Every backyard mechanic will be familiar with the good old 12v air compressor. Some of us have even had one of those cheap plastic compressors in the boot of our car for those midnight emergencies. But do you know there are now so many other options out there that can provide you with high pressure, high volume air compressors at a value price?
The 4 different types of quality portable air compressors available now are
- Permanent mounted under bonnet compressor for cars, and trucks
- 12v single or dual piston air compressors
- 110v portable compressors with attached air cylinder tank.
- Portable air cylinder bottle like a scuba tank for quick emergency air.
Underhood inbuilt high volume Air compressor. ARB
These are more suited for trucks and 4×4 which need to pump up airbags, tires, Airlockers, or provide air to the brakes on a trailer. The good thing about an inbuilt under the bonnet air compressor is that it is always with you in an emergency. All that’s needed is to attach the pressure gauge hose and pump up your tires.
The ARB On-Board 12V Air Compressor is well regarded by 4×4 offroad enthusiasts. Its compact design and weatherproofing mean it will be easy to mount in your truck.
|Part Number||ARB CKMA12|
|Item Weight||10.5 pounds|
|Product Dimensions||4.9 x 9.1 x 9 inches|
|Item model number||CKMA12|
|ARB air flow under load||2.18 CFM|
|Air compressor amp draw fully loaded.||22.9 Amps|
If you couple it with a small storage tank you could even run some air tools. ARB has a couple of designs to fit most makes and shapes of four-wheel drives. All you would be required to do is install the ARB compressor and run the cabling to the battery via a selector switch in the cabin.
12v Single and Dual piston air compressors
These are the workhorse of the home handy many. Most of us have used a 12v compressor one time or another. The benefit of a dual piston is it will pump up your tire twice as fast.
If I was to recommend a cheap new air compressor to someone I would have to recommend the Slime 40026 2X Heavy Duty Tire Inflator. This is a dual piston cylinder that has large alligator clips to connect to your battery.
- Inflates a standard 15inch car tire in 2 minutes.
- Dual cylinder piston inflator for maximum air volume.
- Direct drive inflator that connects directly to the battery for maximum power.
- Large dial gauge in-line on the air hose included.
- 30-foot coil air hose and a bright LED light for night use.
- Max current 22 amps
- Air volume 1.9 CFM
Cheaper plastic units will use a cigaret lighter plug for power. These are limited to the current draw and as such have smaller compressor motors so the pump will run slower. Always buy a compressor with alligator clips for the larger current draw.
I like that it comes in a hard case this way it can be tucked away ready for use. Slime makes some great products and I especially like their tire repair plugs which I have used from every day corolla tires to more heavy duty 4×4 all-terrain tires. Never had one fail or leak.
Best Single cylinder air compressor reviewed
If you need a more quality single cylinder air compressor with the high flow, then check out the Superflow HD SUV air compressor. Its a very rugged metal frame unit that has 1 large capacity piston compressor which is well suited for larger loads. The MV-90 Heavy Duty Air Compressor is ideal for big rid trucks with 35 inches or larger tires.
- Inflates a 37-inch tire in under 2 minutes
- 24 ft coil hose. inline pressure gauge
- Large base plate for the sand. Type-M quick connect air fittings
- Maximum air flow is 6400 cubic inches per minute – WOW
- Working pressure is 150 PSI, with the restart pressure being 90 PSI.
The MV-90Comp utilizes the standard type M quick connect fittings so it’s very quick to set up so you can start pumping up your tires. We have this compressor in our 4×4 for when we go driving on the beach. We always let our tires down to get more of a footprint in the soft sand. The superflow is great to pump all 4 tires back again in under 8 minutes.
The alligator clamps are nice and long so couples with the coil hose you can reach around all 4 tires of your car as well as your neighbor’s car if they are parked next to you.
I have always liked the Superflow high volume air compressor mainly due to its rugged all-metal construction. I really dislike the small cheap plastic compressors that take ages to pump up one tire. Do it right the first time and buy a quality unit.
Mains power 110v Portable Air Compressor – Dewalt
My workshop utilizes air for our power tools so it’s important we have regular clean dry air. This is accomplished by a portable 110v Dewalt D55146 air compressor. I’m a big fan of Dewalt gear due to their value price and attention to quality. Not to mention their tools are safety yellow so stand out when you are trying to find something fast.
This endless air pump is nice and portable so we can leave the workshop and just take the compressor and a small generator to make all the air in the world. Gone are the days when I would connect a small 12v compressor to an air receiver tank to provide some emergency air for a rattle gun or air drill.
- It has 225 PSI max tank storage pressure which provides you with 80% more usable air.
