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Best Ways to Air Back Up After Off-Roading

As a Driving Line reader, chances are you know why you would air down your tires on the trail. In the past, we covered the benefits of airing down and recommended tire pressures. While those advantages are great on the trail, they don’t work as well on the pavement.

Toyota prerunner Nitto Ridge Grappler Mojave Road Trail

If your tire air pressure is too low on the road and you will experience slower steering, slower acceleration, increased fuel consumption and accelerated tire wear, and potential damage to your wheels and drivetrain.

To avoid those problems you’re going to want to air back up but what is the fastest way to do that? When airing back up you have a few options. Depending on your budget and time, they all have their benefits.

Jeep Wrangler JL off road air up portable compressor

Portable compressors

Portable compressors are a great option for the budget minded. They range anywhere from a $60 Pittsburg compressor from Harbor Freight to a $180 Viair compressor. They are compact, portable and in our own test, a Viair portable compressor filled a 35” Nitto Ridge Grappler from 10psi to 35 psi in 3 minutes and 23 seconds.

Viair portable air compressor

These do not need to be hardwired to your rig as they are powered by attaching alligator clips to your car battery. Portable compressors don’t take up a lot of space and have the advantage of being moved from vehicle to vehicle, so you can pack it in your truck for camping trips or throw it in your daily driver, just in case.  

The disadvantage of the portable compressor is that it can only fill air. If you’re looking to run pneumatic tools, air suspension or activate air lockers, you’ll have to look into more dedicated options. 

Onboard air

Want to fill a 35” tire in less than a minute? Look no further than an onboard compressor. These types of compressors generate more air at a faster rate but must be hard mounted to your vehicle.

ARB Dual Air Compressor mounted

Onboard compressors such as the ARB compressor pictured above are available as a single compressor or dual compressor. More compressors mean more power to generate air. Not only are onboard compressors able to air up tires much faster than a portable compressor, they can also run pneumatic tools or engage locking differentials. They also have a 100% duty cycle, which means you can fill the tank with air and run the compressor silently.

ARB Dual Compressor mounted in engine bay with accessories

ARB compressors range from $290 for a single compressor model to $540 for the dual compressor.


In a hurry to head back home after the trail? Of all the options we’ve discussed, a Powertank is the fastest way to air up your tires. These tanks filled with compressed CO2 air up tires much faster than either of the compressors we have covered. Our independent test filled a 35” Ridge Grappler from 10 psi to 35 psi in 1 minute and 19 seconds.

Powertank CO2 10lb kit

Like onboard compressors, Powertanks also have the ability to run pneumatic tools at full power.

Unlike the previously mentioned compressors which require a power source to run noisy motors, a Powertank requires no power, they have no motor so they run silently.

Also unlike the compressors, Powertanks need to be filled with CO2. Depending on the size of your tire, a full 10lb tank is able to fill a 35" tire 10-40 times. Refilling the tanks cost about $25 to fill up.

Powertank Jeep Wrangler rear mounted

Powertanks retail for close to $700. That may sound like a lot but that price includes a mount and accessories in addition to the tank. 

Which one is right for you? That depends on how patient you are, how often you’re going off roading and most importantly, your budget. Which ever way to go, its hard to go off-road without your own air source. What’s your preferred method of airing back up?

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