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Air Compressor Help

Hi all.

So, I am looking for some type or air compressor to use to inflate car tires. I don’t need anything super great, but I don’t want one of those junky 12 volt ones.

I would like to use this to top off tires throughout the year. I don’t want to spend a fortune, but I would like something decent.

What do you all use/recommend? If it’s a 12volt, I’d like some hands-on experience with it.


Not sure what you define as a fortune. You can get a little pancake compressor from a big box store for under $100. Add an air chuck for less than 10 bucks and you’re good to go.

Those can generally do one tire before having to refill, but they’ll fill the tire faster than a direct-drive compressor like the 12v.

They’re small and light enough to just toss in the trunk if you need to take it somewhere.


I’ve got a stationary (sort of) 5 hp that I paid about $300 for that does most of the work. I also have one of those small ones for $60 or so. I use the small as a portable and it will handle a small nail gun or stapler and other general uses. Its handy to throw in the car to take with me when I need to do something outside of the house. It will also handle a larger nail gun if you are only popping a few nails at a time. So I think you’d be happy with one of those small ones but not HF. It’ll also handle a small air brush but thats about all.

Actually I prefer using my dinky 12V compressor. It only takes a minute to plug in. A “real” air compressor needs to be filled first, hoses unruffled and when the one tire is filled, the whole thing has to be put away again.

Why not do what a large number of people do. Just go to Amazon , read the reviews, find a price you like and have the thing on your door step in 3 days.

I have a 3 gallon hot dog compressor which is fine except for dragging the hose around and the noise. I prevously had 12 volt compressors which were fair at best.

Just for the heck of it, I used the compressor from an Acura which is supplied instead of a spare. It really worked well for a 12 volt. I agree that online reviews might help find a good 12 volt. If you have a source for compressed, such as a large permanently mounted compressor, you could use a portable air tank.

I prefer having a cordless inflator. Even if it is slower, it’s nice to grab it and walk around both cars without running wires into the cars and turning on the ignition to get power.

I currently like my Duracell Powerpack, which also has an AC outlet and an area light, but when it dies I’ll probably simplify down to the Ryobi inflator, as I’ve started buying other items from their ONE+ system lately.

I have a 3.5 HP stationary compressor with a huge tank for all the big stuff. And enough hose to reach my neighbor’s driveway. But that is a pain to just fill some tires. For that, I have this jump pack linked below which has a compressor and a trouble light along with enough battery to jump start my cars. It is slower to fill tires than my big compressor but WAY easier to use than slinging hoses out to the drive to add 2 psi to a tire.

I’ve been using my Ryobi inflator as needed for almost a year now, easy to set to the required pressure and it’s still small enough to keep in the car. I do have a 1980’s Sears compressor that still works but isn’t as light or easy to move around.

The thing you have to be careful with on those jumpstarter packs is that you have to keep them charged, which is easy to forget to do when you toss it in the trunk to have on you in case of emergencies. I killed 3 of them that way before I gave up. AAA can jump me if I need it, and I’ve got shop air at home to deal with the tire duties.

If you have a place to keep your compressor safe from theft & out of the weather I’d suggest a small 110 v compressor rather than a 12 volt unit. 110 v medium sized units are priced at only a little more than $100, easily moveable since they are on a wheeled-dolly, and since the delivery air pressure can be adjusted, they can be used for all sorts of diy’er things besides filling your tires. Air tools, painting, installing new tires on wheels and setting the bead, cleaning out carb’s & other equipment, etc. If everything is all air-tight you usually don’t have to plug them in just to top off a tire or two, as they hold their prior air charge for some time. Something like this is what I’d recommend.

That’s the style of compressor I have. I must admit however that mine is an old one and some of the fittings leak, so it doesn’t hold its air charge for more than a day. B/c of this, rather than powering it up each time I just have a tire or two to top off, I usually do that job at the local gas station using their compressor, which is all set up and equipped just to fill tires at a moments notice.

I have one of those. It’s 31 years old
Also has the slow leak.
I’ve changed the oil a couple times.
Besides that, the motor capacitor failed about 10 years ago, replaced the electrolytic with a “dry” motor run cap.

If you’re going to get one of the small wheeled ones, Sanborn is a good option. It has an oiled motor (a lot of compressors are oil-less, which sounds great until you realize they’re a lot louder, and they wear out much faster) and is priced very reasonably.

My two cents, I have a 3 gallon, oil less, pancake compressor, less than $100. For the first 3 or 4 years I would shut it off and drain the tank. Now I just leave it on 24-7, still fine after 10 years. Compressor was from a big box home improvement store, all accessories were cheapies.

What you just described doesn’t take a lot of time

I have one of those pancake compressors in my garage

Every few weeks, I fire it up on Sunday morning, and check the tires on all of our cars

And that’s all I ever use the compressor for. It has done its job admirably, and without hiccups, for several years already

I’ve been using this one for 2 years, has worked well. Helteko Portable Air Compressor Pump 150PSI 12V - Digital Tire Inflator - Auto Tire Pump with Emergency Led Lighting and Long Cable for Car - Bicycle - Motorcycle - Basketball and other

Northern has a nice 50’ air hose reel. I hung it from my ceiling, then ran Rapidair lines to it from the compressor, and also to hardpoints on both sides of the garage. Then I hooked the compressor into a smart outlet. So all I have to do is call out “turn on the compressor” and pull down the hose. Well worth it because I use the compressor a lot more than I used to.

In addition to my other two compressors I bought a Bostich pancake compressor on sale now at Menards for $100. I bought it for a roofing project at the cabin but I am really impressed with it’s output. I think it would do just fine for a portable. I’m sure most of them are made by the same company but I feel better with a name brand and not a red Craftsman. I plan to take my little one down to the pawn shop to get rid of it. Out of room.

My big compressor threw a rod last year I decided not to replace it at my age. I had a Black and Decker air station that I used for about 20 years that died and I replaced it about 5 years ago with a $39 HF pancake 3 gallon one. Works fine for tires and I put up some trim with a pin gun.

I have a $35 HF 1/2" electric impact gun that I have had for more years than I can recall. I used it for tire rotations for years, easier that using big compressor but the last set of tires I bought from a local tire store come with free rotation and they get me in and out in the tome it takes for me to drink a cup of their free coffee. Still comes in handy for taking the blades off the lawn tractor.

I recently went to Home Depot to get a pancake air compressor . . . Ridgid, I believe