8 Best Tyre Inflators 2021 | The Sun UK
A powerful, easy to use tyre inflator may be your car’s best friend. Sure, it’s not the most glamorous bit of kit, but without air in your tyres your car will perform at a fraction of its potential.
Under-inflated tyres ruin the efficiency of your vehicle, causing you to burn through fuel and rubber surprisingly quickly. So what are you waiting for? We’ve tested the best tyre inflators on the market, so you don’t have to.
How do under inflated-tyres affect your vehicle?
Unless a tyre is correctly inflated, your car won’t handle in the way that it should. If it’s under-inflated, it also means that more of the tyre’s surface area is in contact with the road, which leads to increased friction.
This increased heat will wear your tyres quickly, which could lead to a need for more regular replacements. It will also negatively affect the performance of your brakes, especially in the wet.
1. Halfords Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator
- Halfords Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator, £39.90 from Halfords – buy here
At £39.99, Halfords’ own-brand digital tyre inflator is one the cheaper tyre inflators that we tested. It doesn’t look quite as snazzy as some of the others, thanks to the fact that it’s adorned in a cheap-looking silver plastic, but after all, you’re squatting on the ground with grease on your hands — elegance is already out of the window. Its colour scheme also has practical benefits, with bright yellow buttons that are easy to see in the dark.
Halfords claims that the inflator can pump an R13 tyre (13 inches in diameter) from flat to 30psi in three minutes, thanks to a flow rate of between 28 and 30 litres per minute. While that might sound good, there are very few modern cars that use R13s — even the tiny Smart ForTwo uses 15-inch tyres. However, most manufacturers use the 13-inch tyre as a measure of inflation speed, so we’ll forgive Halfords that.
In reality, we found that the Halfords Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator could take a 17-inch wheel from 22psi to 32psi — a range that you’re unlikely to need day-to-day if you’re diligent about keeping your tyres in good condition — in 1 minute and 36 seconds.
The Halfords model was one of the most compact devices we tested, meaning that it doesn’t take up precious boot space. However, it doesn’t come with a case, like the admittedly pricer Ring RTC1000, meaning that it’s vulnerable to getting scuffed by other things that you put into your boot.
The inflator sits on four rubber feet to prevent it scuttling around your driveway, while the air hose wraps snugly beneath the device. The same can’t be said for the 12V connector, though, which must be wrapped around your hand and cable tied before it can be reinserted into the inflator. Like most of the other inflators, it comes with three attachments so that you can inflate footballs, bouncy castles and whatever else your heart desires.
2. Ring RAC610 Air Compressor
- Ring RAC610 Analogue Tyre Inflator, £12.79 from Amazon – buy here
At just £12.80, the Ring RAC610 is, by quite a margin, the cheapest tyre inflator we reviewed, and that comes with some drawbacks — it’s analogue, rather than featuring a digital screen, and takes four and a half minutes to inflate a flat 13-inch tyre to 35psi, more than double the time of the RTC1000.
However, it completed our 22psi – 32psi test in comfortably under two minutes (around 1 minute and 50 seconds), meaning that it doesn’t make inflating your tyres into too much more of a chore than it already is.
Aside from a boxier shape, the RAC610 adopts a nearly identical design to the Halfords inflator, with silver and black plastic and a yellow power button that can be seen easily in the dark. Again, it’s not the most attractive machine in the world, but again, this is tyre inflation, not Paris Fashion Week.
The analogue scale goes from 0psi-100psi, with around a centimetre between each increment of 10psi. That means that the difference between, say, 30psi and 32psi is just a couple of millimetres, making it a tad difficult to know exactly how much pressure you’re putting into your tyres — an issue exacerbated by the fact that the machine moves around a lot as it inflates.
The only other issue we found is that getting the air hose back into its rather tiny space can be a bit difficult once it’s been removed. However, the 12V cable winds neatly around the base of the device.
However, these are minor drawbacks, and they belie a big advantage: the RAC610 is just £12.80, meaning that you could buy five of them for the price of the most expensive inflator we tested and have more than a tenner left over. If you’ve got a small budget and big amounts of patience, this is a great purchase.
3. Ring RTC1000 Tyre Inflator
- Ring RTC1000 Digital Tyre Inflator, £35.60 from Amazon – buy here
The Ring RTC1000 is Ring’s most popular unit, and for good reason. It’s the Goldilocks inflator, balancing price and performance perfectly. It retails for £49.99, making it more expensive than the Halfords inflator and the RAC610, but significantly less pricey than the £75.00 Michelin inflator.
It completed the 22psi to 32psi sprint in 1 minute and 8 seconds, making it quicker than two of the inflators we’ve reviewed, but 26 seconds slower than the Michelin. That equates to around two minutes over all four tyres — it’s up to you to decide whether or not that makes the Michelin worth the extra £25.
We also loved how big the power button on the RTC1000 is — it’s big enough to be operated with your foot, meaning that you don’t have to exert the effort of leaning down to switch it on. It’s the little things.
Truthfully, it’s difficult to pick fault with the RTC1000 — its progress bar can get a bit confused, and some customers have reported issues with the 12V connection, but we found it to be excellent value for money.
You can read a full review of the Ring RTC1000 on Sun Selects here.
4. Michelin Programmable Superfast 4×4/SUV Tyre Inflator
- Michelin Programmable Superfast 4×4/SUV Tyre Inflator, £75 at Halfords – buy here
From everyone’s favourite tyre maker/world renowned reviewer of restaurants is this, the Michelin Programmable Superfast 4×4/SUV Tyre Inflator, and you can tell from the get-go that it means business — it looks less than a tyre inflator than it does something from Star Trek. Or a really fancy spirit level. You feel as if, when you turn it on, it'll measure the amount of radiation in the atmosphere, not air pressure.
