VIAIR 88P Portable Air Compressor

It’s surprising that most people don’t carry a portable air compressor in their vehicle. Especially these days when gas stations no longer have free air and the pay for air stations that replaced it usually don’t work. I always carry a portable air compressor due to Murphy’s Law: when some can go wrong, it will. Especially when you are towing a trailer miles and miles away from cell phone coverage.

In the past the air compressors that lie in wait in the back of the SUV have been inexpensive mostly plastic affairs. They work for a year or two then die. When our 2006 Niagara tent trailer was vandalized and totaled by our insurance company, I had placed the air compressor in the trailer during the tire debacle. It was stolen too.

picture from the VIAIR website
.       picture from the VIAIR website

When we bought our new Milan in 2013, I decided to get the highest quality air compressor for the most reasonable price, which means Amazon is my best friend. When towing the trailer there would now be 8 tires to maintain. The VIAIR 88P had nearly 1,000 reviews on Amazon with a score of 4.6 out 5. It has been used for three years and this June I really put it through a hard test. It passed with flying colors.

 

 

Getting started

The tires on the SUV and trailer are checked before every trip along with checking the lug nuts with a torque wrench. At home the portable compressor isn’t used. In our garage a 33 gallon air compressor resides along with a 50′ air hose and a quality air chuck with gauge.

33 gallon air compressor for home use
33 gallon air compressor for home use
Home air gauge
Home air gauge

I don’t just go to Amazon and buy things. Other research is needed to make informed decisions. A tour through the VIAIR website was helpful, although we must always remember product websites are marketing venues. Here are the specifications, performance data, and fill rates for tires.

VIAIR 88P Specification
VIAIR 88P Specifications
VIAIR 88P Performance Data
VIAIR 88P Performance Data
VIAIR Fill Rates
VIAIR Fill Rates

 

VIAIR Fill Rates
VIAIR Fill Rates

 

VIAIR Fill Rates
VIAIR Fill Rates

Also on the site was a picture of the built-in LED light and the built-in gauge.

viair-led viair-builtin-air-gauge

As an experienced portable air compressor user, I know the small built-in analog gauges aren’t very accurate.  Along with the air compressor a new digital air gauge and 6 foot extension hose was purchased at the same time. The button was clicked and two days later (we belong to Amazon Prime and for most items we get free 2-day shipping) it was at our door stop.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-12-36-41-pm

picture from the VIAIR website
picture from the VIAIR website
VIAIR Extension hose
VIAIR Extension hose
TEKTON 5941 Digital Tire Gauge
TEKTON 5941 Digital Tire Gauge

Note: The compressor comes with 3 adapters, but not a bicycle Presta valve adapter.

The big test

This past June we were camping at Lake Mead. On the way we purchased 4 new trailer tires and 4 new light truck tires. The tire dealer set all 8 tires at 80 PSI. I later double checked the pressures with the tire gauge. These are the maximum load inflation pressures.

Towards the end of our trip Joyce had to go to work and the camper was left at the campground, driving her home and then returning back to the campground (500 miles round trip). On the way back I stopped at a Ford dealer to get my oil changed.

When it was time to go home I checked the tires the evening before departure and found that the trailer tires were still at 80 PSI, but the SUV tires were all at 31 PSI. Obviously the Ford technician did not know what he was doing nor understood the relationship of air pressure and temperature — of course few people do, and I am working on a comprehensive tire & towing guide post that I’ll be posting here soon. Look forward to it, because there will be some discussion of tire pressures that eludes the knowledge base of trailer owners and the so-called experts.

time and air

If you have ever filled an automotive tire with a portable compressor from let’s say 15 PSI to 35 PSI, you know it takes an excruciating long time. The higher the pressure gets the longer it takes to push in more air. So how long does it take to fill 4 tires from 31 PSI to 80 PSI?

Knowing there was time to kill while waiting, a glass of wine was poured, and taking a few pictures would help pass time. I didn’t pay attention, but it took around 30 minutes or so, including the time to retrieve and connect the air compressor. Impressive.

There is no cigarette lighter plug -- it has to be connected directly to the battery to handle the high amperage, and the engine must be running to supply the minimum 13.8 volts
There is no cigarette lighter plug — it has to be connected directly to the battery to handle the high amperage, and the engine must be running to supply the minimum 13.8 volts
The extension hose isn't need to fill all 4 tires on the tow vehicle, but it will be needed to reach the trailer tires when the trailer is attached to the tow vehicle
The extension hose isn’t need to fill all 4 tires on the tow vehicle, but it will be needed to reach the trailer tires when the trailer is attached to the tow vehicle

viair-side-view

viair-close-up

what’s not so good

As expected, the gauge isn’t super accurate. You should have a digital tire gauge anyway.

This is a high pressure, high amperage device and the head of the compressor gets hot! Don’t ask me how I know or where that blister on the tip of my index finger came from 🙂

Some sort of shield would be nice.

It doesn’t come with a case, but is packed in one of those boxes with a handle. A case would be nice to protect it. One of these days I’ll get around to obtaining something that will work.

These are minor inconveniences and should not deter a purchase decision. I do recommend this item.

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