How to choose the right tire inflator

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How to choose the right tire inflator

As of this writing, Power Tank makes 15 different tire inflators. How do you choose from such a wide selection and why are there so many in the first place? I hope to clear up some confusion and explain the methods to our supposed madness and by the end, you'll be making space in your rig for what will be your new favorite tool. 

Simply put, we believe in using the right tool for the job at hand. Think of how many different kinds of tires are out in the world. There are bicycle tires, car tires, off-road tires, racing slicks, tractor tires, RV tires, trailer tires, big rig tires, etc. They all have different constructions, different operating pressures, different materials, and, therefore, require different tire inflators. 

Pop quiz! What gauge pressure should be used if you run a 40psi tire pressure?

A. 15psi
B. 40psi
C. 60psi
D. 150psi

If you said B then you are...incorrect! The answer is C and here's why.

A. 15psi - Obvious. It won't read your tire pressure at all.
B. 40psi - 40psi is the max reading on the gauge. You never want to "peg" a gauge as you risk damaging it.
C. 60psi - This gives you a good cushion above 40psi and good accuracy tolerance.
D. 150psi - You can use this gauge but you would be sacrificing accuracy.

The reason you wouldn't choose D is because accuracy tolerance is based on a percentage of the maximum pressure of the gauge. So if the accuracy tolerance of a gauge is +/- 2% the 150 psi gauge is accurate to (+/- 2% of 150 psi) or (+/- 3 psi). The 60 psi gauge is accurate to (+/- 2% of 60 psi) or (+/- 1.2 psi), and so on. Can you see how lower pressures lead to higher accuracies? Also note that some 150 – 200 psi gauges don’t even measure pressures below 10 psi or are 50% less accurate at the lower and higher limits of the gauge.  

Here’s a quick guide:

Low Pressure Tires (UTV, Sprint, Paddle Tires) 15 to 60psi gauge
Medium Pressure Tires (Car, Light Truck Tires) 60 to 100psi gauge
High Pressure Tires (Heavy Truck, Trailer, RV Tires) 150 to 200psi gauge

That's enough about the gauges; let's dive into the other features of our tire inflators like the hose and chuck. We offer two different hose lengths. The shorter one is 24in. It’s longer than most others and allows you to stand up while inflating. The other hose is a 6 footer. It’s used for all high pressure tires on trailers, RV’s, and trucks which allows you to stand clear of the tire while inflating in case the tire blows. A high pressure tire is made to carry more weight. It typically has a stiffer wall which is not meant to flex like a regular car tire and when a high pressure tire is run at a low pressure for a while it can damage the inner structure making it weak and susceptible to letting go. If you ever want to see the damage 80 to 100 psi can do to a person just watch this:

Don't be a dummy like that dummy. Stand away from those high pressure tires!

We use stainless steel wrapped rubber hoses on all of our inflators. We use rubber because it is flexible, especially in cold temperatures. Other brands use PVC which is less expensive but gets stiff in the cold making it a hassle to use. Our stainless steel braided outer sleeve provides maximum durability and pressure resistance while still allowing good flexibility. And because there are so many different types of wheels and valve stems we offer every chuck option you may need. Do you have a short straight stem on a beadlock or a reverse stem on an Alcoa Dually? It doesn’t matter. We have the chuck for you. 

The last thing that separates our inflators from the competition is our inflator bodies. In a motor, the piston must mate with the cylinder or it will be too loose or too tight. The same goes for the high tolerance requirements between our inflator brass piston and the body’s cylinder. If the piston is loose you’ll get faster wear and leaking. If the piston is too tight the piston won’t slide freely and you’ll chew up O-rings. Our bodies are pressure cast to ensure they meet our strict requirements and to be void of all porosity for strength and leak free service. We also use tougher EPDM O-rings with high tear resistance since our inflators are designed to withstand up to 400psi. 

Exploded view of Power Tank tire inflator showing piston assembly.
Trigger feeling a little sticky? Unscrew the bolt holding the piston in and give it a light coat of silicon grease on the O-rings. It'll feel good as new!

By the way, for those needing super accurate tire pressures for their race car or anything else, we have a racer series tire inflator. How accurate is it? How about +/- 0.25psi accuracy in a 100psi gauge. It's so accurate, it will measure elevation change or your buddy blowing into it like a breathalyzer. It even comes with a verified certificate of accuracy, in case you were in doubt. 

Why do we go through all the trouble? Why don't we just pick an inflator out of a catalog and stick our logo on it? Because tire inflation is what we do. We are serious about it and if you care about your safety on or off the road, you should be too. 

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