A couple of years ago we reviewed a portable tire inflator that plugs into a car’s DC outlet for power, and while it worked reasonably well, its power cord tether made it somewhat of a hassle to use.
This Craftsman Nextec 12V inflator, on the other hand, is vastly more portable and convenient to use. Its 12V Max lithium-ion battery pack holds a charge for months at a time, making it great for spontaneous use.
You can use this inflator on your car tires, bicycle ties, and inflatable toys, and other such objects.
If Craftsman discontinues their Nextec line of compact 12V li-ion power tools, which seems possible now that all Nextec tools are marked as being on clearance at my local Sears, this is the one tool they should bring back as a standalone product.
This is the best portable cordless tire inflator I have ever used, or even seen.
Craftsman designed the inflator to be simple and easy yo use. There’s an on/off switch, (+) and (-) pressure adjust buttons, a pressure gauge reset button, and power push button.
Step 1: Slide switch to on position
Step 2: Attach tire chuck to tire
Step 3: Dial in desired pressure in PSI
Step 4: Push power button on handle
If the pressure is set to 40 PSI or less, then the inflator will shut off once it reaches that pressure.
With my vehicle, I have to set the desired pressure 2.0 PSI higher, possibly due to the tire pressure monitoring system, but the gauge will still read the proper pressure. For instance, to get to 35 PSI, I set the inflation pressure to 37 PSI. The gauge will climb to 37 PSI while inflating the tires, and then after the unit automatically shuts off, the reading will say 35 PSI.
Runtime is actually pretty good too. I was able to bring all four of my tires from 30 to 35 PSI, and the fuel gauge was still green. In earlier testing, I was able to inflate my leaky tire once every two days for about two weeks until I had a chance to get it fixed.
During those two weeks, I kept the inflator in my trunk, and also used it to help inflate a woman’s full-flat tire enough to get her out of a parking garage so someone could meet her outside with a spare or for a tow.
- Automatic shutoff at user-set pressure, up to 40 PSI
- Manual inflation at up to 200 PSI
- 18-inch hose with standard Schrader tire chuck
- Onboard hose and adapter storage
- (4) nozzles, pins, accessories
- LED worklight
- Built-in fuel gauge
- Rubberized housing accents
The inflator features an 18-inch hose that wraps around for storage, and the tire chuck is protected inside its own docking area.
18-inches is just the right length. Any shorter would be too short, and any longer would make the inflator less portable.
My initial impression was that the chuck felt a little plasticky, but its has proven to be quite durable.
The battery fuel gauge LED lights up green when you’re good to go, and orange when power drops below a certain level – possibly 50%. When it turns red, you’re just about out of juice and should either find a spare battery or return to the charger.
I checked the accuracy of the digital pressure gauge against my Joes racing gauge, and it continues to be spot-on. It has 0.5 PSI resolution
The Nextec inflator comes with a black plastic nozzle, presumably for use with inflatable toys, air mattresses, and furniture; a sports ball pin adapter; what looks to be a small Schrader valve core wrench, and what I believe to be a Presta bike tire valve adapter.
A hinged plastic door keeps the adapters safe and sound in their storage compartment.
Craftsman sells the inflator without a 12V Nextec battery or charger. This is why I rated its value as only 4/5.
The list price is $40 for the inflator, but you can typically find it on sale for $34, sometimes less.
Typical pricing for a QuickBoost battery charger and Li-ion battery are $34 and $20, when on sale, but you could alternatively pick up a Nextec drill/driver kit for $50 or less.
To be completely honest, this is not something I would have purchased. But, after using it regularly to adjust and maintain my car’s tire pressure, and occasionally in between to counter leaks until I could afford the time for to get them patched at the local shop, I now consider this inflator to be indispensable.
Craftsman’s Nextec air inflator is easy to use, durable, portable, and convenient. I consider it a MUST-BUY.
The only one negative is that Craftsman does not offer the inflator as part of a kit. This means that you either have to spend $50-60 on a separate charger and battery, or $45+ on a Nextec tool kit that comes with a drill/driver or other tool, 12V battery, and charger.
Buy Now(via Sears)
Thank you to Craftsman for providing the review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for benchmark and comparison purposes.
Quick clarification: so if I have 80PSI tires on my van, it will actually inflate that high, but I have to manually monitor and shut it off, yes?
Quick question: have you inflated anything in the 70-80PSI range? I have tried many an inflator that is ‘rated’ to 100 psi, only to have it totally commit suicide complete with smoke before finishing topping off four tires. Thus, I remain highly skeptical of the 200psi rating until proven….
If I were to buy this, I would adapt it to work with a Milwauke M12 battery.
I haven’t tested it above 40 PSI, but it *should* inflate your tires to 80 PSI. I don’t think it can go from 0 to 80 PSI on a single charge, but it should be fine for small adjustments, such as when seasons and temperatures change.
I’ll see if I can find a 90-100 PSI bike tire or tube to test it on, but even then that might not be a good indicator of real-world expectations for high PSI inflating.
I’ve ran it up to 75 psi on road bike tires without any magic smoke or sparks. It certainly took its sweet time getting there – pumping efficiency slows down considerably beyond 50 psi – but it managed to get 75 psi into three bikes worth of tires back to back without overheating or burning up.
