Best 12 Volt Air Compressors – 2021 Top Picks Reviewed

| Last Updated: October 2, 2020

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On a road trip with no car workshop nearby? Need to refill the air in your tires for that smooth trip? Worried that a deflated tire will ruin your holiday?

Then worry no more, because we know exactly the thing you need. What you need is to invest in a good air compressor for your car, one which is portable, small, and can easily be carried around with you at all times.

In other words, you really should invest in a 12-volt air compressor. To help make your choice easier, we’ve reviewed the best ones you can go for.

Our Top Picks for Best 12 Volt Air Compressors

  • Portable, lightweight
  • Excellent quality
  • Works for 33-inch tires
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  • Digital compressor
  • 18 months warranty
  • Good quality
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  • Plugs into lighter port
  • Best for the money
  • Auto shut off feature
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Comparison of the Best 12-Volt Air Compressors

  • Portable, given its weight
  • Best overall compressor to invest in
  • Works on tires that are up to 33 inches wide
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  • Digital compressor
  • 18 months extended warranty
  • Runner-up on our list of air compressors
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  • Plugs into a cigarette lighter port
  • Best 12V compressor for the money
  • Digital with automatic shut off feature
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  • 30-meter air hose
  • Best compressor from Slime
  • Built-in thermal break to avoid overheating
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  • Best unit available from Klutch
  • 26-foot-long polyurethane air hose
  • Can exert a maximum pressure of 150 PSI
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  • 10-foot-long power cord
  • 24-inch twisting air hose
  • Inflation rate of 25L per minute
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  • 10-foot-long power cord
  • Portable, given its low weight
  • Built-in LED light for added convenience
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  • Best Kobalt 12 Volt Air Compressor
  • Air Compressor Inflator provides up to 120-PSI
  • Plugs into standard 120 volt or 12 volt power outlet
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How Does a 12-Volt Air Compressor Work?

A 12V compressor is equipped with a motor that directly draws in air from the atmosphere and pumps it into the connected object. Operating on direct current, the air compressor is designed with plugs that connect directly to the cigarette lighter sockets. Some models are made with alligator clips and can be connected to a car battery directly if needed.

Since these units can quickly inflate objects, such as tires, when there’s no alternating current power available, they’re extremely useful when you’re on the road. It’s also important to remember that most 12V air compressors are not equipped with compressed air tanks, so they need to be run continuously for a short time when you’re using them for inflation.

Are All 12-Volt Air Compressors The Same?

There are several different types of 12-Volt air compressors available today. Some are designed with an in-built tank and an adjustable regulator for ease of use. It’s advisable to choose a unit with a two-gallon surge tank as it can quickly inflate tires.

Different air compressors also have different power capacities and can range from two to ten HP. The power source of air compressors also varies from model to model. For example, some units use the cigarette lighter socket, while some are equipped with a rechargeable battery. A battery-powered unit can inflate two tires with one charge and is ideal for individuals who travel regularly.

Quick Take - Best 12-Volt Air Compressors

Review of the Best 12-Volt Air Compressors

Let us delve into details of the best 12V air compressors available on the market. By going through these reviews, you’ll be able to determine which unit is right for you.

Best Overall:
Viair 00088 88P

Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor


  • Brass Chuck Prevents Air Leakages and Helps Fill IUp Tires Fast
  • High Duty Cycle Allows Filling of Extremely Flat Tires Without Stopping the Pump
  • Comes for a Great Price Compared to Other Similar Pumps


  • Fragile Handle Near the Air Tube
  • Faulty Compressor Wiring Leads to Blowing Up of Fuses

Viair's 88P compressor promises to be a powerful and portable air compressor. The tool can easily take on tires as wide as 33 inches. The air compressor is perfectly suited for ATVs, sedans, trucks, and SUVs. The 12V air compressor has dual battery clamps, which are heavy-duty.

For inflation, the clamps need to be connected to the engine and a tire valve stem needs to be connected to the unit. The pressure build-up inside can be simply checked using the 120PSI gauge built into the top of the unit.

An LED light acts as a power indicator for the unit. Plus, a solid brass twist has been added to the chuck for added strength, durability and prevention of possible air leaks. The duty cycle of the equipment is 25 minutes, given it is working under 30PSI.

