Airing down your tires is one of the best ways to improve the comfort and performance of your vehicle when heading offroad. Using a tire deflator to reduce your air pressure increases tire traction when you’re traveling over rocks, sand, snow, or mud. It also softens the ride over rough terrain, reducing the vibration and bumps for you and your passengers.
Often, portable air compressors for reinflating tires will have a tire chuck that also allows you to deflate tires. This may be adequate for your purposes, and you won’t need a separate deflator. However, if you are going off-road with any regularity, it’s nice to have at least one extra deflator so you can air down two tires at a time to speed the process.
Some tire deflators come with an integrated pressure gauge, which helps you monitor the pressure as you air down. These have the advantage of being able to lower your pressure without having to unscrew your deflator to check the pressure. Deflators without a pressure gauge are cheaper, but you’ll need to use a separate gauge to check your pressure as you air down.
Another type of deflator, such as the Coyote Automatic Tire Deflators highlighted below, have automatic shut-off valves that stop releasing air at the desired tire pressure. This obviates a lot of the previous hassles of airing down, including the need to regularly stop the process to check your air pressure.
The tire deflators spotlighted below are popular among the off-road and overlanding community and well-reviewed by people who own them.
Coyote Automatic Tire Deflators
The Coyote Automatic Tire Deflators are game-changers for drivers used to airing down one tire at a time or having to run back and forth between multiple tires. The set comes with four deflators that can be pre-set to stop releasing air at the desired pressure. So if you want your tire pressure at, say, 12 psi, you just attach the deflators to your valve stems and activate them. Once they hit 12 psi, they will stop releasing air automatically and you didn’t have to do anything. Amazing. This saves you from having to constantly be checking your pressure as your tire deflates and lets you easily air down all four tires at once.
They aren’t the fastest option — see the ARB deflator below — but they are pretty fast and while they are at work you can use the time to prepping other things for your adventure. Anyone who has over deflated a tire before, and had to get their air compressor out to reinflate the tire, these bad boys are a godsend. Another brand of tire deflator, Staun, is similar in function, but the Coyotes have some advantages. They can be set to deflate to anywhere from 1-65 psi, which covers a range that would require two or three different Staun models. They are also a bit less expensive and deflate tires faster. There are a number of cheaper knock-off deflators on the market, but Coyote and Staun are both quality products and worth the extra cost.
Here’s my video review of the Coyote deflators:
ARB E-Z Tire Deflator
The ARB E-Z Tire Deflator’s unique design allows you to rapidly deflate a tire. Many tire deflators with pressure gauges simply depress the valve stem, which lets the air out relatively slowly, which can take a lot of time with larger tires. The ARB deflator gets around this by pulling the tire’s valve core out, opening a larger hole for air to escape. The deflator comes with a pressure gauge so you can monitor the tire’s pressure as it deflates. Like all tire deflators with pressure gauges, you have to keep a close eye on the pressure to make sure you don’t over deflate — and that’s particularly true with this model, as the air comes out quickly.
You can only air down one tire at a time, but because it lets out the air so quickly, it’s probably just as quick as using the automatic tire deflators mention above (Coyote). If you decide to go with the ARB deflator, make sure to get the model that has tick marks under 10 psi so that you can accurately air down below that pressure level if desired. ARB makes a model where the tick marks on the gauge start after 10 psi.
BEST ON A BUDGET
VIAIR Air Down Gauge
VIAIR Air Down Gauge operates similar to the pressure gauge and tire chuck found on their line of portable air compressors. The deflator works by screwing it on the tire stem and twisting the deflator switch to the locked position, which allows a constant flow of air out of the tire without having to hold onto it. Every once in a while as you air down, you need to twist the switch to the off position to check the tire pressure (the reading isn’t accurate while the airflow valve is open).
This is the slowest of the options spotlighted in this article, but it’s a quality product that costs half or a third of what the other options cost. If you have a portable air compressor with a pressure gauge and tire chuck that can be used for deflating your tires, this can make a nice second deflator, allowing you to deflate two tires at a time.
Obviously, if you air down your tires, you’re going to need to inflate them again before you get back on the pavement. For guidance on choosing one, check out our guide to off-road air compressors, which covers both on-board and portable compressors.
There are many brands of tire deflators on the market — just search the term in Google or Amazon. The recommendations above are for several quality options that cover a range of costs and features. You can likely find cheaper, generic versions of each out there, but in our opinion, it’s worth spending a bit more for a durable, precise, and trustworthy product. As the saying goes, buy once, cry once.