A reader has sent in a letter asking us to do sort of a Big Test of portable emergency compressors. Here is the letter in full:
Dear Top Gear PH,
I carry emergency compressors in all my vehicles in case tire pressures get low while I’m in an unsecure location—like a parking lot at night. For me, a good compressor should be able to allow me to drive away to the closest gas station if necessary, or to a repair shop at a more convenient time.
Sadly, the compressors I’ve bought at hardware stores have been useless. Twenty minutes of furiously rattling away will only raise pressure by 2-3 psi, after which the device stops working until it cools down.
In this regard, may I suggest that you do a shoot-out to compare different emergency compressors, so we can see which ones work and which ones are only good for inflating balloons?
Thank you and more power.
Let me tell you that I profoundly share your concern about having the right equipment to maintain correct tire pressures. Especially these days, when there are cars sold that don’t even include a spare tire, having tire-repair equipment is an absolute necessity.
I have a couple of cars that don’t have spares, and like yourself, I’ve gone compressor-shopping. But I just haven’t found anything locally that satisfies me. I’ve gotten a couple of generic units because I haven’t come across any branded compressors here. And much like you’ve experienced, the generic compressors haven’t performed as well as expected. They would have been appropriately branded had they been called “asthmatic” compressors. And as much as I think that your idea to conduct a comparison test of emergency compressors is a good one, there just aren’t any good compressors in the local market worth the effort.
That said, I searched the internet, and lo and behold, I found something better—CO2 tire inflators. They’re a wonderful solution because they are compact, have no mechanical or electrical parts that wear out, are virtually indestructible, and reinflate your tire rapidly. Motorcycle riders have been using them for years. Using them to reinflate car tires would simply entail using more cartridges. These are available at reputable motorcycle shops.
If you can buy from abroad, there are CO2 tire inflators sold in larger containers for car owners. I bet you could even make one yourself using a large CO2 air bottle meant for air rifles and getting the appropriate tire-valve fitting attached. Airgun enthusiasts should know where these large bottles are available, but please exercise caution when building one yourself.
Hope this answers your question. Thanks for writing in, Gilly!