Best tyre inflators 2020
The right tyre pressures are crucial and these are the best mini air compressors you can buy
Maintaining optimal tyre pressures not only helps keep your car driving at its best but also maximises fuel efficiency. Car tyres play such an important role in every single trip you take, because they are the vehicle’s only contact point with the road. Underinflated tyres can affect the braking, accelerating, and cornering in a vehicle, and they also play a part in how comfortable your car is to drive.
Overlooking your tyre pressures will not only result in poor performance and reduced safety, but will cost you more money. Having the best car tyre inflator you can find is an important step in maintaining your vehicle.
Although all 12V mini air compressors may look similar, their quality and price can vary widely. Because of this, we’ve tested them to find which is the best digital air compressor and the best cordless tyre inflator in the UK to help you decide which one to buy.
How we tested them
Among our competitors are a range of brands you may or may not have heard of. The Michelin tyre inflator is well recognised because it‘s from the tyre giant, and it’s widely available online and at a variety of automotive tool shops and garages. Although you shouldn’t discount the lesser known brands as we find they performed well throughout our test.
Cordless compressors are becoming more useful and well priced, so we’ve included our top three products from both these categories. The tests were similar, and we were impressed by those that featured lights, adaptors, clear instructions and other extras.
It’s not often that three products on test gained the maximum 5/5 rating, but both Ring products and the cordless Ryobi were highly impressive. Between them, you should find one that suits your needs and budget, while the Sakura digital air compressor also performed nearly as well.
Best digital air compressors
Ring RTC1000 Premium Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator review
Price: £47Rating: 5/5Time taken to inflate tyre: 1 minute 50 seconds
Ring’s latest 12V compressor sets the standard for the best tyre inflators. It’s easy to use, well designed and offers impressive performance. The RTC1000 increased the tyre pressure by 10psi in well under two minutes and was one of the quietest products we tested. Accuracy is another strong point, being only 1psi out in both tests, and it comes with three adaptors, a few extra valve caps and gloves to use. The large display has blue backlighting to make it easier to read, while both the hose and power cable were among the longest on test. Rewinding the cable was a pain-free process, too. Its price is a bit on the high side, but it’s new on the market and you do get what you pay for.
Ring 12v Preset Digital Air Compressor RAC 635 review
Price: £32Rating: 5/5Time taken to inflate tyre: 2 minutes 12 seconds
A previous winner in this test, the Ring RAC 635 is knocked off the top spot by the Ring RTC1000. A 70cm hose was one of the longest on test, as was the 3.5-metre-long power cable, which helped it to reach all four wheels on our test car with ease. The large display is useful, if sometimes a little hard to read, and it doesn’t take too long to reinflate a flat tyre. It also came in a protective case with plenty of padding. One small downside is that it became quite noisy when inflating the tyre but you probably won’t be using a compressor on a regular basis.
Sakura 12v Digital Air Compressor SS5332 review
Price: £25Rating: 4/5Time taken to inflate tyre: 3 minutes 14 secondsThe Sakura is good value but in terms of performance, it can’t compete with the brace of Ring products above. We found it took a surprisingly long time to pump up the tyre, although it is one of the most accurate on test - just 0.5psi out. The cable is three metres long, which is fine but not as long as other products, and it’s the same story with the 60cm hose. At least it’s a universal screw fitting and can deflate as well as inflate.
Best cordless tyre inflators
Ryobi R18I-0 One+ 18V Inflator (+ 4Ah battery & charger) review
Price: £53 (+£93.94)Rating: 5/5Inflation time (tyre/airbed): 2 minutes 15 seconds/3 minutes 18 seconds
At first glance, we weren’t too sure about the Ryobi because its display is small and there are no lights or USB connections. You can’t use it from the car either. But this product offers more power than you’d ever need; after our tests it still had a full battery readout, thanks to its 4Ah battery. It’s ever-so-slightly slower at inflating a tyre than the two Ring compressors, but very quick at inflating and deflating an airbed. The decision to buy this one or not will likely come down to whether you already have Ryobi One+ tools in your collection - they use the same battery, and the compressor doesn’t come with it included.
Michelin 12267 Cordless Rechargeable Inflator review
Price: £90Rating: 4/5Inflation times (tyre/airbed): 2 minutes 7 seconds/13 minutes 45 seconds
The Michelin is a strong runner up, and is better suited to pumping up car tyres than airbeds. It was brilliantly quiet and inflated the tyre in a good time, plus there are multiple 12V cigar lighter and USB sockets. The features don’t stop there - a preset facility, three adaptors and three scales match the Ryobi’s specification. Battery power is impressive too, as it was still reading full after pumping up the airbed - even though that took a long time. There’s no deflation option, however, and the Michelin is quite heavy at 3.5kg.
Halfords Rechargeable Multi-Purpose Inflator review
Price: Around £60Rating: 3/5Inflation times (tyre/airbed): 2 minutes 38 seconds/10 minutes 4 seconds
On paper, the Halfords product looks good - it’s priced well, has plenty of adaptors and sockets, and can be charged via the mains or through a 12V socket. Other good points include its intuitive layout, clear display and its 1.8kg weight, but its performance isn’t as good as we were expecting. Pumping up both items seemed to take a long time, and the compressor was frustratingly noisy too. Meanwhile, its battery isn’t impressive - our tests drained half the battery - so it’s a good job it can be charged in different ways.
Read our Buying Advice guides to find out all the best products to buy for your car.
Best new car deals 2023: this week’s top car offers
New 2024 Porsche Panamera – new looks, interior, and Turbo E-Hybrid model
New 2024 Dacia Duster arrives – popular budget SUV enters its third generation