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The Ultimate Portable Air Compressor Guide – Best of 2020
My ChoicePD1000, Puma 12 Volt
Premium PickViair 380c
Best ValueMakita MAC2400
The internet is awash with cheap and cheerful portable air compressor products. Many are unreliable, or made from poor materials. A quick read through of the reviews on portable air compressors under $100 will reveal that they can be a problem.
In the ultimate air compressors guide, we have hand-selected some of the worlds leading air compressor products. We spent hours pouring over reviews and feedback. In fact, we spent so long doing this, we noticed something very intriguing! More on this later…
It seems that the best thing you can do when shopping for a quality air compressor, portable or otherwise, is start with the right budget!
With that in mind, here is the motocrossadvice.com guide to the best portable air compressor products for motorcycle riders in 2020.
Best Portable Air Compressors
1. Viair 380c Portable Air Compressor
Viair portable air compressors are a typical example of a quality tool. Made from industrial strength materials and with a wide range of accessories, you can be sure that it will adapt to kinds of jobs. Of course, the main job we are interested in is pumping up tyres.
The Viair is very capable in this department, which is no doubt why you can find the compressor at many off road events. The Viaire range is vast. Their portable air compressors and tire inflators (except automatic models) are shipped complete with an open-ended (free-flowing) air delivery hose.
All models from 300P up to 450P-Automatic are equipped with a quick-connect coupling, a pressure gauge, an air filter element with replaceable air filtration media, a vibration-resistant sand tray, and a deluxe carry bag for simple stowage and increased portability.
- Thermal Overload Protector – An automatic cut out system to prevent the motor overheating
- Check Valve – Prevents air leakage when the compressor is used with optional tank
- Vibration Isolators – Eliminates vibration and associated issues caused by the motor
- Mounting Hardware – Allows you to affix the compressor to a workbench, or van interior
- Steel Braided Leader Hose – Connects your compressor to accessories (Tyre inflation, air gun etc.)
- Air Line for Remote Mount Air Filter – Brings your air filter into the circuit
- Remote Mount Air Filter Assembly – All the bits required to secure your air filter to a van floor or bench
- Replacement Air Filter Elements x 2
- Permanent Magnetic Motor
- Duty Cycle: 100% @ 100 PSI (55% @ 200 PSI)
- Max. Working Pressure: 200 PSI
- Maximum Air Tank Size: 5.0 Gallon (None supplied)
- Maximum 12V Amp Draw: 23 Amps
- Ingress Protection Rating: IP67 (High waterproof rating)
- Dimensions: 9″L x 4″W x 6.75″H
- Net Weight: 8.75 lbs.
Required Additional Components
2. PD1006, Puma 12 Volt Portable Air Compressor
Puma are another heavier duty manufacturer. The PD1006F has a number of features which make it ideal for off road sports including a heavy duty filter for dustier environments. This will substantially increase the life expectancy of your pump. This is worth noting, as many of the negative reviews on portable air compressors under $100 are that they do not last in challenging environments.
This is a great compressor for emergency air on board a truck, boat, off-road utility vehicle, air suspension, air horns, and many other applications.
3.4 CFM at 40 PSI / 3 CFM at 90 PSI.
- Height 16.5″ (41.91 cm)
- Length 17.5″ (44.45 cm)
- Width 8″ (20.32 cm)
- Weight 31lbs (14.06 kg)
- 1 HP PEAK
- 3/4 HP RUNNING -150 PSI MAX / 135 PSI
- WORKING PRESSURE -1.5 GALLON TANK
- 12 VOLT DC
- AMP DRAW: 30 AMPS
3. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Portable Air Compressor
This is one of the only compressors that we reviewed that has had negative feedback. But, fear not! All of the negative feedback bar one was because people had bought the wrong product. It seems that with such a wide range of uses, there is an assumption that all compressors are good for all jobs. That is not the case. If you just want your compressor to pump up dirt bike tires, this beast is more than adequate.
It will also cope with your van tyres, car tyres, dinghies etc. If you want it to double up as an industrial workshop compressor, or for use operating air operated power tools on site, this one is not for you. Tyres are a fine though, no one has had any issues with using it as a tyre pressure pump.
