You're inflating your tires wrong. Here's how to do it right, and save up to $500 a year.

It's a good idea to do your best to avoid this.


It's a good idea to do your best to avoid this.

I am a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Manhattan. Like many New Yorkers, I didn't drive a car when I lived in NYC. Now, like many Angelenos, I must.

Since moving here, I have been exploring Southern California's rich car culture, and I love it. I'm an I.T. professional who spent the last 20 years without needing a vehicle. The process of becoming reacquainted with car technology has been fun, as is becoming part of a community of car geeks here.

One morning I was waiting on an oil change at the garage when an old-timey greaser approached me to say how much he liked my Ford Crown Victoria. While it gets decent mileage for a 2005 car, he told me I could get the absolute best mileage possible if I made sure to keep tire air pressure at the recommended 35psi. FYI, you can find the recommended PSI for your car on the sticker inside the driver’s door or your Owner's Manual.

Click image to enlarge.


Click image to enlarge.

I looked into what he said, and found out there is truth to it--and that this translated to real dollar savings. A dedicated DOE and EPA sponsored website quotes Carnegie Mellon estimating that the average driver can save $300-500 a year by tweaking tire pressure to the manufacturer-recommended level.  That's real money in my pocket. It seems you can get even more miles per gallon by over-inflating your tires, but you sacrifice safety by doing so. You don't want a tire blow-out going fast on the freeway, so don't be tempted to over-inflate.

With the trend towards pay-per-use air pumps at gas stations, I wanted to get my own quality air pump that would offer a good balance between size, power, and cost. It has to fit in the trunk and be useful for other needs, like inflating a football or water raft if needed.

Searching around, I came across Viair, a company based out of Irvine, CA who bill themselves as "Your Vital Air Source." I liked what I saw: they specialize in air compressors for the on- and off-road automotive markets, and seemed to make quality stuff. Amazon carries a lot of different Viair compressors and accessories. After comparing models, I went with the $65 Viair 00088 88P. It turned out to be the perfect choice.

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ordered one on Amazon. The first thing I noticed after unboxing: this thing is made of actual, real metal. Quality stuff. While I don't know the exact gauge of the air hose, it is thick and durable with some weight to it. The power cord is more than sufficient with a safety fuse breaker built right in.

The Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor at Amazon ($65)


The Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor at Amazon ($65)

I knew I also wanted enough power to perform in any situation without worry. I wanted a powerful pump that can take care of multiple flat tires. The Viair 88P is rated for tires up to 33". I'm riding on 17" tires with my 2005 Crown Vic, so that is more than enough to get me out of trouble re-inflating all four tires from totally flat.

Fill-Rates

The Viair 88P's power cables connect to the car's battery and the engine has to be running for the air compressor to work. The Viair 88P has a Duty Cycle of 25 min. @ 30 PSI. This means that, based on one hour, it can run/pump continuously for 25 minutes at 30psi, then it needs 35 minutes of cool down time. This is the best duty cycle available in my needs category and is quite the workhorse for such a compact unit. The Viair 88P has a built-in "thermal overload protector," a very important feature to prevent accidentally destroying the pump by overheating it.

When you're shopping around for a pump, you want to make sure if offers ample slack in both its power cord from the battery, and the air hose. The Viair 88P is very generous on both the power cord and air hose sides. The power extension cord is 10 feet long and the air hose is 16 feet long. If that's not enough, you can buy an additional 6 foot extension for the air hose.

Photo: rjcjr


Photo: rjcjr

Photo: rjcjr


Photo: rjcjr

In keeping with my plans to use this device for things other than reinflating flat car tires, I was--ahem--pumped to see that it comes with three additional hose tips.

The well used tips of my Viair 88P


The well used tips of my Viair 88P

The icing on the cake was the PSI gauge built right into the pump. This gives me live readings of the current tire pressure without having to remove the pump and use a secondary tool. All I have to do is attach the hose to my tire and I get the reading. Turn the unit on and watch the needle jump, then grow as it inflates. Power off again and the needle resets to the new pressure. Quick, efficient, and just what I needed.

Photo: rjcjr


Photo: rjcjr

For me, this pump has all I wanted: durable build, a fast and powerful pressure pump, flexible functional use design, which includes packing up in a nice neat way. The unit measures 10x6x6 inches, and the whole thing rolls up nicely and fits in a oversized shoe box. The product designers were even thoughtful enough to include a red tie you can use to secure the power cords.

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I've had this a few months now. I wanted to really give it some serious use time before writing my review. Here's what I've found: not only have I saved gas on improved MPG, it also saved me in a pinch while traveling once. I caught my right rear tire very low on air (down 10psi) after refueling my belly on a food stop. Two minutes later, I was back cruising down the road at peak efficiency: my recommended 35psi. I didn't have to deal with driving on low, searching for an air pump, and trying to find loose coins. Feeling prepared for anything is an awesome feeling.

2015-07-18-12.53.24-CROP BOTTOM LINE: Let's do the math. I paid $65 once for this device, and expect more than $430 in savings annually. It is compact, tough and powerful, plus it provides safety and convenience with a nice return on investment. So, yeah. I feel good about my purchase and would recommend this to others.

Amazon: Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor