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California air compressors

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  • California air compressors

    So ----- a couple years ago, I bought an 8 gallon Kobalt compressor for shop and garage.
    The compressor is turning out to be one the worst tools I've ever bought.

    Brad nails work fine - but stepping up to more substantial tasks ------- the compressor is always running ---- and heating up.
    The equipment has never done a good job with impact wrenches, Now at a point where I'm pretty sure the compressor is leaking.

    I'm wanting to pick up a California Air Compressor (it's quieter).

    Before I jump, though ------ anyone else have one?


    Top use is blowing dirt and dust.
    Second ---- brad nails
    Third ---- garage - primarily filling tires, but occasional impact wrench work

  • #2
    I have a little 2-gal, 125 psi oil-lubricated Craftsman compressor that I believe was made by California Air Compressors. I've had it for about ten years now and I love it! It's light-weight and easy to carry, and it is quiet enough that I can use a shorter hose. It is only for use with a nailer or low CFM required tools providing 2.4 cfm @ 90 psi and 3.7 cfm @ 40 psi. I do use it to to top off the tires on my van, but even for that the compressor will kick on Most important is that it's only about a 50% duty cycle. BUT that said, it works great for even my framing nailer and the nailers and staplers I have is what it was intended for.

    Your "8 gallon Kobalt" was probably not designed for the use you are giving it, but of course I don't know the specs for your compressor. Is it designed for 100% duty cycle? With an 8-gallon, you simply don't have enough air capacity to run anything requiring air volume like an impact wrench, much less anything else. Typically, an impact wrench requires 5 cfm @ 90 psi and even if your compressor has a maximum operating pressure of 150 psi, you've only got a fraction more than one cubic foot of air (1 cubic ft = 7.8 gallons) at 150 psi. Almost the second you squeeze the trigger on you impact wrench, you've sucked it below the pressure switch low point and the compressor will kick on.... and depending on the volume output of the compressor there it no way it can catch up on probably even tightening the lug nuts on one wheel without pausing. With continuous running, anything but a 100% duty cycle will overheat quickly and in all likelihood cause component failure at a much earlier point in its normal life cycle. What you need is a much larger tank and a 100% duty cycle rated for at least 8 cfm @ 90 psi.

    Bottom line is that 'little compressors' designed mostly for nailer use, simply won't meet the needs of most other applications! So when you buy a compressor look for a pressure spec that exceeds the pressure required by your tools; AND, most importantly a compressor specification of "CFM" that exceeds your largest tool's requirement by at least 50% or more.... and "more" is preferable!. (A tool requiring 5 cfm @ 90 psi should have at least a compressor supplying 7.5 cfm @ 90 psi... more if affordable! (Check out as a buying guide.)

    For example, I have another compressor, a 33-gal, 150 psi oil-less that I bought with the intention of doing some occasional spray finishing. The compressor puts out nine cfm @ 45 psi. That works fine for the little siphon spray gun I had at the time; but, purchasing a larger gun at a later date quickly told me that I had not made a great choice for the compressor. The gun required 10 cfm!!! So, my use with that gun meant that I had to stop use after a minute or two in order to let my compressor catch up. Even thought it was a 100% duty cycle, the volume output simply would not keep up and I'd find the air pressure dropping to a point where the spay gun would start to spit, instead of spray... simply not enough pressure in the tank despite the compressor going full bore.

    I hope this helps, but please check out the guide I linked above as well as other opinions ( I worked for Ingersoll-Rand and Dresser-Rand for more than 30 years, but I'm getting rusty at this stuff. )

    Think it Through Before You Do!


    • #3
      One other thing: what size regulator and hoses are on your current compressor? Most use 1/4inch piping which struggles to flow high airflow volumes. 3/8inch makes a world of difference. I have an older Craftsman 2HP 20 gallon 6.3 CFM @ 90 psi compressor that wouldn't run air tools in the stock configuration. Most tools would begin to rotate until the internal mechanism reached the "hard point" and it'd just stop turning... all it would do is make a loud hissing sound as the air escaped via the exhaust ports. My compressor pressurizes the tank to 100 psi, not the 150 that many compressors use today for whatever reason. I eventually inserted a "T" fitting between the tank and regulator with a ball valve on the new T output port. That basically gave me unregulated (but no more than 100 psi) pressures without the CFM restriction of the stock regulator. That made my air tools function. I've since replaced the 1/4inch regulator with a larger one (1/2 inch if I remember correctly - it's been more than a decade now) and that does run the air tools properly so my unregulated "T" output is now unnecessary. I use the larger hoses too, 3/8ths or 1/2 inch, can't remember at the moment. The old regulator, at 90 psi or even cranked to "wide open unregulated pressure" was just too skinny a pipe to flow enough CFMs for the impact wrench and die grinder. Somewhat like trying to use shop vac hose on a big dust collector - it's just gonna choke it.


      edit: to your original question - I've never heard of California Air Compressors so no idea if they're good or bad. I don't know who actually built my Craftsman.