- 5.0 SCFM at 90 PSI – 4.5 gallons tank allows the compressor to recover quickly after its initial tank charge is exhausted. The 1.6 HP motor provides ample power.
- The vertical stand feature and collapsible handle allow you to easily transport this compressor to any remote areas as well as able to save space by transporting or storing the compressor in a vertical or horizontal position.
- It’s very quiet at 78 dBA operational noise level.
- 10-inch no-flat foam tires allow for easy transportation around the job site.
- Efficient high-pressure technology allows for longer pump and motor life.
- Simple regulator nobs to fine tune your working air pressure.
- 2 Outlets which are air regulated quick connection points.
Because these industrial portable air compressors are on wheels they are easy to move from site to site. They are sold and marketed to trades and workshops you will have to provide your own hoses and attachments.
It’s always handy to have a set of air nozzles and fittings for those small pump ups and blowdowns. The Ampro 18 piece kit shown to the left is well regarded. Its corrosion resistant brass couplers & connectors are perfect for the DIY handyman.
Working air pressure vs static air pressure
Something that most people fail to realize is the working air pressure of their tools. What needs to be taken into account is the recommended air pressure for the tool you are using as well as the size and length of hose using. Most hoses are 50 feet and as such will have a fair bit of loss. This is the air hose I use from Continental, its heavy duty and I like the fact its oil and abrasion resistant.
When using any pneumatic tool the loss of air while using it will cause a slight drop in pressure. This air pressure drop will increase the longer your hose is. To fix this problem you will need to set your static pressure higher. This will then make your working pressure lower when taking into account the air pressure drop.
There is no magic formula to work this out. Its all trial and error depending on the air power tool used and the length of your quality air hose. It’s important to know that most portable high volume air compressors without an air tank are unsuitable for air power tools.
Real Tool reviews explain this well:
How to adjust the pressure on the Dewalt portable air compressor
Most quality high volume air compressors will have two gauges. One for the static air tank pressure and one for the working pressure. As we mentioned earlier both are required for making sure you have the right pressure for your tool.
Most pneumatic hand tools work in the range of 90 to 110 PSI some heavy duty house framing nailers can operate a lot higher. So it’s important to set the working pressure with the regulator.
Most air compressor regulators can adjust the pressure from 0 all the way up to 200 PSI+ In the case of the Dewalt unit shown above, turning the regulator adjustment nob clockwise will set the pressure higher. Turning anti-clockwise will reduce the pressure. The compressor is set to turn on and charge the main tank at around 150PSI and will cut off at 200PSI.
As always test your tool for the correct running pressure before use and take note of the working pressure drop.
Power Tank small compressed air tank – PT10-5250BK
Power Tank is a leading company in portable CO2 air tanks. These are mainly used by offroaders looking for fast air in a remote location. Or tradesmen working in a tight remote space where no power or airlines are available.
While not strictly a portable high volume air compressor we felt it important to include it in this post due to the fact it can do just as much as any other compressor here and more. It’s just another option.
Whats very obvious is it looks just like a scuba tank. But in fact, they are the more heavy duty. These are engineered to provide you with a save easily to use portable compressed air. Because CO2 is compressed as a liquid as it expands the air volume increases dramatically and at a very high pressure. Shown above is a 10 LB C02 Capacity Tank which equals to around 640 gallons of shop air.
It’s important to know that these CO2 portable compressed air tanks can be stored in any position vertical, horizontal and even upside down. But when you want to use the air it’s very important to either stand it upright or at a 30 deg angle. This is because the CO2 liquid needs to be on the bottom.
Is CO2 Safe for tools?
This portable vehicle air tank which holds CO2 is very safe for your air power tools. Its air delivery is dry and leaves no residue. In fact its the same product used to carbonate water for fizzy drinks. The air volume out of these tanks is insane. Enough for framing tools, impact drivers and able to reseat 4×4 tire beads.
If you would like to know more about Power tank then check out their FAQ here.
You will be able to get 4+ full tire fills off one bottle and don’t be concerned about refilling the CO2 as this is easy. Filling these CO2 bottles should cost less than 20 dollars at any local fire extinguisher service shops, welding gas suppliers, or beverage carbonics store. Depending on your location.
Large volume air compressors conclusion
At the end of the day, there are so many options for you. Most people just want an emergency portable air compressor for their tires. We did a review of jump starters that include an air-compressor so you should check that out for an all in one solution.
Workshops will require either a portable tank air compressor or a more permanent solution depending on the number of air tools used at one time.
Then there are the unique cases when a custom compressor is needed like an ARB vehicle mounted compressor or the portable Power Tank CO2 bottle both of which receive high praises from the off-road community. All the best for finding the right air compressor for the job.