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Best car foot pumps 2018

We pile on the pressure by testing eight traditional twin-barrel car foot pumps

It’s no secret that handling and braking suffer, and fuel economy dips, when tyres are underinflated. But some experts reckon that even slight underinflation, of just a few psi per tyre, can cut mpg by 10 per cent. 

One solution is to check tyre pressures as part of the regular washing and maintenance routine. And for this job, a foot pump is the tool of choice. Tyres rarely require more than a couple of pounds of air, meaning you’ll have the job done in less time than it takes to connect a compressor and route its lead to the relevant corner of the car. 

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How we tested them

Foot pumps should be fast and stable in use, and we tested each here for efficiency by deflating a 205R16 tyre to 25psi and rechecking the pressure after 20 pumps. 

Accurate and easily read pressure gauges are a must, and longer hoses give better positioning flexibility. Slim hose couplings come into their own when tyre valves sit in narrow slots in wheels, and designs that prevent pressure loss during disconnection are another bonus. 

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Finally, as packaging eventually disintegrates, we prefer models with on-board storage for easily lost adaptors. Prices quoted are from a range of popular online sources.

Verdict

Michelin’s 12209 retains its Best Buy crown for another year, despite tough competition from another digital unit – the Streetwize SWFPJ33. Halfords’ 686646 is an easy-on-the-pocket alternative, but it’s impressively effective. 

  1. 1. Michelin 12209 Digital Footpump
  2. 2. Streetwize Accessories SWFPJ33
  3. 3. Halfords 686646

Reviews

Michelin 12209 Digital Footpump

Price: £22Pressure increase from 20 pumps: 3.5psiSingle-barrel version available? Yes (12208 at £18.10)Rating: 5.0

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Michelin’s 12209 takes top spot yet again, despite a price increase and newer, tougher competition. Ultimately, the combination of great price and superb all-round performance is too hard to beat. Thanks to the large digital display, the slim screw-on valve coupling and dedicated clips for the hose and accessories, this pump is a breeze to use – from connection to inflating and packing it away. Better still, the gauge is one of the most accurate here, and each pump packs a punch, minimising inflation times.

Buy now from Halfords

Streetwize Accessories SWFPJ33

Price: Around £23 Pressure increase from 20 pumps: 3psi Single-barrel version available? NoRating: 4.5

Finally, Michelin has digital competition; the SWFPJ33’s backlit gauge is as precise and clear as the winning 12209’s. It also caters for kg/cm2 alongside the usual Bar, psi and KPA. We love the sophisticated valve coupling, which has a second thumbwheel, allowing the tyre’s valve to be fully released prior to unscrewing the coupling – preventing pressure loss. But despite speedy progress, pumping is tougher than with most; we blame the narrow-bore hose, which is also too thin to secure into its retaining clips.

Halfords 686646

Price: Around £13 Pressure increase from 20 pumps: 4.1psi Single-barrel version available? Yes (686638 at around £8)Rating: 4.5

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The price remains unchanged from our 2016 test, so this basic Halfords is the cheapest here. But its budget credentials are obvious. There’s no provision for storing the adaptors on the unit, or routing the hose neatly when the pump is packed away.

The 60cm hose is short, too, and we’re not keen on the bulbous push-on coupling. Even so, Halfords gets the basics right. Nothing beats this model in terms of progress per pump, it’s stable in use and its gauge is pleasingly precise, reading just 1psi low consistently.

Buy now from Halfords

Michelin 12206

Price: £22 Pressure increase from 20 pumps: 3.5psi Single-barrel version available? Yes (12204 at £17)Rating: 4.0

While Michelin’s classic 12202 is still on sale, this newer design is essentially the winning 12209 with an analogue gauge. So most of what’s good about that applies here – such as the 70cm long hose, pleasing inflation rate, sturdy construction and the array of clips that makes packing away and storing the pump effortless, and ensures you don’t lose essential adaptors. The gauge is as precise as its digital counterpart’s, and it’s well laid out. But it can’t match the digital display’s clarity, so the identically priced 12209 is the better buy.

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Buy now from Halfords

Clarke FP3003

Price: Around £17Pressure increase from 20 pumps: 3.5psiSingle-barrel version available? Yes (FP150 at around £12)Rating: 3.0

In form and style, the FP300 seems to be Clarke’s response to those all-conquering Michelins, which it healthily undercuts. And on pure pumping performance there’s very little to separate the two. The FP300 is rapid, sturdy and well shaped. Sadly the details don’t stack up so well. The 63cm hose is one of the shortest here, plus the bulbous push-on coupling may be a problem on valves recessed into alloys. And while the ‘white text on a black face’ gauge looks good, it was consistently 2psi low, and it wasn’t the easiest to read – especially the Bar scale.

Ring RFP23

Price: Around £14Pressure increase from 20 pumps: 2.9psiSingle-barrel version available? Yes (RFP1 at around £10)Rating: 3.0

As with Clarke’s FP300, Ring’s RFP2 seems to have taken cues from the popular Michelins. But at just a quid more than Halfords’ bargain 686646, it seriously undercuts them and the FP300. So how does it compare? Well, pumping speed trails most models here, and the 65cm hose is shorter than ideal.

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Again, there’s a bulky push-on valve coupling, rather than our preferred slim screw-on type. But the gauge is well laid out and reasonably precise. A small bag, which clips around the hose, prevents all those tiny adaptors going astray as well.

Buy now from Amazon

Sealey FP63

Price: Around £22Pressure increase from 20 pumps: 0.5psiSingle-barrel version available? NoRating: 2.0

A surprisingly compact double-barrel pump, which is only slightly wider than on most single-cylinder models. And compactness isn’t its only unusual feature. The valve coupling has two outputs: a car one and – we think –  another for bicycle Presta valves. But there’s no literature, online or supplied, to confirm this. Although the dual sockets are neat, they make the coupling bulky. But the FP6’s main drawback is dreadfully slow pumping. While it’s easy on the leg to have such a soft pedal, topping up a tyre with this pump will be a very long job.

Buy now from Amazon

Draper 222693

Price: Around £28Pressure increase from 20 pumps: 3.5psiSingle-barrel version available? Yes (22267 at around £20)Rating: 2.0

This is the priciest pump here and probably the least desirable; the polar opposite of Michelin’s 12209, which is affordable despite top features and performance. While the Draper’s pumping speed is rapid enough, the short 60cm lead restricts positioning. And connecting isn’t what you’d expect. Instead of pressing on to the coupling, and flicking the lever from vertical to horizontal to seal and lock, it’s the opposite. The lever has to be set horizontal initially, and flicked vertically. But more of a problem is the way the pedal catches the frame during pumping.

Best car foot pumps 2018

  1. 1. Michelin 12209 Digital Footpump
  2. 2. Streetwize Accessories SWFPJ33
  3. 3. Halfords 686646
  4. 4. Michelin 12206
  5. 5. Clarke FP3003
  6. 6. Ring RFP23
  7. 7. Sealey FP63
  8. 8. Draper 222693
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