Makita is a known brand. They have become synonymous with quality power tools for many years. There were a couple of references to paint chipping easily, but this doesn’t seem to be an ongoing issue. In fact this pump has an impressive range of features:
The Makita has a cast iron pump with Big Bore cylinder and piston. It is engineered to provide faster recovery time when it has had extensive use. A portable compressor will need to cool, and the air tank replenish efficiently if it is over used.
With a 4.2 gallon, twin-stacked tank, this will pose no issue for tyre inflation. It is capable of sustaining an operating pressure of 130 PSI, and delivers 40 PSI (4.8 CFM) and 90 PSI (4.2 CFM).
The pump is oil-lubricated for cooler running temperatures and reduced wear. It has a built-in thermal overload for additional motor protection.
- Compressor Oil (181122-A)
- 1/4″ Universal Quick Coupler (447013-E)
- Roll-cage construction to withstand extreme environments.
- Large automotive style industrial air filter for increased air intake and greater efficiency.
- Durable cast iron cylinder reduces wear and increases pump life
- Oil sight glass for fast, easy and efficient maintenance
- Pump runs at lower RPM (1,730) resulting in lower noise (79dB) and greater reliability
4. DEWALT DCC020IB 20V Max Inflater
This very capable Air Inflater can run on 12v, or battery. As well as being totally suitable for off-road sports and tyre inflation, it can even cope on a small building site or for advanced DIY applications. With off-road tire pressures being much lower pressure it will cope with the demands easily and in a reasonable time. (Around 4 minutes for 35PSI)
It features a high-pressure rubber hose for durability. The threaded chuck and included onboard accessories make it easy to inflate items from tires to footballs. Setting desired air pressure is simple with the digital gauge, and the auto-shut-off provides accurate inflation.
The high-volume hose allows fast inflation of mattresses and other inflatables with the push of a button. Move the hose to the deflation port for quick and easy take down.
An onboard LED light helps to provide illumination in dark spaces. Heavy-duty rubber feet help reduce vibration while in use.
This is not the most powerful or efficient in our list. You may want to go bigger on budget if you require super fast inflation times, or if you are going to be running a compressor for long periods outside of the bike use.
This is one of the lightest we feature in the ultimate air compressors guide and so if weight is high on your list, this could be the right compressor for you.
**Battery, charger, and AC power adapter sold separately.
- 12V DC CORD LENGTH 13.75 FT
- HIGH PRESSURE OPERATING RANGE 3 – 160 PSI
- HIGH PRESSURE SCFM 0.5 (TESTED PER ISO1217)
- HIGH VOLUME SCFM 15.2
- HOSE LENGTH (HIGH PRESSURE) 29 IN
- POWER SUPPLY 20V MAX*, 12V DC, 110V AC**
- (**AC POWER ADAPTER SOLD SEPARATELY)
- HEIGHT 9.8” (24.89 cm)
- LENGTH 5.2” (13.21 cm)
- WIDTH 11.9” (13,23 cm)
- WEIGHT 5.5 lbs (2,5KG)
Portable Air Compressor includes
- DCC020I Air Inflater
- 12V DC Power Cord
- High-Pressure Tapered Nozzle
- Presta Valve Adapter
- Inflator Needle
5. Stanley 6L Portable air compressor
You will have heard of Stanley. It is another name that has become associated with quality tools. The “Stanley Knife” is an example where the product becomes part of our cultural reference. (Think Hoover).
If you spend your working week on a building site, don’t buy this thinking it will double up. It won’t. The Stanley is designed for short burst use, in portable situations. In that sense it is perfect for the Motocross rider, ATV rider, or other leisure user. It is a little noisier than our other offerings, but that shouldn’t be a problem for dirt bike riders.
Do be aware, your van will need to have AC power, as this compressor is not a 12v compatible tool. Most serious motocross vans have an inverter and mains system fitted. You will need to plug in here. Do not consider if 12V is your only power source.
