We like to think that, as car enthusiasts, you know about the care and maintenance of your car. But there are people who claim to be music fans but mostly listen to pop, so perhaps this isn't necessarily the case.
Along with jump starters, a tyre inflator is the most important piece of car-related equipment you should have because tyres, in case you forgot, are the vital piece of contact between your car and the road and therefore ought to be maintained.
Why do you need a tyre inflator?
A tyre having enough tread (minimum 1.6mm) is one important thing, but the correct tyre pressure is another. Tyres lose air over time in the same way they lose tread, except the difference is that replacing the air in a tyre is much simpler and cheaper than replacing the tread.
Under-inflated tyres increase the resistance between the tyre and the road. Go figure, that increases fuel consumption (or battery charge if you own an EV). It also causes uneven wear on tyre tread, and have detrimental effects on handling and braking.
Digital vs analogue
Other than the substitution of an LCD screen for an analogue one, there are some differences between the two types of tyre inflator.
The digital models usually bear extra features. An important one is auto-shutoff, which automatically kills the injection of air once the tyre reaches a pre-set pressure. It's important to note that some analogue models have this function too, but it's less common.
Some digital tyre inflators also take on the role of doubling up as a power bank, just like some portable jump starters do.
Apart from that, the digital and analogue tyre inflators are pretty similar, though because of the extra features, digital tyres usually carry a higher price tag than their analogue counterparts.
If the extra features offered by a digital tyre inflator appeal to you, see our recommendations below. We suggest you steer well clear of models from unfathomable or unheard of brands and stick to those that are from established, reputable manufacturers because they are made properly.
If, on the other hand, you want a simple, reliable tyre inflator without bells and whistles, we suggest the affordable and honest RAC610 from Ring Automotive.
The best digital tyre inflators
Ring Automotive RTC6000
The RTC6000 serves as two things at once: a tyre inflator and a power bank. As such, itu2019s cordless and battery-powered rather than the usual setup of requiring a 12V cable and socket for power. The battery-powered nature of the RTC6000 makes it a bit bigger and heavier than some 12V tyre inflators, but it still weighs less than two kilograms. To recharge the RTC6000, you get a mains charger and a 12V cable u2013 your choice. The inclusion of latex gloves is a little suspicious, though. Time to...snaps glove...check your tyres.
There’s lots of power here – with 180 Watts of power it can fully inflate a 13-inch tyre from 0 to 35psi in two minutes. Another reason we like this tyre inflator is because of its build quality, which provides a significant ROI on its own. You can use this inflator for any job too because it comes with 10 adaptors, plus four spare valve caps.
|• Cordless||• A bit pricey|
|• Well made||• More compact options available|
|• Also a power bank|
|• Many adaptors|
Worx WX092 18V Tyre Inflator
Best compact digital tyre inflator
Worx produces power tools and garden tools aimed at domestic use and light trade use with warranties to reflect that. Like other power tool brands such as Ryobi and Bosch, Worx produces a big range of tools powered by its own 18V batteries. Being part of the Worx 18V PowerShare family this sub-one kilo inflator has plenty of punch and still features the auto-shutoff function.
The performance of the WX092 is hard to fault, but you do need to invest in the Worx PowerShare infrastructure if you want to use it, which can be expensive. Also, it doesn’t double as a power bank, but Worx does make a USB adaptor that turns its batteries into a power bank of sorts. We have done an in-depth review of this inflator, which you can read about here.
|• Cordless||• Not a power bank|
|• Powerful for size||• Only two adaptors included|
|• Auto shutoff|
Michelin Programmable Superfast 4X4/SUV Digital Tyre Inflator
Best digital tyre inflator for large wheels
Where the Ring RTC6000 is a versatile, multi-purpose model, this larger unit is more focused on re-inflating those bigger tyres seen on 4X4s, campervans, and the like. Itu2019s a corded 12V model, so it needs to be plugged in to use. It'll inflate a big 13-inch tyre from flat in less than two minutes.
The digital screen is accurate and easy to read, even in low light. And of course there is the auto-shutoff function. Because it’s got lot of power, the Michelin's tyre inflator doesn’t have to work too hard and so you can expect a long life from this unit. Though intended for larger vehicle tyres, the Superfast still comes with three adaptors for other jobs.
|• Ideal for large tyres||• Relatively bulky|
|• Powerful||• Could do with a handle|
|• Auto shutoff|
|• Well made|
Best multi-purpose model
If youu2019re looking for a jack of all trades, consider this. Itu2019ll inflate tyres, jump start car engines (up to 2.5-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel), power 12V devices, and recharge devices with USB or 12V plugs. The trade-off for being an all-in-one is that itu2019s relatively chunky, but itu2019ll happily fit in the boot of a car.
The build quality is top-notch, as one would expect from Hyundai Power Equipment. However, it doesn’t feature an auto-shutoff function, so you can’t just preset it and wait when re-inflating a tyre.
|• Highly versatile||• Bulky|
|• Powerful||• No auto-shutoff|
|• 12V and USB sockets|
|• Well made|
AA Digital Tyre Inflator
Best budget option
The AA Digital Tyre inflator is smaller and lighter than the cordless Ring RTC6000, largely because this is a 12V inflator without a battery. While it does without the bells and whistles of the RTC6000, you wonu2019t find a better digital tyre inflator at this price. This tyre inflator bears the two crucial features of a budget tyre inflator: dependable build quality and an auto-shutoff function.
There are even a couple of bonus features such as an LED light that can flash SOS should an emergency require it. It comes with two adaptors.
|• Great value||• Not that powerful|
|• Well made||• Only two adaptors included|
|• Auto shutoff|
Ryobi R18MI-0 Multi Inflator (Tool Only)
Best for Ryobi owners
Ryobiu2019s 18V ONE+ system is so popular with UK DIYers that itu2019d be handy if there was a good digital tyre inflator to cater for them. And there is. Even with a battery fitted, this weighs less than two kilograms. Despite the lightness, the Ryobi inflator feels chunky and solid.
Like the Ring RTC6000, it’s meant as a versatile model, and therefore comes with all the adaptors you need for inflating most things. However, where the RTC6000 doubles as a power bank, the Ryobi inflator can instead deflate as well – a unique feature here. Though, when inflating, it does have the auto-shutoff function. It also comes with an enviable three-year warranty.
|• Inflate and deflate||• Pricey|
|• Cordless||• Uses Ryobi batteries only|
|• 3-year warranty|
|• Many nozzles|