Basic, Better, Best – Tyre Inflators


By Dale Vinten

We’ve all felt the pressure (pun very much intended) of parking up next to those tyre inflators at the local garage to top up the air in our car tyres only to see a sudden influx of other people queuing up en-mass behind us to use the same machine. With nothing else to do they watch as we fumble with the valve caps and curse helplessly as the only 50 pence piece we managed to find in the depths of the centre console falls uselessly through the slot and out the bottom, again and again.

Thankfully there is a better way and you can avoid this particular debacle by picking up your very own portable tyre inflator. Take charge of your destiny with one of these simple devices and you’ll no longer have to endure the queues at those petrol station air compressors ever again. Small enough to be safely stowed away in your car they can be a lifesaver when you have a blowout, only to discover that you haven’t checked the pressure in your spare tyre for 3 years, for example. Ask us how we know…

Having the correct pressure in your tyres is incredibly important too and should be regularly checked. The right bar (or psi depending on your inclination) can make all the difference to how your car drives and handles, your fuel economy and your tyre wear. A few notches on the dial either way could potentially throw all of the above out of whack. If you’re unsure of what the correct tyre pressures should be for your specific vehicle then the information will be listed in the owner’s manual, if you have one. It could also be listed on a sticker inside the door jam. Failing that then anywhere between 30 and 36psi is a good ball park figure to work from but with so many different types of tyre and vehicle on the road today you might be better off looking at online forums or car clubs specific to your classic.

With all that said here are three options when it comes to pumping up your own tyres, from the cheap to the all encompassing.


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A simple track pump is perfectly adequate. Yes, they are designed mainly for bicycle tyres but they can be successfully used to inflate car tyres too, it just takes a while. Standard hand-held pumps are no good because it is impossible to get the required volume of air through and a track pump is much more efficient than a foot pump. This budget Vandrom pump will do the job. There are cheaper ones out there but they will generally not have a pressure gauge which is essential if you want to avoid the over/under inflation issues mentioned above.


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Stepping up a notch there is the RÖHR Airforce 12 air compressor. This is a much better and automated option as it plugs straight into your car’s standard 12V power outlet doing all of the hard work for you. It’s a sturdy thing too with a dual unit display, handy torch and multiple adapters. It’s also portable with an integrated handle as well as its own carry bag. Able to pump 35 litres per minute it’s no slouch either, making any inflation job a doddle.


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We are discounting workshop air compressors for this list as they are for another article and although they can be used to inflate tyres they are a bit overkill for our requirements here. Not only that but you lose the portability, and so with that in mind our pick for the best is this Reesibi digital inflator. Like the RÖHR it is equipped with a light, handle and carry case but it has the added benefits of a more accurate digital display in four different units of measurement and it can also be plugged into the mains at home as well as the 12V socket on your car making it a more versatile unit. Not only that but you can set the desired pressure and the compressor will automatically stop when it reaches that figure to avoid over-inflation.

Any of the these will do the job it just depends on your specific budget and wish list of requirements. Whatever the case, a decent pump is a handy bit of kit to have stashed in your classic and can make your life a whole lot easier. We’re off to the shops now to spend the change we’ve saved up since buying one on some new valve caps to replace the ones we left at the Tesco garage a while back.

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