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Ask Dave: What air compressor do you recommend?

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. Today Dave discusses air compressors for the RV.

Dear Dave,
Would you please suggest an air compressor? We are constantly running into air machines (at gas stations, storage facility) that are not working. What are your recommendations? Our neighbor lets us use his, but it is very large and heavy and obviously we can’t travel with it. Thanks so much. —Jenette

Dear Jenette,
It does seem that air filling stations at the fueling stations are a hit-and-miss option these days. And those that do work don’t have enough psi to fill larger tires unless you go to the semi-truck lanes, and that’s not much fun either.

Picking the right compressor for your needs depends on how much pressure you need and the amount of storage your rig has. In a recent survey at RV Repair Cub, the VIAIR 400 was one of the most popular 12-volt DC models, and we had an overwhelming response to a sweepstakes giving one away. I had the opportunity to demo it and it performed very well. This is the air compressor that RVtravel.com publisher Chuck Woodbury carries with him in his motorhome.

It is very compact so it will fit in small compartments and comes with a nice little kit that includes 60 feet of compactable air hose, gauge, and accessories. It can provide 150 psi for larger tires. There are some cheaper “knock off” brands; however, the VIAIR has much better metal manifolds and components and will last longer.

120-volt air compressor

If you are looking for a 120-volt model, I would recommend either the portable “pancake” type that you can find at home improvement stores or flat cylinder model. I carried a Bosch shingling type compressor for several years and used it not only for tires, but to blow out my fresh water system when temperatures dropped suddenly while traveling across the nation. I dialed it down to 40 psi and had an adapter ready to hook it up to my city water fill.

This model takes up a little more space in a compartment; however, the 6-gallon tank is better for filling larger tires. There are other models that are designed more horizontal and are only 10” tall for tighter compartments. You can find this model at Amazon.

The smaller 1-gallon tank models might take a long time to provide the air needed to fill the larger tires.

What model do you carry?

Everyone has their favorite tool brand, and I’m sure air compressors are no different. Some of the larger motorhomes even have an onboard compressor for the air suspension system that comes with an air hose to fill tires. However, I have found these to be fairly weak and take a long time to fill the larger tires.

Visit Dave’s forum and ask a question or comment about your air compressor!

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Bill Fisher
18 days ago

I carry the Viair 450P-RV. No problems airing up 110 psi fiver tires.

Randy Jones
17 days ago
Reply to  Bill Fisher

Except it costs like 5 times as much as the Bostitch

Tommy Molnar
18 days ago

I finally opted for the Dewalt 20V MAX* Corded/Cordless Air Inflator. Works great, even on my truck tires. It takes a while to bring a tire up to 80 psi but it works, isn’t too large, and easily stores in our truck. I think it was about $130 at Home Depot. I read tons of reviews before buying (and of course, watched videos on YouTube). It’s great for winterizing the trailer too.

Ric Price
17 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Me too! Awesome inflater for tires, air mattress, floats, balls, as well as blowing out water system (winterization).

Gregory Illes
18 days ago

Dave, it’s worth mentioning that for big RV tires, the rated duty cycle of a compressor is important, because it could be required to run for a long time. I bought the Viair 450 for this reason, 100% rating. I’ve read a lot of reviews on lower priced units, where they quit or died from overheating in just 10-20 minutes.

TexasScout
18 days ago

I have had this unit from Harbor Freight for YEARS and it works fantastic! And I costs less than a quarter of the “recommended one.
https://www.harborfreight.com/12v-150-psi-compact-air-compressor-63184.html

Randy Jones
17 days ago
Reply to  TexasScout

I don’t trust anything harbor freight

Scott R. Ellis
18 days ago

Tank capacity is only tangentially related to inflation times for larger tires. ANY portable is going to go through the tank reserve quite quickly, and from there on out, the determining factor is the compressor’s volume capacity. It is given in CFM (cubic feet per minute) on every compressor’s spec sheet, and is really far more telling than the much-touted “maximum pressure” number. I personally prefer Rolair’s products: quiet and reliable.

Ran
18 days ago

I carry the Viair 450P-RV. It’s the best!

Ron
18 days ago

We bought the Craftsman 6g air compressor from Lowes. Is a little heavy, takes up room, but fits nicely in a cargo compartment. Great for filling 22.5 tires.

tom
18 days ago

I have a small sized 12v twin cyclinder that I purchased at Costco. Works for my 16″ tires. Doubt if it would even attempt a bigger volume tire size.

Tom Hodge
18 days ago

We carry the VIAIR 400. It has proven to be a very good compressor for us. It has no problem filling the truck tires and the 5th wheel tires (110 psi). It’s also very easy to store away on a tool box in the bed of the truck.