Air Compressors

4wd-track-Air Compressors

Caption: tjm portable

An air compressor is an extremely important accessory to have in any 4wd. Whether you are beach 4wding or off the beaten track, maintaining correct air pressure in your 4x4 tyres is extremely important for maintaining best traction, the environment, and your 4wd tyres and let’s not forget helping your fuel consumption. When you have been off road and have reduced the air pressure in your 4wd tyres it is extremely important before driving on the bitumen to get your tyres pumped up to correct air pressure, otherwise you will end up doing damage to your tyres or at best case shorten their life span, and 4wd tyres are by no means cheap! There are also other benefits to having an air compressor on board your 4wd besides pumping up your tyres such as pumping up your air beds, balls, or maybe a raft for the kids.

Comparison and Benefits of types of Air Compressors

Let’s look at the different options available and determine which is best for your needs. I would say most 4wders dream is to have ARB or TJM air lockers with the attached components and fittings to be able to pump up your tyres, air bed, or footy when you are out camping. However, for those of us who are just starting out or can’t justify spending that amount of money right now just to pump up your 4x4 tyres, having a portable or even a cheaper on-board compressor might be the way to go. A personal favourite apart from having full air lockers and the rest is the endless air compressor. These are a great option but do require a little bit of work. An endless air compressor is driven by your engine like your air conditioning, so you can turn it off when not in use. These will deliver a tremendous amount of air and will pump up your tyres in no time or even run other air tools that you might want to take with you. Your engine does have to be running but let’s face it, if your engine won’t go a flat tyre is the least of your worries.

A 12v portable air compressor is always another option you could go for, and can be quite a bit cheaper. They will either have alligator clips for the battery terminal or a cigarette lighter plug. Both of these are quick and easy and some of the more expensive air compressors will be high quality and work fast. If you are going to be using a portable air compressor I would recommend storing it in a plastic box which can house your accessories and when you use the air compressor it can stay in the box which will provide it with a clean and dust free environment making it last longer. Many of the higher range compressors will come in a suitable box anyway.

What do the different specs mean and should I be concerned about them?

Duty Cycle – basically the percentage of time the compressor can pump air for in comparison to the amount of time the air compressor will need to rest for. E.g. 50% duty cycle would mean the air compressor can pump air for 30 min then it will need to rest for a further 30 min. It is not necessarily correct though. So 33% is not one third of the run time but rather run time/ run time + rest time = duty cycle percentage. So if the duty cycle is 25% and you run your air compressor for 10 min then it will need to rest for 30 min before it can pump compressed air again. Some compressors will have a continuous duty cycle which will mean the compressor will work until it gets too hot.

Thermal Protection – Having a thermal protection switch is a good option to have, this will mean the compressor will turn itself off when it reaches a particular temperature instead of burning out your compressor

Air Flow – The rate of air the compressor can pump at. Check whether the rate of flow is rated under load or not as this may affect your decision. You may think the specs of one brand look better but if the rate of flow is measured differently you may be very wrong. Most of them will measure the rate of flow not under load.

Max Operating Pressure – You’ll want to make sure the compressor is going to be able to pump your tyres up to the right pressure

Things to look for – what do you want it for is probably a good place to start.

Make sure the air compressor you buy is one which will meet your needs. There is no point buying one to pump up your 4x4 tyres and it will only inflate them to 15psi, not going to make a difference, but if you only want it to pump up air beds, footballs and the like than that will be sufficient anyway.

Keep an eye on the duty cycle as you don’t want to get three tyres pumped up and have to wait 30 min before you can continue and finish the last tyre off.

If you will be using the air compressor for more than pumping up your 4wd tyres, make sure you check if there are different fittings available to fit the items you want to use your air compressor for.

The durability of an air compressor is a hard factor to take into account as the different uses, quantity of uses, and the quality of the maintenance are all factors which come into play. You may have a cheap air compressor which has lasted you for years and another person 3 weeks.

Check the amps the air compressor will draw from your 4wd battery too. Some of the larger air compressors may in fact do a better job but if they draw too many amps from your battery or you will need to make sure your motor is running when using the compressor.

Does the air compressor have enough air flow to pump up the tyre from 0 psi? An air compressor will require a greater air flow rate to pump up a completely flat tyre.

Cost vs Benefit

It is extremely beneficial to have an air compressor on board your 4x4, even if it takes most of the day to pump up your tyres, if you need to you can. Obviously the more you spend on an air compressor, the longer it will last and the faster it will do its work, but we don’t all have lots of cash lying around. A cheap one off ebay will set you back $100 the prices will go up from there but even $300 will get you a good portable one. Any amount you have will get you something that will enable you to get out of a difficult spot.

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