Whether it’s camping or taking an off-road tour, one of the accessories you can’t afford to leave behind is the best off-road air compressor. If you’re an off-road enthusiast, then you’re aware of how risky it can get if your tires deflate while in the middle of nowhere. Since there are no gas stations in the wilderness, you’re likely to struggle when driving with deflated tires.
Secondly, when traversing on rough terrains, there are times when you’ll be forced to deflate your tires by choice. So, to ensure that you adjust the tire pressure accordingly, you’ll need to incorporate an air compressor on board, whether it’s a portable or an onboard variant.
Now, depending on your off-road demands, air compressors can offer many valuable uses. For instance, you can use them to inflate your seats, your air mattress, your Jeep’s tires, or activate your Jeep’s air locker among other uses.
Best Off-Road Air Compressor: Editor’s Top Picks
Top 10 Best Off-Road Air Compressor Reviews:
Following their multipurpose functionality, off-road air compressors enjoy high demand among most off-roaders. For that reason, there’s an overwhelming list of air compressors in the market that make it extremely hard to pick the best model.
So, to remove the heavy load off your shoulders, we’ve listed at least ten of the best air compressor models that are likely to meet your off-roading needs and demands. We’ve also readied an insightful buyer’s guide section as well as a detailed FAQ section where we’ve answered some of your pressing questions.
1. ARB (CKMTP12) 12V Twin Motor Portable Air Compressor
- Pressure: 150 PSI
- CFM @ 0 PSI: 6.16
- Duty Cycle: 100%
To commence our discussion, we’ll look at the ARB CKMTP12 Twin Motor Air Compressor. Now, air compressors come in two main types that include the onboard and the portable variants. In our case, the ARB CKMTP12 is a portable variant that’s nicely packed in an impact-resistant polymer case for added safety and convenience.
When I speak of convenience, this carry case has extra compartments that allow you to fit in some compressor accessories such as the air hose and the alligator cables. About the performance, this air compressor is brilliant enough to pump air from 20 PSI to 40 PSI in just a minute making it satisfactorily fast.
Still, on the performance, the ARB CKMTP12 is equipped with an aluminum air tank that regulates pressure between 135 – 150 PSI to suit most air-powered tools. It has two motors and a brushed DC cooling fan with a dust rating of IP55. As one of the best 12-volt air compressors for off-road, the ARB CKMTP12 is a powerful, fast, and extremely portable air compressor that will suit most of your off-road demands.
- Mounted on a waterproof impact-resistant carry case for added protection
- IP55 rated to prevent damage caused by dust and moisture
- The aluminum motor mounting brackets prevent the twin motors from overheating
- The carry case has additional compartments to fit extra tools
- Comes with an inflator, blowgun, and a long 20ft. air hose
2. Viair 40047 400P-RV Portable Compressor Kit
- CFM @ 0 PSI: 2.3
- Amp Draw: 30 Amps
- Duty Cycle: 33%
With all the interesting features that come with the Viair 40047 Portable Compressor Kit, it will be overwhelmingly disappointing if we failed to include it on our list. At just 10.75 pounds, this air compressor definitely lies in the “portable” category, as it’s easy and convenient to carry with you. To most off-roaders, the Viair 40047 is definitely a must-have.
At a glance, the Viair 40047 tends to suit most RV and trailer, owners. This is due to its immense power and the addition of extra tools that suit vehicles with double rear tires. About its performance, this air compressor has a fast recovery time of 30 – 60 PSI in just 3 minutes. It has a maximum working pressure of 150 PSI, which is enough to inflate large tires up to a size of 275/80/22.5.
About the extra accessories, the Viair 40047 comes with a carry bag for easy mobility. Since it’s designed for use in the wilderness, Viair could have used an all-weather-resistant carry bag to prevent the air compressor from damage. But other than that, they’ve done a great job of adding a 60’ coil air hose, an 8’ power cord, and two 90° plus 45° twist-on chuck and reach chuck for vehicles with dual tires.
