Smittybilt 2.54 CFM Air Compressor Reviews | Drive

2021-12-12 13:27:16 By : Ms. Sara Zhao

If you like off-road or land-based off-road, one of the most valuable equipment you can have is a high-quality portable compressor. It is often necessary to ventilate certain parts of the trail in the wild, but when you need to return to the sidewalk, what do you use to reinflate?

There are many new cars today, you may not even have a spare tire, only a can of Fix-a-Flat, and hope that the tire shop is within a safe driving distance. Something like the Smittybilt air compressor is much stronger on paper than other air compressors tested by The Drive and can be carried perfectly with you.

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How long are you willing to spend to inflate the tires? Can your current unit quickly complete all four tires? What if they are 33-inch or larger tires? Can your air compressor do this without overheating or shutting down?

The Guides & Gear team wanted to know if the correct solution was to spend a little bit more on the Smittybilt 2.54-cfm air compressor (approximately $115 at the time of writing). Much more expensive than other portable compressors we tested recently. We want to know if you can just buy one without worrying about it, instead of constantly buying cheaper units and hoping for the best. 

Compressor, carrying bag, coiled hose and filling hose with built-in meter.

We purchased Smittybilt from, and when it appeared, I could tell that it was a more serious kit than the other compressors we reviewed. The shipping label on the box lists the weight as 14 pounds; compare this to a crowd of 5 pounds and less that we tested.

Opening the box, I was very happy to see that this Smittybilt is equipped with a nylon storage bag with two zippered pockets to keep everything in order. The larger of the two contains the compressor itself, and a 30-inch hose with a built-in air pressure gauge and a stem fitting. 

There is a 16-foot-long coiled air hose in the smaller zippered pocket, and a small ziplock bag with three adapters to inflate other types of things (such as sports equipment and floating objects on the water), and Two spare 30 amp fuses.

The actual compressor check weighs 10.2 pounds, but it does not feel that heavy. Physically, the unit is 10 inches long, 5.5 inches wide, and 7.5 inches high. It is not powered by an ordinary 12-volt socket, but by battery terminals with clip connectors. The power cord is 7 feet long, so between that length and the 16-foot coiled hose, you should be able to easily position the compressor to fill any tires on the vehicle, trailer, or RV.

There is an information board on the device that can provide you with some basic statistics. It has a maximum voltage of 13.8 volts and a maximum of 30 amps. It has a pressure rating of up to 150 psi and a flow rate of 2.54 cubic feet per minute (72 liters of air per minute). It is not listed on the nameplate, but the maximum operating time listed in the small manual is 40 minutes, and there is at least 20 minutes of cooling time before reuse.

The compressor has a rubber base, and when it runs in my driveway, it doesn't move or buzz. You can remove the plate that connects the base to the compressor to permanently install the Smittybilt and hardwire it to your vehicle for use with hard-core off-road vehicles. But for this review, I did not do so.

To test this Smittybilt air compressor, I performed the same test as the VacLife compressor-deflate the tires of Honda Element and Ford Edge to 19 psi, then reinflate to OEM specifications-and then add two more. Compared with VacLife, the speed difference of Smittybilt is huge.

On my Honda, it only takes 87 seconds to inflate the tires, while on VacLife it takes more than 5 minutes. Because the built-in barometer reads 4 to 5 pounds lower-I tested it with a meter that I know is accurate-87 seconds actually returned 40 PSI. For my wife's Edge, it took 95 seconds to reach 37 psi. The tires on my wife Edge are 245/60R-18 Michelin Latitude HP, and the tires on my Element are 215/70-R16 Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S. The tires of my wife’s car are much larger, but they can be inflated in just a few seconds.

My goal is to do some hard things for the final test. Using the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 I borrowed to review, I lowered the 275/65R-18 Goodyear Wrangler LT (31 inches high) from 42 psi to 20. Then I re-inflated them to 42 psi specified by the OEM. 

Smittybilt averages 3 minutes and 27 seconds per tire, for a total of 16 minutes and 22 seconds. Between each tire, the compressor is turned off for an average of 30 seconds to switch between tires. At the end of the 16 minutes, the compressor was very warm, but it was not uncomfortable to operate. 

I also checked the volume of the compressor, which was between 98 and 102 decibels in my test. For context, this is about the level of a gas lawn mower three to five feet away.

This compressor is quieter than a gas lawnmower three to five feet away.

Smittybilt air compressors are well-manufactured and use high-quality materials, such as stamped steel base plates. The hexagonal bolts used in its assembly are strong, and the power cord will not become hot under constant load. Everything is done and it fits well.

In addition, Smittybilt's sound is not annoying, running at 98-102 decibels under load. Likewise, its sound level is similar to that of a gas engine lawn mower.

Perhaps the best thing about this compressor is that it has enough power to fill most tires quickly. In addition, the device can be permanently installed and hard-wired into your vehicle, so you will never live without it.

The biggest disadvantage of Smittybilt is that its hose connections are proprietary rather than standard. If you check forums or websites where you can use this device, certain things are often the only negative feedback from customers. Then, replacing parts will cost you.

If you use very large tires, such as 37 inches or larger, you may want to view Smittybilt's 5.65-cfm model for $165, because the demand for large tires may push this 2.54-cfm unit to the limit.

Finally, the included coiled cord may not be the most durable item. It looks okay, but it's not very heavy. The material used for the air pipe is a thin and hard material that is cheap in appearance and feel. Think of the cheapest coiling route you have ever seen at Harbour Freight, and then imagine its lower cost and quality. This is the impression given to you by the line provided. For those who have used it, please share your experience in the comments.

The provided pressure gauge reading is always 3-5 psi lower

buy this. If you need to deflate your tires, or if you have a motorhome or trailer, then Smittybilt's air compressor is essential. Yes, it is not cheap, but other devices with similar performance, such as the Viair 400P, are almost twice as expensive. If you want the best in the industry, arguably the ARB air compressor, then your price is US$400-600.

For 90% of drivers, 90% of the time, Smittybilt's 2.54-cfm air compressor is more than enough. For the 10% of other drivers, and the 10% of edge cases, maybe you can look at Smittybilt's larger department. 

For 90% of drivers, 90% of the time, Smittybilt's 2.54-cfm air compressor is more than enough.

Drive’s editors are not psychics, so in order to answer other common questions, we scrolled through Google’s "People Will Ask" box to understand anything that might be lingering in your mind.

Answer: You can't. It does not have enough power.

A. This machine is made in China.

A. Yes, a one-year repair or replacement limited warranty is provided from the date of purchase.

Drive independently evaluates gears by putting the product in the hands of subject matter experts. The products we test may be purchased by The Drive, our employees, or provided by the manufacturer for review. Regardless of the source, our testing procedures and evaluations are not affected by third parties.

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