I ran across an article the other day–I believe it was in Popular Mechanics–about the Kobalt Dual Power Inflator. Kobalt is the brand of an extensive line of tools marketed by the Lowe’s chain. I don’t do a great deal of business at Lowes, Home Depot being closer to my home, but the inflator, priced at only $49.99 was intriguing. I have a powerful, 3HP air compressor, but having to put a bit into a car tire, check with an air gauge, and repeat over and over until it’s just right, gets a little old.
Most of my inflation needs these days relate to bicycle–actually tricycle–tires, and while I have a good pump, and the strength to use it with ease, I thought I’d give the inflator a try. Particularly when Mrs. Manor and I ride together, which is much of the time, there are six tires to bring up to speed. It’s easier on her, and perhaps the inflator would be faster than a hand pump?
The inflator is quite simple and small, only about 12.5” wide, 7” deep, and 8.5” tall. Plug it in, using AC power, or through the 12 volt system of a vehicle, connect the hose fitting–Schrader only– which has a lever that will be familiar to anyone that has ever used a bike pump, select the PSI–up to 100–and press the “run” button. The PSI is easily adjusted, one pound/push at a time, or holding down the button causes the device to cycle through the pounds quickly.
It’s also quite fast. Most bicycle tires are low volume, high-pressure affairs (most car tires are high volume, low pressure). Filling my Schwalbe Marathon Plus 20” X 1.35” and 26” X 1.35” tires from around 65 to 95 PSI takes only about 10 seconds. The little compressor isn’t loud or annoying, and when 95 pounds is reached, it shuts off. If the fitting isn’t secure on the valve, the device may behave oddly, but when it’s properly seated, everything works quickly and smoothly.
Presta valves are no problem either. A compartment under the top panel on the inflator holds two football/basketball needles, a nozzle for inflating beach balls and air mattresses, and a Presta adapter. Merely open the Presta valve, screw on the adapter, and proceed as though it were a Schrader valve. This adds another ten seconds or so to the process, but works easily. One could buy an adapter for each wheel and leave them attached; they’re cheap. Or simply buy Schrader tubes the next time it’s necessary to change.
Out of curiosity, I tried the inflator on the spare tire of our 2013 Ford Focus. It’s a space saver type, holding 60 pounds PSI. Working from about 35 pounds, the inflator filled it to 60 pounds in a little less than 60 seconds. That’s just a bit longer than my shop compressor can accomplish. It’s faster and more powerful, but I have to check the pressure several times with an air gauge to be sure I have it right.
The unit is light and well designed, with separate side compartments for the air hose and 12V cord, and a place to coil the short AC cord on the back of the unit, which features a switched flashlight. It’s not terribly bright, but it would be sufficient out in the middle of nowhere for close range work, if one didn’t have a decent tactical light at hand. The handles on each side of the top are large enough to easily grasp, even with gloves on, and comfortable.
The 12V cord is long enough to reach all four tires on my Ford Escape, a small to medium SUV, but one would have to pass it through the front seat to each side to do the trick. The air hose is only about 29” long, but it does fit neatly in the side located storage compartment, making the unit handy for storage and carrying along in a vehicle. Anyone hoping to carry it along and use it on a longer vehicle, like a pickup truck, would be wise to try it out before finding out the cord is too short on a dark, lonely road in the middle of nowhere. I suspect for such vehicles, an extension cord would be necessary. Fortunately, they’re readily available and relatively cheap as well.
UPDATE, 10-21-16, 1855 CST: In the original article, I wrote this:
Obviously, the inflator won’t work to inflate the skinny, very high-pressure tires on many road bikes, which commonly take 120 pounds PSI. However, for two and three wheeled recumbent machines, most of which use tires that take no more than 100 pounds, it’s a slick and handy device, and blue is, coincidentally, my favorite color.
While blue remains my favorite color, I was mistaken about the capabilities of the inflator. It does indeed inflate bike tires to 120 pounds PSI, so it will work quite well with all common, low volume, high pressure bike tires.
It costs something less than twice the cost of a decent floor pump, but for people without an expensive compressor, and for recumbent riders, whose machines cost $2500.00 and up, that probably won’t be much of an issue.
It’s well designed and executed, and works efficiently. Would that most modern products did that.