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building a mini air compressor

what you'll need:
Time needed: 10 minutes

  • portable automotive 12v air compressor
  • Philips screwdriver
  • cable ties

I've read about this procedure a few times online, and always thought it sounds like a great idea. The one time I've had a flat tire, I was lucky enough to be in my garage at the time, about 4 feet from my air compressor. But what if a tire goes flat on the road? Sure, my tire repair kit came with a couple of CO2 cartridges, and a little valve, and some vague instructions. That isn't so helpful, though, if I get two flat tires on the way up to Alaska. Or if the C02 cartridges don't fill the tire enough.

So, I decided to find a cheap portable 12v air compressor in the automotive section at Target. This one cost $14. Obviously, you'll need a standard cigarette-lighter 12v socket on your bike for this to work; if you're interested in installing one, here's my write-up on that.

Remove the screws holding the plastic case together (this model has four). Once the screws are removed, remove the top half of the case.

The guts of the air compressor will then lift out of the bottom half of the case.

To use the air compressor, simply, y'know, plug the 12v socket into a 12v plug. This model has an on/off switch; some don't. Set the compressor on the ground the first time you use it, so that you can see where the moving parts are, and which area of the compressor is safe to hold. This one bounced around a little bit when I turned it on, so make sure the area surrounding the compressor is clear.

Once I was sure that everything worked properly, I cable-tied it all together as tightly as I could. This is strictly a touring accessory; being compact is pretty important. I used one cable tie to zip the electrical cord to the compressor's body, another to zip the air hose to the body, and a third to hold the dial in place. I may end up removing the dial; I didn't have a small enough vacuum plug handy this afternoon.

As you can see, it ended up being fairly small. It measures roughly 6"x4", with the dial sticking out a little farther; hence, my desire to remove the dial. I could have also cut down on the size by removing some of the electrical wire. I chose to leave it since the SVS is the only bike in our household with a 12v socket; I'll probably want that extra slack if I have to inflate a different bike's tire off of my battery.

All in all, it looks like a good solution for touring! Let's hope I never have to use it....

Note: I've since cut off the dial and about a 16" piece of the air hose (using a 1/4" sprinkler barbed connector to splice the hose pieces together). This brought the total size down to 5" x 3" x 2".