Another off-road essential, the compressor!

Another off-road essential, the compressor!

As friends we have kept our distance yet we occasionally get together and share thoughts on a wide variety of topics. Recently the topic of deflation and inflation came up and there were a variety of opinions expressed. The simplest method is a hose with a two-way valve that allows you to transfer air from a spare tyre to any wheel requiring it. This does however mean that you will need to over-inflate the spare tyre within accepted tolerances. But a portable air compressor came up tops as the must-have device for the avid enthusiast. It is a frequently used piece of equipment as situations regularly arise that require a quick air pressure fix.

Many folks mount their compressors in the engine compartment or space permitting under or behind seats. Lately, the trend has been to keep it more portable, making it more flexible. Besides, you can inflate mattresses and the kid’s pool toys, as well as the mountain bike rubber if necessary. Price-wise they don’t break the bank but I would recommend that one purchase a rugged well-known compressor rather than a cheaper no-name brand. 

So, if your adventure lifestyle includes diverse terrain and a good deal of sand it’s a “must-have” item of equipment. You change tyre pressures to alter the footprint of your vehicle’s tyres, a wider footprint gives you better traction on sand and a softer tyre grips better on rocks and also reduces harsh bumpy ride.

But once the air has been let out it is critical to re-inflate when reverting to normal terrain such as tar or gravel, this is where your air compressor kicks in.

Gone are the days of matchsticks for deflation and hand or foot pumps for inflation, having a reliable compressor ensures that you can re-inflate quickly when required which in itself reduces the risk of damage or de-beading a tyre.

As you do your homework you will notice that there are a variety of options available across a broad price spectrum. You will find single and dual piston options. The single-piston variety is older yet still reliable albeit slightly slower. The advantage they have over the larger twin-piston counterparts are size, weight, price and power draw. Yet the twin-piston variety will deliver more air per minute and have you on-road sooner. Portable electric air compressors do come with mounting brackets and accessories ( think kids toys and mattresses ) and can easily be moved from vehicle to vehicle. Especially if you have to reseat a tyre bead on another vehicle. 

So what are a few key items to look for? Well, look at a well-known brand as well as a reputable dealer that will be able to assist with fitment, accessories and repairs if necessary. Then look at the flow rate and current draw rate as these are important deliverables. Heating is important as you don’t want to have to sit around waiting for the unit to cool down before starting on the next tyre – thermal cut-offs will stop the unit and only allow it to restart when it’s cool enough. Good compressors will have an inline fuse as well, ensure that you have a spare available when travelling. Look at all components, quality and usability are important, crocodile clips need to be durable although you could replace them with a fitting for an auxiliary socket. Obviously hose length is critical as this will affect the reach of the unit. Remember the adage”goedkoop is duurkoop” the last thing you want is to end up with a unit that jumps around, makes a noise and does not deliver the air required. 

This is where the duty cycle comes in, it’s key to delivery. Simply it describes how long the compressor can run and would need to rest, it will be influenced by the air delivery required, operating temperature and running time. A 100% duty cycle would imply continuous running albeit influenced by air delivery and temperature. What you want is a compressor that will re-inflate 4 tyres without rest in an ideal world. This you would only get at the top end of the price spectrum though. 

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