Offroad Air compressors vs. CO2 to run Air lockers and fill tires?

Posted by Mark Hawley Owner Metal-tech 4x4 on Dec 8th 2023

Q. I want to put Air lockers in my truck, I see people running them with all kinds of air sources, from large compressors to CO2. I also want to fill the tires too. What would you say works the best?

M. Leathem

Lots of options out there for sure. As far as Co2 goes, unless you have a local filling option that is easy to get to and fills private tanks for a low cost, I would stick with a compressor. Based on personal experience, I suggest getting a dedicated compressor to run just the lockers. Filling tires is great, but it takes a larger compressor to do it right and will have a lot of use, thus higher chances of failure over time. Using a dedicated, low-cost, and compact compressor for the lockers makes it easy to install. It also creates an opportunity for a redundant system if you get a dedicated tire air compressor for your truck. The little ARB CKSA12 is compact, fits anywhere, and runs your lockers (One would also be hard-pressed to try to purchase the harness, switches, pressure switch, etc., for the cost of the small unit). Going bigger is an option but not needed if it's only running the locker. Also, the medium or "compromise" size compressors to do both could be faster at filling tires (a lot faster). You are still on the side of the road while your buddies are back in their trucks, ready to get tacos. For tires, I suggest you purchase the largest CFM (air volume) compressor you can afford; more on that later. Back to the little compressor and make a simple redundant system: Install a shredder valve (tire valve, they just thread in) on the small compressor; this will allow the larger unit to be secondary if the little one ever has an issue. This is a redundant system. If the small unit fails (water/electrical issue/seized pump, etc.) your tire filling compressor can top off the little one as needed to allow the lockers to operate still.

Dedicated larger compressors are superb for your tires but take up mounting space. If you have the space, great; otherwise, a bag or suitcase compressor is the way to go. I use the ARB CKMTP12, a twin portable compressor. (NOTE: I own Metal-tech 4x4 and can get "free" things from vendors, yet I paid for this unit over all others on the market since it works so well. The con is they are heavy and take cargo space.) I like the mobile aspect of the bag/suitcase compressors as they can move from truck to truck, to yours, or others. Like the end of a long day wheeling and helping your friend Travis, three trucks up the line, who bought the cheap compressor that makes more heat and noise than compressed air. Tacos on Travis.

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