All about: Air Compressors and Air Inflators

All about: Air Compressors and Air Inflators

Justin G1/ 2/181 comment

Let’s forego the lengthy intro and get into the meat and potatoes; we’re here to talk about those small air compressors/inflators that you see in stores and online. We’ll cover some specs, differences, and what type is right for you.

air compressors wagan tech


For our purpose, we are referring to standard, car-sized, tire inflators/compressors that one would carry in their vehicle.


Air Inflators are most commonly used to inflate pool toys, sporting equipment (such as basketballs, soccer balls, footballs, etc.) and, of course, tires!

air inflator blog wagan

Inflator vs. Compressor

We will use “Inflator” and “Compressor” synonymously as both devices are used to compress air and inflate objects. Generally, the “Inflator” is used to describe the small, tank-less version that is kept in the car (like the one seen in the above picture, far left) while a “Compressor” is usually referring to the large tank types found in automotive repair shops (as seen above, center and far right). Since there is no differentiation by definition, both terms can be used interchangeably.

Direct Drive/Belt Drive

Our inflators are direct drive; simply put, these inflators have the motor mounted directly to the body (pump) whereas a belt drive inflator has the motor mounted separately with a drive belt connecting the motor to the pump.

Tank/Tankless Models

Our Inflators are tankless by design. This increases reliability, efficiency, and decreases weight and overall size. As the inflator pumps out air, the tire or inflatable device becomes the storage “tank”. For inflators with tanks, the compressed air fills a holding vessel (tank) and is then transferred to the inflatable device.

Which One Do You Need?

• Is it for emergencies or for filling tires, pool toys, inflatables, sports equipment, or air mattress? If you answered “yes”, then our inflators are perfect for your needs. See below for the current model comparisons!

• Do you need to operate pneumatic tools? If you need to operate air/pneumatic tools, then our compressors are not the right choice for you as you need a compressor with a holding tank.

Model Comparison


AC/DC Digital Air Compressor (#7315)

12V Quick Set Inflator Compressor (#7301)

Quick-Flow Compact Air Compressor (#2020)

Cordless Spotlight Compressor (#2450)

3-in-1 Easy Air Compressor (#2253)

Power Source

12V DC & 110V AC

12V DC

12V DC

12V DC

12V DC

Max Power Consumption

10A DC/ 2A AC



(Internal Battery)



100 PSI

150 PSI

150 PSI

260 PSI

260 PSI

Pressure Unit Displayed

PSI/bar/kPa & kgf/cm2











Flow Rate






Unit Size (LxWxH inches)

9.5 x 7.5 x 5.0

8.0 x 2.5 x 6.5

2.8 x 4.7 x 5.9

6.0 x 10 x 4.8

12 x 12 x 4

Unit Weight

3.8 lbs.

1.8 lbs.

1.6 lbs.

6.5 lbs.

3.3 lbs.

Inflator Accessories






Other Features

Automatic Shut-off at desired pressure, can be used at home and in the car

Automatic Shut-off at desired pressure, LED Work light, On-board Storage

Work light, On-board Storage

On-Board Battery, Jump Starter, Work Light, 3 LED Side Lights, 12V DC Socket

Rotating work light, On-board Storage

Glossary of Terms

12V or 12V DC
Modern cars run off of 12V (12 volt) electrical systems. This is the same power that comes out of your cigarette lighter (accessory) socket in your car.

AC (Alternating Current)
AC or Alternating Current is the power that comes out of your wall outlet in your house and is usually around 110-120V (Volts).

Air Chuck
Attached to the air hose, this is the piece that connects the hose to the valve stem of your tire.

Air Compressor
Any device that pumps air into a container. In this case, an electric powered motor that pumps air into your tires.

Air Hose
A rubber tube with a hollow center (like a garden hose) that delivers air from the compressor to your tires.

Air Inflator
see also "Air Compressor"

Analog Display (gauge)
The standard "dial-type" pressure gauge used with traditional air compressors. These are commonly round with pressure graduations and a needle that moves as the pressure increases.

A metric unit of pressure that is equal to 14.50 PSI.

Belt Drive
A type of air compressor where the motor is separate from the pump where a drive belt connects the two units together.

CFM or Cubic Feet per Minute is a measurement of air flow.

Digital Display
LCD or LED display in lieu of the traditional analog display which shows a numeric reading of the air pressure unit(s) without a needle.

Direct Drive
A type of air compressor where the motor is mounted directly to the pump.

DC (Direct Current)
DC or “Direct Current” is the type of electricity that batteries output. This is the type of electricity found in your car and is usually at around 12V (Volts).

Flow Rate
Flow rate is another word for CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute).

Inflator Nozzle
Any one of the included tips that fit into the air chuck and are used to inflate pool toys, sporting equipment, etc.

kPa or “kiloPascal is a unit of pressure that is equal to 0.15 PSI. In standard atmospheric pressure, 1 atm is equal to 101.325 kPA.

PSI or “Pounds per Square Inch” is an imperial unit of pressure measurement that is the standard in the United States.

The name for the combination of electric motor and piston that, when running, compresses air and pumps it into tires.

Tank style air compressors – Air is first pumped from the motor into the air (holding) tank and is then fed through the air hose to your tires. In a tank-less setup, air is pumped directly from the motor into the air hose to your tires.

Need more help?
Give us a call at 1.800.231.5806 or email us at - we'd love to help you figure out what compressor fits your needs!

Comments (1)

Iris on 1/12/24

I am looking for a tire inflator ideally that runs off of household current. I had a small tire inflator that ran off the cigarette lighter 12v but it was very slow, very slow. I just need something to bring my tires up to the right pressure. Asuggestions

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