Tuesday, October 3, 2023


RV Tire Safety: Things to consider when purchasing an air compressor

By Roger Marble
Here are some things to consider before purchasing an air compressor for your RV.

Look for maximum pressure capability

When making a purchase decision for an air compressor, the number one feature to consider is the maximum pressure capability. You must be able to get up to the max for your tires. You can learn that number by simply reading the sidewall of your tires.

All tires will have a statement that reads something like “65 psi (450kPa) air pressure Max load 2,500 lbs (1,135 Kg)”. That tire is telling you the MINIMUM pressure needed to support the stated MAX load for that tire.

RV trailers usually come with Load Range C (50 psi) to LR-E (80 psi) tires. Some large Class A motorhomes may say 100 psi, but there are a few tires that have higher inflation pressure associated with the max load.

Whatever the highest inflation number on any of your tires, you need to have a bit more capability. I suggest at least +10 psi with +30 psi being desirable. The reason for the extra is that if you need 80 psi in your tire and the compressor is only rated for 80 psi, you may never actually get to 80 because the rate of inflation slows down for all compressors as you approach their upper rating.

Then consider the rate of inflation

The second number to consider before purchasing an air compressor is the rate of inflation, which will be something like 1.5 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) @ 100 psi, or maybe 3.0 CFM @ 50 psi. Now you need to pay attention to the “at” number because all compressors will put out more air volume at lower pressure but that 3.0 CFM @ 50 psi unit may only be capable of 0.1 CFM @ 100 psi – which means if you are inflating to 105 it might take you a long time (20 minutes?). Some compressors may mislead you with high a CFM number but state it at a low inflation number – so read the fine print.

Don’t buy more than you need

Finally, do not “over-buy,” i.e., buy more capability than you need. If you do, you may be wasting money on the purchase and also end up with a physically larger and heavier compressor than you realistically need.

Hopefully you will only need to “top off” a tire by adding 5 psi. If you need to add more than 20% of the goal inflation you may have a problem, because if a tire has lost 20% of its air and it was driven there may be damage to the tire structure. Reinflating a tire that has been damaged could result in a tire explosion. If you need that much air, I strongly recommend you call a professional. They should have the training and tools that might even include a “safety cage” designed to prevent injury.


Read more from Roger Marble on his blog at RVtiresafety.net or on RVtravel.com.


Roger Marble
Roger Marblehttp://www.RVTireSafety.net
Retired Tire Design and Forensic Engineer w/50+ years of experience. Currently has Class-C RV. Previous Truck Camper, Winny Brave, Class-C & 23'TT. Also towed race car w/ 23' open trailer and in 26' Closed trailer. While racing he set lap records at 6 different tracks racing from Lime Rock CT to Riverside CA and Daytona to Mosport Canada. Gives RV and Genealogy Seminars for FMCA across the USA. Taught vehicle handling to local Police Depts


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Vanessa Simmons
2 years ago

Had a black and decker that took forever, got a Ryobi this past year and I put in what I want the pressure to be, start it and leave it. It cuts off when finished. Works great for my TT, TV and car. My son and DIL used it to inflate and deflate their birthing pool last month. Quick and easy.

2 years ago

For years I carried a small tank compressor. Until a friend showed me his handheld portable. I use it for tires requiring between 35 and 80 PSI. Made by Avid, available on Amazon. Company backs their product. When my first one overheated they sent me a whole new one

2 years ago
Reply to  Charlie

Keep in mind that a lot of these inflators are not 100% duty cycle rated. The Avid owners manual says 5 minutes of rest is required for every 10 minutes of continuous use. Since they are slow to inflate to high pressures (my tires require 110 PSI) they run for a while. I specifically looked for a unit with a 100% duty cycle rating.

2 years ago

Just bought a Dewalt portable inflator. Runs off of battery ac, or dc. But the best feature, that you didn’t mention, is that it has an auto cut off. You hook it up, dial in the desired final pressure, turn it on and walk away. It will shut off when it reaches the set pressure.

2 years ago

If you are a certified diver you can use one of your dive tanks for tire inflation. I used to carry a 40 tank just for that purpose in our 40fter. It would completely fill 2-3 of my HUGE tires and for topping off it lasted a full 2yrs before having to be refilled.

2 years ago
Reply to  Rick

Retired hvac mechanic. Carry small bottle of dry nitrogen and do the same.

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