Choosing A Great 12V Pump Made Easy

We’ve all been there, a soft or flat tyre just at the moment you really need to get moving. An electric car tyre inflator, also known as a portable air compressor, is a mini pump solution that takes up very little space in your car boot, and can be called upon quickly and easily to get you back on the road in a matter of a few minutes. Better still, they’re far more affordable than most people expect, and can be delivered to your home as soon as tomorrow if you choose to buy from Amazon, meaning that you don’t even need to head out to the shops.

While they’re not going to solve a puncture, they are very useful items to carry around – and save you money too over the long run as well as give you a vastly more convenient solution to adjusting air pressure wheel by wheel. If you’ve found yourself returning to the UK and picked up your car to find a soft tyre, you may need to pay up to £1 per minute at petrol stations – typically even supermarkets can cost 20p. Over the life of your chosen pump (which can often be longer than the average person keeps each vehicle), it’s easy to see how those savings can add up to more than the cost of buying the compressor itself.

Here’s some of the most popular inflators, in case you don’t know where to start.

Best Portable Air Compressors 2020

One of the easiest ways to choose a great car pump is to look at Amazon’s bestsellers. There are, however a number of brands that almost always feature in that list, so lets have a look at the best they have to offer in 2020.

CompressorFeatures
Ring RAC635 Preset Digital Tyre Inflator, Air Compressor Tyre Pump, 3 Min Tyre Inflation, LED Light, Carry Case, Valve Adaptors, 12 V small image


Ring RAC635

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now 3% Off RRP)
  • Pressure readings in PSI, Bar & KPA
  • In car 12V power adaptor
  • 3.5 metre power cable
  • 70cm air line cable
  • Auto stop when pressure reached
  • 3 nozzles included
  • Easy to use backlit digital display
  • Multiple light modes (torch, warning, SOS)
  • Storage/carry case included
  • Read more

AA RCP - B31A 12V Digital Tyre Inflator with Adapters, Packaging May Vary small image


AA RPC-B31A

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now 3% Off RRP)
  • Pressure readings in PSI, Bar & KPA
  • In car 12V power adaptor
  • 2.8 metre power cable
  • 55cm air line cable
  • Auto stop when pressure reached
  • 2 nozzles included (airbed/paddling pool & ball inflation)
  • Easy to use digital display
  • Multiple light modes (torch, warning, SOS)
  • Air hose & cable storage space in unit
  • Read more
AmazonBasics Compact Portable Air Compressor with LED Light, DC 12V, 150 PSI small image


AmazonBasics

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now In Stock)
  • Pressure readings in PSI
  • In car 12V power adaptor
  • 3 metre power cable
  • 60cm air line cable
  • Auto stop when pressure reached
  • Ball needle & inflatable adaptors
  • Torch on & flash modes
  • Case included
  • Read more
Michelin High Power Rapid Tyre Inflator 12266 small image


Michelin 12266

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now 6% Off RRP)
  • Pressure readings in PSI, KPA & Bar
  • In car 12V power adaptor
  • 3 metre power cable
  • 60cm air hose
  • Auto stop when pressure reached
  • 2 nozzles included (inflatable & football needle)
  • Easy to use digital display
  • Typical 1 min inflation (top up) time per wheel
  • 3-4 min inflation time from flat
  • Read more
SKEY Digital Tyre Inflator, Car Tyre Pump, 12V 150 PSI Tire air Pump with LED Light for Cars/Motorcycle/Bicycle Tires and Other Inflatables,Auto Shut Off with LCD Digital Display. (Black) small image


SKEY Digital Tyre Inflator

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now In Stock)
  • Pressure readings in PSI, Bar & KPA
  • In car 12V power adaptor
  • 3 metre power cable
  • 55cm air line cable
  • Auto stop when pressure reached
  • Max pressure 150 PSI
  • 3 nozzles & spare fuse included
  • Easy to use bright digital display
  • Light source for night use
  • Read more

Choosing Your Best Tyre Inflator

The best model UK drivers choose will vary – in other words, what’s perfect for one person may not be for another. That’s why we’ve taken three to tell you about and listed them below in order, with our favourite first.

