12v Air Compressor Tear-down. Does it Blow?

May 19, 2019
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I went to Harbor Freight to buy a Cen-Tech 12v Battery trickle charger, but also bought a Pittsburgh Automotive 12v Air Compressor. I wanted to do a tear-down and possibly a rebuild… I know Im not the only person in the world who has eyeballed one of these, and thought ‘$9.99? There is no way that thing works…”

The interesting thing about the Pittsburgh Automotive air compressor, is that it has warning labels that warn against using it on car tires. I’m not really sure what other automotive use it would really have, if it wasn’t going to be used in an emergency for a car tire.

The gimmicky looking plastic housing came apart easily with the removal of a couple of screws. It was immediately apparent that the compressor is mechanically as simple as it gets. Its a geared 12v motor, that cranks a piston inside a chamber, and has a one-way valve on top of the chamber. Mechanically, its very raw. The fit and finish on the crank arm and the casting in general, is about what you’d expect.

The 12v automotive plug is very light, feels cheap, and the cord seems to be a re-purposed lamp dimmer cord and switch.

Its pretty weak, but covering the air hose/valve with my finger while in operation, gets the pressure to over 30 PSI. Its nothing special, but it does work, and would probably work to pump a car tire back up, if you had to. I also don’t think the gauge is very accurate, which is what you would expect, since a good gauge costs 3 times what I paid for the whole compressor. I think I am going to rebuild the compressor, in Steam-Punk style, and give it a cool new application.

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