Resolved - Air compressor blues (blew-s?)

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Ok - first off, this is not about air suspension for the Envoy - I have coil springs in the rear.

Rather, this is about my continued trials / tribulations with using garage air compressors / tools. And I'm hoping there's someone on the board that's proficient with home electrical loads.

Now, I've done enough research to know (?) that a 'real' (usable) compressor is a two-stage that runs on 220VAC. That's not feasible for me. I'm not spending that kind of money, and my garage does not have a 220 outlet, nor am I going to have one put in.

For the record, my garage outlets are GFCI (per code, I suppose). One on each of two walls. Unfortunately, everything in the garage is on one circuit (ceiling light, garage door opener outlet in ceiling, and the (2) duplex GFCI on opposite walls) The house does have 200A service, with a 40-40 box, so there's room to expand (I thought ahead, but not 'sufficiently' ahead, obviously). Built in 2003, so we're talking up-to-date wiring, etc.

The 'new' compressor is a Craftsman 32gal upright (single stage, air cooled), and while the power cord is pretty thick, it was engineered for 110VAC (factory plug / cord.) The similar owner's manual (that I found online) states that it should run on 15amp service, but it might take 'all' the voltage on the circuit to run it. FWIW, it was mfg'd by Devilbiss (I can see the certification plate on the side). SCFM is 6.2 @ 90psi, and it is rated for 135psi max. In theory, should be enough to crack the crank bolt on the 6.0L Sierra, etc.

The issue:
When I first start the compressor, it fills up without issue, kicks off the motor, etc. (it has on/auto/off modes, btw)
I can then use the rattle gun, and the tank has enough capacity to not immediately need to kick the motor back on / refill the tank. Big improvement there, over my old smaller compressor.

However, when it comes time to restart the motor / refill the tank (let's say 10min later), the 15A breaker immediately trips (normally, I never trip any breaker in the house.) Which kills everything, including the ceiling light (which is a very low-consumption CFL).

As a test, I unplugged everything except the compressor from the wall outlets; the only things on the circuit were it, the garage door opener (no light bulbs active on the control head), and the ceiling CFL. Same thing - tripped breaker. You don't even hear the motor attempt to start - rather, the power trips without a sound from the compressor (and I'm now sitting in the dark.)

What I'd like to do: Swap out the 15A breaker for a 20A. However, I know I'm not 'supposed' to do this, unless the wiring is 10-12ga or better (I don't know what's in there now, but can measure.)
Could I pull wire from the one outlet to the box? Perhaps -- but since everything in the garage is on one circuit, the wiring is interconnected.
Could I run a new circuit? Probably not. Although I have capacity, the garage is two rooms away from the box. No way I can fish tape it through the ceiling (which requires conduit, anyway), and I'm not running external conduit across two rooms / width of the lower floor.

If I can get the breaker trip issue resolved, I think the compressor will be just about perfect for my needs. As far as the compressor itself, I'd guess it would be 15 years old, but it looks almost new. I did verify that it worked before I bought it (and I only paid $125 for it, so not a fortune invested). I did notice when I ran it at home that the tank area, adjacent to the motor -- was warm (although I'm guessing that's just 'normal' heat transfer from the adjacent motor.)
I do not detect the ceiling light dimming noticeably (or, at all) when the compressor initially kicks on.

Thoughts? I'd really like to have use of a compressor -- with increased age, my hands really feel the effects of breaking bolts loose by hand, at the end of a day. Not to mention that it saves a lot of time, along with the effort.

No, I'm not a professional mechanic -- this is just for me to use, on my own vehicles.
 

m.mcmillen

Gold Supporter
The motor should have a start capacitor on it. It is possible that with no air in the tank that the load is low enough that it can get started. Maybe the capacitor is bad and the extra load on the compressor the motor trips the breaker.
 

Mooseman

Moderator
Maybe that was the reason for the PO was selling it. Maybe once it's warm/hot, the windings short out?