Its futuristic looks are an indication of its performance – the Michelin was one of the quietest machines we tested, emitting a low hum rather than a panicked scream, as some do. It was also the fastest by quite a margin, inflating a 22psi tyre to 32psi in a cool 42 seconds before slotting neatly back into its silky bag. Like the Ring RTC1000, its designers have also thought of where to store your valve caps when you’re inflating, and have included a little stand.
However, not everything is perfect — it’s a fairly bulky device, meaning that you’ll notice its presence in your boot; despite its futuristic design, the 12V cable hangs limply off the device and has to be wrapped together by hand and velcroed; the air hose, meanwhile, wraps around the inflator itself but can come loose easily, leaving you with a tangle of cables; and, perhaps most importantly, at £75.00, it’s the most expensive inflator we tested by quite a hefty distance.
5. AA Digital Tyre Inflator
- AA Digital Tyre Inflator, £24.99 at Amazon – buy here
You’ve got to love the AA. The trustworthy British motoring association has been around in 1905, three years before the Ford Model T first hit the tarmac. The AA offers vehicle insurance, breakdown cover, incredibly detailed road maps and now, car tyre inflators.
This 12V air compressor is surely one of the better value products on this list. It’s designed to pump tyres up to a maximum pressure of 120psi, and plugs straight into your car’s 12v socket for ease of use.
A multi-functional tool, it comes equipped with a number of extra adapters so it can pump up sports balls and blow up beds. You can also pre-set the pressure, so the inflator will automatically switch off once a certain psi has been reached.
Its size also makes it an attractive option. Measuring just 197 x 67 x 159mm and weighing just 800g, you can easily store it in your boot and just forget about it.
6. Michelin Programmable Rapid Tyre Inflator
- Michelin Programmable Rapid Tyre Inflator, £58 at Halfords – buy here
While not quite as impressive as the Superfast inflator above, Michelin’s Programmable Rapid Tyre Inflator does an admirable job when it comes to pumping tyres up quickly and efficiently.
It has a similarly futuristic design as its sister product, with its buttons in Michelin’s signature blue and yellow, while the digital LCD display clearly indicates an accurate pressure reading.
With a max pressure of 50psi, it’s not the most powerful inflator on this list, but hit claims to pump a tyre from flat to 30psi in three minutes, which is an impressive feat. Its final party trick is its USB socket, which, among other things, is perfect for charging mobile phones on the go.
7. OneAmg Digital Tyre Inflator
- OneAmg Digital Tyre Inflator, £27.19 at Amazon – buy here
More technologically advanced than most, the OneAmg digital tyre inflator features a large touchscreen for effortlessly altering settings on the fly. You can adjust the pressure and change the brightness of the screen all with simple touches, ensuring the OneAmg is among the easiest to use of this entire list. Like all quality inflators, this one features an auto switch off function. When you’ve reached the desired pressure it cuts power straight away, so you needn’t worry about over-inflation. In terms of quickness, it’ll inflate tyres from flat to 35psi in around four minutes, which is impressive for the price. Simply plug it into your car’s 12v socket and you’re good to go.
8. Essentials Analogue Tyre Inflator
- Essentials Analogue Tyre Inflator, £19.99 at Halfords – buy here
A simple tool that gets the job done. This analogue Essentials inflator does what it says on the tin, and at a price point that won’t break the bank.
It’s not the quickest inflator on this list, nor is it the most powerful, but if you want a reliable piece of kit then you can’t really go wrong. That said, it does have a few tricks up its sleeve. While it doesn’t feature a screen, the Essentials inflator does have an LED indicator to show it’s connected, and it comes with a built in torch so you can pump up your tyres comfortably in the dark.
The max pressure comes in high at 100psi and it’s worth noting there isn’t an auto switch off feature, so be sure to stop manually when you’ve reached the correct pressure. A handy tool to keep in the boot, this inflator comes equipped with a range of adaptors for sports balls and other inflatables.
How to inflate car tyres
It is recommended that you inflate your tyres when they are cold, or as close to cold as possible. You’ll first need to remove the valve caps (remember — righty tighty, lefty loosey); then attach your tyre inflator or pressure gauge, and compare the number that appears to the recommended pressure for your tyres — more often than not displayed in psi, and usually somewhere between 30 and 35. You’ll be able to find the exact figure in your vehicle manual.
You’ll then need to attach the inflator to a power source, which is usually the 12V "cigarette lighter" socket in your centre console. Add air until you’ve reached the correct pressure, detach the inflator, and replace the valve caps.
Why do under inflated tyres increase fuel consumption?
As mentioned before, driving on under-inflated tyres mean that there is more friction between the tyre and the road. This means that the engine has to work harder, leading to more fuel being consumed — it’s estimated that if your tyres are under-inflated by 10%, fuel consumption will go up by 2%.
Is it worth getting a tyre inflator?
Many new cars come equipped with their own tyre inflators, which is a surefire sign it's worth getting one. They'll have your back in an emergency and will save you time (and queuing at the supermarket) if you need to add some air before a long journey.
Plus, they double up as incredibly quick pumps for bicycle tyres, sports balls and blow up beds, meaning you'll get plenty of use out of one.
What is the best rechargeable tyre inflator?
Rechargeable tyre inflators can be extremely useful when on the move, as they're completely portable and can be used anywhere. While there are plenty out there, one of the best is Halfords' rechargeable inflator, which features a max pressure of 120psi as well as an auto cut-off function.
Elsewhere, and for ultimate practicality, the Oasser tyre inflator is so small it can fit in a backpack. Perfect for small cars, as well as bikes and balls, its rechargeable Li-Ion batter can be fully charged in 1.5 hours, making it ideal for taking on long road trips as a back up.
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