Tire Deflator Comparison: Everything you wanted to know about airing down and more!!
When you go off-roading, one of the first and most basic things you can do to improve traction is to air your tires down. Airing your tires down gives them a larger footprint. The contact patch between the tire and the surface of the road becomes larger giving better traction. This is a cheap and easy thing to do to improve your vehicles off-road capabilities and performance. Depending on what type of terrain you are driving on, you may want to air down to different pressures. If you are just going to be driving on a dirt road, airing down a little can add to the comfort of your ride. If you are driving on sand or snow however, you way want to air way down so as to give your vehicle the most flotation possible and keep on top of the snow and sand so you can keep moving.
Because of all the different possibilities of vehicles, vehicle weights, tire size's and types, we are not going to talk about what pressure is best for what type of terrain here. Instead, we are going to talk about how you can get your tires to that lower pressure in the fastest and easiest way so you can get on with enjoying your day on the trail!
We went out on the internet and went looking for different tire deflation devices. I actually didn't know there were so many out there! We found 10 different companies / devices:
Powertank: Monster Deflators
Time to air down one tire
Two of the companies tire deflators required installation. Those two were Powertank's Monster Valve, and Klune-V's Rapid Air Down (RAD) Valve. You can click on the two links below to see how the installations went:
Once the installations were finished, it was time to get down to business. Below you can see thumbnails for all the different deflators that we tested. You can click on any of the pictures and see more on that particular deflator and how they work:
After we went about installing the valves that needed to be installed (Powertank Monster Valves and Klune-V Rapid Air Down (RAD) Valves), I then took a small tire and used it to set up the automatic deflators that you preset to a specific pressure (Tire Buddy II, Staun and Trailhead Oasis). By using a small tire instead of a larger one, the setup procedure goes much more quickly as you can reach the desired pressure faster. (Less air in the smaller tire to begin with) Once this was done I was ready to start running some tests!
The first step was to figure out how long it took each deflator to go from 34psi to 10psi, which was our target pressure for this test. For this portion of the test, each deflator would be ranked based on this time.
The winner of the individual tire test was the Powertank Monster Deflator. When you open them up, the air really comes out! While this is great for speed, make sure that you don't miss your target pressure as it would be really easy to do if you are not paying attention!
After testing time to deflate one tire, we ran another test. We started with all 4 tires at 34psi, and then timed how long it took to deflate all 4 tires. We did this as some deflators only do one tire at a time, others do all 4 at once. The deflator that is the fastest at deflating one tire may not be the fastest when you have to deflate all 4 tires.
For this test, we wanted to get a real world feel for how long it would take from the time you stop to start the air down process to the time you are back on the road again enjoying your day. We started out with the tester in the drivers seat and the deflator on the passenger seat and then simulated "stopping to air down". The clock started when the tester picked up the deflator and ended when the tester was back in the seat ready to hit the trail again.
*This is where the Oasis Trailhead Deflators do what no other deflators can: They allow you to drive with them in place! You stop, install them, then start driving again. After a few miles, you can stop and remove them and you are all set. Oasis does not recommend leaving them on for more than 60 minutes, and they also say to keep the speed under 20 miles per hour. We also timed them the same as the others which gave them a time of 5:51, still giving them the title of the fastest non-installed tire deflator.
During the 4 tire test I also discovered a number of other interesting things about the deflators:
Tire Buddy II: When I used the Tire Buddy II to air down just one tire it took 9:24, but when we did all 4 tires the time increased greatly because we only had one. If we had 2 or even 4, the time would of course decrease. It turns out that as the deflator got colder, it also worked faster.
Sun Performance Quick Air Deflators and Teraflex Deflators: These two deflators look almost identical. When we got done with the testing, again we found that although they looked almost identical, they did not take the same time to air down your tires. Look at the times for the two tests in the charts above and you find that the Sun Performance Quick Air Deflators beat the Teraflex Deflators by quite a bit of time. For pictures of the two deflators side by side click HERE. Can you tell which one is which?
4-Crawler Off-Road 4 Air: My first impression when looking at the 4 Air was that it was going to be difficult to set up and put away. I was very pleased to find that this was not the case. It set up quickly and was equally quick to store. I was also quite impressed at how fast it was able to inflate all the tires, with a time of 2:57 compared to 7:39 if I just used my air hose and chuck.
Oasis Trail Head Deflators: These are great since you can just stop, put them onto the tires and then get right back on the trail. They were very light and came in a neat little bag with a lot of extras such as the laminated instructions and information card, low pressure tire gauge, and deflation slide scale.
Equal Air: First off I was surprised at how small the box was, and that after I used it I was actually able to get it all to fit back in and close the lid. At 9.5 inches wide by 6.5 inches deep by 3 inches thick, it was small enough to be able to tuck it behind the seat. The valve for deflating the tires was quite similar to the Currie EZ-Deflator, simple, quick and easy to use. The included low pressure gauge was easy to read and a great bonus.
Staun Tire Deflators: These were the most sensitive of the group. Very small adjustments could be made to get them just where you wanted them. They were also the only automatic deflators that had a manual start, a great feature when you want to fine tune things.
