If you harken back to the earlier days of Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road about 20 years ago (OK, now I feel old), you might notice a black-and-white ad in the back of the book for a little outfit called Power Tank from Advanced Air Systems. Power Tank was started by Steve Sasaki in a quest for a fast and portable way to do something we all do just about every time we go off-road; namely, air tires back up after a trail ride.
Back to the present, and a few of us are still here. 4WOR and Power Tank are still two names in the off-road industry, although we’ve both changed a lot. Sasaki built his idea into the Power Tank brand and even got involved in some of our earliest Ultimate Adventures to test his product (with help from an iconic red Toyota 4Runner). Our nostalgia overfloweth. Since then Power Tank has grown and grown. We still see Sasaki and Power Tanks all over the off-road world from events and construction sites to RVs, the back of trail rigs, and off-road race cars.
The idea was (and still is) to use a tank of liquid carbon dioxide to product CO2 gas to air up tires and run pneumatic tools. The uses are many: filling tires after patching a tire; filling trailer or RV tires; running air tools for construction and plumbing; using compressed CO2 to clean parts, run air lockers, and seat a tire bead on the trail; and more. And the Power Tank is fast—really fast.
That’s why we’re bringing you this story. A Power Tank is a super-fast way to air up big tires at the end of a trail ride. Our plan is to use our 42x14.50R20-wearing 1949 Willys Truck to show you how fast a Power Tank setup is compared to a high-end electric air compressor. But before we get started we have one question for Sasaki: Where is that red 4Runner?
All right, here’s the plan. We deflate this 42x13.50R20 tire completely and then use a Power Tank to fill it back up to 30 psi. We’ll time it and compare these results to the same test using a high-end portable electric compressor. Zero to 30 psi twice using different methods. We’ll also count the number of times this PT10 10-pound Power Tank will refill our 42-inch tire even though chances are you’ll almost always be using it to fill a tire from trail pressure (6-10 psi) up to road pressure (25-35 psi).
Let’s introduce the contenders. In this corner we have a beautiful Candy Red PT10 Power Tank (10-pound CO2 tank) that came as part of a Package C System. The system starts at $509.95 with a Power Flow II tank and was $639.95 as tested with optional upgrades, aluminum roll bar mounting clamps, and a $20 CO2 fill-up. Visible in this shot is the optional anodized tank knob ($30), new to Power Tank, on the COMP Series HP250i regulator. The regulator is also an update with heat vents machined into the coupler. Also visible and new is the ToolGrip handle grip with a hose and air tool holder. The two regulator gauges tell you what’s going on. The one in the back tells you the pressure of the tank, but this is not a fuel gauge; rather, it gives a rough indication of when you are nearing the end of the CO2. The gauge to the front is your output pressure regulating the amount of psi the hose sees. This is adjustable based on what you are doing, such as running air lockers, running air tools, or inflating tires. We’re gonna crank this mother all the way up for this test.
Shown here is Power Tank’s new UltraFlex 30-foot straight hose. The design doesn’t pull on you when you’re running air tools; it lays flat on the ground so as not to be a trip hazard, and it still comes with high-pressure swivels ends. Also shown is the optional digital tire inflator ($30 over analog) which uses a new, more durable and accurate gauge. Durability is good given our ham-fisted ways. The inflator’s air line is also more flexible and easier to use than previous models, and the body is an all-new design with smoother action. The inflator has a 400-psi inlet pressure rating so it can be used with Power Tank’s highest-pressure regulators without worry.
The regulator and hose come with Power Tank’s high-quality air Power Flow II hose coupler at the regulator and Super Coupler (shown) on the business end of the hose. Both types of couplers are durable and resistant to the dirt you will encounter on the trail. The Super Coupler has a locking ring that positively connects it to the male coupler and a secondary sleeve that is an on/off switch. With this sleeve in the rearward position no CO2 can flow through the coupler. This makes changing from inflator to air tool easy despite the pressure from the regulator.
Our 10-pound Power Tank PT10 came with this mounting bracket and two black roll bar clamps as part of the Package C System. This makes securing the Power Tank easy in just about any 4x4. The aluminum mounting bracket is also available powdercoated in black. The clamping band securely holds the tank to the bracket and is padlock-ready for security (inset photo). The SuperFlow Series regulators all come with a limited lifetime warranty; the tank and guard have a lifetime warranty; the hose has a two-year warranty; the inflator has a five-year warranty. Power Tank is constantly making improvements and offers an upgrade program that allows you to upgrade to the latest parts with trade-in values given for old Power Tank parts.
With the tire’s valve core pulled and ambient air pressure inside and out of the tire, we replaced the valve core and set our stopwatch. The Power Tank system is easy to set up and is as fast, if not faster, than setting up any electric compressor we’ve met. Next thing you know we were off to the races. The Power Tank filled our 42-inch tire from dead-flat to 30 psi in just over 2 minutes. That’s fast! Subsequent tire fills from zero to 30 psi were just as fast (and even faster when we cheated up the pressure above the recommended static 200 psi for airing up tires). Drilling and tapping our wheels for the company’s large-diameter Monster Tire Deflator valves would speed the process a whole bunch more.
The competition is no slouch. In this corner is ARB’s Portable Twin Air Compressor, a mean machine with two electric motors promising high-performance compressed air ($835). Enough performance, in fact, to allow ARB to claim that it can quickly inflate large tires and even run some air tools. We’ve used this unit several times (including on a couple Ultimate Adventures) since we initially tested it a few years ago (goo.gl/gWb3pe). It’s relatively fast, and as long as you have a battery it will make compressed air, but is it Power Tank fast? We doubted it before the test started. We also had to fire up the old Willys to keep the battery charged, making the air compressor’s rewarding dual-motor hum practically inaudible. The Power Tank is virtually silent.
With our rally-race-stage-like air pressure test, we settled in to let the electric compressor do its thing. Like a turtle, it took its merry time. The Power Tank’s lightning-fast first zero- to 30-psi fill was officially 2 minutes 9 seconds. The ARB Twin filled the same tire from zero to 30 psi in 7 minutes 12 seconds. That’s a difference of roughly 5 minutes (maybe enough time to fill a second 42-inch BFG from zero to 30 psi with the Power Tank?). Also, the one PT10 Power Tank successfully ran our zero- to 30-psi test six times and aired up all four tires at the end of the trail from about 10 to 22-27 psi for the road. That should be enough for 10-12 similar tire air-ups and many times that for rigs with 37-inch or smaller tires. If that’s not enough, 15-pound and 20-pound Power Tanks are also available.
With the Power Tank mounted on the C-pillar of the rollcage we can easily air up tires at the end of the trail with the tank in its storage position (you can’t do this if your tank is mounted horizontally because compressed CO2 is a liquid). That makes the whole ordeal that much faster than breaking out the compressor, opening the hood to get at the battery terminals, running the hose and inflator out to each tire, and so on. Instead, all you have to do is open a couple valves and hook up the hose and inflator. That’s fast. Fast enough to let us enjoy the sunset.
Just for comparison’s sake we also did the same zero- to 30-psi test with an older Power Tank PT10 unit we’ve had for years. Our test subject was our 1997 Wrangler with LT315/70R17 (35X12.50R17LT) Milestar Patagonia M/Ts. The Power Tank filled that tire from zero to 30 psi in a blazing 1 minutes 20 seconds. The 10-pound tank can fill these tires from zero to 30 psi a full 10-12 times before running out of CO2 and should air them up from trail pressure of 7 psi to road pressure of 25 psi roughly 30 times.