The Stanley Portable is light, low budget and easy to use. Check your supplier to see if they ship with the air hoses and gauges. If not, you will need the Stanley Kit 6
- 6 L tank
- Power 1,5 HP / 1100 W
- Max pressure – 8 bar / 116
- Lightweight and easy to carry
6. Kensun AC/DC portable tyre inflater
This is a dedicated tyre inflater. Well, that is to say it goof or inflating tyres, balls, bicycle tyres, and small dinghies. Portability is the key here. This is a great solution for those looking for a a stand alone, easy to carry solution. You will need an extra adaptor for Schrader valves. It is purely for the emergency inflation of products. There is no secondary use for this Compressor at all.
- Comes with convenient carry case for storage and transportation.
- Two power cords supplied (120V) or car (12V).
- light weight and portable.
- Includes a set of adapter nozzles to inflate tyres, balls and other inflatables
- Requires an extra part for Schrader valves.
Buyers Guide for portable air compressor products
It has been a long week at work. You wake up to perfect riding conditions and the dirt bike is waiting in the garage. You spring out of bed, excited as a kid on Christmas morning. After a hurried breakfast you grab your kit and head for the garage. It’s time to ride!
As you wheel the bike out your spider senses tell you something is wrong. The sound of the tyres and handling of the bike is all off. A quick glance down confirms your worst fears. Staring back at you with its menacing grin, the weekend riders curse. A flat tyre. Whatever bike you ride, competition motocross, ATV, Enduro or dirt bike, a flat tyre is never welcome.
When riding time is limited, a flat tyre needs fixing fast!
The internet is awash with cheap, battery operated, 12v and mains powered portable air compressors. The $30 price tag is extremely tempting. But are they up to the Job?
Is there such a thing as a reliable cheap air compressor?
Before you go clicking add to basket and spending your hard earned cash, there are a few things you might like to consider. Firstly, ask any tradesman or professional mechanic and they will agree; A quality tool, made of hard wearing and reliable components is not cheap.
Can a $30 motorised air compressor really be of a high enough quality to use for adventure sports? Will it stand up to the rigours of being thrown in and out of the van for race meetings? More to the point, will the reliability be there when you catch a flat 40 miles from the nearest garage on your favourite dirt track?
The answer that we instinctively know to be true is that a cheap compressor is unlikely to last too long. So how come other comparison sites offer them as suggestions for the motocross and off-road sport market place? Also, how do they have so many good 5* reviews…
I decided to dig a little bit deeper into the cheap portable air compressor market and read some of the reviews in more detail. It turns out there is a consistent problem when using cheap air compressors for adventure sports purposes. They break down – a lot!
There is always an exception to the rule. A cheap air compressor may be fine if you ride a few times a season and have one flat tyre every blue moon. If you ride demanding terrain, week in week out, you may find you are asking more of your tools. Cheap air compressors will be ideal for those pumping up the odd dinghy, air bed or mountain bike tyre. If you are a lap down at a competition ride, or wheel nuts deep in the tacky stuff, you will want to know your tyre pump is ready to go if you catch a flat!
As I said earlier, our research threw up some very interesting reading. Read on to learn a thing or two about online reviews. I hope this helps you in purchasing online in general.
Reviewing the reviews of cheap air compressors
A detailed read of the top ten cheap air compressors recommended by a number of comparison sites revealed the following details:
Many cheap portable air compressors had more than 10% 1* reviews.
The consistency of these one star reviews was astounding. Almost all of them said that the products had failed out of the box, or within the first hour of use. This was across a wide range of manufacturers so there is no common denominator except “cheap”. Often these had been replaced without question, but the worse culprits were repeat offenders.
The same air compressors had a lot of 3* or lower due to performance
The most common complaint we found was that the pump simply took too long to blow up a tyre. More than one customer quoted an inflation time of over 40 minutes at 60 psi. There were multiple instances from multiple manufacturers that reported over an hour to inflate a tyre! I don’t know about you, but that is simply not acceptable when there is riding to be done. This was just the inflation of the tyre. That did not include removing or replacing a wheel. For me this is a warning bell.
The very same air compressors had lots of 5* reviews
Confused? I was too. So I started reading lots of 5* reviews of cheap tyre pumps. A pattern started to emerge. It seems the people that are REALLY happy with their budget air compressor are split into three main camps. The first hardly ever use them and the compressor is just a peace of mind addition to the garage or car boot in case of an emergency. That’s fair enough.