A ten-foot long power cord, a 16-foot long air hose, and a three-piece inflation tip kit are also included with this unit

Bottom Line

Overall, it is one of the best compressors available in the market. It is also a cheaper alternative to similar pumps. It does its job well and has been applauded by many. However, if the unit fails, the company charges return shipment costs.

H Helteko Air Compressor Tire Inflator DC 12V, Portable Car Tire Pump w/Emergency LED Light, Long Power Cord, Auto Shut Off, Carrying Case, Electric Air Pump for Car Tire Bicycle and Other Inflatables


  • The Digital LCD Display Helps You Monitor and Read Pressure, Even at Night
  • Three Additional Nozzles Help Fill Up Car, Motorcycle, SUV, and Bicycle Tires and Even Basketballs
  • The Automatic Shut-Off Feature Switches the Compressor Off Automatically to Prevent Over-Inflation
  • Portable and Compact Design Allows You to Store it in Your Trunk and Carry it Around With You at All Times


  • Poor Inflation Speed
  • Suited for Smaller Projects and Fails to Work With Heavy-Duty Inflation
  • Design Results in Damage if Not Stored or Packaged Properly

Helteko’s Portable Air Compressor Pump is made from high-quality materials, including high-grade ABS plastic and stainless steel. These high-quality materials ensure durability and longer life. If you are not yet impressed, then you will be pleased to know this compressor is totally digital and automatic. Helteko’s Digital Tire Inflator has an automatic switch-off feature. As soon as the tire reaches the correct pressure, this feature turns the compressor off automatically.

Moreover, the large LCD display helps display measurements accurately. The display gives off readings in PSI, BAR, KPA, and KG/CM². The compressor can easily inflate a medium-sized tire in three to five minutes. Also, it comes with a spare tire inflator that has a long 3.5-meter-long cable. This enables you to inflate wheels of cars, bikes, SUVs, and even motorcycles.

In addition, the LED lighting helps attract the attention of drivers in an emergency situation. The compact and beautiful design makes the compressor even more likable.

Bottom Line

Although inexpensive, the gadget may not work as well as it claims. However, it is digital and the features it offers are certainly unique, making it a good investment.

Best for the Money:
 EPAuto Digital Tire Inflator

EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, Digital Tire Inflator


  • LED Flashlight Makes Inflating Tires in the Dark Even Easier
  • Switches Off Automatically When the Desired Pressure Level is Reached
  • The Auto-Switch Off When the Unit Heats Up Beyond a Certain Point Helps Protect the Machine's Parts and Prevents Potential Accidents


  • Shipment Delays Sometimes Occur
  • The Metal Threads Inside the Hose Corrode Fast Which Result in Malfunctioning

The EP Auto 12-Volt DC Portable Air Compressor Pump is completely digital. The device plugs directly into the cigarette lighter of your car and is thereby, up and running in seconds. A plug to allow ease of this connection has also been added to the device.

The compressor has a variety of uses and is also available in a variety of colors depending on your taste. You can pick from red, blue, green, or yellow. The pump can inflate tires whose engine size is less than 3.5 liters which includes cars, bikes, sedans, and medium-sized SUVs. A universal valve connector for the Schrader valve is ready for use immediately whenever the need arises.

The pump also comes with additional adapters and nozzles that allow you to inflate basketballs, kayaks, swimming pools, or any other inflatable accessories. It is important to note that the compressor has not been designed to inflate truck tires or other heavy-duty objects. The maximum pressure this model can reach is 70 PSI.

Moreover, the digital display makes it easy to read pressure measurements. You can easily read off measurements in PSI, KPA, BAR, and KG/CM even in the dark. A built-in LED flashlight makes the job of inflating tires even easier if the need to perform inflation arises in a dark place.

In addition, the unit switches off automatically when the desired pressure level is reached. Also, to prevent the compressor from overheating, the entire system shuts off when the unit warms up too much. This increases durability and helps protect the unit's parts.

