Air compressors are the heart or maybe it's better to say the lungs of any tire shop. Not only have they traditionally provided compressed air to inflate tires, but they are the essential engine of the dozens of air-powered tools found in a typical tire and auto service center. There are seemingly as many air compressor options as there are shops.
The predominant operating systems are: reciprocating piston, rotary vane and rotary screw type. Whichever you chose, performance and reliability are paramount since compressors often run nearly continuously a 100% duty cycle. Your shop can’t afford the downtime if a compressor stops cold or can’t supply all of your air needs.
Experts agree that the amount of air you need (measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm)) and at what pressure (psi) should steer your choice of air compressor model.
Atlas Copco LS and LP two-stage compressors
Other factors to consider are ease of maintenance, warranty coverage, and the network of authorized distributors to offer installation and after-sales service. Additional considerations may include the equipment footprint, allowable noise or heat generated. There are options to suit virtually every application or owner preference. Air compressors, such as those listed below, offer a variety of solutions to a shop owner’s need for day-in, day-out reliability, performance and affordability.
Capitalizing on a combination of computer-aided design, computer-controlled machining processes and heavy-duty cast iron construction, the new Atlas Copco LS and LP two-stage compressors reliably deliver up to 175 psig, according to the manufacturer. The LS Standard two-stage compressor combines a one-piece aluminum head to optimize strength and dissipate heat with a valve designed to maximize volumetric efficiency. The LP two-stage pressure-lubricated compressor features a stainless steel valve design with high volumetric efficiency to ensure high reliability and energy savings for demanding industrial, automotive and commercial applications. Both the LS Standard and LP compressors are virtually maintenance free, the company adds, and are available in models from 5-to-15 horsepower.
Hydrovane's V-Series Duplex rotary vane compressor
Hydrovane has introduced its new V-Series Duplex rotary vane compressor, which is air-cooled, oil flooded and available in a tank mount. This unit comes from the factory with two compressors to ensure an equal workload on each compressor, redundancy for backup and the ability to expand in cyclical high demand situations, the manufacturer says. Both compressors on the unit are direct drive, run at a slow speed of 1,760 rpm and come standard with two TEFC motors. Two rotary vane air ends with cast iron rotors, vanes, and stator units provide reliability and long life. The Duplex, available in models from five to 10 horsepower, has a low noise level, small footprint, and is easily installed and maintained, according to the manufacturer. Hydrovane also offers an optional 10-year Platinum Warranty plan to support its claim that the unit is a safe buy for long-term use and trouble-free operation in many applications.
BendPak's Hush-Quiet LS15RS rotary screw air compressor
Engineered for high performance, efficiency and reliability, BendPak’s Hush-Quiet LS15RS rotary screw air compressor can meet the compressed air demands of high volume tire shops, the company says. This unit has become popular to install in noise-conscious service areas due to the comparably quiet operation of its contra-rotating screws and the tremendous amount of air volume it rapidly produces. With the continuous contact cooling method implemented, even under full load the unit only generates about half the heat of a traditional air compressor. Lower temperatures ensure that with proper maintenance, the rotary screw air compressor is able to remain active under full load continuously. With four configurations available, BendPak’s Tri-Max two-stage air compressors feature an extreme-duty, three-cylinder, cast-iron pump that employs simple splash lubrication for reliability. Because they operate at lower speeds than other compressors and feature large-diameter finned copper tubing between stages, these air compressors have a lower operating temperature to help achieve maximum compressor efficiency with less moisture contamination, the maker says.
Ingersoll Rand T30 air compressor
Ingersoll Rand points out its T30 air compressors feature precision-engineered, two-stage cast iron pumps for reliability in continuous duty applications. Rugged pump construction allows shops to run their compressors all day with significantly reduced downtime, the manufacturer explains. The compressor’s individually cast cylinders, overhung crankshaft and one-piece connecting rod combine to provide quick and easy maintenance, the company says. Value-added upgrades increase uptime and reduce energy consumption, and include a low oil level switch that shuts down the compressor to prevent it from causing damage by running without lubricant. Premium-efficiency motors that reduce power consumption are also available as options on standard packages. Compressors are available with a variety of factory-fitted options to suit customer needs, and each package is backed by a standard warranty that includes coverage of either electric motors or gas engines. Ingersoll Rand is currently offering a free start-up kit and a free air tool with any T30 compressor orders placed from July 1-Dec. 31, for immediate shipment.
Because demanding shop air applications require tough and reliable air compressor performance, Quincy Compressor has expanded its QGS line of rotary screw air compressors. Ranging from five to 30 horsepower and available with integrated dryer and tank-mount options, all QGS compressors come standard with 8,000-hour synthetic lubricating fluid. The QGS features noise levels as low as 63 dBA, and with the optional receiver tank and integrated dryer, it saves valuable floor space while lowering installation and operating costs, the maker says. Configured for 125 psi operation and 230/3/60 electrics, the compressor offers easy maintenance, says the manufacturer. For example, the spin-on oil filter and separator can be accessed by removing just the front panel, and panels are large and specifically designed for easy service access. Quincy backs the QGS with a five-year warranty on the air-end, motor, separator reservoir and cooler/heat exchanger.
Kaeser's SK rotary screw compressor series
Kaeser has redesigned its 15- and 20-hp SK rotary screw compressor series. The new SK models are even more efficient, easy to maintain, and offer a smaller footprint, the company says. What’s more, the redesigned units provide greater flow at 46-89 cfm with pressures from 80-217 psig. The SK series still features the Sigma Profile air end which delivers more air per horsepower than other designs, the manufacturer says, as well as automatic belt tensioning and premium efficiency motors to provide significant energy savings. Triple vibration isolation and heavy sound-proofing offer smooth and quiet operation. A single removable panel offers easy access to all preventive maintenance components, and a four-zone air-cooling design promotes longer lubricant and motor life. The SK series is available as stand-alone compressor units, with integrated dryers or as AirCenter packages, and with variable-speed drive.
Sullair's ShopTek air compressor
Sullair’s ShopTek air compressors offer rotary screw technology in a compact belt-drive compressor package that provides continuous-duty air compression to meet the needs of small horsepower markets, such as auto body and tire shops. ShopTek compressors are available in eight models ranging from five to 20 horsepower, with capacities from 17 to 78 cfm and pressures from 125 to 175 psig. All models are available with a Performance Air System that includes an 80- or 120-gallon storage tank with an optional Sullair dryer and filter that completes the Performance Air System package. All system components are matched and sized to meet varying air quality and performance requirements, the company notes. The ShopTek air compressor also features a durable enclosure that reduces sound levels as low as 66 dBA and is easily removed for routine maintenance procedures.
FS-Curtis Masterline series
FS-Curtis offers a portfolio of reciprocating compressors. For durability, its Masterline 5- to 30-hp series has cast iron, low rpm compressors that feature stainless steel valve assemblies, heavy cast iron connecting rods, over-sized tapered main roller bearings, and a heavy-duty ductile iron crankshaft. The company also offers the Challenge Air 3- to 15-hp series as a choice for those who demand quality but are looking for a lower initial cost. Finally, the CT 5- to 10-hp value line of compressors is designed to maximize performance and durability at an affordable price, the manufacturer says. Challenge Air and Masterline compressors are available in Ultra-Pack configurations providing an air-cooled aftercooler, low oil-level switch, and an automatic tank drain. Duplex configurations are available.