- Comes with a dedicated inflation gun and a gauge
- The carry bag allows easy mobility of the air compressor
- Easy to power with the car battery using alligator clamps
- Comes with all the necessary air compressor accessories
- Comes with a convenient auto-shutoff feature
3. Smittybilt 2781 Air Compressor
- Capacity: 72 Liters
- Pressure: 150 PSI
- Amp Draw: 30 Amps
Now, Smittybilt is a brand that has continued to enjoy a positive reputation of manufacturing and supplying authentic Jeep and SUV accessories for off-road use. Today, they’ve introduced the Smittybilt 2781 Air Compressor to enthusiast off-roaders that demand the convenience of inflating and deflating their tires when cruising through the dusty, rocky, and rough terrains.
Perhaps the reason why this air compressor for cars has bulldozed its way to this list is due to its impressive design. Here, Smittybilt has used black-coated steel housing in the construction to improve longevity. They’ve designed this air compressor with a maximum airflow of 72 liters per minute to make it incredibly fast.
To make it easier to view the readings, Smittybilt has added a clear 150-PSI pressure gauge that has detailed units. They’ve also added a clever thermal switch to the compressor to switch off the motor automatically to prevent overheating. Since you’ll expect to use this air compressor in the wilderness, Smittybilt has added all the necessary accessories that include a 24 ft. coil hose, 10 ft. power cord, an E-Z twist brass inflator, and a convenient carry bag.
- Includes an auto-thermal cutoff switch
- Equipped with a 1/3 HP oil-less motor
- The 24 ft. coil hose is easy to twist when inflating
- The 10 ft. power cord is long enough to offer added convenience
- Accompanied by a nylon carry bag for easy mobility
4. California Air Tools 2010A Air Compressor
- Capacity: 2 Gallons
- Warranty: 1-Year
- Noise Level: 60 Decibels
When inflating your tires in the middle of the wilderness, you don’t need an air compressor that signals everyone about your presence, especially if you’re not familiar with the area. For that reason, California Air Tools has gifted enthusiast off-roaders an extremely fast and ultra-quiet air compressor. The CAT 2010A Air Compressor is exactly what we’re talking about.
Unlike some of the air compressors we’ve discussed, the CAT 2010A is a heavy-duty variant that demands a high voltage of 110V to work. It’s packed with an oil-free dual-piston pump, a huge 2.0-gallon aluminum tank, and a 1 HP motor that operates at 1680 RPM with a noise rating of just 60 decibels.
About the performance, the CAT 2010A is an impressive compressor that combines a super-fast airflow with a quick pumping ability. This is demonstrated by the compressor’s fast pumping power that lets it fill the tank in just 50 seconds. It also has a fast recovery time of 90 – 120 PSI in just 14 seconds. Other than that, the CAT 2010A is equipped with adhesive rubber feet and a life cycle of 3,000 plus hours before wear.
- Powerful 1 HP motor with a peak power of 2 HP
- Equipped with a large 2-gallon aluminum tank
- The oil-less dual-piston pump demands minimal maintenance
- The noise level of 60 decibels makes this compressor ultra-quiet when working
- Weighs 35 pounds making it extremely easy to transport
5. VIAIR – 40045 Portable Air Compressor
- Amp Draw: 30 Amps
- CFM @ 0 PSI: 2.54
- Working Pressure: 150 PSI
The VIAIR-40045 400P Portable Compressor is a close cousin to the previous Viair 40047 that we viewed earlier. Just like the Viair 40047, the VIAIR-40045 is a portable air compressor that offers the convenience of inflating your tires without suffering any heavy burden of carrying them. It weighs just 10.7 pounds and above all, it’s accompanied by a deluxe carry bag for easy mobility.
Now, the VIAIR-40045 is equipped with some fascinating features that have fancied most off-roaders. First, it’s easy to use this compressor as you only need to connect it to the car’s battery using the available alligator clamps. Secondly, this best off-road portable air compressor offers a quick inflation process where it inflates large 35″ tires from 0 – 35 PSI in just under 5 minutes.
What’s more? The VIAIR-40045 is equipped with an onboard pressure switch that lets it shut off automatically when it achieves an internal pressure of 145 PSI. When inflating multiple tires at the same time, the compressor works when the trigger is pulled meaning you don’t need to turn it off manually. The VIAIR-40045 is equipped with a permanent magnet motor that has a maximum amp draw of 30 amps.