Try swapping the breaker with another 15A to eliminate a weak breaker issue. There are amp reading meters (kill-a-watt is one I know of) so you can see how much it pulls or tries to pull.
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Appreciate the replies. At least some parts are still available for it, so I'll take a look at the start capacitor, if a new 15A breaker doesn't rectify it (and I'll test again by killing off the ceiling light and garage door outlet, too).

The PO had it in an indoor storage unit; he worked in the trades when he was younger, and got it from his uncle, who owned before him. When he left the trades, it went into the storage unit and sat for a few years, the way I understood it (and all of that is with a grain of salt, I know).

I removed the air filter to check it before running it, as there's no hourmeter on it - it was pretty clean, so I don't think they ran it for a million hours - or if they did, they made some attempt to service it, at least. And there wasn't any water / condensate in the tank when I bought it, nor does it seem to produce much (albeit, I wasn't running it very long, either!)

I'm still holding the 20A breaker in my 'back pocket', as well. But I'll definitely measure the wire gauge before putting one in.
 

northcreek

Well-Known Member
Sounds like you're on the right track. You might want to check the unloader system. The supply pipe from the compressor head to tank will have a check valve in it to prevent back feed from the tank, that line is unloaded via a valve at the pressure switch at each stop to eliminate any residual pressure in the pipe. Most compressor motors will not(can not) start against full tank pressure on the compressor piston.
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Thanks, @northcreek . As it turns out, Google is my friend, yet again. There's a site called (logically enough) fix-my-compressor.com , and it describes the most likely issues for a situation such as this.

I may / may not find the problem -- but I'll definitely know more about compressors when I'm done! :: laughing::

Will post back once I get some time to start digging in on this issue (it'll be at least a few days).

Thanks, everyone!
 

Matt

Silver Supporter
I occasionally have the same problem with my compressor. The problem is that when it's empty, there's no resistance in the tank so it won't trip the breaker. But when the compressor has air in the tank, it creates a fair amount of resistance that the pump has to overcome and draws more amps, so it trips. I know you can find the start up amps the pump pulls online somewhere because I found mine, which is also a Craftsman, but smaller capacity. If it were me, I'd pull a new 20 amp circuit just for the compressor.
 

northcreek

Well-Known Member
I occasionally have the same problem with my compressor. The problem is that when it's empty, there's no resistance in the tank so it won't trip the breaker. But when the compressor has air in the tank, it creates a fair amount of resistance that the pump has to overcome and draws more amps, so it trips. I know you can find the start up amps the pump pulls online somewhere because I found mine, which is also a Craftsman, but smaller capacity. If it were me, I'd pull a new 20 amp circuit just for the compressor.
Read my post above...
 

Mounce

Well-Known Member
Have you tried it on a beefier circuit around the house to make sure it's not defunct itself? Or did you run it down to a restart at the PO's house while testing?
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Read my post above...

I did, but I'm a simple man with simple words. 😁
All (constructive) replies are appreciated :thumbsup: And 'simple' can be good. It's too late for me, having spent a career in IT, but if we can keep even one more person from succumbing to 'keyboard diarrhea', that's fine with me. :laugh:

Have you tried it on a beefier circuit around the house to make sure it's not defunct itself? Or did you run it down to a restart at the PO's house while testing?
Unfortunately, my higher rated circuits are upstairs, and while this has wheels, I don't see myself lugging it up the stairs, making more of a mess (it's pretty damned heavy / bulky, too.)

Given the feedback here, and what I found online last night, I will pursue diags on the compressor first, and see what I can find. Yeah, it would've been great if I'd known to test for cut-in, but as they say, ignorance is bliss. :dunce: I never had one issue with my old HF compressor (10gal, 5.1cfm) on the same outlet over 7-8yrs of (very) occasional use... so I figured if this one ran well at the outset, no leaks, visible damage - all was well. I tested / picked it up at a large indoor storage facility, so even if it had cut-in, it might not have tripped the circuit there.

If nothing else, I'll fill it, turn the pressure switch off, crack my nut(s)...lol... and let it run out of pressure, then refill as needed. Every time I kicked the breaker back on, I came back out to the garage to find it running (and this was with the same amount of air in the tank that it had when it tried to cut-in and tripped the breaker, sometimes just a minute or two earlier.)

