Air Fair

Don’t work harder, work smarter with af­ford­able, labor­sav­ing air tools from Har­bor Freight and Sum­mit Rac­ing Equip­ment

Street Rodder - - Conents - By Jim Smart Pho­tog­ra­phy by the Au­thor, Har­bor Freight & Sum­mit Rac­ing Equip­ment

Don’t work harder, work smarter with af­ford­able, labor­sav­ing air tools from Har­bor Freight and Sum­mit Rac­ing

Have you ever had a mo­ment when you were burn­ing the mid­night oil and work­ing a ratchet to bust a bolt loose won­der­ing why you’re still with­out air tools? It is one of those things you keep on the Christ­mas list in your mind yet never make the in­vest­ment in your time, which by the way you can never get back.

In­vest in air tools and get pre­cious lost time back. Air tools make your life as a hot rodder eas­ier be­cause they cut la­bor time sig­nif­i­cantly. Imag­ine be­ing able to rat­tle a car apart quickly with the spin cy­cle mad­ness of an im­pact in hours ver­sus a ratchet with the slug­gish­ness of hu­man power.


Let’s look at the ba­sic types of air tools needed to get you started.

• 1/2-inch Drive Air

Im­pact Wrench

• 3/8-inch Drive Air

Im­pact Wrench

• 3/8- and 1/2-inch

Im­pact Sockets • Ex­ten­sions

• Univer­sals

• 1/2-inch Air Ratchet • 3/8-inch Air Ratchet

• Air Drill (3/8- and 1/2-inch, vari­able speed) • Ti­ta­nium Drill Bits

• Air Chisel Kit

• Air Grinder

• Die Grinder

• Grind­ing Discs for both grinders • Heavy-Duty Air Hose

(at least 30 feet)

• Enough Quick-Dis­con­nect Cou­plings for all air tools • Air Tool Oil

• Ear Pro­tec­tion

• Eye Pro­tec­tion

• Face Shield

• Gloves

Air tools have be­come more af­ford­able be­cause they’re be­ing pur­chased in greater num­bers by au­to­mo­tive en­thu­si­asts and pro­fes­sion­als alike. This means you get the vol­ume dis­count and can have all of the same air tools pro­fes­sional au­to­mo­tive re­pair shops have. You can pur­chase an air com­pres­sor for un­der $500 to get you started. If you need vol­ume for paint­ing or me­dia blast­ing you’re go­ing to have to spend more money on a larg­er­ca­pac­ity com­pres­sor. You want an air com­pres­sor that kicks on at 130 psi and shuts off around 150 psi be­cause you need steady vol­ume and a com­pres­sor that can keep up. Min­i­mum pres­sure re­quired for me­dia blast­ing is no less than 90-100 psi, and that’s in just pres­sure alone.

You’re go­ing to need a two-stage 5hp com­pres­sor with a 60-gal­lon tank to keep up with the heavy de­mand of ex­ten­sive me­dia blast­ing. One al­ter­na­tive would be a 2-horse 29-gal­lon unit, which will keep up with light­duty me­dia blast­ing.

Most air tools won’t re­quire any more than a 30-gal­lon tank and a 2hp com­pres­sor.

There are three ba­sic types of com­pres­sors you may en­counter: re­cip­ro­cat­ing (pis­ton), ro­tary screw (pos­i­tive dis­place­ment), or cen­trifu­gal. Most com­mon for home use is the pis­ton type. You will find ei­ther di­rect­drive or belt-drive. Di­rect-drive (oil­less) com­pres­sors are quite noisy. Belt-drive (cast iron or alu­minum case, oil-filled) are more ex­pen­sive yet of­fer qui­eter op­er­a­tion and brute rugged­ness.

While you’re get­ting your com­pres­sor set up, in­vest in a wa­ter sep­a­ra­tor and pres­sure reg­u­la­tor. And re­mem­ber, when­ever you’re fin­ished us­ing your air com­pres­sor, switch the unit off and open the pet­cock un­der­neath, al­low­ing mois­ture to drain out with the air. This pre­vents tank rust from mois­ture ac­cu­mu­la­tion in­side. Never leave a com­pres­sor pres­sur­ized in an en­closed garage in the in­ter­est of safety. Com­pressed air is dan­ger­ous and po­ten­tially de­struc­tive if left unat­tended.

Air im­pact wrenches in 3/8- and 1/2-inch drive can be had for $100 each. As­sorted air ratch­ets, die grinders, air chis­els, and the like are also avail­able at prices nearly any­one can af­ford from Har­bor Freight and Sum­mit Rac­ing Equip­ment.

Al­though you do have a choice of air or por­ta­ble elec­tric power tools, with each hav­ing its ad­van­tages, air has the ex­tra added bonus of avail­able air vol­ume when a bat­tery has given up the ghost and has to be recharged. Air com­pres­sors can be house­hold cur­rent or gaso­line pow­ered. Air tools as a rule are more durable than elec­tric de­pend­ing upon the brand and type. Air tools can take a beat­ing for years and keep com­ing back for more.

