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What Are the Best Tips for Making a DIY Air Compressor?

Pressure gauges are safety features that can be built into a DIY air compressor project.
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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2014
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Building a do-it-yourself (DIY) air compressor is a fairly straightforward project that just about anyone who is good with tools can complete, but there are some useful tips to keep in mind when building this type of device. The most important factor to remember when building a DIY air compressor is to choose a suitable pressure vessel to store the compressed air. This is important because a pressure unit might explode when overfilled, which can be very dangerous. The other main components required to build a DIY air compressor are a motor and a pump, although it is a good idea to include a manual switch, an automatic shutoff and a pressure gauge as well. Many components can be used for the motor and air pump in a DIY compressor, which should also be matched to the specific project to provide enough power and airflow.

The three main components necessary to put a DIY air compressor together are a motor, pump and air storage container. These components can be purchased new, although it might be possible to take them from other sources. The most important component is the storage container, because it needs to be able to withstand a specific amount of air pressure. Propane tanks, gas tanks and old fire extinguishers can all be used for the pressure vessel of a DIY air compressor, but it is important to choose one that is in good shape and is well suited the project.

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Before starting a DIY air compressor project, it can be useful to determine the purposes for which the device will be used. If the necessary pressure levels and flow rates are known, then the best parts can be chosen. An air brush compressor typically needs about 80-100 pounds per square inch (550-690 kilopascals) of pressure to operate, and other types of compressors can have different specific requirements.

In addition to the pressure and volume that a tank can provide, the flow rate is another important factor. That means that it is necessary to choose both a pump and a motor that can provide the kind of air flow that the compressor needs. An old washing machine motor and an air conditioning compressor from a car can provide enough airflow for a compressor that is meant primarily to fill up car tires, although more powerful units typically are needed for heavier-duty applications.

There are other safety features that can be built into a DIY air compressor project as well. Pressure gauges are one option that can be very useful because they allow an operator to shut off a pump before the pressure level becomes dangerous. An automatic shutoff valve can make a DIY air compressor even safer to use, though, because this feature will turn off the pump as soon as a specific pressure level is reached. A check valve also can be installed to keep air from escaping back into the compressor from the tank, and an air filter can help prevent dirt and grit from damaging the components.

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Logicfest
Post 2

@Soulfox -- Very true, but one should always have an air compressor handy. I keep mine in the trunk of my car and have used it often.

Things aren't like they used to be when we'd drive around with low tire pressure and not know it. These days, our cars tell us when our tires are low and nag us to fill them up with air. Since few service stations offer free air these days, an air compressor can save you a fortune in quarters in the spring and fall when temperatures fluctuate and we find ourselves needing to inflate our tires often.

Soulfox
Post 1

It is a very good thing that this article stressed the importance of a suitable, high pressure container for this DIY project. If you are not sure about the container, just go buy an air compressor. If you build the thing wrong and it blows up on you, that could be like a grenade going off in your face because of all the shredded, flying metal. Use caution.

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