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How to Use an Air Compressor to Fill a Tire

Filling a Tire

Anyone can get a flat tire at any moment. Whether your child crashes their bike into the sidewalk, or your car runs over something sharp on the way to work, anything can happen.

If you have an air compressor in your arsenal, you can use it to fill your tire without getting late for your 10 o clock meeting. You just need the right technique:

What Type of Air Compressor Do You Need to Fill a Tire?

Apart from the basic functions of an air compressor, there are some additional features that vary based on whether you’re using a commercial or personal compressor.

Basic Function

Air compressors use a single motor to convert energy from the electrical to the kinetic form. Air is driven from the compressor to your tire through a system of pistons and cylinders working together. The motor of the air compressor ensures that air pressure remains constant as you work.

Number of Pistons on Your Compressor

Most manufacturers recommend either the one or two-stage (piston) compressor for home use. The two-stage compressor offers a continuous supply of air, but the one-stage compressor is better for smaller tasks.

Tank Size

Air compressors have different sized-tanks based on their usage. For filling tires, an air compressor with a small tank size is more than sufficient.

Power Source

There is also the additional factor of whether your air compressor is electric or gas-powered. An electric air compressor is preferred for home use since it doesn’t give off any fumes.

Investing in a Portable Air Compressor

Smaller air compressors for personal use generally offer 100-150 psi of air pressure. The portable ones can be stored in the trunk of your car, the back of the truck or inside your garage. This means that even if you’re stranded on a strange road, you can get your portable air compressor out and fill up your flat tire.

These portable compressors are well worth the investment since apart from filling up tires, they can also be used to spray paint your shed, power a nail gun and can even double as leaf-blowers.

Price Range

Air compressors for home use may cost anywhere between USD 10-1500. Just be ready to deal with the noise, fluctuations in air pressure and other ups and downs for an air compressor that costs as much as 4 Happy Meals.

Using an Air Compressor to Fill a Tire 

Using an air compressor to fill a tire isn’t hard, but if it’s not done right, it can damage the tire completely. Here are the key steps you need to follow to fix your flat tire:

Step 1: Check the Tire Pressure

Tire pressure varies from vehicle to vehicle. The average car tire requires around 32-35 psi whereas a large truck (or construction vehicle) tire will require up to 100psi. You can check the car manual to find out the psi value.

The value mentioned will be the maximum amount the tire can contain. Avoid filling the tire up entirely since this will make the tire too “bouncy” and the ride too uncomfortable.

A tire gauge can be used to obtain an estimate of how much air your tire needs. Too much air and your car won’t perform well. Too little and the tires will experience greater wear and tear and burn more fuel than normal. Research indicates that a slightly under-filled tire will increase a tire’s wear by around 5% and up fuel consumption by around 2%. These figures only go higher as your tire gets flatter, which is why it’s so important to fill your tire with the just the right amount of compressed air.

Always remember that the psi levels are checked when the tires are cold. This is because friction between the road and tires generates heat and can raise the value of air pressure. Wait for at least a few hours (or around half an hour if you’re on the road) before you check.

Step 2: Get Your Equipment Ready

Before you remove the cap off the tire valve, get your air compressor ready to avoid losing any more air. Plugin the compressor into a power outlet that can handle high voltage items. Switch the compressor on to start the motor. Attach the air hose to the compressor and you’re ready to go.

Step 3: Start Filling

Unscrew the stem cap off the top of the tire valve and insert the air hose to start filling. The amount of time this will take depends on how flat your tire is. Depending on the type of compressor you have, it may give you a digital reading of the psi level, or it may switch off automatically once the optimum level has been reached. Don’t leave the compressor unattended while it’s on.

Step 4: Finish Off

If you’ve accidentally added too much air, push down on the tire gauge which will release some of the air. Once you’re done, detach the hose and return the stem cap into place. Hearing a hissing sound when you remove the hose is completely normal. Let the compressor cool down completely before storing it.

Why Use an Air Compressor to Fill a Tire?

Tire inflators are specifically designed to fill flat tires, so what makes an air compressor a better option? Essentially, tire inflators are like mini air compressors except that they’re only used for tire inflation. They fit either into the car’s cigarette port or may run wirelessly through batteries. The only real advantage they offer over air compressors is the fact that they’re so compact.

Air compressors are more versatile and can be used to fill a tire or fix something around the house, or even for minor renovation jobs. The only factor is that some require a power outlet to operate which can be a bit of a problem, especially if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.

If you do decide to go with an air compressor, make sure to check its power range. Some of the smaller ones are not powerful enough to inflate truck (or construction vehicle) tires. Most standard portable air compressors are powered at 12 Volts which is sufficient for a car or small truck tire.

You’re All Set to Inflate Your Tires

A good quality, compact, air compressor is an investment. The air compressor can be used to fill tires, whether they’re on the car you drive around in every day or on a bike your child uses to get to school.

Rather than investing in a tire inflator, an air compressor can be used for a range of purposes, from powering a spray gun to repainting your car to using a nail gun for building a treehouse. Just make sure that you allow your multipurpose air compressor sufficient time to rest between using it to filling a tire and attaching it to a spray gun to paint your bedroom wall.


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