Choosing an air compressor is never easy. For those new to the subject, learning the difference between PSI and CFM takes time. And even for old hands, choosing the right model for a personal tool set can take quite a bit of research.
Never is this more the case than when it comes to the ultra portable i.e. compressors designed primarily for use as tireinflators.
They typically cost less than $50. And perhaps because of this fact, reliability can be very hit or miss.
A perfect example of a miss is the EDBG recently reviewed here. A perfect example of a hit, on the other hand, is the subject of this review, namely the VIAIR 85P.
Despite still coming in just below the $50 price point, it’s well designed, it’s very fast, and most importantly, it’s reliable. And while its applications are certainly limited, it gets the job done.
Speaking of the job, I’ll start with what it can’t do.
Tank capacity is zero because it doesn’t have one. Max pressure is 60 PSI. In other words, it will barely power an air mattress, let alone an an actual air tool. For use in the tool shed, this is an absolutely terrible purchase.
For use on the road, however, it ticks all the right boxes.
For a start, it weighs less than 5 pounds and measures roughly 9“ by 5“ by 6“. This means that regardless of what you drive, it’s small enough to become a permanent fixture.
For power, you just need a cigarette lighter port that’s no greater than 14.5 amps. Technically, you can run the compressor without even turning on the engine. But if you value your cars battery, I’d very much advise against it.
The only other requirement is that you need wheels with a diameter no greater than 31 inches. Most wheels are well below this but check before you buy!
In terms of performance, it’s a pleasure to use. The LED pressure gauge is clear and easy to read. It also doubles as an emergency light. Depending on the time of day, that’s either gimmicky or genius.
Time taken to pump a tire varies depending on size. Personally, my tires are 30 inches and low pressure is solved in a matter of seconds. I’ve also used it to blow up an inflatable mattress and while I didn’t time it, it got the job done fast.
As you’d expect, reviews for the VIAIR are generally positive. It’s been reviewed over 700 times on Amazon for an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5. If you’re thinking about buying a cheaper model, compare the ratings. 85% of buyers give the 85P either 4 or 5 stars. Most cheaper models are lucky to get half that.
When it comes to general air compressors, the right one for job is very much open for debate. Regardless of whether you want something for home use or commercial, there’s no shortage of solid choices. If it’s a tire inflator that you’re after however, I think there’s only one logical choice. The only question that you really need to ask yourself is whether or not you plan on getting enough flat tires to justify the price tag.