free, which experts would point out as virtually maintenance-free. As long as you are using it within parameters and regularly cleaning the air filter, it should be ready for action anytime and anywhere.
Ultimately, the things that are missing that would have made it a perfect product are technically minor inconveniences. These can be resolved with the help of EDC products such as flashlights and a little elbow grease.