Our small fleet of boats comes with a lot of tires. They’re attached to trailers, dollies, and towing vehicles. In the past we had to position the gear near our compressor, but recently we discovered a fast and easy way to keep the fleet maintained: a cordless air inflator. We already had several DeWalt 20V cordless tools, with batteries and chargers, so we went with the DeWalt 20V Max Inflator.

The inflator is light, just 5 1/2 lbs, and compact for its capabilities. It measures just under 10″ high, 12″ wide, and just over 5″ deep. The inflator can use three different power sources: the included 12V DC cord that stows in a compartment with a latching door, or (available separately) DeWalt’s 20V Max batteries, and a 115V AC power adapter.

Kent and Audrey Lewis

The DeWalt inflator has a high-pressure hose for auto and dolly tires. The corrugated hose at the right can be used for inflatable mattresses and boat rollers.

We first used the inflator powered with one of our DeWalt 20V Max batteries to air up vehicle, trailer, and dolly tires. That project went quickly, with no need to drag long hoses, endure a noisy compressor, and hold the air chuck to the valves. We have several 20V Max batteries, rated from 3 amps up to 5 amps, and they all did the job with the larger amp-hour batteries, as expected, providing air at a faster rate. The 3-amp-hour battery, fully charged, lasts long enough to air up 10 to 12 dolly tires.

The inflator has an auto-shutoff feature that allows the target air pressure to be set on a digital display, and then shuts itself off upon reaching that pressure. This has been a timesaver, as we can attend to other tasks while the inflator takes care of the tires.

We’ve used the inflator with the 12V DC plug on our largest vehicle, an RV. Plugged into one of the vehicle’s lighter sockets, the 15′ cord got the inflator within reach of all of the wheels. The RV’s tires require the inflator to pump to 75 psi—not a problem—its top pressure is 160 psi. The 115V AC adapter has a 5′ cord, so for the RV we needed an extension cord.

The inflator’s auto pressure setting is very useful as there was no need to keep remove the fitting to check the air pressure. The high-pressure rubber hose is 29″ and can reach the valve on any size of wheel. Its screw-on fitting stays securely on a wheel’s valve stem while the tire is being inflated, an advantage over the clamp-on type, which doesn’t have as reliable a grip.

The inflator’s high-pressure hose can be used with the included nozzle to blow dust and debris out of small spaces, though not as forcefully as an air compressor can. The inflator also has a low-pressure/high-volume hose for inflating and deflating air mattresses or other water inflatables. An LED flashlight is built into the carry handle, and molded clips on the right side hold the nozzle for the high-pressure nozzle, a Presta-valve adapter, and a ball-inflator needle. The DeWalt inflator is versatile and takes up very little space, important considerations in our world of small boats.

Audrey and Kent Lewis command a small armada of kayaks, a canoe, and sail and motor boats when not inflating dolly tires. Their small-boat adventures are chronicled at Small Boat Restoration.

The Dewalt 20V MAX Corded/Cordless Air Inflator, model DCC020IB, is available from DeWalt retailers and online sellers. Prices range from $99 to $129. Several 20V Max batteries are available. The AC adapter, model N557514, is available as a replacement part for $38.95.

Editor’s Note

I’ve been guilty of not taking care of my tires. I inflate my bicycle tires regularly because they go soft so quickly, but I haven’t attended to my car, trailer, and dolly tires unless I see them bulging where they meet the pavement. I keep a 12-volt electric pump in my car and use it when I have to but it is slow to top off a tire, awkward (because of the long power cord), and, with its tiny dial gauge, not very precise.

Christopher Cunningham

Milwaukee’s portable air inflator, has a single use—inflating tires—but it easily earns its keep making cars and trailers safer on the road and preventing uneven wear on tires.

I was inspired by the Lewis’s article above to get a pump compatible with my Milwaukee M12 system so I could use the batteries and charger I already have. I bought the M12 Compact Inflator, tool only, from Amazon for $79. It’s not as versatile as the DeWalt—it has a single hose, an inflator nozzle, inflation needle, and a Presta adapter—but it has made itself very useful. It is much faster to inflate tires than was my 12-volt pump and it stops when it reaches the required pressure, so I don’t have to stand in the street dodging cars while keeping an eye on the gauge.

Is there a product that might be useful for boatbuilding, cruising, or shore-side camping that you’d like us to review? Please email your suggestions.


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