The air we breath is composed of four major gases: 78.09% Nitrogen, 20.95% Oxygen, 0.93% Argon, and 0.039% Carbon Dioxide. The last few percentage points are divvied up amongst other gases that float around. That 21% of Oxygen in the air is the catalyst for so many things. It brings life to us as breath, and is half of a molecule of water, which brings life to every corner of the planet and shapes the very surface us outdoor lovers trek over. Thats a lot to realize – all these elements; and all the different things they do. There is one element in particular though, that is particularly important to us wheelers. Its not the oxygen that powers our engines, or the nitrogen that is in our tires from the air compressor back in the garage: its Carbon Dioxide.
Carbon Dioxide is unique among the elements in that it is completely inert, is non-corrosive and non-oxidizing and most of all, can easily be compressed into a liquid. Just thinking about it right off the bat it doesn’t really seem all that significant, but it really sheds light onto the idea when you realize that when CO2 expands from its liquid state to a gas – it expands nearly 800 times. Thats a lot. Actually, thats more than a lot, thats ridiculous.
Because of these scenarios and the manageable boiling point of CO2, compressing it into its liquid form is a relatively easy and inexpensive task. Then storing it inside of a cryogenic liquid cylinder vessel is just as easy. Because of this ease, you can take quite a bit of the subsistence with you every where you go and use it at your pleasure. A mere 20 pounds of C02 has the capability of operating a impact driver at 200 PSI for the amount of over 750 3/4″ bolts. Thats incredibly significant as the equivalent compressor setup required to do that is decently large, expensive and requires a large amount of available electricity to drive the compressor(s).
The power and convenience of a C02 cylinder does have its obvious inconvenience to the common Wasteland Survivor: Its is impossible to replicate without the assistance of multi-million dollar air separation machines. Its non-renewable in the field. When you’re out, you’re completely out – at least until you can get to your local industrial gas supplier and have your cylinder filled again.
Despite this concern, we (read: I) elected to forgo the air compressor and supply tank method, and stick with the more powerful C02 for our tool operation and tire filling needs. The capability of the regulator on our tank allows us to direct the full limits of atmospheric expansion directly into our tires, filling a 37×12.50R17 tire from 5 PSI to 30 in a matter of a minute and a half. Find me a compressor that can do that, that is the size of my 20# CO2 cylinder and I’ll kiss you on the lips. Because of how awesome the power of modern science is, we built our own tank and color matched it to the JK. The full write up on the build can be found on Expedition Portal
We have yet to use this individual tank in the field, but a tank is a tank is a tank. Am I right? Of course I am.
We really truly do love the capability of the system. My first tank was a 10# cylinder that I happily stuck in the back of my TJ. It did its duty well, and never let me down. I filled the 35″ tires on my TJ probably a solid 4 times (all 4 tires) from 10 PSI to 30. Thats pretty decent for a little less than a gallon and a half of pure liquid C02. With this build however, we opted for the 20# size as we’re running larger tires, as well – we don’t know what the future holds for us. We could go wheeling to the Badlands for the weekend and air up twice, or we could be on a week long excursion into our frontier. Bigger is better. So when you’re making your pick between a compressor system and a C02 cylinder, balance what you want from it and what is important to you.
For us, complexity is not ultimately a good thing, and on board air systems can easily become overcomplicated. This one bit of simple has allowed us to focus on other aspects and is one less thing for us to have to worry about. A simple fill and its ready to go for a long time. Building it ourselves also allowed us to save a good deal of money VS buying a power tank pre-made. So whatever it is that you pick, get out there and enjoy it.