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January 20, 2020

How to choose a manual air pump or electric air pump?

Choose a manual air pump or electric air pump

Which is the best to use for car tires: manual air pump or electric air pump?

For most car drivers, both will do when they are in the middle of the road, while this emergency (sudden flat tire) pops up. 

When your car’s tire pressure warning-light flashes , you might realize that carrying a tire air pump (or tire inflator) is a necessity.

When you are in the middle of a snowstorm or a hurricane with no way to call for help, having an air pump is a lifesaver.

You have all the freedom to choose what’s more reliable and comfortable air pump (also called tire inflator) to use that you can easily store inside the car. 

You see, each pump has its advantages and disadvantages that you can count on to make everyday driving easy.

This quick-read write up will make you choose between a manual air pump and an electric air pump that you can keep in your car. Owning one can save you from the dangers of running on flat tires.

Three types of air pumps

Both electric and manual air pumps operate with the same principle: to pump air. When one thinks that there are sure ways to prevent flat tires, think again!

Whether your car has an automatic transmission or manual transmission, you only need to choose between an electric or manual tire air pump (also called automatic inflator) to inflate your tire.

Here are the three types of air pumps that characterized both manual and electric tire air pump and how each type works:

  • Diaphragm Air Pumps

This type of air pump has flexible diaphragms instead of a piston.  The pump may be foot-operated or electrically powered. 

The diaphragm type of air pump operates by applying external force that compresses the diaphragms. The compression forces air to the tire.

When the force is removed, the flexible diaphragms then expand as it sucks air. One of the best examples of this type of air pump is a foot-operated pump for rubber rafts.

  • Reciprocating Pumps

The best example of this type of air pump is the one used to inflate your bicycle. These pumps are the most common among bike enthusiasts. But more effort is needed when using it for your car tires.

Reciprocating pumps have a piston inside of the tube (or cylindrical body) and two one-way valves. One of the valves goes to the tire while the other one pulls outside air. The pump works by pumping the piston up and down.

Pulling up the air is sucked outside, and then discharges it to the tire when pushed down. More effort is needed once the tire increases in pressure.

  • Double-acting Pumps

Compared to the reciprocating pump, the double-acting pump is more efficient. This type of pump has two cylinders with plungers.

When one of the plungers is down, it compresses one cylinder that pushes the air out. During this time, the other cylinder opened up that sucks air from the outside. This air pump comes both manually-operated and electrically-powered.

A typical Electric (Automatic) Tire Air Pump

When/why you need to pump up?

Running on a flat tire is bad for your car. But even though any of your tires did not look deflated, they must have the correct pressure. You know why? 

It is crucial to know that running on a sagging tire may affect good gas mileage for your tires. The correct pressure on your tires also prolongs the life of the tires. 

Moreover, power steering may be difficult to maneuver once you have poorly inflated tires. Furthermore, a drooping tire can cause unbalanced driving and put your car closer to the ground.

So, when you experienced difficulty driving because of unruly power steering, while the car seems not running normally, maybe you need to pump up.

But pumping up still needs precautions: you must know the right tire pressure and never over-inflate the tires. Your car has a recommended tire pressure most manufacturers have it written (on a sticker) on the automobile’s door.

If you can’t find it on the car’s door, the owner’s manual might help. But do you know the universal standard of tire pressure in most cars? Continue reading so you may know.

Standard air pressure for car tires

Modern cars recommended tire pressure between 32 psi and 35 psi (pounds per square inch) when cold. When we say cold, we don’t mean that the tire must be in its chilly state.

One of the reasons why you consider inflating the tires while they are cold is that as the car runs, friction builds up between the road and the tires. The friction generates heat, which increases the tires’ temperature and the inside pressure. 

Cold tires may connote false reading on its air pressure.

The best thing to do is park the car for a while or let the tires sit overnight before taking the reading. 

When in the middle of the road and no time to spare, set the pressure to the maximum reading (35 psi or the manufacturer’s recommendation). Then, do it later when you have the time.

A tip worth remembering: Never inflate the tire to the pressure written on the tires. This number is the maximum pressure a tire is allowed to hold. 

Comparing an electric air tire pump to a manual tire pump

Most electric tire pumps in the market today are automatic air compressors (or inflators), which are handy or portable and easy to use. However, they are more expensive than manual tire air pumps.

Modern automatic air inflators come both in digital and dial type for easy use. Electric inflators are ideal to use in emergencies and can inflate tires faster than manual air pumps.

Although electric air pumps have a slightly higher price compared to a manual air pump, most have digital indicators of the actual pressure on the tire. This way, you can easily see the pressure delivered on the tires that could avoid over and under-inflation.

More tips from the experts: Over inflating your tires may result in bumpy and bouncy rides. On the other hand, under-inflation may lead to premature wear on tires. Correct and precise readings of tire pressure are the keys to save driving.


Choosing between an electric air pump and a manual air pump seems so easy to decide. If you are still wondering what to buy, we recommend that you purchase an electric air pump.

In addition to what we have stated about automatic inflators, most of these products nowadays can be powered through your car’s DC 12-V outlet (or the cigarette lighter socket). On the other hand, most manual inflators are bulky and need extra effort to pump a flat tire, and don’t need electrical power to operate.

Manual air pumps are cheaper than electric air pumps, the price difference might be worthless to some drivers, considering the comfort and reliability the latter offers.

Moreover, both air pumps are used for other purposes aside from inflating your car tires. You can use them on your basketball, soccer ball, inflatable swimming pools, and other items that need air.


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