Differences Between Tire Inflators and Air Compressors

Tire Inflator vs Air compressor: Know the differences

In ancient times, compressing air didn't require a complex machine. Our ancestors used their lungs to blow air onto hot embers, lightening the flames of glowing fire. Following that light, our civilization has come a long way. Now we have got mechanical devices that carry on the same purpose in no time.

Our workloads have significantly dropped by the invention of such incredible machines. Among them, two of the most used machines are air compressors and inflators. Though they are kind of like the 2-sides of the same coin, it’s not that simple to count them on the same page.

Sounds baffling? No worries, in this article, we are going to talk about the differences between tire inflators and air compressors.

Let's take a deep dive into the details. Shall we?

Differences Between Tire Inflators and Compressor

Although the air compressor and the tire inflator seem to be serving the same purpose, they work differently. Here are some of the key differences between these two.

Anatomy of air compressor

What Is an Air Compressor?

An air compressor works by converting the electric energy generated by the battery or engines into potential energy, then it stores that energy as pressurized air.

The stored energy gets transformed into kinetic energy when the pressure is utilized. By using kinetic energy, you can do a lot of things such as filling your tires, gas cylinder, or powering tools.

Here are the basic parts of an air compressor that you need to have a good idea about.

Piston: The crankshaft in a compressor is mainly driven by an engine or electric motor. The piston runs by the force from the crankshaft and that's how it compresses the air. And that helps the air to be delivered to the nozzle at high pressure.

Air Tank: Most of the air compressors have an air tank. It holds the air at a certain pressure range. And the compressed air helps to power up the tools.

Gauge: You can get the information of pressure through the gauge. Gauge displays the pressure through a digital screen so it is easy to understand. The gauge can come in both analogue and digital display.

Anatomy of tire inflators

What Is a Tire Inflator?

A tire inflator is also one kind of air compressor. This specific type of air compressor is generally used to pump up car tires. It does not require any strenuous pumping to fill up the tire with air as pressurized gas is used.

They have a difference in sizes and shapes. You can fit the small-handed ones easily in the boot of your vehicle. So, it can be your lifesaver in case of an emergency.

You will not be able to fit the larger ones in your car but they can pump up the tires at an impressive speed.

As for the tire inflator, the following are the key parts of the device.

Piston and Cylinder: Even if the motor is the one that runs the device, it’s the piston and the cylinder where the action takes place.

Electric Motor: The electric motor’s output shaft is attached to the gears so that it can easily carry the energy needed in the piston.

Switch: A switch is there to engage the device’s power circuit. It can be either a dial, a button, or a trigger.

Gear: Most inflators have two gears. One is connected to the piston and the other is connected to the motor.

Fan: Next to the motor, there’s a small fan to keep it air-cooled.

Mechanism of Operation of a air compresser and Tire Inflator Works

How Air Compressor Works

The Air compressor follows a procedure known as the positive displacement to function. A reciprocating piston helps it to gradually increase the pressure by decreasing the available volume.

When air reaches the compressor, it gets compressed by a piston and driven by a crankshaft. By moving down the piston helps to create a vacuum above it. And that enables the outside air to flow in. After that, the piston compresses the air above it by moving up.

This lifts the air pressure and stops the outside air from coming in. The valve leading the air to the storage tank opens up and helps the compressed air to get in the tank.

How tire inflator works

The canned tire inflator has 3-components of a pressurized fluid mixture. Solvents that help the sealants to stick to the rubber tire. The second one is sealants; it seals the puncture for a short time. And the third one is propellants that thrust the sealant from the can and right into the tire and that's what inflates the tire.

Technical Aspects

Technical Aspects of Air Compressors

Portable vs Stationary Tank: The portable compressor is significantly lighter in weight compared to the stationary compressor. You can carry them easily from one place to another. And most of them come with a carrying handle attached, so it becomes a lot easier to carry.

Gas Powered Vs Electric Powered: If you are living in a place where it's hard to get electricity all the time, then getting a gas-powered air compressor would be a perfect choice. To run an electric compressor, you will need a power source.

The difference in Tank Style: Air compressors have a lot of verities in their tank-style such as wheelbarrow, hotdog, and twin-stack.

Technical Aspects of Tire Inflators

You will find different types of tire inflators out there in the market. Each of them comes with a unique design. Here are 3-most used tire inflators.

Floor Pump Tire Inflator: Floor pumps are also known as hand tire inflators. The body of this mechanical device looks like a cylinder, and there's a footrest placed on the down bottom. You will see a piston with a double-dipped handle on the top of the cylinder.

Foot-operated Pump Tire Inflator: The name says it all. You need to use your feet to operate this type of inflator. This pump has a foot-operated piston connected to the foot pedal. By pressing the foot pedal the piston rod will squeeze the air right in the barrel then into the tire.

Compact Pump Tire Inflator: A compact inflator can be operated just by using your hands. The pump is very easy to use and comparatively much smaller than the others.


Portability air aompressor: When it comes to portability, the gas-powered air compressor is a lot more portable than an electric one. As an electric one needs an electric power source, you have less freedom of movement.

Portability of tire inflators: Almost all the tire inflators out there come with a lightweight and compact design. Therefore, you can carry them anywhere you want.

Power Source

Power Source of Air Compressor: Different types of air compressors require different power sources. For instance, a reciprocating air compressor generates power from a diesel engine. A dynamic compressor requires electricity to run. An axial one has to use gas to run and a centrifugal compressor needs electricity to operate.

Power Source of a Tire Inflator: A tire inflator, on the other hand, can run with both AC and DC power. So, compared to an air compressor, it’s a lot simpler and more convenient for daily use.


Air compressor: Air compressors are usually used for multiple tasks around the hound. You can operate engines, motors, etc, by using an air compressor.

Tire Inflator: A tire inflator, on the other hand, has limited use of only inflating a tire. You can’t do anything else other than that.


Air Compressor: Being a versatile device with a powerful motor, the air compressor comes with a larger profile than an inflator.

Tire Inflator: A tire inflator, on the other hand, is actually smaller in size compared to an air compressor.

Which One Is Better for Inflating Tires?

When it comes to inflating your tire, we would recommend you to get tire inflators instead of an air compressor. Wondering why?

Well, the air compressor might pump up the tires very fast but the issue is their portability. Usually, they come with a big tank and require a power source to run so, you won't be able to carry them anywhere you want. And also, you may not find the required power source everywhere you go.

On the other hand, when it comes to tire inflators, it's a lot portable, easy to operate and, they can be run just by using a battery. They are portable and smaller in size, so; you can just carry them in the trunk of our vehicle.

Even if you need to inflate your tire in the middle of nowhere, the tire inflators will be your guardian angel. So, undoubtedly the tire inflator is your best choice. Here we have the Best Portable Tire Inflators for you. You can check it out.

Final Verdict

We hope after reading our article, now you clearly understand the differences between tire inflators and compressors. You see, the main purpose of them is the same, but with an air compressor, you get more facilities. And tire inflators can be used only to inflate the tires of your vehicle.

So, if you are looking for a multipurpose machine, then it would be wise to go with the air compressor. But if inflating your car tire is your only goal, then you should go for the tire inflator without any hesitation.

We hope you have found what you were looking for.

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