VacLife ATJ-1166 Vehicle Air Compressor Review

The VacLife ATJ-1166 portable air compressor is one of the most popular, low cost 12v compressors available, but is it any good and how does it compare to the competition? We’ve been using the compressor for a while and we are now ready to tell you our thoughts on the product and whether or not we think it is a good buy.

Before we go any further, we want to let you know that we purchased the VacLife ATJ-1166 ourselves and were not sent it to review.

How Much Does the VacLife ATJ-1166 Cost To Buy?

At $29.99 on sale (usually $44.99) the VacLife ATJ-1166 is a fairly low cost portable 12v air compressor. It is slightly cheaper than the AstroAi CZK-3631 we have tested previously (you can read our experiences here), but it does have a lower maximum working pressure rating of 50 psi (100 for the AstroAi). Apart from that the VacLife has much the same features as the AstroAi compressor (auto shut off, LED light, multiple nozzles/attachments, etc.).

VacLife ATJ-1166 Specifications & Features

Working VoltageDC12V
Maximum Amps10 Amps
Power120w
Flow Rate35 L/Min
Maximum Working Pressure50 psi
Maximum Recommended Tire Width245 mm
Display UnitsKPa, psi, bar, kg/cm²
Continuous Operating Time10 Minutes Maximum
Power Cable Length3.3m (11ft)

First Impressions and What’s in the Box

The packing is nothing to write home about, but that’s not a concern with us given the price. The compressor itself feels nice and solid. It is made from a hard plastic and small rubber feet that are designed to limit movement while the compressor is running (more on that below).

At 3.3m in length the power cable should be more than good enough for most standard cars and it feels much better quality than the one on the AstroAi (the air hose is also better).

VacLife offers the ATJ-1166 vehicle air compressor in three different colours; blue, dark orange and yellow, with the later of which being the one we chose to order. In the box you get the following.

  • ATJ-1166 vehicle air compressor
  • 12V cigarette lighter plug
  • Three additional nozzles/attachments along with the one that comes on the hose.
  • A fuse
  • User manual

One thing we did like about the VacLife ATJ-1166 is the little compartment for storing the air hose. It is a bit of a tight fit but it does make things a bit tidier when storing the compressor. Unfortunately, the compressor itself is a bit larger than the AstroAi we tested previously, which means it didn’t fit in all of the gloveboxes and other storage areas we tested it with.

Using the VacLife ATJ-1166 Vehicle Air Compressor

Like most of these sorts of products, the ATJ-1166 is fairly simply to operate. Plug it in, connect up the hose to the tyre, turn your car on and then set the pressure. However, we hit a snag with the very first step. We found that the 12V lighter socket connector was quite loose and when we turned on our car the VacLife compressor didn’t power on (on multiple vehicles). Really pushing the connector in brought the ATJ-1166 to life, but it was slightly annoying (not a major issue but something to be aware of and may be different on other units).

With the car on and the ATJ-1166 connected up to the tyre you should notice that the pressure reading goes from zero to whatever your tyres pressure is in the selected unit. You can change what the VacLife compressor reads in by pressing on the “R” button and cycling through the different readings (psi, KPa, bar, and kg/cm²).

To set the pressure to what you want you press the “+” and “-“ buttons depending on whether you want to go up or down (obviously you can’t go lower than what the tyre is currently reading). Once you have set the target pressure you press the power button and then the compressor bursts into life.

The inflating process is definitely slower on the VacLife AT-1166 than the AstroAi CZK-3631. This is probably down to the fact that the VacLife product’s maximum working pressure is half that of the AstroAi compressor, so we assume that the average running rate will be lower (and our tests seem to back that up). We don’t think this is a major problem, unless for some reason you are regularly pumping up large tyres from flat or you have a lot of things to pump up.

One benefit we found over the AstroAi is that the VacLife ATJ-1166 hardly moves at all when the compressor is on. The AstroAi moves quite a bit, and it is best to hold onto it while it is running. However, that’s where the benefits of the VacLife over the AstroAi end.

Once the VacLife reaches the target pressure you set it switches the compressor off and you are ready to move onto the next tyre or thing you want to inflate. But we hit a major issue here on the unit we tested. The first time we used the compressor we set the target pressure to 33 psi. However, it actually pumped up the tyre to 34.5 psi. We checked this with different gauges and found that it did indeed over inflate the tyre.

With concerns over the accuracy of the VacLife we decided to check one of the rear tyres. We confirmed that this was pumped up to 32 psi with other gauges, but the VacLife read around 28 psi. We then noticed that the pressure creeped up slowly and eventually settled on 30.5 psi, around a 1.5 psi difference.

We had a similar experience on other tyres with the VacLife under reporting the pressure and over inflating compared to the target pressure we set. This is a major issue for us and really makes the VacLife a bit useless and unreliable. We don’t know if this is a problem with just our unit as other reviewers seem to be happy with the VacLife, but they may have not compared it to other gauges.

How’s the Light?

Like the AstroAi compressor, the VacLife vehicle air compressor comes with a small emergency light. It isn’t that strong, but it does provide a small amount of light which will come in handy in emergency situations.

Conclusion – Is the VacLife ATJ-1166 Compressor Worth a Buy?

From our experience no, the ATJ-1166 is not worth a buy, especially compared to the competition. While we may have got a dud, we don’t really want to risk it when the AstroAi CZK-3631 has been reliable and incredibly accurate during our extended use.

The only benefits of the VacLife are that it is slightly cheaper (only a few dollars), it doesn’t move around while running, and it has a little storage compartment for the air hose. Apart from that the AstroAi is better in every single way. It is way more accurate, faster, and it is smaller so it is easier to store. For the few dollars more it is worth going for the AstroAI CZK-3631 over the VacLife ATJ-1166.

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