Cordless tire inflators are differentiated from air compressors usually by the absence of an external tank (air is compressed in a small internal air cylinder instead of in an external tank), lower pressure, and small size. They operate on rechargeable 12-, 18-, or 20-volt lithium-ion batteries, 12-volt adapters for automobile DC power connectors. And 110/120-VAC adapters for recharging from standard household current, although for few, the adapter needs to be purchased separately.
Buyer’s Guide: What to look for in buying a cordless inflator
Among this class of compact inflators, features common to all models are a backlit digital display. Automatic shutoff at a user-set maximum pressure, three power sources. 12 VDC vehicle electronic power (but check the fuse rating before using that option), and battery for cordless operation.
All inflators in this survey use a proprietary interchangeable battery/charger power pack across their power tool line-up. Owners of those tools within a manufacturer’s line-up might be advised to stick with the same brand and continue with that same battery/charger system.
Some OEM or compatible aftermarket batteries are available in a range of amp-hours. For example; the Craftsman and 20-volt lithium-ion battery and its shared-platform replacements come in 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 amp-hours.
(Amp-hour (Ah) measures battery capacity, or, in more practical terms, the current a battery can deliver over a period of time.) Other variables factoring into the time between charges are as load, ambient temperature, battery age, and the number of recharge cycles; therefore, the amp-hours listed are nominal values.
Duty cycle quantifies the length of operational time over total time, including required cool-down period. Again, variables, including load and ambient temperature, factor into a duty cycle.
Two- and three-year warranties against defects in materials and workmanship predominate. Most offer a 90-day money-back guarantee, one proffers a 90-day exchange policy. These rankings are based on a combination of value, sturdiness, and functionality. All boast backlit digital LED display, automatic shutoff at a preset pressure, and Schrader chuck and blower nozzle attachments.
All operate on three sources of power: battery, 12-VDC automobile port, and 110/120-VAC household current. Some models include the 110/120-VAC adapter cable; for others, it is an option.
Based upon sturdiness and reliability, rapid inflation, range of available battery capacity, warranty, and durability of accessories, the Craftsman CMCE520B 4K Multi-Purpose 20-V Portable Inflator takes the top slot, but any of the top three would deliver for tire inflation. The Milwaukee, optimized for tire inflation, is not the best choice for pool toys and other large inflatables. The DeWalt was downrated because the 110/120-VAC power cord is a $30 option, and the front-mounted LED display. The Ryobi’s inflation performance was below that of its peers in terms of pressure accuracy and time-to-inflate.
I’m a bicyclist with no need to inflate pool toys, but rapid inflation is important.
The Milwaukee M12 2475-20, optimized for tire inflation, is probably your best bet for quick high-pressure inflation.
5 Best Dual-Function Tire Inflators
|Product name||Battery||Max PSI||Dimensions ( h x w x d)||High-pressure and high-volume||Warranty||Price|
|Craftsman CMCE520B 4K Multi||V20 20V MAX* battery 20-V 4 Ah||160 PSI||6.99 x 11.73 x 6.02||Both||3-year limited warranty; 90-day satisfaction guarantee||More Details|
|Milwaukee M12||M18 Red lithium XC 18V,1.5Ah or 3.0 Ah; also available compatible Milwaukee batteries with 6.0 and 12.0 Ah.||120 PSI||7.5 x 6.5 x 7.5 x 3.83||Optimized for high pressure||3-year tool warranty, 1 year of free repair, 90-day money back.3-year battery warranty, plus Milwaukee’s 5-year warranty covering manufacturer’s defect or workmanship||More Details|
|Black+Decker BDINF20C 20V MAX||12 VDC, 120 VAC and 20V MAX battery options.|
Battery1.5 Ah; customer complaints that 2.5 Ah has short battery life
|160 PSI||8.75 x 11.5 x 7.5||Both||2-year limited warranty and 30-day money-back guarantee||More Details|
|DeWalt DCC020IB||20-V, batteries in 4-, 5-, and 12-Ah capacities (sold separately); 120 VAC cord sold separately||160 PSI||5.2 x 11.9 x 9.8||Both||3-year limited warranty, 1-year free service, 90-day money-back guarantee||More Details|
|Ryobi 731 18-volt dual-function||18-V, 1.3 Ah (sold separately)||150 psi||7.9 x 10.6 x 6.7||Both||3-year warranty||More Details|
1. Craftsman CMCE520B 4K Multi-Purpose 20-V Portable Inflator
The Craftsman entry in the field operates off their proprietary beefy 20-V, 4.0 Ah battery compatible with other Craftsman cordless tools but not included with this unit. This machine boasts a 160 PSI maximum range, and the backlit display converts between PSI, bar, and kPa. Accessories, hoses, power cords, and accessories all store neatly on either end.
