Best mini air compressors for car tyres 2019

We test the best 12V tyre compressors to inflate flats and keep your air pressures correct…

Correct tyre pressures are essential for your car to handle, brake and corner as it should. Pressures below those recommended mean poorer fuel economy and can cause uneven or illegal wear. So a 12V mini compressor is an investment rather than a cost, because it can save time and money while keeping you safer. 

With correct pressures, your car will handle, brake and corner as it should, while low pressures would mean poorer mpg, too. In addition, they can cause uneven or illegal wear, forcing you to replace your tyres sooner. So a fairly small investment in a mini compressor could quickly be repaid. Which is the puff daddy? We plugged in the best on the market to find out.

• Tyre reviews: best car tyres on sale

How we tested them

As with our test, we timed our compressors to see how long they took to inflate a 15-inch tyre from 20psi to 30psi, checking for gauge accuracy at the start and finish. 

Extra points were awarded for compressors with long hoses and power leads, extras such as adaptors and bags or cases, as well as practical features, such as clear displays. A preset shut-off option makes these devices so much easier to use. We also tested the compressors for noise, measuring the increase from ambient using an iPhone app, before factoring in prices from online sources.

Since carrying out the above test, cordless compressors have become a more enticing option, which is why we conducted a seperate mini test for such machines. The test was similar to that abive, in that we timed how long each took to add 10psi to a 15-inch tyre. Inflation and deflation times on a double airbed were also rated, and we measured noise in decibels (dB). Clear, accurate gauges, good instructions and long hoses won marks, as did extras like a light, adaptors and power sockets. Scroll the the bottom of the page for the results.

Verdict

It is a rare joint first place as both the Ring RAC635 and Ring RTC1000 both claim the top spot while the new entrant from Sakura was threateningly close behind, with the well-priced Wolf holding on to third place. 

  • =1. Ring 12v Preset Digital Air Compressor RAC 635
  • =1. Ring RTC1000 Premium Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator
  • 2. Sakura 12v Digital Air compressor SS5332
  • 3. Wolf Glovebox Genie 3 in 1 Digital Tyre Inflator
  • ReviewsRing 12v Preset Digital Air Compressor RAC 635

    Price: Around £32
    Rating: 5.0
    Time 20-30psi: 2mins 12secs 

    We could see no changes to this over the preset Ring RAC 635 that won our previous test. Only its HD sibling beat the 70mm hose length and the 3.5-metre power cable was the longest on test, able to reach all four wheels on all but the largest car. We liked the padded zip-up case and the large display, although at some angles it was tricky to make out. On the other hand, the noise increase was the highest, at 58dB. However, the time for the pumping test was excellent, equal third best. Despite a price rise, it keeps its crown, but only just. 

    Buy now from Amazon

    Ring RTC1000 Premium Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator

    Price: £47.06
    Rating: 5/5
    Time 20-30psi: 1min 50secs

    Ring’s latest 12V compressor mimics the good looks of its cordless sibling, not least with the large central display. This is backlit in blue with huge digits and an easy-to-use rotary control for setting the target inflation level in pounds per square inch (psi).

    Included in the package are three adaptors, latex gloves and four spare valve caps. We liked the 70cm-long hose, complete with a screw-on connector and a deflator valve, and the lengthy 3.5-metre power cable. This was fitted to a brilliant circular coil, complete with a flip-out handle, which made rewinding the lead easy. It was 1psi adrift over the two points, but the one minute 50 seconds it took to inflate from 20-30psi was searing. At 5dB less than some of its competitors, the Ring is noticeably one of the quietest devices. Being new, it’s still a bit pricey but is easily the best in all areas.

    Sakura 12v Digital Air Compressor SS5332

    Price: £25
    Rating: 4/5
    Time 20-30psi: 3mins 14secs

    We were pleased to find the Sakura had become £3 cheaper since our last test, although the specification is the same. While the cable length is good, at three metres, the 60cm hose is one of the shorter we’ve tried. Still, it’s a screw fitting and includes a useful deflator. For no obvious reason, the SS5332’s inflation time increased by over a minute. But it’s still accurate, just 0.5psi adrift over two measurements. Although it’s still good value, this came close to losing out to the Wolf below.

    Wolf Glovebox Genie 3 in 1 Digital Tyre Inflator

    Price: £21.95
    Rating: 4/5
    Time 20-30psi: 2mins 40secs

    The Wolf is similar in design to the above Sakura, featuring a reasonable 66cm hose, albeit without a deflator. The noise level was the same, at 51dB over ambient. Its cable reached all four tyres, but was the shortest in our test. It was just 1psi out and the inflation time was only one second different to last time, but the change in the Sakura’s form meant it gained ground here. Unlike other rivals, it boasts four scales, not three and, while the digital display was clear, it was the smallest here.

    Buy now from Amazon

    Halfords Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator

    Price: Around £39
    Rating: 4.0
    Time 20-30psi: 2mins 12secs 

    The Halfords Digital steps up a place from our last test thanks largely to cost; its own price has dropped by £8, while the Michelin’s has risen. The similarities with the Ring RAC635 were noticeable; both feature a large display, screw-on valve connector, preset function and three scales (psi, Bar, kpa) which were easy to scroll through. This was also equally noisy, although the 12V cable isn’t quite as long, at three metres, and there’s no deflator. But its accuracy was spot-on during our test and the pumping performance was impressive, and exactly the same as the Ring’s. 

