Thursday, September 21, 2023


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 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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Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg
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. He has been in the RV Industry since 1983 and conducts over 15 seminars at RV shows throughout the country.


  1. We carry a scuba sized tank of nitrogen; light, maneuverable, takes very little space, no cord or outlet required, quickly tops off our H-rated tires (125 psi) and our e-bikes, I exchange it once a year at a welder’s supply store.

  2. Harbor Freight has improved the quality of a lot of their products in the last few years. They can cost more but are still a bargain compared to some of the name brands. I have a 2 gallon ultra quiet air compressor that goes to 135 psi. They also have a 1 gallon unit with smaller performance. Built with aluminum tanks and are fairly light and very quiet. These are 120 volt units.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.


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