Ring RAC635 Review

Ring RAC635 Preset Digital Tyre Inflator, Air Compressor Tyre Pump, 3 Min Tyre Inflation, LED Light, Carry Case, Valve Adaptors, 12 V large image

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now 3% Off RRP)

By far our favourite inflator, the Ring RAC635 ticks all the boxes for keeping your tyres pumped up on the go. Ring are very popular, due to their reliability and competitive pricing. It’s not hard to see the value, comparing regularly shovelling change into the air machines at the petrol station, it won’t take long for this to pay for itself.

The simple intuitive design means that ease of use shines through with this compressor, we think that the smart and simple interface to control its use makes the Ring a winner. The easy to read LCD display is backlit to make it very clear in low light and even dark night use, exactly what you’d want from what should be considered a safety device. Wherever you are when you discover you need to put some air into your tyres, the RAC635 will be there to help.

Powered by an adaptor that fits into your vehicle’s 12V power outlet (also known as the cigarette lighter socket), the 3.5 metre (350cm/11.5 feet) cable is suitable to reach all four wheels of even the largest family vehicle. If you’re a lorry driver it’s not going to be up to the job, but for virtually everyone else, this is plenty long enough.

The air line is also a good length, giving you up to 70cm separation between the casing of the compressor unit to reach the valve. That should mean that for most valves, your wheels can be in any position and the connection can be made with the unit sitting on the ground.

Setting the desired pressure is simple, press the yellow button to select the measurement type (PSI, BAR or KPA) then twist to increase or decrease the pressure setting. It’s then as simple as pressing the power button and you’ll hear it jump into life. The display will track the pressure in the tyre all the way up to the level you set as the air compressor motor does its thing.

Finally, the yellow dial under the power button is used to control the light, with settings for always on white (torch), flashing white (attract attention) and flashing red (SOS).

All in all this is an excellent choice of inflator to carry around at all times and takes up very little space in its smart supplied case in your car boot.

See more from Ring including the RAC635 review here, or check out the current Amazon price:

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now 3% Off RRP)

AA RPC-B31A

AA RCP - B31A 12V Digital Tyre Inflator with Adapters, Packaging May Vary large image

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now 3% Off RRP)

While Ring might be new to you as a brand, the AA almost certainly won’t be. Famed for their roadside patrol vehicles and mission to assist drivers in all areas of motoring, they’ve developed a range of tyre inflators to travel with your car in the boot.

This one, the AA RPC B31A tyre pump is their most impressive in our view, giving a lot of bang for your buck whilst also coming from a trusted brand like the AA. If you prefer to buy from a well known name, this compressor should appeal to you as it ticks a lot of boxes for a reasonable price.

You’ll obviously get the ability to check pressures and pump up your tyres with an auto shut off function, as well as a decent torch for use at night. Read more about the RPC B31A or see more models from the AA here. Alternatively, you can check the current price on Amazon here:

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now 3% Off RRP)

AmazonBasics

AmazonBasics Compact Portable Air Compressor with LED Light, DC 12V, 150 PSI large image

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now In Stock)

Amazon don’t tend to mess about when they create products, and when they hit the market they tend to either undercut everyone else or just do the job better. In this case it’s the former, offering a no frills style basic tyre inflator at a great price.

You won’t get all of the extra features like USB charging ports on the Michelin high end models, but you won’t pay the price tag either. If you’re looking for a simple tyre inflator that you can rely on when you need to check your car over in a hurry, then Amazon have you covered. You can read a bit more on the AmazonBasics tyre inflator, or check to price on, err, Amazon by clicking the button…

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now In Stock)

Michelin 12266

Michelin High Power Rapid Tyre Inflator 12266 large image

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now 6% Off RRP)

As we alluded to a moment ago, Michelin are the kings of the all singing, all dancing tyre inflator. To be clear, it doesn’t actually sing or dance, but it has got features we haven’t seen on any other inflators, namely a 12V socket to power other devices in the inflator itself and a USB charging socket for plugging in a phone or other device.

Whether those extra features would ever be considered essential, it’s hard to say, but if you’re the sort of person that likes their tech and likes to have the best, this is probably going to appeal. It’s also one for people who like to use known and trusted brands. If you buy tyres from Michelin, you’ll probably like this too. It’ll cost you a little more, but it’s offering more too.

Naturally it does everything you’d expect from a pump, giving pressure readings in PSI, BAR and KPA, as well as providing lighting if you’re unlucky enough to have a tyre problem at night.

You can check out more from Michelin, along with the full details in the Michelin 12266 review, or see the price here:

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now 6% Off RRP)

SKEY Digital Tyre Inflator Review

SKEY Digital Tyre Inflator, Car Tyre Pump, 12V 150 PSI Tire air Pump with LED Light for Cars/Motorcycle/Bicycle Tires and Other Inflatables,Auto Shut Off with LCD Digital Display. (Black) large image

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now In Stock)

SKEY aren’t a particularly well known brand, which made it all the more surprising when we saw how good this model is. It’s not impressed us as much as the Ring above, but it seems some people prefer the slightly more striking design and casing with this one. In our opinion, this isn’t enough to make it better than our number one option, but if you’re the sort of person that places a lot of emphasis on how things look perhaps you disagree!

As you might have guessed, all of these compressors do the same core task – they pump up your tyres! Increasingly, they’ve all added similar features too, so there’s not a great deal to separate them. The big plus point for the SKEY is it tends to be a little cheaper than the Ring, so if money is tight then it’s worth considering.

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now In Stock)

What Is A Compressor?

In this context, it’s an electronic pump for your vehicle that we’re talking about in our tyre compressor reviews. Typically, they’re powered by a 12V adaptor, meaning that you can use them anywhere you like, or more importantly, need them. Some people don’t realise you plug them into the car itself – while there are exceptions, the vast majority aren’t mains driven at 240V (volts) or battery powered. Having access to pumps on the move might save you from an hour or two at the roadside waiting for a recovery truck to assist – time you could be spending completing your journey!

Why You Need An Electric Pump

The obvious reason to buy a portable inflator is to increase the pressure in your tyres when they go soft. It’s something that just happens, and there’s no motorist that’s ever going to escape the need to make sure theirs are pumped up and as solid as necessary.

Tyre pressure plate inside the driver's door of a Ford Focus

Tyre pressure plate inside the driver’s door of a Ford Focus

Your car handbook will give you the information you need to know, namely the pressure required in each wheel, normally measured in PSI or BAR. It’s common that any given car will have different pressures listed so it’s important to recognise why.

Modern cars often also have a plate inside the driver or passenger door showing the recommended pressures too, as shown in the image. You may need to look at the tyre itself too to work out the pressure for the size of wheel that you’ve got.

Firstly, your front tyre pressure may well need to be different to the rear wheels. That’s a reflection of both the weight they support and the forces that act upon them under normal driving conditions. The obvious reason for this is the engine is heavy and in most cars lives under the bonnet at the front of the car – often meaning the car is ‘front heavy’.

It’s also common to see that your vehicle needs higher pressures with a full load than when it is near empty (ie driver only).

Having a tyre inflator handy will allow you to check these pressures wherever you are and whenever you need to. For many drivers, that will be when the car warns you, as all new cars are now required to be manufactured with tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) as standard. It’s a good idea to regularly check pressures anyway, but this is a helpful fall-back if you’re not someone who tends to remember these things.

How Accurate Are Tyre Inflators?

I’ve often seen posts on internet forums being critical of the pressure readings given by these devices, and to be fair, they may have a point that they’re not the sort of things that will give 100% accurate readings every time.

However, that negative type of comment misses the point of why these devices are important. Far too few motorists check their tyres, relying on the annual MOT check to highlight any problems. Granted, a good testing centre will check these things carefully, but we’re talking about a year between checks which is far from ideal. I check my tyres at least monthly.

Every time you go over a bump, speed hump, hit a pot hole or mount the kerb however gently you lose a little bit more pressure, and even normal driving will result in pressure loss eventually!

Whether tyre pressure checks by these pumps are 100% accurate really isn’t the point – driving cars that are safe and roadworthy is what you really should be focused on!

What’s more, if you suddenly find your pressure warnings going off, often with a light on the dashboard and a warning buzzer, it’s good to know that you can pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so, take some readings from the built in pressure gauge, inflate the offending tyre and be back on your way. What’s more, if it happens again a few miles down the road, you’ll know you need to take the vehicle for additional help and diagnostics.

Brands

Let’s introduce you to the main brands you need to know about next, if you’re wanting to research a little more rather than look straight at the top recommendations above.

