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Guide to Tyre Air Compressors

Why are air compressors a 4wdrivers best friend? 

If you’re out and about leaving the bitumen behind you at every possible chance, you will know that adjusting your tyre pressures is critical for better traction from your tyres and a better ride inside the cabin. Being able to re-inflate to your highway pressure after tackling the dirt is not just a nice to have, it is a necessity. Running tyres at low pressure for prolonged periods on the black top can lead to unnecessary tread wear and poor handling. 

One thing to make sure of is to ensure your compressor can handle the load you are going to demand of it. Our advice is to go to a reputable 4WD accessory store and ask their advice. They will have a range of compressors and accessories to help sort out your air requirements. 

Air compressors are either portable or vehicle mounted. 

A portable compressor should come in a sturdy box and will contain all you need to air up. A connector (usually alligator clips) that attach to your car's battery and an air hose to pump up tyres. When needed to pump up your tyres, you simply unpack from your vehicle, pop your vehicle bonnet, attach the alligator clips to the battery, plug in the air hose, start your vehicle so you don't drain your battery and inflate your tyres, checking the air pressure until you’ve hit your desired pressure. It’s good practice to recheck to make sure your tyre pressure is correct. A portable compressor is perfect if you only venture off the black top occasionally. You may need to purchase a gauge if it doesn't come with one. 

A portable tyre air compressor
Portable air compressor

A vehicle mounted compressor is another option. Usually, the air pump will be the same as what you would find in a portable compressor, the difference being it will be mounted either under the vehicle's bonnet, under a seat inside the car, in the tub of a ute or even underslung on a ute. The benefit of a mounted compressor is that you always have the compressor with you and it's not taking up any storage space. The initial mounting cost is a consideration but having an onboard compressor is a great option as it’s one thing less you have to worry about forgetting to pack on a trip.

Vehicle mounted air compressor
Vehicle mounted air compressor

If you are off road a lot or a competitive racer/four-wheel-driver, then a twin compressor set up system may be your preference. Having a twin compressor means you can air up in half the time! They are more expensive. Again, it's a cost versus benefit choice. 

You may have seen air tanks coupled with an air compressor. The air tank has pressurised air stored in the tank. They are handy for purging dust from air filters and other high pressure air applications. For tyre inflation, four litres of air won't inflate a tyre from 20 to 40 PSI. Once the air in the tank has been exhausted, the compressor kicks in. 

Twin compressor with air tank
Twin compressor with air tank

So, airing up is only half the equation. What about airing down? There are plenty of different options available. Apart from manually releasing air and checking pressures, you can use an E-Z TYRE DEFLATOR which allows rapid deflation of tyres by pulling out the valve from the tyre and dumping the air out. Once you’ve hit the desired pressure the valve simply screws back into place. Other options include gauges where you can set the air pressure level to which you wish to deflate, and the gauge will stop releasing air once it hits that preset pressure level. 

Australian company, MAXTRAX, has released a product which allows you to deflate and inflate two or four tyres at a time. The MAXTRAX Indeflate Digital 2 hose lets you equalise the tyre pressure on two (or four tyres depending on which product you choose). A really handy time-saving option which has three metre air hoses to connect to each tyre. A central gauge displays the pressure, and a dump valve allows for deflation. To inflate, simply hook up your compressor to the base of the digital gauge and inflate to your desired pressure. The kit comes with a bag and a handy gauge holder for your bullbar. 

MaxTrax Digital Deflate

Another handy air-related tool which is commonplace on new vehicles and can be retro fitted to vehicles, caravans and camper trailers is a tyre pressure monitoring device. These handy sensors relay the air pressure from your tyre to an in-car display. This allows you to constantly monitor your tyre pressures and alert you to any drop in pressure from any of your car or trailer tyres. This is great for ensuring safer travels with the knowledge your tyre's air is all under control. 

Next steps

At Hema Maps, we strive to provide the most comprehensive and accurate maps and guides for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Australia's natural wonders.

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