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Best Off-Roading Air Compressors- Pros and Cons

Sometimes during an off-road journey, you need to reduce the tire pressure to get more traction in a recovery situation. You can take the services of an off-road air-compressor to reduce the pressure of tires as well. Why are the air-compressors used in off-roading?

Off-roading air compressors are used to refill the tires of your off-road vehicle. Refilling tires is one of the most crucial steps for carrying out off-roading adventures without any problem. The most important off-road air compressors include On-Board air compressors and portable air compressors.

It will help if you understand the importance of refilling the tires of your off-road vehicle as it imparts a sense of safety and security during an off-road trip. The tires of your vehicle determine the fate of the journey; inflation or deflation of tires can have an immense impact on an off-road vehicle’s performance. The adjustment of air pressure primarily depends upon the selected terrain.

Need for the Adjustment of Tire Pressure:

Off-road vehicle owners adjust the pressure of tires as following the selected terrain. Better traction ensures the better control and stability of the vehicle. This chapter will analyze the different types of air-compressors, the use of air-compressor, and important factors for choosing the right option for your off-road vehicle.

After skimming through this section, you will be able to understand the dynamics of air-compressor and their importance for off-road vehicles.

Several Components of Off-Road Air-Compressor:

Different components of the air compressor have been discussed under this section. To facilitate you, we have included ratings to get an idea about the most suitable air compressor for your off-road vehicle.

Parts of air-compressorExplanation
MotorThe motor is used is a reciprocating air compressor that is essential for off-road vehicles. The main function of the motor is to power the piston in the compression mechanism. During the compression mechanism, air enters the cylinder through the valve.

Air after passing through the air house by the push of piston eventually enters into the tire. This mechanism inflates the tires quickly.
Air HouseAir house is the component that is used to transfer air from the compressor to the tires of your off-road vehicle. The long enough air house enables you to reach all the tires of your off-road vehicle.
Tire ChuckTire chuck is connected to the valve system of your off-road vehicle tires. Chuck should be a built-in deflator for off-road use.
Power CordA power cord is used to initiate the process by connecting the compressor to the main power source that could be the battery in most cases.

Different Types of Off-road Air-Compressor:

1. On-Board Air-Compressors:

Off-Roading Air Compressors

On-Board Air-compressors are the types of air compressors used to install within the engine bay of your off-road vehicle. The onboard air compressor remains attached until or unless it is wired with the battery. This feature of connection with battery makes them very easy to use as they remain connected and operate anytime as per requirement.

On-Board air-compressor has many premium features, and these types are very versatile as well. Other main functions done by these onboard air-compressors are the powering of pneumatic control for air-lockers. Large models also power air tools.

It will help if you have an idea about installing an onboard air compressor that includes the integration of switches into the dashboard. But this is not the only place to install these air compressors.

You can install these air-compressors in any other place as well. During installation, it should be better to ensure that differentials can be locked from inside the cab so that there would be no need to climb out and turn the hub on the wheel.

On-Board air compressor has both aspects positive and negative. This chart will analyze both aspects of the On-Board air-compressor as follows:

On-Board Air compressors can be used for multiple purposes this feature augment their demand.One of the main drawbacks is related to price, initial installation can prove to be costly in many cases.
These compressors are very easy to use, you will not face much difficulty in their usage.These types of compressors can not fit the engine bay without proper modifications
Another positive aspect of onboard air-compressor is that they can power air lockers and tools.It requires repairs and upgrades that can make them more costly and time-wasting.

2. Portable Air Compressors:

Off-Roading Air Compressors

Portable air compressors can be carried with you easily because they are packed in a bag or case that makes it easy for you to take this air compressor with you where ever you want to take in necessary. The off-road vehicle battery is used for their functioning as they are designed to work on batteries.

If you want to make them functional, you should connect them with the terminals for power. If cigarette lighter ports are available, some smaller models can be plugged into this port to become functional. But these can prove to be too small for larger truck tires.

Portable Air compressors, as compared to onboard air compressors, provide more flexibility. The most obvious reason for this feature is that you can use them between the vehicles. If battery clip wires allow it to move, this type of compressor will move all-around easily.

But there is a drawback associated with this type of compressor: the unpacking of this type of compressor, connection with the battery that needs to be done carefully, and it will take time to cool down. These adjustments can waste your time and effort.

Pros and Cons associated with this type of air compressor are delineated as follows:

Portable air compressors are relatively cheaper as compared to the onboard air compressors so they can be preferred due to this reason.The only drawback associated with this type of air compressor is that it is time-consuming to unpack and connect this compressor otherwise you will not go wrong with this air compressor.
Another important feature that augments the demand for this air compressor is that it did not require any installation to become operational. 