Schrader chuck’s thumb lever makes for quick attachment. Included is the 120 VAC cord for connection to household current. You get a 3-year warranty.
- Battery compatible with other Craftsman 20V cordless tools
- 120 PSI max, in 0.5 PSI increments
- 3-year warranty, 90-day satisfaction guarantee
- 160 PSI max
- Three scales in backlit digital display
- Battery available in a range of amp-hours
- Battery not included but is compatible with other Craftsman cordless tools
2.Milwaukee M12 2475-20 Compact Inflator
The Milwaukee M12 is optimized for tires; it lacks a high-volume functionality for inflatables but gives faster tire inflation than dual-function models. At lower pressures, the internal gauge may struggle to accurately sense pressure, and may require a restart, but still filled a flat basketball in less than 25 seconds. This quite compact unit relies on the Milwaukee M18 Redlithium XC 18V battery, available in 1.5Ah or 3.0 Ah; Milwaukee also sells compatible 6.0 and 12.0 Ah batteries.
It allows preset of desired pressure in 0.5 PSI increments. Accessory adapters are all brass and attach to a 26-inch-long inflation hose with a screw-on connector. Maximum inflation pressure is 120 PSI settable in 0.5-PSI increments. A flat basketball was aired up in less than 25 seconds. Although the Milwaukee includes a tube attachment for inflatables, the tube is of low quality.
Rubber feet and backlit LED display, as is standard in this corner of the inflator market. You get a 3-year warranty, plus Milwaukee’s 5-year warranty covering manufacturer’s defect or workmanship.
- Redlithium battery capacity options 1.5, 3.0, 6.0, and 12.0 Ah (batteries not included in base package).
- 120 PSI max, in 0.5 PSI increments
- One of the fastest at tire inflation
- Includes carry bag
- 3-year warranty
- Optimized for high-pressure mode
- Internal regulator might cut out before full inflation; restart necessary
Black+Decker throws its hat into the ring with the BDINF20C 20V MAX, which also works with the Craftsman bolt-on battery, as well as with Black+Decker 20-volt batteries, available in 1.5, 2.0, 2.5 Ah capacities from either B+D or other aftermarket sellers. A thumb-lever chuck affords quick attachment/detachment. The tire inflator intentionally tops out a bit above selected value to allow a margin for slight pressure loss when removing the chuck.
A read-the-manual functionality: activate battery power mode by switching to a battery and pressing the PSI setting button. rocker switch chooses between high- and low-pressure. No light on this one. The Black+Decker is backed by a 2-year limited warranty and 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Thumb-lever for quick connect/disconnect
- Battery capacity (Ah) options 1.5, 2.0 2.5 Ah.
- Battery is compatible with B+D cordless tools.
- Accurate automatic shutoff
- 1.5 Ah battery has short duty cycle
- No light.
- 2-year limited warranty; 30-day money-back guarantee
4. DeWalt DCC020IB 20V Max Inflator
DeWalt arrives on the inflator scene with a threaded brass chuck. On this dual-function model, high-pressure mode operates with automatic shut-off. DeWalt alone uses a dial to scroll to the desired pressure, rather than repeatedly pressing a button; however, a display mounted on the top, rather than the front, of the machine would be more convenient to read.
