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The Best Brands of Air Compressors: 2017 Guide and Reviews

Is there anything more frustrating than a flat tire? Discovering that your vehicle has one right before an important trip can be especially frustrating. Having the best air compressor on hand can make the situation a whole lot easier to remedy. We’ll show you the best brands of air compressors on the market today.

Quick Look: Our Top Picks

What is an air compressor?

An air compressor is a device which is used to compress and store air. When the time comes to release the air into another object, the gas is pushed into its new home with immense force. This is why an air compressor is so useful when it comes to inflating a car tire in a timely manner.

However, the uses of an air compressor extend far beyond the realm of automobiles. Owing to their ability to convert electrical energy into kinetic energy, air compressors are valuable tools for laborers and craftspeople. Electric tools can often be quite heavy, not to mention pricey, due to the large number of mechanical components they rely on in order to work. Pneumatic tools, however, require only air to do their jobs. When pneumatic tools are paired with an air compressor, they provide a lightweight and inexpensive alternative to their battery-powered counterparts.

If you want to see an air compressor in action before purchasing one yourself, check out this video.

Types of air compressors

There are many different kinds of air compressors on the market today, but the majority of people who use them own one of two main designs.

The reciprocating compressor is the most commonly used type of air compressor worldwide. It is an example of a positive displacement air compressor, which means it draws a certain volume of air into a chamber and holds it there while that chamber reduces in size, thereby compressing the air. Reciprocating compressors are generally compact tools and are best-suited for home use.

After the reciprocating compressor is the rotary screw compressor, which, as the name would suggest, compresses air by trapping it between two counter-rotating screws. Rotary screw compressors are designed for industrial use and, as a result, are quite a bit larger both in terms of height and weight than reciprocating compressors. They are low-pressure, though they are high-capacity compressors and are generally in use for long periods of time, even 24-hour timeframes.

In reality, if you are looking for an air compressor you can use to inflate your tires, it’s safe to say that you are unlikely to end up with anything other than a small reciprocating compressor that you can plug directly into your cigarette lighter.

Things to remember when buying an air compressor

When you’re in the market for an air compressor for your automobile, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind before you make your final decision.

Intended use

Okay, we already know that you’re going to be using your chosen air compressor to inflate the tires on your car, but what if you don’t want to stop there? While a lot of air compressors won’t fill up much more than your car tires, there are certain models which are capable of inflating bike tires, beach inflatables, and soccer balls. If you intend to use your air compressor beyond automotive applications, do a little research and find out which compressors come with the necessary attachments.

Frequency of use

Once you have established the tasks which you will complete with your air compressor, you should give some thought to just how often these tasks must be performed. The vast majority of reciprocating air compressors are designed to be used intermittently and endure months of neglect, but some require semi-regular use in order to stay in top form.

Pressure

Pressure is important when you’re trying to find the best air compressor for your needs. In air compressors, pressure is measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI. In searching for the right air compressor for you, you should be mindful of not only the pressure of which the compressor is capable but the ease with which that pressure can be monitored. Getting the pressure level just right is essential when it comes to maintaining your tires. Deviating too far in either direction from the appropriate amount of pressure could result in serious damage to your tires and other components of your vehicle.

Storage

Air compressors are delicate tools and require proper storage when not in use. If you are purchasing one for your home, be sure to keep it somewhere where children and pets cannot reach it. If you are storing your air compressor in your trunk, remove all loose tools which may collide with it while you drive.

Best Brands of Air Compressors

EPAuto 12V Digital Air Compressor

EPAuto 12V Digital Air Compressor

With a PSI rating of 100, the 12V Digital Air Compressor from EPAuto can be used to fill tires, as well as sports balls and novelty inflatables, in a timely manner with minimum risk of error.

Pros

  • Easy to read—You should look for an air compressor which has an easy-to-read display in order to reduce the chances of error during inflation. Offering four different units of measurement, this compressor has exactly the kind of display you’ll need.

  • Auto shut-off—Should you somehow lose track of your progress while inflating your tires, you can rely on the air compressor’s auto shut-off feature to avert disaster. Once you set your desired tire pressure, the compressor will ensure it is not exceeded and will turn off automatically once it has been reached.

Cons

  • Prone to overheating—If there is one common complaint about the EPAuto 12V Digital Air Compressor, it is that it’s prone to overheating after extended periods of use. If you are planning to inflate multiple tires using this compressor, it is a good idea to turn the machine off between each tire and give it 10 minutes to cool down.