Bottom Line

Overall, this is a great unit for medium-sized tires and inflatable accessories, but it’s not suited for heavy-duty inflation. However, with its digital functioning, it will auto-switch off when the pressure reaches a certain level and auto-power off when the unit overheats, which are significant bonuses.

Slime 40026 2X Heavy Duty Direct Drive Tire Inflator


  • Very Portable as it Comes in its Own Storage Case and Has Aluminum Handles
  • Simple Operation as the Hose is Long Enough and Simply Needs to Be Screwed on to Pump Lead
  • Inflates Tires Super-Fast as it Connects Directly to the Car Battery Compared to Others Which Connect to the Cigarette Lighter Socket


  • No Digital Screen Makes it Difficult to Read Pressure for Some People
  • Small Battery Connectors Can Be Annoying as They May Make Creating the Connection a Little Difficult

The Slime 40026 2X Heavy-Duty Direct Drive Tire Inflator comes in a storage box to help you store and easily carry the inflator around. Slime's 40026 has two cylinders built into it. These allow the compressor to be able to exert maximum power for super-fast tire inflation. Due to this, the pump is able to inflate a standard car tire in within two minutes.

The inflator is also a direct drive unit which allows you to connect it directly to the car battery so the pump can work on maximum power for super-fast results. A coiled air hose that is 30 meters long and an in-line dial gauge ensure that you perform the task of filling up your tires with ease. Plus, the twist connecting cone that attaches to the air hose is a bonus.

Moreover, a built-in internal thermal break prevents the unit from overheating by switching it off whenever the compressor gets too warm. The shock-resistant housing protects the compressor from getting damaged while in use and also prevents the parts from coming loose when your car jerks or bounces.

Furthermore, alligator clip power adapters make the connection to the car battery super easy and a built-in LED light helps you work in darkness. The aluminum folding handle and air adapters are added features which definitely make this pump stand out amongst many.

Bottom Line

This is a great compressor unit overall. It works like it promises except is not as long-lasting and durable. Plus, portability and inflation speed are definite bonuses.


  • The Polyurethane Air Hose is Stretchable and Flexible and is Not Prone to Damage and Decay
  • A Carrying Bag Makes Carrying the Unit Easier and Also Protects the Parts When Not in Use
  • Alligator Clips Help Make a Connection to the Automotive Battery Which Allows the Unit to Run on Maximum Power for Proper Inflation


  • Does Not have an LED light, so it is Difficult to Use in the Dark
  • Does Not Have a Digital Gauge so Reading the Measurements May Be Somewhat Difficult for Some People

Klutch's 12-Volt Tire Inflator is a heavy-duty pump. It is perfectly suited to fill the tires of larger vehicles with ease. These include SUVs, RVs, trucks, and other large-sized vehicles. The powerful tire inflation is supported by its ease of connection with the car battery. The alligator clips help connect the unit directly to the vehicle's automotive battery for maximum power. This, in turn, allows you to fill large tires and that, in under minutes.

The 26-foot-long polyurethane air hose makes the compressor even easier to use. It’s easier to extend the hose to allow easy inflation of tires without having to place the pump right beside the tire. Plus, three different nozzle adapters allow the pump to work with a variety of inflatable objects. A pressure gauge is included to help you monitor pressure.

In addition, a 5.3 CFM airflow with a maximum pressure of 150 PSI is supported by the unit. The compressor also comes with its own carry bag, which makes it super portable and makes storage easier and safer. The unit is also designed to protect itself during an overload.

Bottom Line

All in all, this is a good compressor unit for larger vehicles. It does what it promises, however, it is not digital and does not have an LED light which aren’t factors that should hold you back from investing in it.

Best Heavy Duty 12 Volt Air Compressor:
JACO SmartPro Digital Tire Inflator Pump

JACO SmartPro Digital Tire Inflator - 100 PSI (12V) | Advanced Portable Air Compressor Tire Pump


  • The Compact Design is Easy to Store in Any Car Trunk or Storage Box
  • Super-Speedy Inflation Makes it a Simple Task to Inflate Tires Whenever the Need Arises
  • Quiet and Does Not Jitter or Shake During Operation
  • Setting the Desired Inflation Allows You to Sit Back and Relax Whilst the Unit Switches Off Automatically When the Pressure is Reached


  • Accuracy Sometimes Reaches 1.5 PSI as Opposed to the 1 PSI Claimed by the Company

JACO's SmartPro Digital Tire Inflator is a 12-volt portable air compressor. It can exert a maximum pressure of 100 PSI for powerful tire inflation. The design features the smart pressure technology, which allows you to set your desired pressure level and then just sit back and relax. The unit turns itself off automatically once it reaches the desired level. The compressor easily inflates standard tires up to 45 PSI and bike tires up to 100 PSI.