    Buy now from Halfords

    Michelin 12266 High Power Rapid Tyre Inflator with DPS

    Price: £58
    Rating: 3.5
    Time 20-30psi: 2mins 18secs

    We really rate the superb build quality of this model and the piano black finish on the front was stylish. We liked the bright, white display and protective nylon bag, although the 63cm hose length was only reasonable and its storage was awkward. The pumping time was very good, and the controls were easy to use. Accuracy was good, being just 0.5psi adrift. Uniquely, it came with 12v and USB sockets, giving it more versatility. But we couldn’t find a lower price, which hammered its points score. 

    Buy now from Halfords

    Clarke 12v Tyre Inflator/Air Compressor CAC100

    Price: Around £28
    Rating: 3.0
    Time 20-30psi: 2mins 22secs 

    Another compressor suffering a slight price hike, we still liked its design and layout, which was simple but complete. The display was clear and the controls made it easy to select one of the three scales and adjust the preset limit. We liked the screw connector and end-mounted compartment for the 12v cable and three adaptors. Its performance was third worst on the day, though only 0.5psi off at the higher figure, while its sound level was third best. A reasonable machine, stuck in the middle ground. 

    Buy now from Amazon

    Michelin Hi-Power Tyre Inflator and Detachable Digital Gauge 12260 

    Price: £41
    Rating: 3.0
    Time 20-30psi: 2mins 32secs

    This model’s USP is the gauge’s digital display, which can be removed and used separately. It was accurate, although we thought it stingy not to provide the three LR44 batteries it needed. We liked the 12v cable storage compartment that also held four adaptors, while the 64cm hose wrapped around the base, but it was second slowest to 30psi. The price might make sense if you don’t already have a gauge, but it lost out here.

    Buy now from Amazon

    Heavy-Duty air compressorsRing RAC900

    Price: Around £75
    Rating: 4.0
    Time 20-30psi: 57secs

    This is a great little machine, particularly at this keen Amazon price. When it comes to pumping power, the Ring can pump the 19psi in a minute, although this model was connected directly to the battery as it drew too much current for the 12v socket.

    The analogue gauge at the end of the seven-metre-plus coiled airline is very accurate. There’s also an air release valve, and everything goes together via quality brass fittings. It comes with a storage bag with two compartments for the airline and compressor. But it lacks any sort of light and there’s no option to power it from a 12V socket, although the large crocodile clips make it easier to attach to a battery terminal. A cracking device and easily the quietest on test, ideal for harder work if you can afford it.

    Buy now from Amazon

    Sealey MAC03

    Price: £76.93 Rating: 3.0

    Do twin cylinders make a difference? There’s no doubt that they do, because the MAC03 is around twice as quick as smaller DIY models. It couldn’t quite match every competitor, but is more effective than a mini compressor.

    The Sealey is also versatile, as it comes with both crocodile clip and 12V socket connections, plus a lamp. The latter isn’t going to light the night sky, but it’s enough to help find a tyre valve in the dark. You get a power lead close to 3m and a screw connector at the end of the 65cm airline. There’s also an analogue gauge, which read a couple of psi high, plus a storage bag.  It falls behind its rival on the quality of its plastic accessories, plus we couldn’t get the coiled hose extension to seat properly.

    Best cordless mini car compressorsRyobi R18I-0 One+ 18V Inflator 

    Price: £53 (plus battery/charger)
    Rating: 5.0
    Inflation times (tyre/airbed): 2mins 12secs/3mins 21secs

    This device follows Ryobi’s clever One+ principle, where one battery fits multiple tools. The price is for the compressor only; it needs a charger and battery (from £65), which is a consideration. We used a 4Ah battery; impressively it was still full when we finished, and its tyre inflation time was as good as the best in our 12V compressor test. 

    Included is an inflator and a deflator; their operational times were almost identical. When used on our airbed, it was considerably quicker than its rivals. The R18I-0 doesn’t feature any extra sockets or a light, the preset reset to 10psi every time and we’d prefer a screw-on connector, but you can’t argue with the performance.

    Buy now from Amazon 

    Michelin 12267 Cordless Rechargeable Inflator 

    Price: £90
    Rating: 4.0
    Inflation times (tyre/airbed): 2m 7s/13m 45s

    You get two 12V cigar lighter (CLA) and two 1A USB sockets on the Michelin, but it’s hefty at 3.5kg. As with the Ryobi, it has three scales, three adaptors and a preset function. The motor was the quietest and added 10psi in one of the quickest times we’ve ever seen. But there is no deflator option and pumping up the airbed took almost 14 minutes, even though the battery still showed full. 

    Buy now from Amazon

    Halfords Rechargeable Multi-Purpose Inflator

    Price: Around £60
    Rating: 3.0
    Inflation times (tyre/airbed): 2m 38s/10m 4s

    This has a good price and spec, with four adaptors, CLA and USB sockets, as well as mains or 12V charging. We liked the logical layout, preset control and clear display. It was the lightest compressor here, at 1.8kg, but this hinted at weight saved with the motor, and slow, noisy performance proved this. After the three tests, it was down to 50 per cent battery life. 

    Buy now from Halfords

    Looking to keep a closer eye on your car‘s tyre pressures? We tested the best tyre pressure monitoring systems on sale… 

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