Currie EZ-Deflator: At first glance, it looks complicated but once you do it once it is really easy and very fast. I liked the build in gauge so you could deflate to any pressure depending on what you wanted to do, you were not preset to a specific pressure. This was one that most people wanted to pick up and play with.
Powertank Monster Deflators: I must admit I was a little nervous about these guys. I was going to have to drill holes in my rims and tap the deflators into them. There was no going back! Once I got the first set installed, I was very happy to find that the install was way easier than I thought it was going to be. During the test when I wanted to let air out of the tires they were right there ready to go, and boy do they go! With a single tire time of 27 seconds, your biggest worry is not letting too much air out! With the included Monster Chuck, putting the air back in has never been faster! Using the Monster Chuck and my compressor, I was able to air one tire from 10psi to 34 psi in just 31 seconds. I was able to do all 4 tires in just 2:13, compared to 7:39 with the standard tire chuck.
Klune-V Rapid Air Down (RAD) Valves: These deflators were quite versatile. You can install them on rims by replacing your existing valve stems, or drill new holes and run them as a second set of valve stems. They were quite fast at letting the air out, and the air cap acts as a safer lock to make sure that the air release cannot come loose when you don't want it to.
I had a lot of people ask me how a normal valve core tool compared to all the others when I first put this comparison up, so I ran a time test on a simple valve core tool also:
The result was actually a surprise even to me. With the Currie EZ-Deflator, it was a little faster, even though they both remove the cores. The only thing I can attribute to this is that with the currie you don't have to play with the valve core, it is all contained. You also don't have to play with the air gauge since it is built in.
The biggest thing that the comparison to the simple valve core tool shows is that while most people think that it is the fastest way to air down your tires, the Powertank Monster valves did all 4 tires within 5 seconds of the time it took to let the air out of one with the valve core tool. The reason is simple, the air can only escape so fast through the small hole in the valve stem, while the much larger passage of the Monster Valve gives the air the means to escape much faster.
So now after all this here are the final results of the test. These are purely based on the speed of each deflators, and do not take into consideration price or personal preference. It seemed that of the people that looked at the deflators each had a personal favorite for various reasons, and I am sure that as you read this you have probably already picked your favorite based on your needs.
Fastest overall tire deflator: Powertank Monster Valves
Fastest installed tire deflator: Powertank Monster Valves
Fastest non-installed tire deflator: Oasis Trail Head Deflators
Fastest automatic tire deflator: Oasis Trail Head Deflators
I have also put together this price list for each of the deflators, and a link to the site where I got each price from.
Sun Performance Quick Air Deflator: $ 12.99
Teraflex Deflators: I could not find a price, but believe they range around $10-$15.
Oasis Trailhead Deflators: $ 59.95
Staun Deflators: $ 66.00
Currie EZ Deflator: $ 29.95
Powertank Monster Valves: $ 129.95
Klune-V Rapid Air Down (RAD) Valves: Says call for pricing
Tire Buddy II: Price ranges from $17.99 for one to $63.99 for 4.
Equal Air: $79.95
4 Crawler Off-Road 4 Air: Price depends on options, as we tested it the price was $ 178.00 for all the upgrades. You can get basically the same setup for about $103 with the standard hose, fittings and chucks.
So now, with all my tires flat I had to air back up. This is where a few of the products had additional features. The Powertank Monster Valves and the 4 Crawler Off-Road 4 Air both can also help you when you want to air back up. Because of this, I did a mini air-up test.
I first inflated my tires with my normal air compressor and tire chuck and gauge. To go from 10psi - 34psi in all 4 tires took 7:39.
The 4 Air has two ports on the mainfold. The one with the yellow arrow allows you to check pressure and is also a standard schrader valve. You could attach another deflator such as a Staun or Oasis Trailhead on there if you wanted to.
The other end with the red arrow allows you to drain air off quickly or attach it to a air compressor for rapid inflation.
When I used the 4 Air to go from 10psi to 34psi in all 4 tires it took only 2:57.
The Powertank Monster Valves come with a Monster Chuck. This can also be attached to a air hose and to your compressor.
They also have a tire gauge that you attach to the normal valve stem.
When I used the Monster Chuck to fill the tires from 10psi to 34psi in all 4 tires it took only 2:13!
As you air up, you can watch the pressure in real time on the gauge attached to the normal valve stem so you know exactly when to stop. No going back and forth filling and checking!
With a higher pressure source such as a Powertank, I imagine that time would go down even more! Now that's fast!!
So now hopefully we have taken some of the mystery out of tire deflators for you, and now it is up to you to decide which of these products are best suited for your needs.
Sitting in my driveway using all of them I will say that there is no "junk" here, they are all good quality products. They all had qualities that I liked and disliked, and I would be hard pressed to choose just one!
For all pictures of all of the deflators, click HERE.
So now what are we going to do with all these deflators? I thought about that for a while and came to this conclusion: we will keep them and continue the test on a long term basis. After 6 months or so when the summer wheeling season is winding down I will give the first update with info that we have learned over time. We can then see if any develop problems, or just keep going strong.
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