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The Right Air Compressor

by Moses Ludel

Your Automotive Shop Needs a Full-Size Air Compressor

When the Great Recession called for cutting overhead and downsizing, we set up a smaller shop studio. Productivity, photo and video productions and the ability to handle a variety of mechanical work remained our goals. Despite the new shop’s square footage, we refused to compromise on equipment. Our studio/shop remains fully self-contained for 4×4 repairs, service work and rebuilding or restoration work.

We kept all tools and equipment from the large shop except the air supply system, a large blasting cabinet and the 9000-pound capacity Forward hoist. The hoist has workarounds but an adequate air system is essential. A smaller 20-gallon I-R GarageMate® served as a stopgap but quickly hit the wall when we purchased a TP Tools 360 Skat Blast cabinet. The GarageMate® is great for airing tires, HVLP painting and running most air tools. For a bead blasting cabinet, and more recently a tire changing machine, a portable compressor was inadequate.

A bead blasting cabinet demands a high volume, steady air supply. Our shop’s TP ‘Skat Blast 360’ and Weaver W-898XS Tire Changer require the ample air supplied by our Airboy 120-gallon tank air compressor with its 23 cfm air flow. The Champion R-15 compressor can easily keep pace with the blasting cabinet when the air tank drops to the compressor’s startup point.

Bead blasting requires air volume as well as air pressure. So does tire changing with our new Weaver W-898XS machine. Out searching for an air supply solution, we stumbled onto a closing auto body shop that was liquidating its tools and equipment. An older Airboy compressor had a reasonable price, and after seeing how well maintained the shop’s equipment had been, we bought the compressor without running it. Though any used equipment is a gamble, the shop owner’s transparency and standards gave us confidence that the machine would work properly.

R-15 Champion compressor is an iron two cylinder unit that displaces 23 cfm at only 750 rpm. The low rpm assures a long service life that outstrips the performance of compressors spinning three times as fast.

This compressor has served our shop faithfully for a dozen years now. The Champion R-15 compressor is two massive iron cylinders that displace 23 cfm at a mere 750 crankshaft rpm. Effortlessly pumping out a huge volume of air, the compressor feeds a 120 gallon horizontal tank. The end result is a compressor that handles every shop need with volume to spare. At its original shop, the compressor fed not only this 120-gallon tank but also an auxiliary 80-gallon tank. An automatic drain on the system kept moisture from becoming a problem for the tanks.

The Baldor five-horsepower motor was a recent replacement when we discovered this machine. New life for an early eighties era compressor was added value. The R-15 compressor, this Baldor 208-230V single phase motor and the twin-belt drive have worked flawlessly for a dozen years now.

If you are looking for a new or used compressor, regardless of your budget, consider a unit like our 5-horsepower single phase 220V Airboy that features a magnetic remote starter and rugged Champion compressor. Avoid throwing good money after bad on a high-speed, light duty compressor. Avoid aluminum “twin-stage” or pancake and oil-less compressors. Always make sure you are getting a two-stage compressor with iron cylinder(s). A commercial unit like ours will spin slowly while producing a large air volume. The 25 amp draw, 220V single phase motor works well for our shop’s electrical circuits. This three-decade old, rust free machine is a keeper that really delivers.

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