How to Use an Air Compressor on Your Flat Tire

Nothing stops you from getting where you need to go as quickly as a flat tire. Whether it’s a slow leak that you need to maintain, or you go outside to find your tire completely flat, it can be refilled using the best air compressor. As long as there isn’t a large puncture or other major problem with your tire, you should be able to fill it with enough air to drive it to a repair shop.


Materials Required

  • Tire inflation gauge
  • Compressor


  1. If possible, determine the cause of your flat or low tire. If you see a large puncture, gash or object sticking out of your tire, consider calling a tow truck or installing the spare in order to get your vehicle to a repair shop for a new or patched tire.
  2. If your tires are just a little low on air, or if you’ve been dealing with a slow leak and know your tire will hold air for a while, then it is safe to use an air compressor to refill your tire.
  3. Check each tire to determine which ones need air. The proper inflation level can be found in your owner’s manual or on a placard inside the driver’s door. Use an inflation gauge to take the reading from each tire.
  4. There are several types of air compressors, including stand-alone tanks, portable tanks with a short hose attached and public compressors found at most gas stations. The ones found at gas stations have inflation gauges attached, so if you’re on the road and don’t have your own gauge, you can still follow the proper procedure.
  5. To use a stand-alone compressor, turn it on and wait a couple of minutes for it to fill with compressed air. Make sure the attachment is one that is designed specifically to fit onto a tire’s valve stem. Firmly press the attachment opening straight onto the valve stem, making sure all the air is entering the tire. You will hear a loud hissing sound if the attachment isn’t quite flush on the valve opening.
  6. Fill with air, periodically stopping to check the inflation pressure to prevent overfilling. If you only need a few PSI (pounds per square inch) in a tire, a full-sized compressor should fill it in a few seconds. It will take a little longer for a tire that is nearly empty.
  7. Gas compressors work in the same way, except most require you to insert coins before the compressor turns on. The compressor will stay on for a certain amount of time, and then if you require further use, you must insert more coins.
  8. Save money by using the inflation gauge before you turn on the compressor. Have the valve stem uncapped and the compressor hose ready to go before you insert coins. For filling, follow the same procedures as above.
  9. Many people carry a portable compressor, or a small tank of compressed air, in their trunk. The idea is the same, but these generally take longer to fill a tire.

Accessories Need to Inflate Tires

Air compressors can do a lot of things, from driving power wrenches to spraying paint. Perhaps the most basic function of an air compressor, however, is to inflate things, especially tires. With the right attachments, you can re inflate any tire, whether it’s on a bicycle or a big rig. More information here.

Union Fitting

Before you can attach any inflation gear to your air compressor, you’ll need a union fitting attached to the end of the compressor’s air hose. These fittings accept the male plug from the inflation device and must be sized to fit the plug. Most inflation devices have a 1/4 NPT plug, so that’s the size of union fitting you’ll need.

Air Inflator with Gauge

An air inflator with integrated gauge is a device that plugs into the union fitting. It features one or two trigger-style switches and a long rubber hose that ends with a coupler that clamps onto the tire’s air nipple. When you pull the trigger, the gauge shows you how much air pressure is in the tire as you inflate it.

Air Coupler

One optional part you might want to add is a quick-connect air coupler. These use ball-bearings to grab onto the male plug of the inflator, so you can just push the plug into the coupler, rather than screwing it tight as you must with the union fitting.

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