There are five ba­sic types of air mo­tors used in air tools:

Ro­tary Vane air mo­tors are the most com­mon type of air tool mo­tor. They make that whizzing sound you hear so of­ten. There is a ro­tor with vanes that ride the in­side of the outer wall of the mo­tor hous­ing. Com­pressed air pushes the vanes and ro­tor roun­dand-round. The ro­tor shaft turns

an out­put shaft or a gear­box that trans­mits ro­tary mo­tion through gears to an out­put shaft to mul­ti­ply torque. The gears mul­ti­ply torque.

Axle Pis­ton air mo­tors have pis­tons that run par­al­lel to the ro­tor. They are a wob­ble plate de­sign like you see in ro­tary air con­di­tion­ing com­pres­sors.

Ra­dial pis­ton air mo­tors look some­thing like an old-time ra­dial pis­ton air­craft en­gine where pis­tons and cylin­ders are po­si­tioned around a cen­tral crank­shaft. They de­velop a lot of torque and turn slowly.

Air tur­bine mo­tors tend to be the high­est wind­ing air mo­tors around, spin­ning up­wards of 300,000 rpm. They don’t make a lot of torque, how­ever, they’re high revving in tools like die grinders and drills. Die grinders are ter­rific for fi­nite work where close at­ten­tion to de­tail is re­quired. You can mount cut­ting and grind­ing discs on them as well as wire wheels. They typ­i­cally have a palm-trig­gered valve.

Per­cus­sion air mo­tors are com­mon to air chis­els and ham­mers where rapid-fire re­cip­ro­ca­tion is needed.

The ap­pli­ca­tions for air tools are lim­it­less be­cause air power (pneu­matic) is used to do our work in so many ways. Garage air tools are but a tiny part of how air is used to do our work. There are lit­er­ally thou­sands of ap­pli­ca­tions out there for in­dus­trial use, some of which can be ap­plied to your home shop.


We can­not stress enough the im­por­tance of safety dur­ing air tool use. Com­pressed air all by it­self is dan­ger­ous. It can maim and kill. Never use com­pressed air to blow dust out of your clothes and hair. De­bris can

fly into your eyes, up your nose, or in your mouth. Air un­der pres­sure into the skin can pen­e­trate your vas­cu­lar sys­tem caus­ing an air bub­ble in a vain or artery, which can be deadly in a mat­ter of min­utes when that air bud­dle reaches your heart. Horse­play with com­pressed air is also very dan­ger­ous. Did you know it takes just 4 psi to burst the lungs, stom­ach, or in­testines? Treat com­pressed air with the same kind of re­spect you would show elec­tric­ity.

Pro­tect your face, eyes, and ears when you’re us­ing air tools. The noise made by air tools is sig­nif­i­cant enough to cause se­ri­ous hear­ing loss over the course of a life­time. Wear gloves when you’re work­ing with air tools to pro­tect your hands.

We ob­serve air tool use all the time at STREETRODDER and we find it re­mark­able the ex­tent of air tool ne­glect and abuse all around the in­dus­try. Air tools, like any other tool in your arse­nal, call for pe­ri­odic main­te­nance if they are ex­pected to sur­vive and be safe. In­vest in air tool oil and keep tools prop­erly ser­viced. Gear cases and air mo­tors re­quire fresh lu­bri­ca­tion from time-to­time, es­pe­cially if you use your air tools ag­gres­sively.

Items like drill bits, chis­els, grind­ing discs, and the like re­quire reg­u­lar pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance. Sharpen your drill bits and chisel tips pe­ri­od­i­cally so they are ready for your use when the time comes. And when tools be­come worn out and un­safe dis­card them or have them ser­viced. Take care of your air tools and they will take care of you.

■ Air tools make light work of nearly any task be­cause they work faster than hu­man hands. They’re also very ef­fi­cient be­cause they put com­pressed air to work for you with min­i­mal elec­tric­ity use and less weight. You’re go­ing to want both 3/8- and 1/2-inch drive air ratch­ets, which buzz fas­ten­ers in and out quickly, with less ex­haus­tion for you.

■ We like these com­pact high-rpm disc sanders, which can be op­er­ated for hours with­out the heat and con­sump­tion of an elec­tric mo­tor. Air tur­bine sanders are more com­pact and lighter weight than elec­tric. Screw-on or stick-on discs are eas­ily re­placed, en­abling you to get right back to work.

■ Most of you will need a 20to 30-gal­lon com­pres­sor like this guy; the por­ta­ble 2-horse Emax EMX-HP02P020SS air com­pres­sor from Sum­mit Rac­ing Equip­ment of­fers quiet op­er­a­tion and a max­i­mum op­er­at­ing pres­sure of 125 psi. It op­er­ates on nor­mal 110/115V house­hold cur­rent. If you need the vol­ume nec­es­sary to run a me­dia blaster, a 5-horse, 60-gal­lon com­pres­sor is re­quired and runs on 220/240 V of AC cur­rent.