Portable Co2 and Nitrogen Tanks:

Portable tanks are used to filled with Carbon dioxide or Nitrogen to become operative. These gases are compressed more rapidly than the oxygen in the tank, thus translating to rapid inflation. Still, these gases also expand more as compared to oxygen when they make inflate into tires.

If you want to save time, portable tanks can prove to be the best in business, but there is a limited amount of gas in tanks; therefore, you can take a portable air compressor with you off-road as well. Pros and Cons associated with these tanks are delineated as below:

Quick tire inflation is one of the most obvious positive aspects.Expensive in nature because you need to have an additional air compressor.
Larger tires can be filled with more ease as compared to the shorter ones.It needs to be refilled time and time again.

Find Out: Best Off-Roading Kit- Safety, Recovery Kit and More

Factors to Consider for The Selection of Off-Road Air Compressor:

On-Board vs Portable Air Compressor: Which one is the best?

Suppose you will make the final choice between an onboard air compressor and a portable air compressor. In that case, you should consider whether you possess air lockers on your axle differentials.

If you possess air lockers or plan to have them, then it should be better for you to possess large air compressors that can also be used for tire inflation.

If you lack an air locker, in this case, the portable air compressor can be served as the best available option as it is the more flexible and cheaper option to the onboard air compressor.

Size of Tires:

The size of the tires of your vehicle determines the final selection of air compressors. Basic parameters of selection would be set around the volume required to inflate your tires. It would take a lot of time to inflate large tires with small air compressors, and you don’t want to waste your time in many cases.

You should select the compressor that would be powerful enough to inflate all four tires to recommended limits. Different sized tires require different air compressors.

Those models suitable for the inflation of larger tires can be connected directly to the power terminals of the battery, and there is no need for any connection with cigarette lighter outlets. 

Deflation Mechanism:

You should consider whether the selected air compressor has a deflation mechanism or not because it also takes some time to deflate the tires of your vehicle. 

Some air compressors valve chuck come with a built-in mechanism that is activated to deflate the tires, and you don’t have to hold down the valve system.

These types of air compressors can save you plenty of time and effort. Some tire gauges are also used to air down the tires of your vehicle.

Check Out: What Do Gear Ratios Mean in Off-Roading? Everything You Want

Ratings of Air Compressor:

The following parameters served as the base for the ratings of air compressors.

The Tire Size of an Off-Road Vehicle:

Air compressors should be selected based on the tire size of your off-road vehicle. Some of the manufacturers tell you to select these air compressors following the size of the tire. It mainly depends upon the compressor’s airflow capacity.

The Voltage of The Air Compressor:

Air compressors that are used for off-roading are typically 12V or 24V models. Larger compressors deliver higher airflow, which is why they require a higher voltage to do this task effectively. 

Table showing a few popular portable compressors as examples of different ratings and tire sizes:



Tire Size

Smittybilt 2780 Universal Air Compressor

PSI: 150 CFM: 2.54 Voltage: 13.8v Duty cycle: 40 minutes/hour

Up to 35’’ tires

VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor

PSI: 150 CFM: 2.3 Voltage: 12v Duty cycle: 35 minutes/hour

Up to 33″ tires

VIAIR 400P Portable Air Compressor: Best Value

Off-Roading Air Compressors

VIAIR 400P can be the best choice for off-roading as it takes only three minutes to move from 35PSI to 60PSI. This air compressor can inflate the tires of your vehicle up to 35’’.

You should know about the thirty-minute break while using this type of air compressor because it takes thirty minutes for the motor to cool down and maintain a higher duty cycle.

The convenient storage bag is attached to this unit, and an extra bag is also present to give more storage area. The pressure gauge of this air compressor is remarkably accurate; you can easily rely on it.

This air compressor has both pros and cons delineated as follows:

Ergonomic handle for firm gripMotor gets quite hot during operation
Large bag for easy transportation and it also posses storage componentRelatively short power cord
Accurate and precise gauge 

ARB CKMTA12 ’12V Twin Motor Portable Air Compressor: Most powerful

Off-Roading Air Compressors

This type of compressor is not among the ordinary compressors, which is evident from the price of that compressor. But this compressor is extremely powerful and durable, so you can not go wrong with selecting this type of compressor.

Because of its twin motor system, it takes about 90seconds to move from 20PSI to 40PSI. The maximum working pressure of this air compressor is 150PSI.

