You never know when a rogue nail will strike or when you’ll wake up to a flat tire. An immediate fix is necessary, but your spare donut is unavailable, and the tire is too low to drive on safely. A portable tire inflator is the solution. However, not all portable tire inflators are created equally.
Say hello to the HGV Mini Tire Inflator, a sleek, black, wireless option that’s about the size of a large flashlight. It’s portable and stowable, lightweight and stylish. And the price — around 430 on Amazon — was too good to pass up.
This isn’t our first experience with portable tire inflators or with the concept of getting what you pay for. Most portable inflators are bulkier, corded, and more expensive. Sure, it looks great. But would the HGV’s wireless connectivity, smaller size, and more affordable price make it less effective than the competition? We set about testing the pint-sized compressor to see if it could hold its own.
Unboxing the HGV Mini Tire Inflator
You’d be hard-pressed to understand this device’s purpose upon first inspection. The HGV Mini Tire Inflator doesn’t look like a tire inflator or an air compressor. Once you screw in the air hose, it becomes a bit more obvious. It’s still an odd-looking piece of tech.
The black cylinder casing is diecast aluminum and feels solidly made. Even though it’s relatively small, there’s a heft to it. Measuring 9.7 inches long and 2.25 inches across, the compressor weighs in at just under 1.5 pounds. That’s light compared to some other tire inflators we’ve tested and comparable to the Ryobi handheld inflator we reviewed in June.
What you also get in the nondescript packaging is a USB cord, a short, 5.5-inch air hose, three adaptors for blowing up balls and rafts, and a velvety pouch with drawstrings.
The instructions are written in some of the most incorrect English you’ll find, which makes them confusing. I eventually deciphered it, plus the HGV is a relatively simple machine.
The instructions say that it takes about two hours to achieve a full charge, and we can confirm that’s true. The instructions also say you can fill four or five car tires before having to plug it in again, but our test repeatedly had the battery running out at just after one full tire inflation. (They also claim that the device has a charged standby time of more than a year. We’re dubious and will let you know in a year.)
Finally, the instructions state the consumer needs “to charge the battery every half a month if it is not applicable.” As to what’s not applicable we’re not really certain. Suffice it to say, we plan to fully charge it as often as possible.
Getting After It With the HGV Mini Tire Inflator
- GOOD: Handy size, no cords to connect or restrict your positioning, built-in work light, not too noisy, digital gauge with automatic shutoff, storage pouch.
- BAD: Short hose means bending over while you wait for the tire to inflate, slow inflation speed, weak light, laughably bad instructions.
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Based on our experience with the HGV inflator, it seems that the primary use for this type of inflator would only be for easy adjustments of your tire pressure or adding pressure in an emergency. This certainly isn’t the type of inflator to go from zero to manufacturer-recommended psi.
The device operates with long and short presses of its buttons; each corresponding long or short press provides different functions. The power button does double duty, with a long press powering the unit on, and a short press to start pumping. Plus and minus buttons skip to the pressure preset you’re looking for. A button marked U changes the pressure it measures with short presses, while a long press turns the work light on and off.
To test the HGV, I dropped the tire pressures on a Subaru Crosstrek down by five to 10 psi and let the machine do its thing. It’s surprisingly noisy for such a small device. Operation is pretty straightforward, and after latching the air hose onto your tire valve and turning the device on, you get a readout of your current tire pressure. We set the inflator to the desired pressure by tapping the plus and minus buttons, hit the power switch again, and it started pumping away until it reached the setting and shut off automatically, just like it’s supposed to.
It took about five minutes for a 10-psi increase. Because the recommended tire pressures of most new vehicles operate in the 30-40 psi range, you’re looking at anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes to go from zero pressure to full per tire. Thankfully, most of us rarely need such drastic pressure increases. However, if you have a couple low tires, you’re looking at a fairly lengthy inflation time.
For a relatively inexpensive and super-convenient little device, one gripe really detracts from the overall usefulness of the HGV. The air hose is so short you have to let the unit dangle from its connection to the valve stem or set it on the ground and not care about its sleek aluminum frame on the rough asphalt. Failing all that you’ll need to bend down low and hold it, rapidly increasing the risk of tinnitus.
We’d prefer a longer air hose that allows for a more comfortable standing position while waiting for the tires to fill. Letting it hang from the valve stem will likely loosen or damage the air hose over time.
HGV’s automatic shutoff seemed reasonably accurate. We double-checked them with a dedicated gauge, and all around the Crosstrek pressures were within 0.5 psi of those requested. Not bad.
What’s Good About the HGV Mini Air Tire Inflator
The biggest plus of this inflator is its convenient size. Its dimensions and shape are similar to a heavy-duty flashlight, making it easy to store in a glovebox, center console, or any other compartment. It’s also light and easy to hold.
Plus, the HGV’s rechargeable, so you don’t have to worry about running down batteries every few months or throwing old batteries into a landfill. You’ve got all the makings of a good inflator.
What’s Not Great About the HGV Mini Air Tire Inflator
While there are a lot of good things about the HGV, there are enough drawbacks, glitches, and quirks to make you think twice before hitting the Buy It Now button.
The very short air hose makes the HGV Mini Compressor a pain to use for any length of time. Keeping in mind the slow fill time, bending over and holding it for the duration it takes to fill your tires hurts your back and your ears. Letting it dangle from the valve stem risks damage to both the unit and your tire. Neither is good.
The instructions are difficult to decipher. While it’s a simple device that’s not too hard to figure out, the sleek design and confusing presentation will make it difficult for some to operate.
Despite manufacturer claims of inflation being twice as fast as other tire inflators, it takes about 10 minutes to add 10 psi to a tire. That’s not fast and certainly not twice as fast as other portable tire inflators we’ve tested. The manufacturer also recommends letting the unit cool after 10 minutes of continuous use. This means you’ll need to set it aside after each tire is inflated. Multiply that by four, and it could take an hour or more to add 10 psi to all of your car’s tires.
Last up, the LED work light is weak. The hilariously bad instruction manual describes it as “super bright,” but that clearly means different things to different people, as it barely illuminated the work area of a darkened garage.
Our Verdict on the HGV Mini Air Tire Inflator
We can see how the HGV Mini Air Compressor could make a worthy addition to your vehicle’s emergency gear. It’s easy to stash in almost any vehicle, and as long as you keep it charged up, it’ll be ready to get you to a shop or maybe even home in the event of minor tire trouble. It also makes for easy, occasional adjustment of your tire pressures anywhere, at any time.
However, if you’re stuck in no man’s land in the middle of the night, you don’t want to be waiting 10-20 minutes (or more) for your tire pressures to get back to spec. The hose is far too short, and the light does practically nothing for you. It’s a cool device, but there are better options out there for emergency-use inflators.
If you’re stuck in no man’s land in the middle of the night, you don’t want to be waiting 10-20 minutes (or more) for your tire pressures to get back to spec.
FAQs about the HGV Mini Tire Inflator
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. Does it come with adaptors for other uses?
A. It includes a needle valve for inflating sports balls, a nozzle for inflating swimming toys, etc., and a presta valve for bicycles.
Q. Where is the HGV Mini Tire Inflator made?
A. The HGV is made in China by DQR.
Q. What type and size battery does it have?
A. The battery is a 2000 mAh lithium-ion model.
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