A bright LCD screen makes the unit digital and not only makes it easy to monitor and read off pressure readings, but it also makes sure you can do this in a dark place. The unit accurately measures pressure between zero to 100 PSI with an accuracy of one PSI. Moreover, the compressor inflates tires at a whopping rate of 25L every minute.

It is also heavy-duty and comes with two different kinds of nozzles. A 24-inch twistable air hose makes it easier for the pump to be connected to tires without needing to have the pump exactly beside it. The connector pump latches on perfectly to create the perfect seal required for excellent tire inflation.

Moreover, the long power cord that measures about ten feet makes it easy to reach all four tires. The power adapter plugs in smoothly to any 12-volt DC outlet present in your SUV, car, or truck. It also has a built-in bright LED light. This LED light alone has four different settings that include: off, flashlight mode, flashing red, and even emergency SOS.

Bottom Line

This is truly one of the best possible air pumps available in the market. With almost no cons and a variety of exciting features, this gadget is definitely something you need to consider while making your purchase.

Best Portable 12 Volt Air Compressor:
VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor

VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor , Black


  • Quiet Operation Prevents Headaches and Keeps the Task of Inflation Peaceful
  • Good Customer Service Helps You Resolve Any Issues That Arise and Even Order Replacements.
  • Fast Inflation Makes it Easy to Inflate Tires in Minutes Without Having to Wait for Long Periods of Time


  • Limited Lifetime, Not Long-Lasting as Parts Are Not Durable
  • Power Plug is Made Out of Low-Grade Plastic so Power Connection Issues May Arise
  • Overheats and Shuts Off Which May Require You to Wait for it to Cool Down Before Reuse

The Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor is a 12-volt pump that can build up a maximum pressure of 60 PSI. However, this is possible only if the car engine is kept running. The air hose has an air flow of 1.26 CFM at zero PSI. An auxiliary power outlet plugs into any car’s cigarette lighter outlet.

The unit can inflate tires up to 31 inches wide. A screw-on tire chuck helps make a leakage-free connection between the pump and tire. Plus, a pressure gauge built into the top of the unit allows you to monitor the pressure at all times. The ten-foot long power cord helps you reach all four tires of your vehicle easily. This, in turn, does not require you to place the pump directly beside the tires for proper inflation and functioning.

The unit is also small, lightweight, and portable. This makes carrying it around easier and storing it is also a hassle-free task. Not only this, but the compressor also has a built-in LED light to allow use during nighttime or in dark places.

Bottom Line

Not the most durable compressor but is definitely lightweight and portable. It fills up tires fast and is noise-free, getting the job done in minutes and without giving you a headache!

Best Kobalt 12 Volt Air Compressor:
Kobalt 120v & 12v Air Compressor

Kobalt 120v & 12v Portable Air Compressor Inflator Tire Pump Nozzle Needles 120 PSI LED Display


  • Plugs into 12V power outlets
  • Digital gauge clearly shows the current pressure
  • Automatic shut-off function prevents over-inflation
  • Offers up to 120 PSI and quickly inflates bike, ATV, and car tires
  • Comes with a sports nozzle, a Presta valve adapter, and two-sport needles


  • Storage compartment doors do not close properly
  • Pressure can only be adjusted in 10 psi increments

What Recent Buyers Report

Most buyers loved this unit and stated that it worked great. They said that the quick connect hose made it easier to connect the hose to the tire and liked the fact that they could set the air pressure. They further reported that it was relatively quiet, easily transportable, and had nice storage compartments.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Boasting a compact and small design, this unit provides a maximum of 120 PSI and quickly inflates air mattresses, beach toys, and tires. It’s also designed with an LCD that displays both the target pressure and real-time pressure. Furthermore, it’s equipped with LED lights that allow easy nighttime use.