Pros and Cons of this air compressor are manifested as below:

The fast refilling speed of this compressor augments its demandRelatively more expensive
The motor does not get too hot during functioningThis type of compressor is a bit heavy
Easy setup process 

Smittybilt 2781 Air Compressor: Most Compact

Off-Roading Air Compressors

This air compressor is made up of heavy-duty steel, and it is a well-crafted air compressor. This type of air compressor takes about two minutes to move from 5PSI to 20 PSI. This unit is not slow as its maximum pressure is 150PSI.

The auto thermal cut-off is one of the stand-out features of this air compressor. Multiple mounting systems are available to minimize the vibrations. The selection of this quality air compressor will not let you down.

24-inch air hose, with a twist screw on the brass tire inflatorStorage bag isn’t the best quality
Multiple mounting systems on a rubber base to reduce vibrationA tad heavy

VIAIR 300P Air Compressor: Most Versatile

Off-Roading Air Compressors

This air compressor has the potential to do more than inflation of tires. Both the inflator and deflator systems of this air compressor augment the demand of that compressor. It is very quick in functioning as it takes about seventy seconds to move from 18PSI to 30PSI.

This type of air compressor has the potential to inflate 33’’ tires. This is an extremely powerful air compressor. Despite its small size, it can prove to be very useful for your vehicle. The provision of a safety fuse augments the demand for this air compressor.

The pros and Cons of this air compressor are delineated as follows:

Provision of inflator and deflator system both in oneThe motor can get hot after use
Provision of high-quality storage bag along with storage components8-inch power code that is relatively short
High-quality alligator clamps 

Teromas Tire Inflator Air Compressor: Multi Purposed

Off-Roading Air Compressors

This type of air compressor is comprised of sockets for both AC cables and DC cables. This type of air compressor takes about four minutes to move from 5 PSI to 40 PSI.

Other features include providing LED lights and LCDs; it turns out to be a multi-purpose air compressor. This type of air compressor is super easy and convenient to use.

Pros and Cons associated with this type of compressor are given as follows:

Comes with both a car cigarette lighter plug and a wall plug for more versatilityNot ideal for large truck tires; best for light-duty use
Includes 3 additional units for use on car tires, bikes, RVs, motorcycles, and even ballsThe power button is a tad flimsy


The importance of an air compressor can not be ignored if you are willing to go off-road. You need to air down the tires of your off-road vehicle but you should know about the reinflation of tires. In this situation, you need an air compressor and you can not avoid the importance of this device. You will have a great trip if you take care of this equipment.

Also Read:

Does Off-Roading Void Warranty? How to Check Your Vehicle
Is It Dangerous to Hit the Rev Limiter When Off-Roading?

Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQs):

What is the most powerful air compressor?

Dewalt Compressor can be the best available option if you are looking for the most powerful air compressor. You can not ignore that it is one of the most powerful air compressors that are available on the market. The large capacity six-gallon tank is one of the most important features of this powerful compressor that can not be ignored.

This type of compressor is equipped with a 9 horsepower motor that delivers 2.6CFM. The maximum PSI rating of this compressor is 165. If you are willing to have a powerful air compressor, you can not go wrong with this choice. 

What size air compressor do I need to inflate tractor tires?

It depends upon the size of the tires of your off-road vehicle. The tires of a tractor are typically around 20PSI in the front end and 33 PSI in the rear end. So those tires having valves use an air compressor that holds the rating of 4CFM in 90PSI to inflate.

So if you need the compressor to inflate the tires of your tractor, you must make the selection based on the size of the tires. There are many off-road air compressors are available but you should select the most suitable option.

As far as gallon size is concerned, an air compressor with a 2 to 3-gallon tank size is suitable. Large tank-size air compressors will let you inflate the tire without any refill. But for heavy-duty applications like tire inflation, sanding, and others that need continuous power and pressure, it is recommended to go for a 6-gallon tank size.

What can a 3-gallon air compressor do?

3 Gallon air compressors are relatively less powerful as compared to six-gallon air compressors. These types of air compressors are used to fill an array of items. This array of items include tires, air mattresses, and balls.

But if the air compressor is comprised of a powerful motor and pump, different light-duty pneumatic tools can be powered by this easily. These types of air compressors are also used to power the floor and brand nailers. This is what it can do.

What can a 6-gallon air compressor do?

These types of air compressors are specifically used for short tasks such as grease guns, roofing and framing nailer, etc. Other than that, auto tire inflation, gauge finish nailer, and the like are what this small-size air compressor can finish with ease. You can not go wrong with the selection of these types of air compressors.

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