I'm looking for a way to easily fill my wheelchair tires to 90 psi. I understand that I don't understand all the technical stuff I should consider when buying a small compressor or a tire inflator, and frankly, my head is spinning from it all.

Originally, I thought I could get away with just an inflator, but it appears to me that very few of them have a minimum psi above 90. And I'm suspicious that those numbers are inflated. I feel like the descriptions don't give me enough info. I'm having such trouble comparing all of them! Adding in the small compressors--I just can't figure this out.

If I do need to go the compressor route, which I think I do, I have some restrictions in noise level and space. Some don't list if they're belt-driven, and I just don't know enough to extrapolate the missing info. Sizewise, I'm confused by the fact that sometimes smaller tanks show higher CFM than others and vice versa.

I'm not looking for someone to try to explain all this to me, I guess I'm looking for someone to just advise me of what numbers am I looking for. By way of example:

  • Would a pancake compressor which states "2.0 SCFM delivered @ 90 PSI pump, 3.5 gallon tank and 135 max PSI" work for my needs?

  • Is one that says "200 PSI 3.0 CFM 2.5 gal 71.5 dB" going to be too much?

Can someone just give me ballpark numbers to look for? I hope this makes sense to someone.

Thanks so much for your time!


P.S. With the numbers you give me, could you possibly tell me what additional types of uses it might have, if any? Thanks so much!

  • 90 PSI is a bit above a typical bicycle tire pressure. Car tires are inflated to only a third of that so car tire inflaters won't necessarily have enough compression for bikes or your wheelchair. Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 9:04
  • You mentioned noise as a factor. When you look at compressors, the dB figure will provide a reference. A vacuum cleaner can generate about 70 dBA, while normal speech falls between 55 and 60 dBA. You should not spend more than US$50 for a small compressor for your needs, unless you go fancy like a cordless rechargeable model. The industrial compressors are far more than you require to fill tires. As Ed Beal suggests, the SCFM figure is of little value, as you do not require continuous air flow to fill a tire.
    – fred_dot_u
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 9:43
  • Bicycle pump. Seriously. The better bike pumps are made for that as old racing bike tires are near that pressure. (@ratchetfreak Mountain bikes are much lower pressure, true.) Any power compressor will be too much. Don't buy one unless you have some other use for a compressor, and then buy a compressor suitable for that use. Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 16:43
  • Inflators are for automobile tires. They are much lower pressure and MUc Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 16:49
  • Inflators are for automobile tires or mattresses. They are much lower pressure and MUCH higher volume, in fact you'd have trouble controlling them, as they would overshoot pressure so quickly on such a small tire. Generally bicycle sized tires are small enough to easily do by hand. Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 16:55

1 Answer 1


The CFM of the compressor is the volume of air the compressor can move at the rated pressure. Your chair tires have a tiny volume just about any compressor on the market can handle them. The peak or max pressure is what you need to look at. The peak or max pressure is the value the compressor shuts down at for safety. You want this pressure to be higher than your needed pressure for losses in the hoses and the bit you loose when disconnecting the air fitting. All the pancake compresses I know of (even harbor freight) will have sufficient SCFM , if the max pressure is 125 this should more than enough to reach 90 psi on your tires once the tank fills without having to run longer than to fill the tank.

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