Cartman Car Air Compressor

Cartman Car Air Compressor

The Cartman Car Air Compressor is a heavy-duty, yet relatively inexpensive, air compressor designed for those who must inflate a couple of tires at a time.

Pros

  • Powerful—When it comes to sheer power, you’re going to struggle to find a better air compressor than this. It comes fitted with an extra-strength motor, which allows for complete inflation in half the time of the average air compressor.

  • Quiet—Powerful motors often create quite a bit of noise pollution, but that is not the case with the Cartman Car Air Compressor. Despite the incredible strength of its motor, it is almost entirely silent when in use.

Cons

  • Possibly too demanding—The above-average strength of this air compressor is great. That is, of course, if your car can handle it. If your car isn’t particularly powerful, you may run into a bit of trouble. Some consumers of the Cartman Car Air Compressor have said that its use resulted in blown fuses in their vehicles. A blown fuse in a car isn’t too challenging to fix, but it is a major inconvenience if you’re far from home, so it’s best to avoid this compressor until you are absolutely certain that it won’t damage your car.

VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor

VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor

If you don’t mind spending a little bit of extra cash, the VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor is definitely deserving of your attention. It offers that rarely seen combination of high power and multiple features. It can be easily mastered by even the most technologically challenged car owner.

Pros

  • Speedy inflation—If you find yourself with a flat tire on some rural country road in the middle of the night, the last thing you want to do is spend 20 minutes trying to re-inflate the thing. With the immensely powerful VIAIR 85P, you won’t have to. This air compressor can fill a tire in well under 5 minutes, even if it has been completely deflated.

  • Long power cord—Certain compressors just don’t have a long enough power cord to fill anything other than the tires closest to your cigarette lighter. This air compressor, however, is fitted with a 10’ power cord, allowing you to reach all the tires on your car with ease.

Cons

  • Breakable—Despite its higher price, the VIAIR 85P isn’t the most resilient compressor on the market. Users are advised to be particularly careful while using and storing this air compressor as any hard knocks will damage it.

P.I. Auto Store Premium Digital Tire Inflator

P.I. Auto Store Premium Digital Tire Inflator

The P.I. Auto Store Premium Digital Tire Inflator is designed to be used by drivers who must regularly deflate and inflate their tires. There are multiple models available, but the portable 12V option should suit most people.

Pros

  • Microprocessor—The current P.I. Auto Store Premium Digital Tire Inflator is an improved version of a previous air compressor from P.I. Auto. In an attempt to build on what they had done in the past, the P.I. Auto team redesigned this compressor to include a microprocessor; this means the air compressor will automatically shut down once you have reached your pre-determined desired tire pressure, reducing the risk of over inflation.

  • Versatile—This is one of the more versatile air compressors available today. While it will inflate the tires of pretty much any model of car you can think off, it can also be used on motorcycles, trucks, and even RVs.

Cons

  • Poor customer service —P.I. Auto Store does not have the greatest track record when it comes to customer service. If you run into a problem, it could be a little more challenging to get customer service to be responsive.

JACO SmartPro Air Compressor

JACO SmartPro Air Compressor

The JACO SmartPro Air Compressor is a favorite of car enthusiasts and novices the world over due to its speed and simplicity.

Pros

  • Compact design—I and a friend once embarked on an ill-fated road trip which ended with us stranded on a road in Wyoming. We had a flat tire and to make things more frustrating, we had removed our air compressor from the trunk just before leaving our home state because it took up space we needed for our cooler. This would not have happened with the JACO SmartPro Air Compressor, which utilizes a compact design and internal hose and power cord storage to take up as little space as possible.

  • Recommended by mechanics—The SmartPro is one of only a few air compressors which have been recommended by mechanics. This professional endorsement should erase any doubts you may have about JACO’s claims of superiority.

Cons

  • Expensive—As you would expect, the high performance of the JACO SmartPro Air Compressor means it sells for a little higher than other air compressors; in fact, it is the most expensive air compressor on this list. If you are trying to keep your spending down, you can find an almost as impressive compressor for a fraction of the cost.

Conclusion

I try to avoid naming any particular product as the best in its field, but if I were you I would choose the JACO SmartPro Air Compressor over all other options.

I know I said you can find an air compressor which is almost as impressive as the JACO SmartPro for a lower price, but the keyword there is “almost.” While many air compressors offer many of the same features as JACO’s model, you are going to have a hard time finding one which offers the full range of features.

The JACO SmartPro Air Compressor is the perfect combination of power, convenience, and size, and, if you believe me and others who have used it, is well worth its price.

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