- Easy connection to the car’s battery using alligator clamps
- Sits on a vibration-resistant Diamond tray
- Inflates large tires with diameters ranging from 33” to 42”
- Auto shutoff feature turns off the compressor automatically to prevent overheating
- Offers a quick inflating time of 0 – 35 PSI in less than 5 minutes
6. GSPSCN Silver Double Cylinders Tire Inflator
- Working Pressure: 150 PSI
- Amp Draw: 25 Amps
- Certification: CE Certification
The GSPSCN Silver Double Cylinders Tire Inflator is a superb pick for customers looking for an inflator that bears the heavy-duty title. Although it’s designed for heavy-duty use, the reason why we opted for this compressor over its rivals is due to its powerful, impactful, and fast-paced performance. This is demonstrated by its high maximum air pressure of 150 PSI and decent airflow of 70 liters per minute.
Perhaps the main reason for its impressive performance is the double cylinders that work at double the pace of a single cylinder. Now, following this huge advantage, the GSPSCN Air Compressor can suit a wide range of applications. For instance, this compressor can work on a wide range of vehicles such as trucks, SUVs, RVs, vans, trailers, MPVs, and campers among others.
It can also be used for light-duty applications such as inflating mattresses, bicycles, motorbikes, and golf carts among others. To those wondering how the GSPSCN Air Compressor manages to suit such a wide range of applications, GSPSCN has equipped this beast with multiple nozzles and adapters to simplify the inflating process. They’ve also included some accessories in the package such as a 3.5m coil air hose, alligator clamps, a CE certification, and a convenient carry bag.
- Inflates standard car tires from 0 – 40 PSI in just 1.5 minutes
- Equipped with rubber feet to prevent skidding
- The copper wounded motor is fast and powerful
- Comes with additional adapters and nozzles to suit different vehicles
- The double cylinder pump has a fast airflow of 70 liters per minute
7. California Air Tools 8010 Air Compressor
- Working Pressure: 120 PSI
- Amp Draw: 8.5 Amps
- Tank Capacity: 8.0 Gallons
The CAT 8010 Air Compressor is another compressor that bears the heavy-duty title. This beast weighs 48 pounds, which is quite bulky to most users. But, to compensate for this heavy-duty title, California Air Tools has added a pair of wheels on one side and a stand on the other to make mobility and usage quite effortless.
Now, as a heavy-duty compressor, the CAT 8010 comes with features that offer good value for your money. One of those is the 1 HP motor that operates with a manageable noise rating of 60 decibels. The second one is the oil-free dual-piston pump that demands little maintenance.
About the performance, the CAT 8010 has a maximum air pressure of 120 PSI with a quick recovery time of 90 – 120 PSI in just 30 seconds. It has a large 8.0-gallon steel air tank that has a quick fill time of 130 seconds from empty to full. Finally, yet importantly, this best off-road air compressor is equipped with two gauges, a universal quick connector, and a thermal overload connector.
- Offers a decent continuous run time of 30 to 60 minutes
- Has a low amp draw of just 8.0 amps
- Designed to work on a variety of temperatures
- Has a longer life cycle of over 3,000 hours
- Thermal overload protector protects the motor against damage when working
8. Kensun AC/DC Air Compressor Pump
- Working Pressure: 120 PSI
- Material: Plastic
- Liter Per Minute: 18 (DC) & 20 (AC)
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly air compressor that will not go way beyond your budget, then perhaps you might wish to consider the Kensun AC/DC Portable Air Compressor. To those doubting its name, this compressor is an AC/DC model meaning it can be used both at home and during travels. So, with such a model, you’ll definitely expect to see features that favor both off-road and household applications.
Now, the Kensun Air Compressor weighs just 3.38 pounds, which is pretty light for most applications. At home, this compressor works with the 110V garage outlet while during travels; it’s mounted on the 12V cigarette socket. About the performance, the Kensun Air Compressor manages a maximum working pressure of 120 PSI with a continuous working time of approximately 30 minutes at 35 PSI.
It has two cables for both indoor and outdoor use with decent lengths of 9ft. 2 inches (DC) and 9ft. 10 inches (AC). This air compressor also has a decent liter per minute of 18L/Min. when working under DC and 20L/Min. when working under AC. If this is exactly what you’re looking for, then the Kensun Air Compressor is a good option that will offer incredible value for your money.
