I learned the value of a portable tire inflator at—of all places—my church. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was getting ready to head home after a long stretch of socializing with church friends.
As I was climbing into my car (no, not our sweet minivan for road trips; it was our smaller, knock-around-town vehicle), a man I know only by sight called out: “Hey, I think your tire may be low!”
Now, I have to admit that in spite of my affinity for road trips, I’m pretty bad about keeping an eye on tire pressure. This was not the first time someone else has had to tell me that my tires are low. So I instantly believed this guy.
He walked over and introduced himself as Peter. He told me he works as a delivery driver and is always looking at tires, wheels, windshields, wiper blades, and all the stuff under the hood. He can’t turn off that part of his brain. It would be like a dermatologist trying not to notice the rash on your neck.
Anyway, Peter quickly whipped out a tire pressure gauge and checked my left front tire. The recommended PSI inside my driver’s side door was 30. My tire was at 17. Oops.
“Just a second,” Peter said, and he jogged back to his van. He returned with a little box that had a tube coming out of it. It turned out to be a portable tire inflator.
Peter held out a cord and asked me to connect it to my car’s cigarette lighter jack. He then told me to start the car. That gave the portable tire inflator the power it needed to work. By that time, Peter had connected the tube to the nipple on my left front tire. The inflator began filling up my tire.
Within a couple minutes, my tire was at 30 PSI. Peter offered to check my other tires. How could I say no?
It turned out that my right front tire was also at 17 PSI, but my two rear tires were fine. Within a few minutes, I was good to go and had made a new friend.
I also learned a valuable lesson: never go anywhere without a portable tire inflator in the trunk. Yes, gas stations generally have a tire inflation station. But what if you’re miles from the nearest town and notice that one of your tires is low? Or what if you just don’t want to bother driving around a strange town looking for the nearest gas station? You’ll never be sorry you stuck this little box in your trunk or under the seat.
Now, if you’re shopping for a portable tire inflator, there are couple things to keep in mind. First of all, some models are designed to fill tires of a certain PSI. This sounds handy, but if you have more than one car or envision getting a new car sometime in the next 10 years, your inflator will be much less useful. For this reason, we recommend you buy a device that can cater to a wide range of PSIs. (Frankly, most models do, but shop carefully.)
Also—and this is good news—you don’t need to spend a bundle or look for the highest-rated model on the market. In fact, the only reason to spend more and get a “heavy duty” model is if you’d like to fill up your tires much more quickly. Even the cheaper, lower-powered models promise to fill a tire in 8 minutes—and my experience with top-offs has been that they go much more quickly than that.
You can’t go wrong with this kind of portable tire inflator from Amazon. Buy it, stick it in your trunk, and get in the habit of checking your tire pressure at least once a month or so.
Hey, maybe I’ll do the same!