Bottom Line

With an incredibly adaptable design, the Kobalt tire inflator is extremely easy to use. Users just need to connect it and set the max pressure before hitting the unit’s start button. It’s also designed with a digital display, further making it easy to read the real-time pressure.

Bon-Aire Goodyear i3000 12-Volt Tire Inflator


  • Comes With Several Small Adapters Which Make Inflating Almost Any Other Objects Super Simple and Easy
  • Although the Unit is Small, Lightweight and Portable, it Stands its Ground and Does Not Shake During Operation
  • User Manual Included With the Unit Makes it Easy to Set the Unit Up and Allows You to Inflate Your Tires Speedily
  • The Silver Cooling Fins Incorporated Into the Design prevent overheating so that the unit can keep Running for a Maximum Duration of Time


  • The Coil Hose is a Little Stiff and Makes Inflation Difficult if You Need a Lot of Extension
  • The Screw-On Connector Fails to Work Properly and You Need to Hold it in Place for it to Work
  • Comes With 3 High-Flow Components as Opposed to the 5 Mentioned in the Product Description

The Bon-Aire Goodyear i3000 Inflator boasts high pressure and perfect inflation. This 12-volt tire inflator is able to fill up 18-inch tires from zero to twenty-eight pounds of pressure in just under seven minutes. The unit is perfect for cars, ATVs, motorcycles, and tires of other similar vehicles. The unit is also designed to allow you to inflate objects such as balls, sports equipment, and other accessories/toys.

The compressor can be easily plugged into the vehicle's power outlet. It also comes with its own user manual, which makes performing the task of inflation even simpler. It is easier to clear up confusion and perform inflation accurately and with speed.

Moreover, its portability and lightness allow you to carry it around with you wherever you go. Meanwhile, the length of the unit is only about nine inches, which makes it easy to store in your trunk.

Bottom Line

Although it has a stiffer air hose and poor screw-on connector, it works well to inflate tires in under a few minutes. It is also extremely lightweight and portable and does not overheat during use. Plus, it promises versatility of use since you can use it for various purposes.

Pros and Cons of Having a 12-Volt Air Compressor With You

There are definitely some advantages as well as disadvantages of carrying a 12V air compressor with you. Let’s have a look at what these are:


The following are some pros of this kind of 12-volt air compressor:

Prevents Worry

You are bound to get worried when you end up with a deflated tire in the middle of an empty road. With no workshop or help nearby, an air compressor will definitely be a life-saver.

Saves Money

You do not need to pay money to get your tires refilled at workshops. You can simply pull out your compressor whenever and wherever and fill all of your tires to the correct levels.

Smooth Drive

Perfectly inflated tires ensure a smooth driving experience and also reduce the risk of potential accidents.

Easy Plug-In

You can easily plug in the device to your cigarette lighter socket or attach it to your car battery for tire inflation.

Klutch 12 Volt Heavy-Duty Portable Tire Inflator


However, it comes with some drawbacks, including:

Battery Drainage

Connecting the compressor to your automotive battery or lighter socket may take a toll on the vehicle and drain its battery faster than usual.


In case the unit heats up, it is dangerous to place it back in the car before it cools down completely.


Although most units are compact, portable, and store easily, you may still have to create a proper space to store the unit. You may also need a little extra space to make sure nothing bangs with the compressor and damages it during the ride.

Kobalt 120v & 12v Air Compressor

How to Choose a 12-Volt Air Compressor

There are some things that you need to take into consideration when investing in anything. The same goes for a 12V air compressor. Some things to keep in mind include:


The most important thing is that your compressor needs to be portable enough for you to move it about easily. Not only this, but it should also be compact and you should be able to store it easily. In all, it should be convenient for you to inflate your tires in a jiffy whenever the need arises.

Auto Features

Not all pumps come with automatic features built into them. Some are manual and require you to switch them on and off or adjust other settings. If you’re someone who would love a bit of ease and is willing to pay a little extra for auto features, then you should consider this before making your purchase.