When I do need it, it's only for a few things at a time, and usually only for loosening, since I always hand torque (until recently, I even torqued the engine oil drain plugs -- yeah, I'm that anal! LOL). If I can loosen the crankshaft bolt on the Sierra's engine, when I get around to my cam swap, I'll be happy enough, for the $125 I spent (he wanted $175; if I were to buy something like this 'new', it'd be 3-4x the cost, at a minimum.

Something equivalent at HF would be about $700 (I'd been looking to beef up my air supply for a while now, as I couldn't even reliably remove lug nuts with the old smaller HF compressor.) And my electric impact (20V, battery / cordless) just doesn't have the torque for the 'big' jobs.
 

NJTB

Silver Supporter
Sometimes it's the GFCI itself, they age and won't carry a high load, even though it's within the spec.
Years ago, I bought a larger compressor (larger by homeowner standards), 220v, and made an extension cord to run from the electric dryer. Still works great today.
 

littleblazer

Gold Supporter
My 33 gallon horizontal did the exact same thing from new... (pretty useless too, takes damn near forever to fill. Kind of sucks honestly.) It needed a 20 amp circuit. Also a craftsman. Also rated at 15 amps.

If you want to test the theory, fill the tank. Run an extension cord to a known 20 amp circuit. (14 gauge is fine for a short test, don't freak out) and make it kick on. See what happens. That's how I figured out the problem on mine. :tiphat:
 

northcreek

Well-Known Member
While we're at it, if anyone is ever thinking of buying a decent compressor unit. You owe it to yourself to check these guys out. They make real nice units for realistic prices. I've bought two from them and they just keep on running. Nice family owned business.
 

Bow_Tied

Well-Known Member
Are you using the compressor on an extension cord? I doubt it, but eliminate it if so to minimize line loss.

I have had a similar problem to your description just a 5gallon 2HP roll around compressor, 120V. In my case, the compressor run fine from cold but would hum and not turn on to rebuild pressure. Eventually it'd blow the breaker (I have a pair of 15A breakers in my garage). I tried replacing the obvious parts on the compressor to no avail. I made the assumption that it was a poor electrical supply/old compressor, whatever. I considered a 20A breaker but didn't do it. Then I tried the other circuit in my garage and things worked without issue! It turned out that my first circuit had a GFI outlet that simply didn't like the compressor - but was not tripping. I recommend swapping the outlet for a non GFI or using an outlet upstream (not on load side) of the GFI (which also worked for me). It's a cheap thing to try, just your time and a basic outlet. If that fixes it you are done, or, you add a second box so you still have the gfi option.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
They make real nice units for realistic prices.
Man, those are nice, I'm sure... but if those are 'realistic' prices for consumer-level equipment, I should be ashamed / embarrassed at what I got / paid. And you have *two* !

Are you using the compressor on an extension cord? I doubt it, but eliminate it if so to minimize line loss.

<snippage>

I recommend swapping the outlet for a non GFI or using an outlet upstream (not on load side) of the GFI (which also worked for me).
No, no extension cord. That's why @littleblazer mentioned using one as a test -- even though he doesn't know me, he knows enough that I read diligently and try to follow instructions -- sometimes to a fault... LOL :book:

I really like the GFI swap idea, and will try it, as well. Thanks!

(hat tip to @NJTB , who essentially stated the same thing)
 

northcreek

Well-Known Member
Man, those are nice, I'm sure... but if those are 'realistic' prices for consumer-level equipment, I should be ashamed / embarrassed at what I got / paid. And you have *two* !
Yes, I bought a complete unit for my son's co-owned motocross track(their $) and a 35 CFM 2cyl. bare pump to build a unit out of a 80gal. tank and 5HP motor that I had.
Realistic price in the sense that for around $1,500 you can own the 2nd most useful tool that a man can have and both of those tools can last a lifetime.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
(...) you can own the 2nd most useful tool that a man can have and both of those tools will last a lifetime.
Ok -- my curiosity is piqued. What's #1 ? 🤔
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Why do I feel like, "Riddle me this, Batman!" LOL

