Tire Inflator Comparison!
A few months back we spent a week comparing tire deflators from 11 different companies on how long they took to deflate tires when you were ready to hit the trails. We were sitting around talking about what we should try next and decided that now since we all had flat tires we should try out some different ways to air them all back up.
We set out again contacting different companies to see how many different compressors and CO2 tanks we could get to compare and came up with a pretty good list:
Powertank CO2 Tank
Much like the deflator test we did a while back, we timed each one on how fast they could inflate a single 33-12.50X15 tire from 10-35 PSI. While we tested each unit we watched for other things also, such as heat, noise, how much vibration the compressor had (does it stay put or vibrate and "walk" around?) and anything else that we may see.
Then we tested each one for a more real world number. When you are done with a day of off-roading, you get to the end of the trail and like everyone else stop to air up. This test starts with the testor in the drivers seat and the inflator in the back seat of the test vehicle. The clock is started and the testor exits the vehicle, gets the inflator, airs up all 4 tires, puts the inflator back into the back seat and the timer stops when the driver is back in the drivers seat and ready to go again. This gives you a more real world time that you may experience in real life, not just a laboratory number that you probably dont care much about.
Because we filled up all 4 tires in the second test, this also gives us some idea about how hot the compressor may get and if there are any heat issues that we should know about.
Below are the contestants for our test. You can click on any one of them and find out more information about it:
The first part of the test was very straight forward: how fast could each unit fill a single tire from 10-35PSI. Here are the numbers that we found for air compressors:
Some of the compressors had a tendancy to vibrate and "walk" around during the test. The compressors that did this were the MassAir, Truckair, Torando I, Tornado II, and Tornado III. The Superflow, ARB Portable and Viair stayed put and did not move during testing.
The Oasis compressor was much quieter that any of us expected. We were able to comfortably talk over it while it was ruinning. Because the Oasis had such high flow, I decided to try to fill a tire with the Powertank Monster Chuck instead of the normal tire chuck to see if it could make use of the increased flow, and it did shave 10 seconds off the fill time. It should be noted that the Oasis is in a league of its own. With a weight of 45 lbs and dimensions of 17”L x 7”W x I0”H, it outperforms all the other electric compressors that we tested, as well it should. It also came with a much higher price tag, coming in at $849 for the basic compressor.
We had two ARB compressors in the test. One was the hard mount that is on my truck for my air locker, the second is the ARB Portable unit. They are basically both the same compressors, with the portable being mounted in a case without the manifold for locker, pressure switch and such. The portable unit was slightly faster, this may be because it is new and my hard mount is a few years old.
We put the CO2 systems into their own category, and this is what we came up with for them:
While we were doing the single tire tests, we noticed that a few of the manufacturers made claims on their boxes about how fast their compressors would fill a tire of a given size. I wasted no time in re-creating their test to see if I could get a similar test result, and here is what I found:
Viair said on the side of their box that their unit would fill a 33x12.50 tire from 0-30PSI in 4 minutes. I found that when I timed their compressor that the tire hit 30PSI at exactly 4 minutes! Way to go Viair! They also claimed on their box that it would inflate the same size tire from 15-30PSI in 2 minutes. Here I found a slight descrepancy: at 2 minutes, my tire was actaully at 32PSI, so their compressor did better than they said! Again, way to go Viair!
The Truck Air also had times printed on the box. They said that they could fill a 33x12.50 tire from 0-32PSI in 9:30. I ran the test and got a time of 14:41, quite a bit more than they advertised. I tried again, this time with no weight on the tire, and got a time of 13:50, still not good enough to meet the claims that they made on the box. I was very dissapointed that I could not come close to their claims, this represented almost a 50% difference.
With the single tire test out of the way, we went on to the 4 tire real-world time test. As we said above, this was to give more of a real world idea of how long it would take to air up at the end of the day:
And for the CO2 systems:
The next thing we wanted to try was to inflate a tire from my RV from nothing to the sidewall presure: 80PSI. This would mean a longer run at much higher pressures. I wanted to see if any of the compressors maybe would just not be able to inflate the tire, if they would have heat issues or if they would not be able to re-start under pressure at 80PSI if stopped. We also used a infared thermometer to see how hot they were getting. Here is what we found:
All of the compressors were able to fill the tire to 80PSI. Here are a few observations from the test:
The ARB hard mount compressor actaully turned itself off at 80PSI. The pressure switch for the small "tank" that is part of the air locker solenoid unit kicked in and shut it off. This was not a problem with the portable unit as it does not have the pressure switch. During the test, we did not experience any problem with the ARB compressor stopping due to over heating, but I know from personal experience that it will. At the end of a day of off-roading, with the compressor under the hood and already pre-heated I cannot fill all 4 tires before the thermal switch shuts it down. It always happens on the 4th tire when I am close to finished, but it always happens.
For the Tornado series of compressors, the Tornado II and III seemed to have a much easier time with the higher pressures. While the Tornado I did fill the tire, it slowed down quite a bit and sounded like it was straining.
While all of the compressors got hot, the MassAir even though enclosed completely in a plastic case still showed a high temperature after the test of 167°. It was also the only compressor that started smelling like it was burning up towards the end!
For the CO2 systems, filling the single tire was a breeze. Heat was not an option, as they get cold as they work so we just have times for them.
The final part of the comparison is price. The compressors we tested came in over a wide price range so this is something that each person will have to take into consideration, finding a balancing of performance, options and value that will fit into your budget.
During the test, we noticed that the Superflow MV50 and the Viair were VERY similar. You can see them side by side HERE.
Any one of these systems will fill tires when needed. We will leave the decision of what features and aspects are important to you, the reader.
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