Portable tire inflator

Tire pressure on your car should be maintained at the correct level in order to provide optimal fuel efficiency, good control of the vehicle and prevent uneven tire wear while driving. Low tire pressure could mean loss of control of your car and may lead to an accident. Also, you certainly do not want to be stuck in the middle of a highway with a flat tire.

If you know how to use portable tire inflator, it can be beneficial for you during your commute. With a portable tire inflator, you can check and fill up your tires at home or anywhere on the road. The device is compact and can be stowed away in the boot or trunk of your vehicle.

What is a tire inflator?

Portable tire inflators are air compressors that work on electricity or battery power. Some models have a 12-volt socket that you can hook up to your car cigarette lighter outlet. Other tire inflators have power leads that clamp onto your vehicle’s battery, while other models have rechargeable batteries that are called cordless tire inflators.

It can be really inconvenient to have a flat tire where you have to fix it or replace the tire. If you don’t have a spare tire or repair kit, you may be left stranded by the road. A portable tire inflator can be a lifesaver in such a situation. You can use the tire inflator to keep tires at their optimum pressure all the time.

Tire inflators are also called Car air compressors, but unlike them, tire inflators do not have a large pressurised tank, instead, they have a small piston and cylinder that is powered electrically and is capable of generating air pressure for the tires.

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Let’s have a look at the different types of air inflators available in the market.

What are the different parts of a tire inflator?

Portable tire inflators are actually mini air compressors. Here is a look at the main components that a tire inflator consists of. It will help you better understand how does a portable tire inflator work.

The process involves turning on a switch, which powers an electric motor. The motor drives a piston through a series of gears which creates air pressure feeding down a hose into the tire. There are sensors to display air pressure values on the gauge.

Electric motor

The electric motor is the component that powers the air compressor. The motor has an output shaft that is connected via gears to the piston. The piston is forced up and down in the cylinder to produce air pressure. This compressed air feeds through the pressure hose into the tire valve stem.

The electric motor can also power a fan that is used to cool down the air inflator. It also provides electricity for the battery indicator, pressure gauge and other instruments on the tire inflator. The electric motor is powered by a 12-volt socket from your mains or via the car charger.

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The piston and cylinder are the main components that are used to generate the necessary air pressure for the inflator. It is similar to the one used in a petrol engine, but it is powered by electricity and gears rather than burning fuel.

The electric motor causes the piston to move down which draws in a certain amount of air into the cylinder. Then the piston is forced up where the air is squeezed and gets compressed. This compressed air is fed into the pressure hose that connects to the valve stem on the tire. The piston continuously moves up and down to provide steady air pressure for the tires.

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There is a set of gears connected to the electric motor and another set attached to the piston. The gear’s job is to transfer the mechanical power through the system. As the electric motor spins, it generates a force on the gears which causes them to rotate and power the piston. There can also be another set of gears that power the cooling fan to keep the tire inflator temperature under control.


The valve is essential to maintain pressure in the cylinder. The valve opens when the piston is moving down and closes when the piston moves up. This allows air to be drawn in, and compression to occur when the piston moves upwards. There is usually a set of valves (intake and exhaust) to maintain proper pressure in the cylinder. The opening and closing of valves are governed by the motion of the piston and gears attached to them.

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Cooling fan

Most tire inflators are equipped with a fan that is used to cool down the electric motor and other components. The majority of the heat is created in the electric motor so the fan is placed close to it.

Pressure sensor

The pressure sensor is used to measure the pressure in the cylinder and send a digital signal to the gauge. In the case of a mechanical sensor, the analogue needle of the gauge is moved by a set of springs and levers. The pressure sensor may also be used to control the opening and closing of valves as the piston is cycling.

Power switch

The switch can be a toggle, button or trigger that completes the electrical circuit and facilitates power for the inflator by turning on the electric motor. It consists of an on / off switch.

Electric power source

The electricity is provided via a 12-volt socket that connects to the car’s cigarette lighter or it may hook up to the car battery. In the case of a wireless tire inflator, the power source is a battery that needs to be recharged.

The most common type of tire inflator uses a 12-volt power source.

Air pressure hose

This is the hose that connects the tire inflator to the tire valve stem. The thin tube carries compressed air from the tire inflator to the tire and has a connecting socket or screw to fasten itself to the valve. The tube is made from rubber and covered in fabric lining to make it flexible yet durable.

The tip of the hose can have several adapters to inflate not just tires, but even soccer balls, or anything else that needs inflating.

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How to use a portable air pump for car tyres?