- Comes with an analog gauge for easy viewing of the readings
- Comes with a set of adapter nozzles to suit a wide range of applications
- Designed for both indoor and outdoor applications
- The available carry handle has ample space to fit the cords and the wires
- Has a high continuous working time of 30 minutes at 35 PSI
9. VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor
- Working Pressure: 150 PSI
- Amp Draw: 26 Amps
- Operating Temperature: -40 – 158°F
The VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor is another decent pick that will offer incredible value for the money. Another close cousin to our former Viair 40047 and VIAIR-40045 air compressors, this compressor leans more on the heavy-duty side making it ideal for tough inflating endeavors.
Now, one of the reasons that have allowed this portable air compressor to feature in this list is the speedy air pumping mechanism that lets it inflate large tires with diameters ranging from 33 – 42 inches. To make things easier, VIAIR has equipped this compressor with a maximum working pressure of 150 PSI and a maximum duty cycle of 33% at 100 PSI.
They’ve further designed this compressor with an automatic trigger that doesn’t require the compressor to be turned off when switching from one tire to another. During inflation, the VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor is capable of inflating a large 35” tire from 0 – 30 PSI in just under5 minutes. The package comes with a long 8ft. power cable, a 25ft. air hose, heavy-duty clamps, and a zippered carry bag among other essentials.
- Heavy-duty clamps provide a quick connection of the compressor to the battery
- Inflates large tires with a diameter of 33 – 42 inches
- Has a thermal overload protector that prevents the motor from overheating
- Comes with a zippered carry bag for ease of transportation
- The permanent magnetic motor demands little maintenance
10. California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Air Compressor
- Air Pressure: 120 PSI
- Tank Capacity: 1-Gallon
- Weight: 29lbs
To close the review section in style, we’re going to look at the CAT-1P1060S Air Compressor. Manufactured by California Air Tools, this compressor is another example of a unit that bears the heavy-duty title. With a weight of 29 pounds, this air compressor has a medium weight that makes it easier to carry, especially when you grab it from the carry handle.
When it comes to performance, the CAT-1P1060S is an incredibly powerful compressor that gives you incredible value for your money. This compressor is equipped with a 0.6 HP oil-free motor that has an ultra-quiet operation of just 56 decibels. It has a single-piston pump that’s extremely powerful and demands less maintenance.
It has a 1-gallon steel tank that takes just 50 seconds to refill and a high recovery time that ranges from 90 – 120 PSI in just 15 seconds. The CAT-1P1060S can be used on a variety of temperatures and is versatile enough to suit a wide range of applications.
- Ultra-quiet motor works with a noise level of 56 decibels
- Equipped with a steel tank with a capacity of 1-gallon
- The pump and the motor demand little maintenance when working
- Comes with a thermal overload protector
- Two pressure gauges provide efficient air pressure readings
Things to Consider When Choosing an Air Compressor
Now, if you look at all the air compressors we’ve discussed above, it’s easy to think that any of them can meet your demands. To be honest, that’s not the case. If you happen to put your demands first, you’ll realize that only two or three of these compressors will suit you.
For that reason, you need to consider a couple of things before you settle on a specific air compressor. So, to help you out, we’ve filtered out some of the parameters you must consider when choosing an air compressor.
The first thing you need to consider when choosing the best off-road air compressor is the environment you’ll be working in. Will you be using the compressor at home or during travels?
The reason why this is important is that each compressor has its own set of features that suit a certain environment. For instance, household compressors use AC while outdoor compressors use DC. So, with this parameter in mind, it will be easier for you to pick a compressor that suits you best.
When it comes to the size, what automatically comes to mind is the size of the tank. Your compressor’s tank is an essential component that serves as the heart of your compressor. When making your decision, you’ll need to choose between a large tank and a small one.
A large tank has a bigger capacity that lets it hold more air. This will suit bigger tasks as you won’t have to keep refilling the tank now and then. The only problem with a large tank is that it’s bulky meaning you’ll have to prepare yourself for this.
On the other hand, a small tank will require regular refilling making it ideal for light household tasks. It’s also light meaning you won’t struggle carrying it around.
