Tools of the Trade

Turn up the pres­sure, in­crease your pro­duc­tiv­ity

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Ari Hen­ning

PRESSURIZED AT­MOS­PHERE is a me­chanic’s ally— whether it’s in­flat­ing tires, slid­ing on a fresh set of grips, or purg­ing clogged car­bu­re­tor jets—but not many of us treat our­selves to an air compressor. That’s too bad be­cause a compressor is the kind of equip­ment that helps el­e­vate your garage from a place where you sim­ply park your mo­tor­cy­cle to a shop where you can main­tain and re­pair it.

Air com­pres­sors come in all shapes and sizes, from bud­get-priced 2-gal­lon “pan­cake” com­pres­sors all the way up to big-buck 50-gal­lon in­dus­trial units. The av­er­age home me­chanic’s needs call for some­thing on the lower end of the spec­trum, but pinch­ing pen­nies on your compressor pur­chase may leave you with a slow-to-fill, painfully loud de­vice with a short ser­vice life.

Com­par­ing the vol­ume, mo­tor power, CFM (cu­bic feet per minute) rating, and max­i­mum pres­sure of var­i­ous com­pres­sors is a good idea, but two crit­i­cal specs are of­ten over­looked or down­right dif­fi­cult to find: op­er­at­ing sound level and rated ser­vice life.

Lead­ing the pack in both re­gards is the $160 5510SE compressor from Cal­i­for­nia Air Tools. The 5510SE’S 5.5-gal­lon tank and 1-hp mo­tor of­fer am­ple ca­pac­ity and pump­ing power to run pneu­matic tools, and its 3,000-hour ser­vice life is six to 10 times longer than that of com­pa­ra­ble units. Part of that dura­bil­ity comes from the pump de­sign, which uses two large, slow-mov­ing pistons to achieve the de­sired dis­place­ment in­stead of the more com­mon small sin­gle piston revving at 4,000 rpm.

Lower mo­tor speed re­duces wear and also lessens an­other key item: noise. The 5510SE is rated at just 60 deci­bels, which is about the in­ten­sity of con­ver­sa­tion in a restau­rant and some 15 to 50 deci­bels less than the din pro­duced by other units. That makes the 5510SE one of the qui­etest com­pres­sors on the mar­ket, per­fect for the home me­chanic whose garage-turned-work­shop shares a wall with fam­ily or neigh­bors.

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