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.
In case you are just looking for a quick recommendation, we’re a big fan of automatic tire deflators from Staun and they have long been the go-to choice in the off-roading community.
Staun Automatic Tire Deflators
- Rapid deflation
- Hands free
- Respected company
Types of Tire Deflators
There are several different types of tire deflators that are typically used while off-roading and overlanding. Below, I’ll explain the different types and offer suggestions for some good options.
Tire Deflator with Integrated Pressure Gauge
Some tire deflators come with an integrated pressure gauge, which helps you monitor the pressure as you air down. Compared to similar deflators without a gauge, these have the advantage of being able to lower your pressure without having to unscrew your deflator to check the pressure.
These pressure gauges have the benefit of requiring no calibration (unlike automatic tire deflators), as the gauge indicates when you’ve reached the desired pressure. These deflators also tend to be the least expensive option.
The downside is that you have to monitor the gauge to make sure you don’t let out too much air. Some models require you to hold down a button to release the air, which requires you to be right there as the tire deflates. Others have a locking mechanism that keeps the valve open, which makes life easier.
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.
Automatic Tire Deflators
Another type of deflator, such as the Staun deflators mentioned above (and below), have automatic shut-off valves that stop releasing the 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.
These sets come with four deflators so that you can air down all the tires at once, saving time. 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. One really nice benefit is that you can work on other tasks while you air down.
The tire deflators spotlighted below are popular among the off-road and overlanding community and well-reviewed by people who own them. I’m a big fan of this type of tire deflator.
Our Pick: Staun Tire Deflators
The Staun Automatic Tire Deflators where one of the first automatic tire deflators on the market (if not the first) and were 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. For 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, Coyote, is similar in function and has a bit more of an adjustment range than the Stauns. However, the Coyotes don’t seem to be available recently, so the Stauns are probably your best bet. In the video below, I reviewed the Coyotes and pretty much everything applies to the Stauns.
JT Brooks Automatic Tire Deflators
A newer entrant to the automatic tire deflator market is the JT Brooks Automatic Tire Deflators. These are intriguing. Unlike the Stauns, which require you to calibrate them by airing down the tire to test how much a certain setting will let out, the JT Brooks deflators have a tile on the back with numbers for targeting the desired pressure.
I haven’t used these yet, but if the dial is accurate, this would make them easier to use than the Stauns or Coyote deflators. The Stauns are tried and true, but if these turn out to be reliable and durable, they could be the automatic tire deflators of choice in the future.
Valve Core Removers
Another type of tire deflator, which incorporates a valve core remover, is designed for rapidly airing down. These tire deflators temporarily pull the valve core out of the tire stem, which allows are to escape quickly.
For someone who knows how to use these, they can be the fastest way to air down tires, as the volume of air released per second is quite high. The downside of these is that they must be monitored closely to avoid over-deflating tires. Unlike automatic deflators, you can’t work on other tasks while the tires deflate.
If you are looking to air down really quickly, these might be your jam. The ARB deflator below is solid choice from a well-respected brand.
Our Pick: 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. 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.
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.