Ring

There’s no better place to start than Ring, who offer our favourite option, the RAC635. Far from being a one trick pony, they also offer a range of other inflators too, catering to all budgets and also requirements.

Ring RAC820 12V Fast Flow Tyre Inflator, Preset Function, Adaptor Set and Storage Case small image
For example, they’re also offering the RAC820 as a much more heavy duty solution suited for larger vehicles such as vans and 4×4 SUVs. Here’s the link if that’s of interest:

 

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now In Stock)

Michelin

MICHELIN High Power Tyre Inflator Pump Electric Air Compressor 12V Display 12265 small image
As probably one of the most well known motoring names in the world, Michelin tyre inflators are effective solutions if you’re happy to pay a little more and are the sort of person that likes to pay for a well known brand.

They’ve got similar solutions to our top recommendation by Ring, in a little more expensive, and there are also variations like the Michelin high power pump:

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now In Stock)

 

Oasser

Oasser Tyre Inflator Air Compressor Car Tyre Pump Electric Portable with Digital LCD Rechargeable Li-ion 12V P2 small image
Oasser are one of the less well known brands in the world of tyre inflators, but have managed to create some low priced solutions that are good quality and popular. Of particular note are their cordless options, removing the need to be tethered to the 12V socket in your car, thanks to the rechargeable battery.

You can read our write ups on the Oasser pumps here.

Vonhaus

VonHaus 12v Car Tyre Inflator with Digital Pressure Gauge - Cordless Handheld Air Compressor Pump, Max 125 PSI Includes LCD Display, LED Light, Narrow Pin Attachments & Car Adapter large image

Vonhaus are better known as the manufacturer of trade tools like chop saws, but they also have brought out a car pump too. What’s more it’s also a cordless model, so you won’t need to plug it in during use (of course there’s a cord in the form of the air hose!).

We’re not convinced that the cordless feature is worth paying extra for, unless your vehicle doesn’t have a working 12V outlet. If you want a look though, here’s the link:

Check Prices On Amazon
(Now In Stock)

Where To Buy Electric Pumps

As you’ll have noticed, Amazon are our preferred place to buy, but they’re by no means the only source of tyre pumps. We recommend Amazon because they’re so easy to deal with, deliver quickly, offer competitive pricing and have a simple returns process if things go wrong.

On the other hand, we know there are people out there that have their own reasons for wanting to shop elsewhere, or perhaps you really need to buy an inflator today.

Let’s have a look at the alternatives in more detail.

Halfords

A couple of decades ago, Halfords were the go to place for all things motoring. Unlike some of the big brands that have fallen by the wayside in the last five or ten years, Halfords have embraced the online revolution.

Like most high street stores, they have much higher overheads than the online retailers, so typically you’ll pay more at Halfords than at Amazon, but if you need a solution quickly, they’re a good bet.

Screwfix

Screwfix are under the same company umbrella as B&Q, but tend to supply more trade clients than consumers. That doesn’t mean you can’t walk into a Screwfix outlet and buy though, in fact it’s often cheaper to buy things here than at B&Q if they both stock them!

Like Halfords though, they’ve not managed to make a habit of matching Amazon pricing, so the chances are you’ll turn to a Screwfix tyre inflator if time is of the essence.

Argos

Less of an obvious choice (until you think about it) to buy car accessories is Argos. The kings of the high street catalogue have revamped themselves for the internet age meaning that you can often reserve the one you want in advance online, and pick it up later in store. That’s a great advantage when you need a compressor fast and don’t want to arrive to find it’s out of stock.

Aldi

Less of a reliable option stock wise is Aldi – if you shop there regularly though they are worth checking out. Price is their forte, so you may well get a bargain if you fall lucky. It’s probably not somewhere you want to travel to trying your luck though, as they’re a ‘they’ve got what they’ve got’ kind of outlet.

Lidl

As with Aldi, Lidl fall into the discount supermarket category and offer some great bargains from time to time. Again though, stock is far from guaranteed!

B&M

Favourite among bargain hunters is the serial discount store B&M. In fact, the same could also apply to stores like Poundland, Wilko and Home Bargains too, so rather than keep repeating ourselves let’s just say to have a look if you’re passing. You’re highly unlikely to get something like a tyre inflator worth buying for a quid, but even pound shops like Poundland have started selling more expensive (if that’s the right word) items at steep discounts recently.