High-pressure or high-volume mode (15.2 standard cubic feet per second) is selected by a button on the front of the machine. The 20-volt battery is not included in this basic configuration. The battery is interchangeable with other DeWalt cordless tools. If the threaded chuck is inconvenient, the snap-on Slime 20332 inflator hose recommended.
The included high-pressure inflator hose has a threaded Schrader connector chuck, and, as expected, onboard accessory storage. Maximum pressure is 160 PSI, dialed in in 0.1 PSI increments. Run time is 10 minutes due to heat build-up, after which a 20-minute rest is needed. The high-volume hose is sturdier than those of some competitors, although the connection to the inflator tends to pop off. Rubber feet provide vibration dampening and keep the unit from walking, an advantage when using the set-and-forget pressure auto-stop feature when filling tires. DeWalt offers a 3-year limited warranty, one year of free service, and a 90-day money-back guarantee.
- Dial to desired pressure more convenient that pressing a button
- High-volume hose sturdier than most
- 20-V battery high amp-hour options provide long runtime between charges.
- 3-year warranty, 1 year of free service, 90-day money-back guarantee
- 120-VAC power cord sold separately
- Display located on side, rather than top, inconvenient to read.
5.Ryobi 731 18-volt dual-function inflator/deflator
Ryobi’s entries into the cordless tire inflator sector with a dual-function unit able to handle high-pressure demands for tire inflation (up to a maximum 150 psi top-off), as well as high-volume uses, such as pool toys. Ryobi sells the base model without its proprietary 18-volt, 1.5-amp-hour ONE+ lithium-ion battery and charger, but the ONE+ battery will work across the entire Ryobi family of cordless products.
In a test, inflation of a flat basketball took 53 seconds and two restarts due to internal regular miscalibration, and even then the ball felt underinflated. Ball inflation nozzle and Presta adapter (despite 150 PSI capability) are flimsy. A low-pressure hose and nozzle for filling large-volume pool toys, and all cords and hoses are stowed on board in a side compartment. Small digital display and no safety LED light on this one.
- 150 PSI max pressure
- ONE+ battery system compatible with other Ryobi cordless tools
- 3-year warranty, 90-day exchange (not money-back)
- Flimsy plastic Presta valve
- Slow tire inflation time.
- No LED lights
- 1.5 Ah short duty cycle
- Small digital display
- internal gauge sometimes requires restarts
Features of Tire Inflators
This review focuses on cordless inflators other than the hand-held pistol-grip format. All but one of these compact inflators have a vague boombox appearance and sit on the ground on vibration-dampening feet. Almost all come with a Schrader valve chuck for vehicle and most bicycle tires; a Presta fitting for high-pressure road bike tires; a needle for inflating soccer balls, volleyballs, and basketballs; and a blower nozzle for filling large-volume items, such as beach toys. All boast onboard attachment, hose, and cord storage, backlit LCD display, and auto-shutoff at a pre-set pressure, and a digital display.
Every model boasts an auto-off function allowing pre-setting of desired pressure. And speaking of pressure, backlit easy-to-read digital LCD displays predominate, with pressure given in psi (pounds per square inch), although some go the extra mile and convert to bar, kilopascals (kPa), and kilograms per cubic meter (kg/cm3). Almost all tire inflators sport an LED light. All with high-volume functionality deflate, as well as inflated. Some cordless air compressors include the lithium-ion battery in the base price. Others sell the battery pack and charger separately from the base tool.
But this battery/charger combination is a one-stop power source that integrates with drills, impact wrenches, and other cordless tools in that manufacturer’s line-up. Those who already own air-powered tools from a brand using the same interchangeable battery probably would want to stick with the same manufacturer to use the same battery/charger system across that line of power tools.
Which inflator is the best for outdoor life? particularly bicycling, organized sports, and lake camping?
Any of the five picks below would be a welcome convenience for the active outdoors-loving family. If the adults favor road-bicycle with high-pressure tires, aim for those able to higher pressure at rapid inflation rates. The high-volume function would be a great time-saver for airing up air mattresses and beach toys.