Science & Technology



Jim Rossman: Keeping a tire inflator in your car can save the day


Published in Science & Technology News

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about being prepared for auto-related problems. I wrote about a portable jump starter I used to help a friend start her car one cold afternoon.

I received some nice messages thanking me for the suggestion.

A few people mentioned I should have included information to help motorists with low or flat tires.

One reader wrote, “I am wondering if you have any advice for new cars that don’t come with spare tires. The only answers seem to be to get a tire inflator kit or buy an aftermarket compact spare tire. No one I know has a good answer for the no spare tire issue.”

Another said, “I just got an AirMoto and two days later needed to use it to get my car to the shop. It worked perfectly.”

I did talk about inflators in a gift guide before Christmas, but it’s worth mentioning again.

The AirMoto inflator, mentioned above is available for $79.99 from Amazon. It is a small, battery-powered inflator that looks more like a battery to charge a phone, but it can inflate a car tire in about eight minutes.

Reviewers on Amazon noted filling a flat car tire pretty much drained the battery, so don’t expect to use it all day on a charge.

You can charge it from a USB-C port, either in your car with the correct adapter, or at home.


A low-tire light on your dash likely means one or more tires are simply low on air, and the AirMoto is perfect for that situation.

I personally have a Ryobi inflator that looks like a cordless drill. I have Ryobi cordless tools, so I have several Ryobi batteries, and I keep the inflator and a battery in my car at all times.

I find I use it several times per year, including assisting others.

There are also inflators that are powered through the 12v accessory port in your vehicle. The 12v port used to be called the cigarette lighter, but now we just use those to power our gadgets.

If you’d like to look at corded inflators, you can search Amazon for the Viair 85P, which is a 10-foot power cord and can inflate a tire in less than three minutes.

If your car didn’t come with a spare, like my wife’s Mini Cooper, you can look for a compatible spare, if you have room to store it. The dealer can help you pick the right size donut spare to buy, or if there are similar models that do have spares, you might check a salvage yard. Many wrecked cars in salvage yards still have their spare tires.

Remember, cars without spares don’t come with a jack, so you’ll need to buy and store an appropriate jack and lug nut wrench.

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