I’d imagine at that pressure, you’d drain a nextec pack before you fully inflated all four tires on your van to 80 psi. I know I can flatten a 1.3aH nextec battery pumping more than two 23″ tractor tires up from flat to full and those only go to 14 psi (but have a huge volume).
Thanks all. Good info. Although don’t your road tires go to 120?
You would think the big power tool companies would release a really good quality cordless compressor. They have cordless grease gun’s out now, but no portable compressor the only 2 that I know of is the Craftsmen 12volt and Ryobi 18v compressors.
If the design is similar to that of the 19.2v C3 Inflator I can tell you for a fact that the C3 will inflate to 200psi. It slows down significantly after about 12psi though.
I sure hope Sears/Crafstman doesn’t decide to drop the Nextec line. One of my most reached for/favorite tools is their right angle impact drive. It’s so handy and easy to use.
Yup, that’s a presta to Schrader valve adapter in the sixth picture. Nice addition.
I have a Porter Cable 18v inflator with very similar features (although the PC includes a DC adapter on-board and a High-volume hose for air mattresses and the like). I can attest for the greatness of these for car tires and simple inflating jobs. Unfortunately the pressure sensor in my PC model is essentially dead after about a year of mild use. Thus when I try to inflate to a desired pressure, it just shuts off after about 2 sec. Works ok manually, but that’s not what I bought it for. I may have to check this Nextec out.
– Btw I have 3 buddies with the same PC that haven’t had a single issue so might just be my bad luck.
I had Nextec tools for a while and when I went to sears I always looked at this but never bought it. The lack of kit really killed it for me. It’s one of the oldest Nextec tools but still one of those that most people wouldn’t buy, just like you.
The biggest issue I’ve had with every brand’s 12v tools is that none of them is all-complete; not even the M12. I’m sure it won’t be long before the Milwaukee releases a similar inflator, if not the exact same in red.
None of the brands seem to catch on to how their diamond-in-the-rough tools could sell very well just by themselves if only they were sold in kit form.
For some reason they insist on selling them as tool-only and making you jump through hoops to buy the battery/charger, generally at a much higher price. And for this reason, consumers skip over an otherwise amazing tool, simply because it isn’t bundled together in a kit you can just buy and use.
Good point. I would go further and say they should unbundle the “kit” (charger/batteries and some kind of bonus like flashlight or phone charger) and offer it at a big discount when purchased with a bare tool. That way consumers could get just as much as they wanted and still get a bargain either way, and the vendor benefits because the consumer has just bought into a new battery system.
Nice rating system. Too bad for nextec if they go away. I think the biggest fault is that the only retailer that sells them is a ghost Town when it comes to shoppers. Just imagine how huge craftsman would be if they were sold in Walmart, target, home depot, Lowes, and all the huge online tool retailers.
I doubt pro brands will make a portable inflator like this. They would have done so by now if they were going to. My guess is that they probably think it would water down their pro only image if they did so.
I have a Lowe’s Kobalt 12-Volt/120-Volt Dual Power Inflator. No battery, but probably made in the same factory. Great little unit for a list price of $49.95.
I’ve also got this inflator and like it. I suspect regularly trying to take tires to 80psi might kill it. The unit is quite light so there just can’t be much in there; the piston has gotta be sleeved with plastic I’d guess and it just can’t take THAT much abuse IMO. I keep it in my daily driver though which just has basic P tires, so 35psi is plenty adequate.
As this is an “add-on” type tool, I’ll bet that’s why it doesn’t come with a battery or a charger. That assumes you’ve bought into the Nextec line, and I’m guessing that not that many have; therein the WTF response when you find out it’s a bare tool. However, DeWalt did the same thing with its’ flashlights, both the 12V and 20V models, n’est-ce pas? It sounds like it works well for its purpose, so I guess you’ll have to put up with it until Craftsman relents and sells it as a complete kit. A kit might retail at a more acceptable $75.00; any chance they’ll offer one in time for the holiday season?
Despite the quality, my thinking is that $75 might be too high for the market, if they could even price a kit that low.
Not looking good for holiday season. Went to Sears today and they indeed are having a firesale on (most) of the Nextec tools. The shelves were nearly bare and I asked when more might be in and was told they didn’t know when or if.
Could be that they are clearing the way for new versions of Nextec tools…brushless? But highly doubt it.
Stuart–A follow-up comment. Though I like the convenience of this unit, I personally have a Q Industries Superflow MV-50 tire inflator. It, too, is a portable unit (with a bag and accessories), but runs off the battery with clamps, drawing 30 amps. It airs up tires quickly, but requires more set-up time. It’s never given me any problems, though it’s easier to use on intermediate-sized cars because of the length of the battery clamp wires and the air hose (which expands to 16 feet in length). The chuck is a screw-on and -off affair, which is not what I would have chosen to use, but it is made of heavy brass. Many tire inflators have a cigarette lighter plug-in, which is limited to 15 amps; they take longer to inflate a tire and are inherently noisy. They also vibrate like a paint can shaker while in use. This one is heavy owing to its build quality. It vibrates some and is a bit noisy, but for $65.00 (via Amazon) it’s a nice unit.