Every vehicle on the road shares one common part that is both a critical piece of safety equipment as well as a crucial operational part, and that is, the tires. Unfortunately, tires are also the most ignored and abused part of many cars in operation today. Operationally, your tires are your connection to the road. Every performance, comfort, and luxury feature on your vehicle is dependent upon your tires being in good enough shape to adequately do their jobs, and I say jobs because the tire performs so many functions, such as:
Cornering road holding
Absorbing and shedding road irregularities, debris, and damping the vehicle’s ride
Providing critical tactile feedback to you, the driver, which enables safe operation of the vehicle
Tires must perform these functions while in the worst possible environment of extreme heat and cold, wet and dry, ice, snow, and loose road material, under tremendously varying conditions of weight pressure being applied to a constantly changing contact patch.
As if this wasn’t challenging enough, many vehicle owners pay little to no attention to their tire condition, particularly the air pressure in the tire. Today’s driver has been lulled into complacency by the government-mandated Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) that is a part of every passenger vehicle sold in the U.S from late 2008 forward. While TPMS is a great safety feature, it does not relieve the driver from having to check and adjust tire pressures manually, which, granted, is kind of a nuisance. It’s understandable that people generally do not want to pull up at a grimy gas station air pump, which often requires having a few quarters in the change cup to use, then go around with a tire pressure gauge to verify psi numbers, adjusting with the filler hose, then rechecking and reinstalling valve caps. Ultimately, you get back into your car with brake dust all over your fingers, but at least your tires are once again inflated correctly.
One alternative to the gas station is to have a compressor and hose setup in your garage. However, that requires: 1. A garage, and 2. The willingness to spend a couple hundred dollars on a decent compressor, hose, and fittings to fill tires.
There is another alternative however, and it is much more convenient, much less expensive, and saves the step of having to use a pressure gauge before and after filling the tires. Additionally, you will not need a garage, because this solution runs on both wall-current as well as onboard vehicle electric power. Finally, while I wouldn’t go as far as to call it “fun”, this tool makes it super easy and gives you complete peace of mind that your tires are set to EXACTLY the pressure you’ve specified.
The tool is made by Kobalt, is available at Lowes stores or online at Amazon, and can be found for under $50. It has a built-in 120-volt wall plug as well as a cigarette lighter plug, and is small enough to fit in a little corner of your trunk.
Operation is simple: you plug it in to the power source of your choice, attach the air line to the valve stem, turn on the power and set the desired air pressure with the buttons next to the digital readout. When you hit the “on” button, the compressor starts up and fills the tire to the exact setting, turning itself off automatically when desired psi is reached. Disconnect from the valve stem, repeat the process in the 3 remaining tires and the spare (if you have one), and you are good to go!
I love tools like this Kobalt inflator because operation is simple, it functions very well, and having this tool will make you much more likely to maintain your tires at their proper pressure settings. That will provide for your safe operation as well as extend the life of your tires. I can’t think of a better deal on a more important automotive maintenance component.
Find it online at