You carry everything in your race trailer. There is likely a separate Snap-on toolset that duplicates the one in your garage. Racing was never meant to be cheap. Figuring out an air supply for your trailer can be one of the more cumbersome problems you solve. It`s not that hard if you are trying to air up your tires. If all you need is a source of air for topping off the tires than pretty much any robust, 12-volt air compressor can get the job done.
A lot of us also want to be able to use our air tools when at the track. It`s maddening to be wrestling with a ratchet just 30 minutes before the gun sounds. With a sufficient air supply, you can use your air tools and get tweaks and repairs done more quickly. A good air supply and pneumatic toolset can make the difference between racing or an expensive weekend of sitting on the sidelines.
In this post we`re going to cover some of the most common configurations. We`ll also talk about some of the problems that you might run into and how to get around those problems.
Another option is a nitrogen tank. A lot of us are running nitrogen in our tires, anyhow, so if you are fighting with air supply issues, then it might be time to get a nitrogen tank. These tanks aren`t expensive, but they`re easy to use and they deliver that consistent tire performance in any weather condition.
Some folks run a mix. The tires are filled with nitrogen, but then checked immediately before the race. If it is low, a few pounds of compressed air are added. This is less effective than a pure-nitrogen fill up, but it saves you a lot of money on buying a portable nitrogen tank.
If you want to be guaranteed that you will have ample power, then you need to look into getting a generator with a 30-gallon compressor tank.
A lot of us are carrying generators to the race track, anyhow. We need to keep the wife and kid`s laptops charged up, and a generator protects our alternators from over-zealous power inverters.
When you add a large air compressor to that, everything changes. A 30 Gallon air compressor is going to easily draw 2,000 watts of power, especially on startup. While you might have a 5,000-watt generator, it may be split up into two, 15-amp plugs. You need to choose a generator that has 20 am power outlets to handle the load of a bigger compressor. It`s not like these compressors are hard to find, but you need to know upfront that you are shopping for something that can handle a little more load.
Then you need to find a compressor. There is endless variety and sizes to air compressors, and it can get pretty confusing. Here are some ideas on minimum requirements and what setup to consider. If you want to do some research on your own, you might find a list of the best air compressors and compare them to your needs. Here`s an example: https://www.tooltally.com/best-air-compressors/
Vertical tanks will take up less space and are more likely to fit into your trailer the easiest. Ideally, you`ll be able to find a 20-30 gallon tank. A larger tank will provide you with enough airflow to power your air tools with 5 CFM. That`s about the minimum required to generate 600-foot pounds of reverse torque in a ½ inch drive impact wrench.
If you don`t need quite that much power, you could possibly dial back to an 8-gallon tank. These can typically still deliver about 4 CFM, which should always let you access about 300-foot pounds of torque on most of your impact wrenches.
Now, the question that is asked a lot is whether a pancake compressor would work. Most of us have a pancake compressor sitting around from a house remodeling project we had or from a Christmas present that someone bought us a few years ago. The pancake compressors are great for nailers, but typically top out around 2 CFM, making them too weak to be used for automotive tools.
A Large 12 Volt Compressor
A popular option among the off-road world is to mount a continuous duty compressor to the vehicle and add a 2-gallon air tank. This setup might be an idea to consider for the race track. This system certainly is lighter and smaller than adding a30 gallon vertical tank to your trailer.
The downside is with a 12 V compressor is that they`re barely going to have enough air flow. Something like the Viair Dual Compressor 425C gives you a two compressor setup to load a 2.5-gallon air tank. At 60 PSI, it delivers 3.5 CFm, which is just barely enough to power your pneumatic ratchets. It might still be a little under-powered to run a ½ inch impact wrench, but it should be enough to do most of the small jobs.
As an upside, your tow vehicle would always have an air supply! (This might be a great time to add an airhorn.)
Invent Your Own
One of the fun things about the sport is that each racer is convinced that they can find a new way to do it better. It`s what keeps pushing this sport forward. The setup you use on the dragstrip might be entirely different than one that is needed for dirt track. Let us know in the comments below what you`ve done for air supply in your race trailer.