■ Air im­pact wrenches in 3/8 and 1/2 inch get the heavy-duty work done. Spend the money and get high-qual­ity air im­pact wrenches that will serve you well for years to come if you take good care of them along the way.

■ There’s lit­tle rea­son to have 30 feet of air hose rolled up on the floor when you can store it in a man­ual or re­coil hose reel. Crafts­man re­tractable hose reels from Sum­mit Rac­ing Equip­ment are con­structed from high-im­pact polypropy­lene. The 30-foot air hose winds up com­pactly in­side the reel. This guy mounts on your garage wall well out of the way. ■ There are ba­si­cally two or three dif­fer­ent quick-dis­con­nect air chuck types out there with dif­fer­ent pen­e­tra­tion depths. You will want a uni­ver­sal cou­pler on the air hose de­signed to work with most of them with the MIL-C-4109 spec. These are the smooth bar­rel “Tru-Flate” Au­to­mo­tive In­ter­change cou­plings.

■ This is the In­dus­trial In­ter­change MIL-C-4109 quick dis­con­nect, which seems to be more widely avail­able in the mar­ket­place. The In­dus­trial In­ter­change con­nec­tor has this an­gu­lar lip, which pro­vides a solid quick con­nec­tion. There’s also the ARO In­ter­change (not pic­tured) con­nec­tor, which is sim­i­lar to this one. You want a re­ceiver con­nec­tor that will com­ply with all MIL-C-4109-spec con­nec­tors.

■ Mer­lin air tool cou­plers from Har­bor Freight of­fer the en­thu­si­ast ter­rific per­for­mance be­cause they con­nect and dis­con­nect so eas­ily. This I/M Se­ries Male/Fe­male Cou­pler Kit is con­structed of high-strength steel and the quick dis­con­nect is rated for 300 psi. ■ Ev­ery pneu­matic sys­tem should have the abil­ity to ad­just air pres­sure and get both mois­ture and de­bris out of the sys­tem. Mois­ture can ruin a paintjob and dam­age air tools. You can ex­tend the life of your air tools with this dual-pur­pose air fil­ter and reg­u­la­tor. Plus, you get a push-but­ton drain for easy, on-the-fly main­te­nance.

■ If you’re do­ing a lot of grind­ing and sand­ing, it is best to pro­tect your face with this full-face shield from Har­bor Freight, fea­tur­ing a unique curved de­sign that pro­tects a larger area of your face with­out strug­gling with dis­tor­tion. We like that you can use a res­pi­ra­tor un­der­neath for added lung pro­tec­tion. Never grind or sand with­out lung pro­tec­tion.

■ It’s good prac­tice to pro­tect your eyes any time you’re work­ing in the garage—be it work­ing with sim­ple hand tools or air tools be­cause there are no sec­ond chances with an eye in­jury. Keep a cou­ple pair of these im­pact-re­sis­tant safety glasses from Har­bor Freight around the shop for easy ac­cess. You can never have too many, es­pe­cially with a buddy help­ing out.

■ You’re only kid­ding your­self to think you can use con­ven­tional sockets with an air im­pact wrench. They will break. These deep, 1/2-inch drive im­pact sockets reach the tough­est fas­ten­ers with ease. The chrome molyb­de­num con­struc­tion and black phos­phate coat­ing make these Pitts­burgh sockets from Har­bor Freight durable and rust-re­sis­tant.

■ We see this all the time in shops and race­tracks across the coun­try where hear­ing pro­tec­tion isn’t taken se­ri­ously. From the time you are very young you must pro­tect your hear­ing with in­dus­trial-cal­iber ear muffs from Har­bor Freight. These ear muffs will fit nearly any­one com­fort­ably and you get to keep your hear­ing.

■ The time-proven Crafts­man name is now avail­able from Sum­mit Rac­ing Equip­ment. These 1/2-inch drive com­pos­ite im­pacts are the op­ti­mum ad­di­tion to your roll­away and they make light work of any job you have go­ing.

■ We like these af­ford­able ex­ten­sions from Har­bor Freight. This four-piece ex­ten­sion set ex­tends your reach for eas­ier ac­cess in tight spots. These ex­ten­sions are con­structed of rugged chrome vana­dium steel and coated with black phos­phate for cor­ro­sion re­sis­tance. They’re vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to break. ■ Once you have most of your air im­pact arse­nal put to­gether, fi­nal­ize the plan with these rugged Pitts­burgh univer­sals from Har­bor Freight. Ev­ery con­ceiv­able size is shown here in 1/4-, 3/8-, and 1/2-inch drive. And no mat­ter what you may think, you’re go­ing to need these for tight an­gles.■

Need­ing your space? Check this out. This ul­tra-com­pact stubby air im­pact wrench from Har­bor Freight packs a whop­ping 700 lb-ft of break­away torque. The Earth­quake XT makes it eas­ier to reach chal­leng­ing fas­ten­ers with a lot of power.

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