Product Review – Pittsburgh Automotive 12V Air Compressor

Over the past few months I’ve been getting into off-roading. This was spurred on by the purchase of my 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. During the clinic at the Southern Off-Road Adventure Rally I learned that to achieve better traction in mud and sand it is advised to “air down.”

Airing down is reducing the volume of air in your tires to essential have the tire wrap around the surface you’re riding on.  This reduces tire slippage. However, airing down works well on low speed driving, but Ii is not recommended to drive at fast speeds on roads with insufficient air in your tires. Bad things will happen.

At the clinic it was explained that stock tires can go as low as 10 PSI without having to worry about the tire coming off of the rim. Still being new to off-roading I choose to test this at the beach where I could get help if something went wrong. I also only went down to 15 PSI instead of 10.

Picture of the Pittsburgh Automotive 12V Air Compressor from Harbor Frieght
icture from Harbor Freight Tools

This is where the Pittsburgh Automotive 12V Air Compressor comes in.  Before I could air down, I wanted to make sure I had a way to inflate my tires back to the 38 PSI that I normally run them at. I bought the Pittsburgh Automotive 12V Air Compressor at Harbor Freight for $25.99. Seemed like an excellent price point to start at.

There was a couple of things that I was looking for. One, high volume  and two, 100 PSI or higher. This air compressor had both requirements.

After playing on the beach, I parked to inflate my tires before going on the road. The air compressor claimed it would inflate a standard tire in 3 minutes. It took 8 minutes to inflate a single 255 / 75 R 17 Rubicon tire. I was able to inflate the driver side tires and started on the passage side when the air compressor overheated and stopped working. I decided to give the air compressor a chance to cool down and slowly drove my Jeep to the nearest gas station.  The air compressor did later work again after it had cooled down.

In comparison, it took $2.00 and 2 minutes per tire to inflate the passenger side tires up to 38 PSI. I know what you’re thinking, “you can’t compare a gas station air pump to a portable air compressor.” You’re right. I only added this as a comparison. Keep in mind that there are times when you can’t get to a gas station, this is where the portable air compressor excels.

I’m now looking around for a different “beefier” type of portable 12V air compressor. The other option for me is to install an onboard air compressor, but they are expensive and  I’d rather put that money towards a new lift and tires.

So here’s the pros and cons:


  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Has enough cable to reach to all tires when plugged into the dash 12V port
  • Air gauge was dead on
  • Screw-in stem adapter
  • Extra adapters for blowing up other things like balls, air mattress, etc..
  • Excellent emergency air compressor
  • Comes with a nice carrying case


  • Took 8 minutes to inflate a 255 / 75 R 17 tire from 15 to 38 PSI
  • Only lasted for two tires

Bottom line: While it will not work for my off-roading needs, this is a nice product to carry along as an emergency air compressor at an inexpensive price.


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