PSI or Air Pressure:
An abbreviation for Pounds per Square Inch, the PSI of an air compressor is a very crucial parameter that plays a key role in your decision-making process. As a rule of thumb, a high PSI rating means a faster and stronger compressor.
So, if your goal is to have a compressor that’s powerful enough to meet your heavy-duty demands, then one with a high PSI value will be ideal. Just to mention, PSI is among the features that can’t be upgraded. So, if you get things wrong here, upgrading the PSI is equivalent to buying a new compressor.
When buying an air compressor for a car, you need to note that you’ll be lugging the unit around when inflating your tires. So, in this case, you’ll need to consider the weight of the compressor to ensure it’s something you can bear. If your needs demand a heavy-duty compressor, then it’s wise to find one that has wheels for easy mobility.
Another parameter that’s quite essential when buying an air compressor is the CFM or Cubic Feet per Minute rating. CFM is generally the volume of air a compressor can pump in or out in a given minute. Sometimes, this is referred to as Liter per Minute depending on the manufacturer.
The reason why this parameter is important is that it gives you a reference to how fast an air compressor can inflate a tire. So, if you’re looking for an air compressor that will save you time, then you need to find one with a high CFM rating.
The noise level is another key factor that should be considered when buying an air compressor. You see, if you’re using the compressor for household use, you’ll definitely need a unit that’s ultra-quiet when operating. This mostly applies if you’re in the wilderness. A loud compressor can be quite risky, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar environment as you’re not sure of who is within your radius.
Finally, yet importantly, you need to consider the kind of manufacturer you’re doing business with. Some brands manufacture premium products that are very expensive while others manufacture products that are quality yet budget-friendly.
In our review section, we’ve listed air compressors from reputable brands such as Smittybilt, ARB, California Air Tools, and Viair among others. So, if you’re planning to get the best off-road portable air compressor for the money, then you can consider getting one from any of these brands.
Why Do You Need an Off-Road Air Compressor?
If you’re a new off-roader, then this question is likely to ring on your mind whenever you hear a topic related to air compressors. Although most beginners only know of the electric wrench and the recovery straps, the air compressor is also essential when added to your off-road arsenal. So, why do you need an off-road air compressor?
1. Inflating/Deflating the Tires
The first obvious use of an air compressor when off-roading is, of course, to inflate or deflate your tires. You see, when cruising through the wilderness, one factor that can ruin your leisurely cruise is a puncture. Thankfully, with an air compressor, whether portable or on-board, you can easily inflate the affected tire with the desired PSI rating and proceed with your journey.
If you’re in the great off-roads, deflating your tires is a good idea if you’re looking to achieve more traction. With a high-quality air compressor, you can easily achieve this then inflate the tires back to the desired PSI when you hit the highway.
2. Running Air Tools
Another benefit of considering an air compressor when off-roading is powering some of your pneumatic tools. Such tools include screwdrivers, ratchet and impact wrenches, nailers and blow guns among others.
Pneumatic wrenches, such as the ones used in Formula One, are capable of removing tires within seconds while blow guns allow you to clean hard-to-reach engine parts by shooting bursts of compressed air to the affected areas.
3. To Engage the Differential
For most serious off-roaders, a heavy-duty onboard air compressor can be used to power your car’s air lockers. By turning the compressor on, you can lock the differential on all tires to create intense traction to conquer any off-road obstacles.
4. Inflating Camping Equipment
To those that enjoy camping, a small air compressor is a paramount piece of equipment that can help you inflate some of your camping equipment such as mattresses, balls, bikes, motorcycles, and river rafts.
Onboard vs Portable Air Compressor
When choosing an air compressor, you need to specify whether you need an onboard or a portable variant. From what we’ve discussed in the review section, it’s clear that each variant has its own separate specs that make it ideal for certain tasks.
So, to ensure that you get the best value, we’re going to discuss both of these compressor types in detail. In addition to that, we’ll discuss another compressor type that’s rapidly gaining popularity among most off-roaders. This is none other than the portable CO2 and Nitrogen tanks.
On-Board Air Compressor
Just as their name suggests, onboard air compressors are mounted permanently on your vehicle. They’re also permanently connected to a power source to offer ease of usage at a moment’s notice. These models are large and extremely powerful making them ideal for heavy-duty tasks.