Each pump will inflate tires at a different pace. Also, each pump fills small, medium, and large tires differently as well. How slow or fast you want your inflation to be should be taken into consideration before you invest in an air compressor.


The duty cycle determines how long it will take for your pump to cool down before it can be reused. This further determines how long you will have to wait before you go about inflating another tire.

When Would a 12-Volt Air Compressor Come in Handy in an RV?

Along with inflating RV tires, 12V air compressors have numerous other uses. Since they’re very small in size and extremely portable, they can easily be carried around and taken to different jobs. Following are some instances where a 12-Volt air compressor would come in handy:


These small and compact compressors are ideal for inflating bike and car tires, camping equipment, and all types of sports balls.

Reseating Tires

If your RV’s tires have started to slip from the rim, you can use a 12V air compressor to reset them. Along with saving time, this will save your money too.

Powering Pneumatic Tools

12-Volt air compressors can also be used for power tools, such as nail guns. However, they cannot be used to power pneumatic tools for an extended period. Since 12V compressors are not equipped with a high CFM, they’re not suitable for big air tools.

Slime 40026 2X Heavy Duty Direct Drive Tire Inflator

How to Use a 12-Volt Air Compressor on RV Tires 

The use of a 12-volt air compressor can be a bit difficult and confusing for beginners. To ensure you don’t over-inflate or under-inflate your tires, you can follow these steps to use a 12V air compressor in the right manner:

Check for Tire Chuck

Before you start filling your RV tires, make sure the air compressor has a tire chuck. This tool depresses the RV’s tire valve, thus allowing air to flow in. Although the chuck can be fitted later, it’s better to choose a unit that’s already equipped with the tool.    

Set the Hose

Attach the compressor hose to the tire valve and make sure it’s locked securely in place. If the unit is designed with a pressure gauge, then check the tire’s existing pressure before you turn the compressor on.

Switch it on

Plug the unit into a power source, turn it on, and keep an eye on the gauge until it reaches the desired PSI. Some compressors are designed with a shut-off mechanism that enables users to set their desired PSI. Once the gauge reaches the set PSI, the unit will shut off automatically to prevent over-inflation.

For a visual representation of the above steps, you can watch the following video:


All in all, investing in a good air compressor for your car is a great idea. You can enjoy a long trip without having to worry about not finding a workshop nearby in case your tires get deflated. Properly filled tires also make the ride safer and smoother, and trucks carrying a heavy load are also less prone to accidents.

Most are portable and lightweight and storing them is simple. A few others also allow you to fill up other inflatable objects as they come with a variety of different nozzles. Investing in one surely is a win-win situation.

People Also Ask

Choosing the best 12-volt air compressor can be a very time-consuming task. To ensure you don’t end up wasting your money and to answer any queries you may have, the following are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

How Much Battery Power Does a 12-Volt Air Compressor Use?

The power draw of a 12V air compressor depends on the model. Units with high power draws can inflate tires quickly but negatively affect the RV battery as well. Thus, it’s advisable to choose a model with 120W or lower power draw.

How Many Amps For a Small 12-Volt Air Compressor?

If the compressor uses the cigarette lighter socket as a power source, then it will typically draw 10-15 amps. However, if the unit comes with alligator clips and connects directly to the RV’s battery, then the amperage is usually between 20 and 30 amps.

Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor

What Pressure Should My Camper Tires Be Inflated To?

Different campers need different tire pressures, and the psi ratings vary according to the tire types. However, most campers have a tire pressure between 40 and 65 PSI. These ratings are ideal for RVs that weigh between 1,500 lbs and 15,000 lbs.

What Do the Numbers and Letters Mean on an Air Compressor?

There are three important specifications on an air compressor. CFM or cubic feet per minute determines the volume of air delivered by the compressor, PSI, or pounds per square inch measures the amount of air pressure, and horsepower indicates the power produced by the motor. Higher numbers on a compressor mean that the unit can compress a higher volume of air in the tank.

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My husband and I live a life on the road so we figured no better way to share our journey than through a blog! While traveling place to place as RV noobies, we quickly realized how often we were in need of RV accessories and supplies. This led us to launch RV Expertise and sharing our top picks.