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bombloader 09-28-2009 12:54 AM

Looking for air compressor
So here's the scoop. I'm getting tired of running down to the gas and putting quarters in air machine every time one of my tires is a little low on pressure. So I'm looking for a good inexpensive air compressor. Also, this should help me get closer to the "cold" pressure recommended on the sidewall. I've thought about three options.
1-Buy a full shop type air compressor. This would be the most versatile option, allowing me to run air tools if I need too. Also, would do the job pretty quickly. Cons, really expensive for even a small one unless I get one used.
2-Buy a small cigarette lighter plug version. This is a lot cheaper, $40-50 at NAPA last time I checked. Another benefit is that its portable, in case I need to air up a tire in the middle of nowhere. However, probably quite a bit slower. I've got 31-10.50 tires, so I don't want something that will take forever on one tire.
3-Buy an air tank, and fill it up periodically at the gas station. Cost, probably similar to the above option. Not much to go wrong with it, and might be fairly quick at topping of tires if the pressure is high enough. The downside is of course I've only reduced my dependence on the gas station for air, not eliminated it. Also, not sure how much pressure those gas station machines can make, so if I buy a tank it won't do much good if none of the gas station machine will fill it to the highest pressure it can take.
Any thoughts guys?

Christ 09-28-2009 01:01 AM

I fill my tanks up to 100 PSI at the gas station thingy. Costs me $0.75US to do so, and I can usually fill two 10 gallon tanks.

I own 4 air compressors... they're all at my Father's house, I use my Father in Law's compressor when I need to use air tools.

You can build an air compressor from junkyard parts relatively cheaply, by the way. I'd say around $50 will get you a decent compressor setup, and you can use an old propane tank for a detached holding tank.

I used to re-use those 1lb propane tanks for torches for exactly this purpose, until I bought a refilling setup for them. I'd fill them up to 150PSI, then throw them in the trunk next to a can of fix a flat or Slime.

150 PSI in a small cylinder will fill an average car tire up to 40 PSI before equalizing, IIRC. I'm going to get around to make a few more at some point, because they were actually quite handy for replacing the spare tire in the car.

elhigh 09-28-2009 09:09 AM

I found a perfectly serviceable air comp at Big Lots (maybe Odd Lots where you are, or none at all) for about $80 a couple of years ago. Oil lube model even, so it'll last longer. Mmm, serviceability. Love that.

Anyhoo, keep your eyes peeled. For the convenience, I'd say get the compressor, and not the el cheapo cigarette lighter model. I built a little cabinet that mine lives in so it doesn't walk around when running (very likely, no matter how well yours is engineered) and added some shrouding to keep the noise down. Plumb in some sturdy flex line and add tees where you want them, and you can run pressure lines all over your shop and just have a shorty hose to plug in anywhere it's convenient, plus a plugin on the outside wall for when you have to top up the tires.

micondie 09-28-2009 11:08 AM

I don't know if you have a Harbor Freight in your area but my latest sale circular has a 3HP 21 Gallon compressor on sale for $139.99. Probably not the best quality but probably good enough for how much you would use it. Try

Ryland 09-28-2009 11:17 AM

How about a tire pump? $20 at a bike shop, they have a gauge, they are free to use, they get your heart rate up if your tire is really low.

DonR 09-28-2009 12:00 PM


Originally Posted by Ryland (Post 130377)
How about a tire pump? $20 at a bike shop, they have a gauge, they are free to use, they get your heart rate up if your tire is really low.

You could pump up a tank with the bike pump inside when it's cold as well.

If you buy/build a compressor & plan to run any tools with it, may I suggest getting an oiled compressor. The oilless compressors are extremely loud. I couldn't stand to be in the garage when mine was running.


Clev 09-28-2009 01:28 PM

I have the cheapy cigarette lighter version. They have the cheaper one (fills a tire in as little as 8 minutes!) and the more expensive version (fills a tire in as little as 3 minutes!) If you have any kind of regular leak, I'd say go with the more expensive one. The cheaper one that fills a tire in 8 minutes also takes 8 minutes to take a tire from 38 psi to 51 psi.

solarguy 09-28-2009 02:21 PM

Buy both.

Pop down to the local Wal-mart or bike shop and buy a hand powered pump. Cheap. Lasts a long time. Portable. Good exercise.

Then start saving up for a "real" compressor. If you do much of your own mechanic work, an air compressor makes life much nicer in a dozen different ways.



order99 09-28-2009 09:21 PM

Believe it or not, a $10 mini-handpump(small enough to fit on my bicycle seat post) will inflate a Festiva tire to 40 PSI within about 6 minutes or so. I'm not saying that the process won't turn your arms into nerveless wet noodles for the next hour, mind...:D

I also have one of the small 'cigarette-lighter' models-ran about $8 at a flea market, hasn't failed me yet. I can get 40 PSI in the Festiva-my usual fill-in about 4 minutes. My backup car ('89 Camry) needs about the same time for 35 PSI, then the pressure starts to equalize and I need another 3-4 minutes for that last 5 lbs. The pump weighs a whopping 2.5 lbs BTW.

For small and large industrial-type compressors, may I recommend local pawn shops and flea markets? I can't go to those places without tripping over the 'effin things! I've seen prices as low as $25 on some of the decent ones, and as low as $10 for the 'needs TLC' used models...

bombloader 09-29-2009 12:21 AM

Thanks guys. Sounds like decent air compressors are available if you know where to look. I've seen a few at the local pawn shop actually. Craigslist might be another good source too. BTW, on the bike pump, I actually have one. It works good for my bicycle and motorcycle. If your arms are dead after pumping up a Festiva tire with one, I think I'd feel like I'd be dead after pumping up my tires:) Note my tire size in the first post, and I try to keep them at the sidewall max pressure unless I was gonna do some serious off-roading.

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