Every car tire has a recommended tire pressure that is required for optimum performance, stable control and long life of the tread. The value can be obtained from the service manual or there is sometimes an information placard on the driver’s side door sill that provides the tire pressure values.

Ensure the tires are cold meaning you have not driven the car in the last three hours and it has been parked in a shaded area. Use a tire pressure gauge to check the current tire pressure and compare it with the desired value. Some portable air pumps come with a built-in tire pressure gauge. Now you know how much inflation is needed.

First, connect the electrical socket to your car’s 12-volt outlet and allow the tire pressure inflator to power up by switching it on. Set the desired pressure value on the device.

Once the tire inflator has been set up, focus your attention on the tire. Take off the valve stem caps and keep them in a safe place. Connect the inflator’s air pressure tube to the tire’s valve stem. If you hear a hissing noise, it means air is escaping from the tire. Replace the hose properly until you know it has been appropriately secured.

The tire inflator should display the current tire pressure if it has a built-in gauge. It will then automatically start filling compressed air into the tire until the pre-set value is reached. As the tire inflator works, you may find that the device heats up. This is expected as the electric motor dissipates heat while building air pressure. Most tire inflators come with a built-in fan for cooling purposes.

If the tire is punctured, the desired pressure will not be reached quickly. Disconnect the hose and replace the tire or use a tire repair kit.

When the desired pressure has been reached, disconnect the hose and replace the valve stem cap. You should be ready to drive off now. Some cars come with tyre pressure monitoring systems which display the tire pressure on the instrument cluster. You can use this to monitor the tire pressure and check for any discrepancies.

Otherwise, you can manually check the tire pressure with a gauge to make sure the pressure is ok.

Portable tire inflators are the perfect tool to carry around in your car. They keep the tire pressure at the right level in order to provide for good fuel efficiency and safe driving. Tire inflators can be bought online at car accessory stores for around Rs.3000. There is a wide range of models to choose from and the price is affordable considering these devices can be a life safer out on the open road.

Even if you have a tire inflator in your car, ensure that there is also a spare tire and tire repair kit. You never know when an emergency may occur.

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A tire inflator is a type of air compressor that is portable and compact enough to carry in the boot of your car. They are powered by batteries or from the 12-volt socket in your car. Portable tire inflators convert electrical energy into pressurised air and can quickly fill up your tires if you happen to be low on tire pressure.

It is important to maintain the tire pressure for reasons of safety and fuel economy. Tires at the right pressure also last longer and undergo even wear. A properly inflated tire will induce confidence in the driver by gripping the road surface during acceleration, cornering and braking. It also reduces the likely hood of a tire blowout while driving. Here you can also read the Tip and Tricks for Preventing a Car Tire Blowout.

If you enjoyed reading this article about how to use portable tire inflator, you may also be interested in How To Change A Flat Tire [A Detailed Guide] or How To Use Tire Inflator and visit Carorbis Blog for more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Will the portable tire inflator get hot while using it?

Ans. It is normal for the tire inflator to heat up while working. The internal cylinder which creates the necessary pressure will heat up when inflating a tire. It will not harm you in any way, however, keep children away from the device.

Q2. Why does the battery indicator go down while inflating but show normal afterwards?

Ans. When the tire inflator is working, it draws power to energize the internal cylinder that is used to create pressure. This will sometimes indicate a low power setting on the battery display. Once inflation is complete, the battery indicator will show the correct level of power. It is not a malfunction of the portable tire inflator.

Q3. What is the maximum PSI rating for a portable tire inflator?

Ans. The maximum PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch) rating of a tire inflator depends on different models. Most tire inflators can go up to 150 PSI and pressure values can be pre-set before inflating the tire. Most portable tire inflators are not suitable for filling up very large tires and super heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses. An industrial-type tire inflator should be used for large vehicles.

Q4. Does a lot of air escape from the tire when disconnecting the nozzle?

Ans. Once inflation is complete, you have to pull the nozzle out of the tire valve stem. Some tire inflators have a screw mechanism to fasten the air nozzle to the tire valve stem. It is normal for a small amount of air to escape at this point. If you hear a continuous hissing sound from the valve, it means that air is leaking and the valve should be closed immediately.

Q5. How long can you run a portable tire inflator?

Ans. Tire inflators can usually run for about 10 minutes before they start to heat up due to heat dissipation from the electric motor. If it is taking too long to fill up your car tire, switch the tire inflator off and allow it to cool down before using it again. There is usually a cooling fan inside the tire inflator but it is best not to allow the device to overheat.

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