The second group are those that use the air compressor to blow up lilo’s, small dinghies, kids bike tyres and for the odd DIY job. (Even some of these people appeared in the 1* it broke in an hour category). It is the final group that are the most interesting. These are the group of people that are clearly fictional reviews purchased en-mass to re-establish the credibility of a given product. Now this may shock you, but not all 5* reviews are the real deal. As this is important for any consumer to know, I have provided a little guide to spotting fake reviews.
Spotting A Fake 5* Air Compressor review
1. The review sounds wrong. When you start reading a lot of reviews as I do, you can immediately see one that has been paid for. They are often written by struggling writers. This means that the language and detail do not fit the product and circumstances. Overly elaborate details and ridiculous scenarios are a dead give away.
2. How many old ladies does it take to pump a tyre up? The old lady factor is common across a lot of dodgy 5* reviews. You would be astounded at the number of old ladies, (70 and over according to four I read about air compressors), who are so moved by the experience they decide to write a review. Who knew that the take up of e-commerce and the use of online reviews was becoming so popular among old ladies? I mean, you can always trust an old lady right? Oh. Wait a minute…
3. The passionate retort. This is my favourite. A product suffers with a persistent and known fault. All of a sudden there is a huge rush of people who feel compelled to write in and counteract that very problem with gushing reviews stating word for word that their particular “widget” didn’t show any signs of the problem. Really? Is that what real people do?
OK, A lot of 5* reviews are just that. Honest and reliable. But how can you build an honest picture when some retailers and manufacturers are employing fiction writers to support their products?
I suggest read all of the 3* and below reviews first. Build a picture of the common experiences people are having. Only then should you read the good stuff. 15 minutes of review reading and you will start to see the fake ones sticking out like a sore thumb.
When is a 1* review good?
Yes. A 1* review can be really good news.
If the majority of 1* reviews on the product you are researching are clearly because the person has bought the wrong product then you are fine to proceed. The single biggest issue with air compressors is that people have bought a small portable compressor to do an industrial job.
Some purchasers required constant run times. (12 hours in one case). So relax. As long as your favourite portable compressor doesn’t have multiple regular reviews identifying a known manufacturing fault, you can buy with confidence. All you need to do is get that tyre pumped up fast and jump back on your bike. Make sure it can do that job and don’t worry about bob the builder who is trying to put a house up with it.
One thing is for sure. In a two hour period of reading reviews of cheap air compressors and tyre pumps, under $50, I did not find a single positive review from a serious adventure sport enthusiast. I found literally hundreds that reported the products would not pump up a tyre. That is very significant information.
Top 10 safety tips when using a air compressor
- Check the manufacturers specifications on your tyre. An under or overinflated tyre can cause damage to you and your bikes performance.
- Always wear your safety goggles when inflating a tyre. Especially if the tyre is dirty. Compressed air can propel debris at a very fast speed.
- Do not blow compressed air into your hand, or any other exposed skin. A compressed air pump can cause air bubbles in your blood stream if it is blown into the skin. This is known as an embolism and it can be very serious, even fatal. Never use compressed air to clean dirt off your skin.
- Never inflate a tyre or object that is showing signs of deterioration, side wall damage or general splitting of the rubber compound. An exploding tyre can cause a lot of damage.
- Never inflate a tyre without a gauge fitted in the line. If the compressor you purchase requires an optional pressure gauge, buy it. Guessing can lead to explosion.
- Never inflate a tyre by holding the valve connector in place, for example if it is broken. Always replace a broken connector.
- Never jam a control valve open in an attempt to allow inflation without a person present.
- Never use the air compressor as a gun to fire debris or objects at another person. Flying debris can travel upwards of
- If you are concerned that a pipe has become blocked or deteriorated in any way, immediately stop using it and replace with a new one. Splitting pipes can whip, breaking bones or blinding eyes.
- Always make sure your air tank is regularly drained if you have one fitted. A tank with water in and can build up to a pressure beyond the capability of the material and explode.
If you are also looking for a best quality tools, then have a read on my fresh guide to the best dirt bike tools in the market.
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