I'll go the 'literal' route, and say... 'my brain' ?
 

littleblazer

Gold Supporter
That's what that thing between my ears is for? :book:
 

northcreek

Well-Known Member
No, it's not your brain although men have gotten into a lot of trouble by letting this tool do their thinking.
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
No, it's not your brain although men have gotten into a lot of trouble by letting this tool do their thinking.
I saw this, and thought, "nah, he can't be making a phallic reference"

That's what I thought you were getting at... Hopefully it works for a lifetime :raspberry:
Then I saw this. :dunce:


A bit deceptive, @northcreek , even though I'm certainly aware of "tool" being a euphemism for... um... 'that'... LOL

Next time I need to change a hub, I'll just whip out my tool and apply some BDE :satan:
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Just for the sake of follow-up... looks like my problem was an amperage issue.

Got a 25ft, 12ga extension cord (manual said this was acceptable), hooked it up to a non-GFCI 20A outlet, and the compressor will fill and cut-in / cut-off without issue.

The only residual issue I have now is figuring out why a rattle gun with "1160lb loosening torque" has to work so hard to get lug nuts off that are torqued to 140 ft-lb, per spec. In that respect, I'm no farther along than I was with the smaller compressor. :hissyfit:

Also, the pressure switch acts a little goofy - the lever doesn't correspond to what the text on the housing (now that I found it) says it's supposed to do (it has 'auto' and 'off'; it appears that the lever is off-center, relative to the housing.) But it does operate, and replacement pressure switches are available, so if I want to play with it a bit, I can put a new one in.
 

littleblazer

Gold Supporter
Just for the sake of follow-up... looks like my problem was an amperage issue.

Got a 25ft, 12ga extension cord (manual said this was acceptable), hooked it up to a non-GFCI 20A outlet, and the compressor will fill and cut-in / cut-off without issue.

The only residual issue I have now is figuring out why a rattle gun with "1160lb loosening torque" has to work so hard to get lug nuts off that are torqued to 140 ft-lb, per spec. In that respect, I'm no farther along than I was with the smaller compressor. :hissyfit:

Also, the pressure switch acts a little goofy - the lever doesn't correspond to what the text on the housing (now that I found it) says it's supposed to do (it has 'auto' and 'off'; it appears that the lever is off-center, relative to the housing.) But it does operate, and replacement pressure switches are available, so if I want to play with it a bit, I can put a new one in.
Those torque ratings are a lie anyway. :rotfl: I have a harborfreight and I have an IR. Nothing against theHarborfreivnt but it just uses way too much air. It probably would work on a big tank but mine is only rated at 3.2 cfm... well that's what I get anyway. The IR is very air efficient.
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Yep... the gun is a HF 'Earthquake' (their 'better' line, if not outright 'best')

I've heard their guns are crappy at loosening... I guess this proves it.

As it so happens, I got the 'extended warranty' for $8 or whatever it was, as the people there push them with "bring it back and get a new one, even if it still works". And the last day of the warranty is... tomorrow... LOL I figured for $120 or whatever I paid, I'd rather have a warranty longer than 90 days on it.

On HF's website, it says you can get a refund, instead of a replacement tool.
I guess I know where one of my errands tomorrow is going to be!
 

Mounce

Well-Known Member
The black composite earthquake xt? I love mine, have had it over a year now with varying use from once every few months to days at work. Just needs a good air setup. A lot of old compressors don't flow enough, mine included (no idea on age but it's ancient and the original one my dad installed when he built the garage) which is why I bought a new hf unit today on sale in preparation for my weekend of front-end rebuild. Heck, I had been borrowing my brother's 8 gallon compressor and it rocked the gun. Ran out of air fast but worked great.

Another guy at work loves the old red hf guns, just bought a new one and it was snapping lug studs before the other guys got used to it...
 
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
This one... yeah, the XT... it's listed on sale for $99 right now. It was $120 on sale when I bought it.


One issue I have with it is that I have to push the male inlet on the gun against the female coupler, else it leaks all the air out. But I manage.

