Having an air source on the trail can be invaluable. From putting tires back on rims to running air tools. A good air source can make a nasty situation a no brainer. One great way to get air is by using an Co2 tank. Read along as we put together a home brew Co2 system.
(Click on pics for a larger image)
After the last body changes on my rig, I lost the ability to use
my York compressor due to space limitations. The engine driven compressor system
worked great but did have some draw backs. The engine had to be running to use
it (which can be annoying)
First stop in getting setup with an Co2 system was to see what was on the market. What I found was dozens of places sell setups ready to go. The cheapest one that I found was a 15lb tank with regulator, air hose, and mounting bracket for $230 before shipping. I really wanted a 20lb tank and I thought I could beat that price. So I hit up EBay to see what was on the market. On EBay I found a company that sold aluminum tanks from 5 pounds to 20 pounds. I also called up all the local shops in the book to see what I could get. The cheapest Aluminum tank that I could find in town was a 20 pound unit for $143 before tax and before being filled. I also found a 20 pound steel tank for $99 before tax and fill. The one I got was a 20 pound aluminum tank off of EBay shipped to my door for $115.31. For a 15 pound tank it would have been $20 less, shipping would have been the same.
So far I was into it $115.31 and now I needed a regulator. There are many different ones on the market with prices all over the board. You can get adjustable ones with gauges for the high and the low pressure sides. Now the Co2 in the tank is stored in a liquid form and boils into a gas when there is room for it to do so. It stops turning into gas at about 850 pounds at 70 degrees. The internal pressure of the tank will rise about 11 pounds for every degree the temperature goes up. This makes having a high pressure gauge pointless. The way you can tell if you are low is by how heavy the tank it. You weigh your tank before you fill it and then after. Its the same idea as the Propane tank on your barbeque. So in the end I went with a fixed 150 pound regulator from Polyperformance. It was the cheapest that I could find. Shipped to my door for $42.50.
Lets talk about Polyperformance for a second. When I ordered the regulator, I did it online and there was a mistake and two regulators were actually ordered. One right after another. About 5 minutes later my phone range and it was them asking me if I had really ordered two or if it was a mistake. Now, most places would have just sent both of them and let you straiten it out. These guys called me right up on my small order to make sure things were right. Great customer service and I'll easily buy from them again!
So, with the regulator I was now up to a total of $157.81.
I called around and the cheapest place to get the tank filled was a place called Praxair and the total out the door cost was $20.86. I did find one other place cheaper by a few dollars but they wanted to do an exchange and gave me some guff about wanting to keep "My" bottle. You might have better luck in your area.
With the bottle all filled up, I screwed the regulator on and hooked up the air hose from my compressor. Looked great but did it work? I plugged in my impact gun and was able to zip off a few lug nuts with no problem!
If I had to it all over again I think I would go with the 15 pound bottle as this thing is huge. I'm also thinking about getting another ten pound regulator for welding. You can use Co2 as a welding gas. On bigger trips, like MoabMash, I could take my 110V Mig welder and use the Co2 for camp repairs.
So, if you are willing to do some searching around, you can come up with your own C02 system and save a few bucks.