Semi-scientific air compressor comparison

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slomatt

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Influencer I

1,723
Bay Area, CA
Recently I purchased an ARB 12v dual compressor to replace the Viair compressor currently in my Tacoma. My primary goal is to reduce the time it takes to air up after running a trail, and my secondary goal is jealousy since a friend recently bought one of these.

Over the years I have accumulated a small collection of air compressors and today I spent some time doing a semi-scientific performance comparison. For each test I used a Staun deflator to air a 265/65R16 Maxxis Bighorn down to 17 psi (confirmed with an accurate gauge). I then timed how long each compressor took to air the tire back up to 32 psi. These tests were all performed with the engine running and using the same hose setup for consistency. Before the starting the timer I ran each compressor until its pressure switch shut it off, this way they all had pressurized the hose.

The reason I say "semi-scientific" is that I had to quickly close the valve on my air hose to get an accurate pressure reading, so depending on how often I checked the pressure it could potentially add to the run time or allow the tire to go a bit over 32 psi, so the times below are not highly accurate. That said, they should give a good relative idea of the performance of the various compressors.

In the list below I tried to provide CFM ratings at similar pressures so the numbers can be directly compared.


#4 - 10+ year old MV50. This compressor lives in the back of my 4Runner and has seen pretty heavy use, to the point where I've had to rebuild it during which I ported the head and replaced the valves with pieces of a feeler gauge.
Ratings: 2-2.5 CFM at an unknown pressure.
Time to fill the tire: 1:48

#3 - Viair 450H that came with the Tacoma.
Ratings: 1.39 CFM @ 40psi, 150psi max
Time to fill the tire: 1:42

#2 - 15 year old Puma PD 1006. I carried this compressor in my ZJ for many years and have used it around the house since then. It's been very reliable, puts out a lot of air, and is pretty large due to the attached tank.
Ratings: 3.4 CFM @ 40psi, 125 psi max
Time to fill the tire: 1:00 (starting with the tank full)

#1 - ARB CKMTA12 dual compressor. This was temporarily hooked up to the Tacoma for testing purposes since I still need to fabricate a bracket.
Ratings: 4.68 CFM @ 29psi, 150psi max
Time to fill the tire: 0:38


Analysis of results
I was quite surprised that the MV50 performed almost as well as the Viair, especially given that the MV50 cost $35 and has led a hard life. When I rebuilt it the cylinder was scored and contained a lot of debris, but that was years ago and it just keeps on running. The Viair is much more expensive which results in better build quality and likely better reliability.

It is no surprise that the dual ARB compressor won this competition, and in fact you would expect it to do so given that it costs about 2x the next most expensive compressor in this list. It is almost three times faster than both the MV50 and the Viair, and was significantly faster than the Puma even though the Puma started with a full tank.


Recommendation
Any of these will work fine for tires that are about 33" diameter or smaller. Filling up faster is nice, but often it just means you sit around waiting for friends with slower compressors to be ready to go (or filling their tires for them). Reliability is critical, and while I would like to fault the MV50 on that front, it required minor maintenance and has run great since then. My hope is that the ARB is even more reliable and that I'll run it for the next 10+ years.
 
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slomatt

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Influencer I

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Bay Area, CA
How about some pictures.

The hose setup I used to inflate the tires. The valve shuts off airflow from the compressor and allows you to get a stable reading. I've tried multiple different types of tire chucks and could write another article on that. tl;dr None of them seal perfectly well.


The Puma showing lots of dust, a 2004 build date, and a broken handle.


Running the Puma off of the 4Runner.


The Viair in the Tacoma. It's hooked up to a pressure switch since from the factory it used an open chuck.




ARB dual compressor and temporary wiring.


 
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slomatt

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Influencer I

1,723
Bay Area, CA
Would you say the ARB is worth all that coin?
That's a really good question. For full disclosure, I did not pay anywhere near full price for mine.

I would think $200 is reasonable for a high quality compressor, and since the ARB is two compressors plus associated wiring I don't think $500 is an entirely unreasonable price. Build quality is solid, and I can't think of another 12v compressor that puts out more air for the $$. Time will tell how reliable the ARB is.

$500+ for an air compressor is a lot of money. The vast majority of us aren't running huge tires or air tools and don't really need the extra CFM, it's really just a convenience that allows you to air up faster. For most people a reliable 1.5-2 CFM compressor would be fine for airing up tires and running lockers.
 
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Downs

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Traveler III

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Hunt County Texas
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Downs
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Your temp wiring is better than most peoples permanent wiring :tearsofjoy:

The MV50 was on my list for an OBA setup for a long time. Good to see you got such good service out of yours. Right now I carry a bagged Viair 84P and since I run a factory tire size that results in acceptable to me inflation times.
 
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Pathfinder I

I've been using a li-po 24 volt compressor, I can air up 4+ times before I need to change the battery. I can set the max pressure, use a locking chuck, and just walk away while it fills the tire. 2 minutes more or less per tire from 15-18psi to 34 psi. I have three tools that use the same 24V battery so I always have two or three charged and ready to go.
 
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Downs

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I've been using a li-po 24 volt compressor, I can air up 4+ times before I need to change the battery. I can set the max pressure, use a locking chuck, and just walk away while it fills the tire. 2 minutes more or less per tire from 15-18psi to 34 psi. I have three tools that use the same 24V battery so I always have two or three charged and ready to go.
Link? I assume its similar to all the other battery pack tools on the market now.
 

MOAK

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The first compressor I had was a very old "slime" branded one. It finally gave up the ghost four or five years ago and I replaced it with a Viair compressor and have been using it since. It does a nice job. I've never timed it. Doesn't matter. We aren't in any hurry and we usually take a few gulps of water or eat something while we air back up. Ah, had to look it up in my notes, I have the 400p.
 

Pathfinder I

Link? I assume its similar to all the other battery pack tools on the market now.
Greenworks on Amazon but I see they are not avaliable at this time, tariff's?? I've had it a coupla years now along with a 1/2 impact, 3/8 drill and 12" chainsaw. Everything uses the same battery and the batteries have about a 10-12 month self life before needing a top off. The newer version are 40 volt, got to be better than the 24V.
 
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bmwguru

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Indianapolis, IN, USA
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How about some pictures.

The hose setup I used to inflate the tires. The valve shuts off airflow from the compressor and allows you to get a stable reading. I've tried multiple different types of tire chucks and could write another article on that. tl;dr None of them seal perfectly well.


The Puma showing lots of dust, a 2004 build date, and a broken handle.


Running the Puma off of the 4Runner.


The Viair in the Tacoma. It's hooked up to a pressure switch since from the factory it used an open chuck.




ARB dual compressor and temporary wiring.


My dual ARB setup is similar to yours. I have mine in a milk crate with my Morrflate 4 in 1 inflate/deflate system sitting on top of the compressor until I'm ready to use it. Mine is not hardwired either. I put two large alligator clips on the short harness so I can use it for different rigs. It will inflate all 4 of my 32" tires at the same time from 18psi to 40psi in less than 4 minutes.
 
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