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Harbor Freight Portable Air Compressor Review

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Old 03-23-2007, 08:44 AM
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Harbor Freight Portable Air Compressor Review

My dad surprised me with a Harbor Freight Portable Air Compressor. We were chatting about air compressors and he started planning for our upcoming Moab trip. So, he purchased this online and had it sent to me.

clicky to see the site and specs



Last night I did a tire rotation on my BFG/AT 35x12.5x15 tires.

After the tire rotation, I aired down the front left tire to 15psi to test this thing out. The air compressor has a built in gauge to tell you how much air is in the tire, and the air nozzle screws onto the valve stem to ensure no air loss.

Before the test, I used my high-dollar low-pressure air gauge to measure and ensure that my starting point pressure was set at 15psi.

Now to set the stage, my elevation is about 6500ft and my tires, as noted above, are 35x12.5x15 BFG/AT that are in good shape, as well the weight of the vehicle was on the tire during this test.

From 15psi to 28psi I counted 6 minutes and 30 seconds. I stopped at 28psi because the built-in gauge was reading 30 psi. When I took the air nozzle off and measured the air pressure with a high-dollar low-pressure air gauge, I measured 28psi. So, in reality, it took 6 1/2 minutes for go from 15psi to 28psi, only 13psi difference. So, at this elevation, about 6500ft, the compressor pumps approximately 1 pound of air every 30 seconds.

Given this ratio and elevation, if I was to attempt to air up from trail pressure, about 10psi to street pressure, about 30psi, the Harbor Freight compressor would spend approximately 10 minutes per tire. For all 4 tires, that is about 40 minutes, given the compressor doesn't shut down due to thermal protection.

In contrast, the Power Tank I carry, does each tire in about 1 minute or less. Actually, I need to measure it for more accurate results. According to the PowerTank site and their numbers, its 38 seconds.

The Harbor Freight air compressor is a great backup to the Power Tank or any CO2 tank, and if necessary, it will get the job done, but not very quickly. However, quickly is a relative term. What is quick for me, may not be quick enough for somebody else. So, in my own personal opinion, when the viable options are weighed out, I would prefer a CO2 tank over the Air compressor. I will still hard mount the Air Compressor and plumb it into my system so it can be a back up to the onboard ARB compressor. Redundancy is a good thing when you are out in the bush with nothing but your own resources.
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Old 05-12-2008, 12:01 PM
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Interesting, I wonder how that compares with the MV-50 compressors I run?

Seems like it takes a lot less time to inflate from 11psi to 30, but then, I run two in tandem, hardmounted, with the bumper as a tank. I too believe in redundancy! The things I started not liking about CO2 were:
1) I ran out right when I needed to fill one more tire, or two more.
2) Not that convenient to fill. Or it seemed that way. Nothing in Moab, and the place near me usually has tanks to swap, but not always.
3) When sleeping in the back of the truck, it was one more thing in my way. And more weight.
4) I needed a compressor anyway for the ARBs. I would not want to plumb CO2 for them, though you could. If you ran out, you would have neither air NOR lockers. Not good.

The drawback to the electric compressors are:
1) requires a couple 30A breakers. They draw a lot. I have a high cap. alternator now, and two yellow top batts, so not a big deal.
2) Both relays in the compressors died. No matter, I am controlling them with external relays anyway, so these were redundant. I simply removed them and soldered the wire in its place. Replacement 30A automotive relays are as common as Checkers/Kragen or Radio Shack.

Last edited by Red_Chili; 05-12-2008 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 11-12-2008, 07:07 PM
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I have the same compressor. I tried using it to fill up a portable air tank. When it got to 90 psi the thing broke. The motor still worked but the piston inside was toast. Its made of plastic. I suppose if its used for tires only it would be fine.
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Old 11-13-2008, 12:28 PM
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Mine are going on three years, still working, filling the bumper/air tank.

Just luck of the draw.
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Old 01-13-2009, 11:00 AM
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i have a similar one from harber freight, altho mine will only fill my 31x10.5 tires to about 18 psi all tires with aobut 10minutes of running, its not to bad i just use it to get me home its not a long drive , i run like 13psi when im offroad in the dessert (dunes). i acutally use it as my main air compresser in my truck just put it behind my seat ,
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Old 01-13-2009, 01:40 PM
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Hmmm, then it ain't anything like the MV50. Much better performance even with just one MV50.
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Old 01-21-2010, 07:38 AM
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I have one of these but have only used it a couple of times. I use it to air up my tank (also bought at Harbor Freight) and then use the tank on the tires. So far it has worked well.
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Old 01-21-2010, 08:31 AM
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I have burned up 3 of these in the past year. I have the 2 yr warranty, so they get replaced for free. They work better than the other compressors i have seen, until they burn up.
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Old 05-03-2010, 03:08 PM
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I bought one a while ago and it's obviously slow and will overheat with extended inflations but it's a great economical backup until you get on board set up.

if you're deflating/re-inflating for the trail this isn't what you want for sure! I have to agree with the original post...

I like pinging old threads, you guys beat me to this one...
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Old 05-03-2010, 03:18 PM
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wow, this one was brought back from the grave.
Since I sold the beast, I haven't really been hanging here much.....moved on to a Tundra, dirt bikes and street bikes; M109R2.....
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