Air-Up Systems We’ve Used
This isn’t a buyer’s guide. This is a hands-on overview of some of the air-up systems the staffers of Jp magazine have used in the real world. We selected them, we installed them, and we used them. Some are more simplistic, like Advance Air System’s Power Tank, some are more complex, like the Kilby Enterprises’ Air Boss, and some fall in between. But one thing is for sure, no matter what your preference, airing down on the trail vastly increases your rig’s off-road performance, comfort, and safety. So don’t let an inability to air up prevent you from getting the most out of your off-road forays. No matter what your budget or experience level, you should be able to find a method of obtaining compressed air on the trail from one or more of these selections.
Viair Constant Duty Onboard Air System
Viair’s party piece is the fact it offers complete, ready-to-rock systems. There’s no need to go chasing down fittings, wiring, connectors, or components. It all comes packaged neatly in one box. The company offers its onboard air systems from light-to-super-duty with a range of single or multiple compressors in varying degrees of gnarliness. Individual parts and pieces are also available.
We chose the company’s PN 1007 Constant Duty onboard air system that features its 100-percent duty cycle 450C compressor, 2.5-gallon air tank, 35 feet of coiled air hose, a dash panel with gauge and on/off switch, fittings, line, wiring, mounting hardware, pressure switch, and blowoff valve. The PN 1005 Heavy Duty system comes with a 400C compressor that’s much faster, but only has a 33-percent duty cycle. Of course, other systems are available with larger or multiple compressors, but we feel these two systems best fill the needs of the average Jeep owner.
Setup and Installation:
There are a lot of components and admittedly the instructions could be a bit clearer—especially if you unbag everything for a magazine photo and forget what it’s for! It’s almost a lost cause trying to fit the big 2.5-gallon tank in a Wrangler, but if you’re running a lift it will fit in the space underneath the floor and behind the T-case. Just check driveshaft clearance at full-bump. The compressor wouldn’t really like a dunking. There is just room to squeeze in on the top of the fender, but most will want to probably mount it low to the firewall or find a space for it in the cabin. In all, packaging isn’t fun in a Wrangler, but larger vehicles can probably swallow the full system more easily.
Real World Performance:
Let’s be honest: forget the air tank. You’ll blow through the volume quickly and then you’ll be running off the compressor anyway. It’s only good for busting off a lug nut with an impact and running air horns—both of which aren’t really necessary. The 450C isn’t the fastest compressor we’ve ever used, but it’s not maddeningly slow either. The fact we don’t need to let it cool down or rest really takes the pressure off. Just set the locking chuck and walk away for a couple minutes while your tire inflates, then repeat for the others.
Complete system with nothing else to purchase and a durable 100-percent duty cycle compressor that can chug out the air all day long.
You’ve got to have a little patience and remember it’s not your home compressor or a CO2 system. Trying to cram all the supplied components into a tight Wrangler can be irksome.
When you add up the extra costs of installation components not included with others, the Viair system represents an incredible value for a solid performer.
Advanced Air System’s Power Tank is the original CO2-powered inflation system. In a nutshell, liquid CO2 is held inside a 5-, 10-, 15-, or 20-pound-capacity tank. As it exits through the high-flow regulator, the liquid CO2 expands and turns from liquid to gas. The use of CO2 liquid allows much more energy to be stored than if the tank held compressed gas, but the amount of inflation is still finite. Once your CO2 supply is depleted you’ll have to visit your local gas distributor to have your bottle recharged.
We’ve been Power Tank users for over ten years, but our latest test version is the company’s PN PT10-5240, dubbed the Package A System. The A System includes all the basics like the company’s SuperFlow HP 250 regulator, handle, tank bracket, boot, regulator cover, and 25-feet of HP1200 braided air hose. In reality, the company is always coming up with some new and improved regulator, coupler, or chuck so it’s hard to stay current. An exchange program is in place that credits you $90 towards the company’s newest regulator if you turn in your old Power Tank regulator, no matter what its condition.
Setup & Installation:
You’ll have to find a welding supply shop to fill your tank and then you simply install your regulator. It’s pretty easy. The company offers several different mounting bracket and roll bar clamps. Our newest system rides an upgraded Super Bracket (PN BKT-2261-BK), but since the bottle sizes are pretty standard you can use less-fancy mounts from your local welding supply shop. The Power Tank must be at a minimum 30-degree angle when in use, so we normally just mount it upright along the roll cage or body tub.
The company has plenty of performance figures citing inflation time for different size tires and different pressures on its web site, but the short story, it’s blazingly fast. As long as your tank has juice it’ll air up four average-size tires while your buddy with the electric compressor is still working on his first. It only slows down slightly once the CO2 level drops to nearly empty. You’ll get more fill-ups than you think you should out of your tank. The company claims you’ll air up a 35x12.50R15 tires from 10-30 psi 12 times with a PT10 setup, but we feel like we’ve gotten more out of our tanks. We have found that the CO2 seems to go rather quickly when working with air tools on the trail. Perhaps that’s because unlike an electric compressor, there’s no need to pause and fill the tank after a couple seconds of tool use. It’s the perfect system for the impatient or those who don’t air up and down more than a couple times on a wheeling trip.
It’s friggin’ fast, versatile, and extremely portable. We have mounts in several of our vehicles and then chuck our Power Tank in whichever rig is hitting the trail. We’ve never run out of CO2 with simple air-ups; only when using power tools.
The limited supply of CO2 has never caused us pause to question the Power Tank as an onboard air supply, but its portability makes it an easy theft target. We always pull it out and bring it in our hotel room or try to hide it from the sight of sticky fingers.
Once you get one you’ll wonder why you didn’t get one sooner.