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What Is a Car Air Compressor?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen

Car air compressors are portable devices that are typically used to adjust tire air levels. These devices usually run on 12v direct current (DC), since they are designed to be used in situations where grid power may not be readily available. The other primary difference between a car air compressor and other compressors is the lack of an air tank, as these devices are typically designed to feed air directly into car tires. Some car air compressors also come with a variety of accessory tips so that they can be used to pump air into objects such as beach toys and sports balls.

An air compressors is a device that consists of at least a pump and a motor. When the motor is activated, it causes the pump to take in and compress air. Some compressors have receiver tanks that the pump compresses air into, which can effectively increase the capacity of the unit. When this type of tank is completely full, it can typically supply a much larger volume of compressed air than a pump alone. Compressors come in many different configurations and sizes, from large industrial models to relatively small devices such portable car air compressors.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The main purpose of a car air compressor is to provide a highly portable source of compressed air that can be used to fill tires with air. Some of these portable compressors can fill completely empty tires, while others are designed to top off tires that are a little bit low on air. Most car air compressors have no receiver tanks, which means they pump air straight into tires. The most powerful units sometimes do have tanks, and these compressors are often necessary in order to fill large truck tires.

Since passenger vehicles typically feature a 12 volt electrical system, that is the most common source of power for a portable car air compressor to run on. That allows these devices to be used on the road, where grid power is unlikely to be available. Most car air compressors are designed specifically for use with car and truck tire valves, but they sometimes also include a number of accessory tips. If these accessory tips are available, it is often possible to use a car air compressor to fill up beach toys and sports balls in situations where other compressors are unavailable.

Some car air compressors are also multifunction devices that include flashlights and other options that may be useful when performing emergency roadside repairs. Another option that a car air compressor may include is a gel battery, which can be used to jump start a car or truck. These batteries can sometimes also act as a power source for the car air compressor itself, or other electronic devices.

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