This compressor fills to about 120psi; I have the regulator set anywhere from 90-110. I don't use an oiler, but I do oil any tool I hook up to it. I also have a dessicant drier immediately after the tank. Hose is a 3/8" (?) I.D. rubber Goodyear. And just to reiterate... this compressor is rated at 6.4 CFM @ 90psi (my old one was 5.1 @ 90)

I don't run the gun continuously, but give 1-2 sec 'shots' with it. (and I've tried continuous as well, although I've read online that that's the wrong way to use the gun)

What am I doing wrong? LOL
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
Reprise

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Finally got the gun (or, really, coupler) issue resolved.

Went and got a matching 'industrial' plug / coupler, that was rated as 'high flow' to boot. Hooked it together and no more hissing from the connection. Quiet.

With a 'full gun', I felt like Emeril Lagasse - 'bam! bam!' Lug nuts powered right off.


The only remaining issue after that is that the gun 'runs low' after loosening a couple of nuts (torqued to 140 ft-lb), and I have to count 10-20 sec to let it get 'ready' (repressurize) for the next nut. That, I can deal with for now, vs. breaking nuts by hand. But I may eventually go for the I-R gun, since @littleblazer says it's more efficient. The HF gun I linked to above, works - but it uses a LOT of air.

It's not that the compressor cycles on constantly (it doesn't) -- it's really the gun that is the remaining culprit, here.

So... from a high-level standpoint - I now have a working compressor setup! :wooot:
Only took 10yrs to get everything resolved...LMAO

Thanks again to all who chimed in w/ suggestions / info.
 

littleblazer

Gold Supporter
Finally got the gun (or, really, coupler) issue resolved.

Went and got a matching 'industrial' plug / coupler, that was rated as 'high flow' to boot. Hooked it together and no more hissing from the connection. Quiet.

With a 'full gun', I felt like Emeril Lagasse - 'bam! bam!' Lug nuts powered right off.


The only remaining issue after that is that the gun 'runs low' after loosening a couple of nuts (torqued to 140 ft-lb), and I have to count 10-20 sec to get it 'ready' for the next nut. That, I can deal with for now, vs. breaking nuts by hand. But I may eventually go for the I-R gun, since @littleblazer says it's more efficient. The HF gun I linked to above, works - but it uses a LOT of air.

It's not that the compressor cycles on constantly (it doesn't) -- it's really the gun that is the remaining culprit, here.

So... from a high-level standpoint - I now have a working compressor setup! :wooot:
Only took 10yrs to get everything resolved...LMAO

Thanks again to all who chimed in w/ suggestions / info.
That IR is about 30 years old. I can't speak for new ones lol. Even that can only beat on a stuck bolt for 30 seconds or so before the pressure drops too much.
 

Mounce

Well-Known Member
Unless you're looking for reasons to spend money, the earthquake should do all you need. Crank your pressure up to max, you won't hurt it. I'll admit I'm a little let down by running it on my new compressor that only goes up to 125psi. I'm more used to it on 150-180 psi commercial setup at work, she's a bad machine there. But still done everything I needed and more during my front-end rebuild last weekend.
 

northcreek

Well-Known Member
Most hand held air tools rarely require more than 90 psi, more important for the compressor to maintain constant pressure than to over pressure the tool. The only exception I found was sand blasting where more pressure is always better and faster. :twocents:
 

Mounce

Well-Known Member
You must like stock vehicles too lol. Why not turn up the fuel a lil? More timing maybe. Maybe remove that torque management or in this case pressure limit
 

northcreek

Well-Known Member
I got educated on this stuff when I had an expensive Japanese angle grinder explode in my hands, only then did I read the instructions and see the 90 psi redline. Up until then I had been running all my stuff at 125psi.
So it's not so much what I like but, what I value, like my hands and eyes.
 

Online statistics

Members online
1
Guests online
86
Total visitors
87

Members online

Forum statistics

Threads
19,414
Messages
579,789
Answered questions
1
Members
12,144
Latest member
Tate
Top Bottom