Whether it’s for a holiday or birthday, this Tools Under 30 Dollars Gift Guide Series shows you important, yet somewhat uncommon, tools that any gearhead would want.

Today, let’s talk about Tire Inflators.


A tire inflator is essentially an air chuck and air pressure gauge all wrapped up into a single, handy tool. You simply connect one end to the air hose from your air compressor, and the other to your tire’s Schrader valve. Then you pull the trigger, and as the tire fills with air, the gauge will tell you what PSI it’s at.

In other words, it makes keeping your tires at the proper PSI really, really easy.

A good tire inflator makes it easy to both check your tire pressure and then inflate as needed. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

And that’s important, as keeping your tires at the correct pressure is critical not only to the life of the tire and fuel economy, but also to the vehicle’s handling and braking performance—which directly correlates to passenger safety.

While the proper PSI is vital for every vehicle application, it’s perhaps doubly true on a motorcycle where the tire plays a major role in the bike’s handling, braking, and overall stability. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Tire inflators come in three basic styles.

The one you’ll commonly see at your gas station’s public air line is arguably the most durable. When you pull the inflator’s trigger, an indicator bar will either pop out or be viewed through a window, allowing you to read the hash marks and numbers to determine the PSI.

On these types of tire inflators, you read the PSI on an indicator bar that either pops up from the top of the inflator or is visible through a viewing window, as seen here. (Image/Summit Racing – K-Tool International)

The second and third tire inflator types tend to be more precise. First, there are traditional analog dial gauges that use a needle sweep to indicate the PSI. Then, there are digital gauges that deliver a numerical readout as you inflate your tires—though these inflators can get pricey as you add more and more features and precision.

While a typical car or truck tire requires around 30 PSI, if you select a tire inflator with enough range, you can use it to inflate bicycle and spare donut tires too, which often require upwards of 60 PSI. (Image/OnAllCylinders)


Given how vital a good tire inflator is for both the safety and efficiency of a vehicle, it’s a great gift to give and receive. And although tire inflators intended for racers and professional shops can easily surpass the $30 mark, there are still plenty of tire inflators priced for the home mechanic.