Best tyre inflators 2023

| 28 Dec 2022
Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators

Powered tyre inflators used to be noisy, and often ineffective, but they’ve come a long way in the past few years. They’re particularly useful if your classic car spends weeks or months at a time in storage, when you’ll need to check (and probably adjust) your tyre pressures before the car hits the road after a long stint of standing.

To find out which inflators are most effective, we kicked off by testing each one to see how long it would take to pump-up a 205/55/R16 tyre from flat to 30PSI.

On top of that, we factored in how user-friendly each unit is, including whether the power cable and air hose were long enough to be convenient. Auto-stop, which stops the inflator at the desired pressure, is also a really useful feature.

Finally, we considered whether the tyre inflators also offered a torch light or other useful domestic function, on top of being able to sort your tyre pressures out quickly and efficiently.

Tyre inflators

10. Michelin Compact ‘Top Up’ Digital Tyre Inflator

Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators - Michelin Compact

Inflation test time: 8min 50sec

Michelin isn’t kidding when it describes this as compact – it is smaller than your average paperback novel, which is great for storing it out of the way in your garage, or even in your boot or glovebox.

The problem is that it’s too short on power to pump up most tyres from flat without exceeding the recommended eight-minute maximum run time. Hence the ‘Top-Up’ in the name. It is also not recommended for tyres needing more than 40PSI, for the same reason.

If you really do just want a tyre inflator simply for tweaking your tyre pressures, the Michelin Compact is just fine, but others here are more powerful and versatile, despite costing a similar amount.

Classic & Sports Car says 2 stars

9. Draper 20582

Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators - Draper

Inflation test time: 5min 40sec

The cordless Draper inflator is very convenient for being free of power cables, or there’s also a 12V cable so that you can plug it into the car and carry on pumping if the battery runs out of charge mid-inflation.

However, while the cordless use, auto-stop feature and compact size are all good, it takes a long time to inflate a tyre from flat. The short, 15cm air hose means that you may have to hold the unit if the tyre valve isn’t close enough to the ground.

Classic & Sports Car says 3 stars

8. Sealey MAC04D

Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators - Sealey MAC04D

Inflation test time: 4min

The Sealey tyre inflator gets a generous five-metre power cable, which is so long that the equally generous two-metre air hose seems a little excessive.

The digital gauge is easy to read, and auto-stop is as useful as ever, but pressure is in PSI only while every other unit here at least offers BAR as well. The gauge also only shows target pressure rather than actual pressure, while a less precise bar display shows inflation progress, which seems illogical and annoying.

The old-fashioned, lever-type tyre coupling isn’t as convenient as the screw-on coupling used by most tyre inflators today.

Classic & Sports Car says 3 stars

7. Halfords Rechargeable Multi Purpose Inflator

Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators - Halfords Rechargable

Inflation test time: 2min 58sec

This Halfords model doesn’t have a deflate button for precision tweaking if you overinflate your tyres, and the unit is a bit large by the standards of others here. It could also do with a storage bag.

Other than that, though, the good points far outweigh our complaints. The Halfords device has a clear digital gauge, auto-stop, mains and 12V chargers, as well as 12V and USB output sockets, and a bright LED torch.

The Halfords inflator also has a setting for fast inflation/pack down of airbeds and other low-pressure accessories, making this a great tool for all kind of uses outside of checking your classic car's tyres.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

6. Ring RAC830

Classic & Sports Car – Tyre inflators reviewed

Inflation test time: 1min 52sec

The Ring RAC380 was only two seconds behind the Michelin Superfast in our tyre-inflation test, making it one of the fastest inflators here.

The large digital display shows actual pressure as well as target pressure, the power cable and air hose are long enough to be convenient, and the single rotary dial that’s used to set the target level is really straightforward and logical.

It allows you to toggle through PSI and BAR, and then twist it to set the pressure you want. Simple and effective.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

5. Michelin Programmable Superfast 4x4/SUV Digital Tyre Inflator

Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators - Michelin Superfast

Inflation test time: 1min 50sec

This is the quickest inflator here, living up to the Superfast name.

It comes with a conveniently long, three-metre power lead, an 85cm air hose, screw-on valve coupling and auto-stop, so it really is impressively easy to use.

The deflate button makes it simple to tweak your pressure accurately if you’ve overinflated, too.

There’s even a tiny rubber notch on the unit to keep your loose tyre-valve cap on, so that you don’t lose it while you’re sorting the tyre pressures. 

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

4. Sealey MAC01

Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators - Sealey MAC01

Inflation test time: 2min 55sec

Here is one of three impressively compact tyre inflators that are clearly very closely related.

The Sealey and Sakura units are basically identical on the outside, but the Sealey MAC01 has a smoother note that suggests that different parts lurk inside, and it took two minutes less than the Sakura to inflate our test tyre.

Speed is really the only reason that you’d pick the Sealey, though; we favour the Sakura’s digital gauge and auto-stop over the Sealey’s analogue dial.

The Sealey’s lever-type valve coupling is old-fashioned and less convenient than the Sakura SS5332’s screw coupling and deflate button, too.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

3. Sakura SS5332

Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators - Sakura SS5332

Inflation test time: 5min 10sec

The Sakura (and the Sealey and Wolf units that it resembles) isn’t much larger than the dinky Michelin Top-Up inflator, yet it’s powerful enough to inflate most tyres from totally flat.

The 5min 10sec it took to inflate our test tyre isn’t quick compared to some others here, but it’s rapid enough and is well within the 15-minute duty cycle that is recommended with the Sakura.

There’s also a digital display, auto-stop, a deflate button, and plenty of length to both the power lead and air hose.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

2. Wolf Glovebox Genie

Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators - Wolf Glovebox Genie

Inflation test time: 3min 20sec

This is the third of our triplet devices, with the Sakura SS5332/Sealey MAC01 also related to the Wolf, but this is definitely the pick of the lot.

It’s usefully cheaper than the Sealey yet, performance wise, it was only 25 seconds behind it in our tyre-inflation test.

There’s no deflate button, which is disappointing, but the Glovebox Genie does have a digital gauge, auto-stop and a screwed valve coupling.

The power lead could be longer, but this is still a really comprehensive yet conveniently compact little tyre inflator.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

1. Ring RTC6000

Classic & Sports Car - Best tyre inflators - Ring RTC6000

Inflation test time: 2min 15sec

The RTC6000 is a cordless tyre inflator, and was only 20 seconds behind the two faster-inflating options here in our 30PSI tyre test. You save more time than that by not having to plug it in.

It’s also small yet powerful, comes with a smart storage bag, offers a leisure inflator/deflator for air beds, inflatable kayaks and the like, and has a deflate button.

Best of all, it has the same simple rotary-button control system and digital display set-up that we liked so much on the Ring RAC830.

It’s really simple to use, super-effective, and compact enough to be easily stored in a glovebox or drawer.

Classic & Sports Car says 5 stars

The products or services referenced in this article have been reviewed independently by our experts. When you buy using the links on our website, we may earn a commission, but this will never influence our opinion or ratings