Since they’re mounted permanently, off-roaders are usually advised to get dual models to allow them to serve multiple purposes. For instance, you can use these air compressors to operate your air lockers while still powering your air tools such as pneumatic wrenches to remove your tires.
When it comes to storage, onboard air compressors can be mounted on your car’s engine bay, the wheel arc, or anywhere at the back.
Portable Air Compressors
The next type of compressor is the portable air compressor variant. Just as its name suggests, this type of air compressor is light and portable making it easy to carry. Most brands include a convenient carry bag to ease mobility. Depending on your needs, portable compressors come in two popular variants.
The first one is plugged into the cigarette lighter port while the other is plugged into the battery using alligator clamps.
Now, portable air compressors are not as powerful as their onboard counterparts. However, they’re more flexible making it easier to carry them to where they’re needed. Although they’re cheap and user-friendly, these compressors suffer some setbacks.
One, they occupy a lot of space, especially if your car is already full and two, they take a lot of time to unpack and connect to the battery.
Portable CO2 and Nitrogen Tanks
Although they’re not as popular as onboard and portable air compressors, these tanks are filled with CO2 and nitrogen to resemble scuba diving tanks. The tanks are extremely small and lightweight as CO2 and nitrogen are compressed more than oxygen in a tank.
When used to inflate a tire, these gases expand very quickly once they’re inside the tire making it both easy and fast to inflate a large tire. The only problem with these tanks is that you’ll need a backup compressor to refill them once they’re empty.
Frequently Asked Questions about Off-Road Air Compressor
Q1. Should I Get a Portable or an Onboard Air Compressor?
Well, the decision to either go with a portable or an onboard compressor will depend on the amount of task that’s at hand. For instance, if you’re an enthusiast off-roader with air lockers on your axle differential, it will be quite obvious to get an onboard air compressor.
But, if you don’t have air lockers in your Jeep, truck, or SUV, then there’s no need of mounting an onboard compressor. In this case, a small air compressor such as a portable variant will be ideal.
Q2. Which Size Air Compressor Should I Get?
Now, this will depend on the size of the tires you’re intending to inflate. The size of the tire will dictate the size of the compressor, the tank, and the CFM rating. If you have a standard tire with a diameter of 33”, then you’ll need a compressor with a CFM rating of around 2.3.
Likewise, if the tire is 37”, you’ll need a compressor with a CFM rating of around 3. Now, when it comes to the size of the air compressor, most manufacturers recommend their customers to get big compressors that can inflate larger tires. This way, you won’t need to get another compressor when you switch your tires.
Q3. What is Duty Cycle in an Air Compressor?
During our discussion in the review section, you probably came across the term duty cycle. I believe you must have wondered what this phrase means right? Now listen. Duty cycle is the ratio of on-off time a compressor needs to perform efficiently in a given hour.
For instance, if your compressor has a duty cycle of 50%, then it means it operates for 30 minutes then turns off for the remaining 30 minutes to cool down.
Q4. How Often Should I Clean the Air Intake Filter of My Compressor?
In case your compressor has an air intake filter, then you should clean it weekly to remove any debris. Remember, a clogged intake air filter will disrupt the flow of air making it hard to achieve the desired PSI. In case you notice the air intake filter is damaged or is clogged with debris that’s hard to come off, then you should simply replace it.
Q5. Does Vibration Affect a Compressor?
Yes, it does. Vibration can affect the flow of air in your compressor. So, to avoid it, you can try getting a compressor that has additional stability such as wheels or rubber stands at the bottom.
So, here’s a quick recap of what you went through. We started with the review where we listed 10 air compressor models then went to the buyer’s guide section where we discussed some important parameters you must consider.
We then discussed why you need an air compressor, distinguished portable from onboard compressors then answered some pressing questions you might have regarding the best off-road compressor.
With such immense information at your disposal, we believe that you’re in a better position to make an informed decision when choosing an air compressor that will suit your needs and demands. But, before we call it a day, always consider the future when choosing an air compressor.
If you’re planning to install air lockers or bigger tires in the future, consider getting a dual-channel onboard compressor to avoid getting stranded when the time comes.