Campbell Hausfeld RP1200 12-Volt Compact Inflator

Pros: cheap, small, plugs into car’s cigarette lighter

Cons: air nozzle can be slightly fussy

This inexpensive air compressor can be a lifesaver and I recommend everyone keep one in their car. The next time one of your tires is low it’ll get you out of a jam.

It’s got a simple female schraeder-value air nozzle on one end (the kind you need to inflate a car tire or most bicycle tires), and a 12-volt car cigarette-lighter power adapter on the other. There’s a good 8 feet or so of electrical cable too, enough to allow you to reach all 4 wheels on your car.

Having one of these in the trunk is much better than stopping at a gas station and putting a quarter into their machine for 30 seconds of air. For one thing, you can use it at home or on the side of the road as needed. For another, you’ll have it at home for inflating things like bicycle innertubes and basketballs.

It comes with a universal adapter for the nozzle, which basically means a long, narrow cone. You should be able to use this cone to inflate air mattresses or beach balls of various sizes. Just insert the cone until it stops and you should have a moderately good seal.

The compressor puts out 150PSI of pressure, which is plenty for a car or a bike. Usually a passenger car wants around 30 PSI and a bicycle tire wants around 60PSI so you’ve got plenty to spare.

My only complaint is the operation of the nozzle could be better. You fit the nozzle over the valve you want to inflate and then turn down a lever to lock it in place. This lever is short and really hard to turn. It generally takes both of my hands to do it, especially in tight spaces like between the spokes of a bike. Sometimes using both hands to turn this lever means I lose my grip on the nozzle itself, which may come apart from the valve or just bleed some air from it. It’s a problem going on and coming off. But overall it’s a minor thing and I’ve gotten used to it. It doesn’t interfere with the basic functionality of the compressor, which works well.

A nice feature is that the compressor has a built-in compartment for bundling up the nozzle and cable. Just wrap ’em up and place them inside this compartment, close the lid, and you’ve got a small black box with a handle on it – nothing dangling around. The unit is about the size of a box of Wheat Thins. It fits under the driver’s seat in both of my vehicles so it’s not even taking up trunk space.

When my truck was burglarized last year, they stole my compressor out of it. Jerks. I went and bought the exact same one a second time. I think that should show how much I like it. And you really can’t beat the price.

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