9 Reasons You Should Ditch Your Tow-Behind Air Compressor

Tow-behind air compressors took the world by storm a few decades ago when they met a simple need: available compressed air, wherever you want it. It was a game-changer for a lot of industries.

But once the novelty of tow-behind air compressors wore off, their limitations became apparent. Manufacturers began to look at innovative ways to solve these problems and, in the 1980’s, companies began to invent new air compressors that would revolutionize mobile air once again.

Today, workers who need compressed air have a medley of compressor options, many of which make more sense than a tow-behind. Let’s talk about 9 reasons you may want to ditch your tow-behind air compressor:

9. Enjoy hassle-free driving and parking

If you have a tow-behind air compressor, chances are you’ve become a bit of a pro at dragging your trailer through busy freeways, reversing without jack-knifing, and circling job site lots until you find a suitable parking spot. This might even seem normal to you. But there’s a better way!

When you ditch your tow-behind air compressor and switch to a vehicle mounted air compressor instead, you’ll feel liberated. You’ll suddenly have more freedom! Driving, reversing, and parking all become second nature again, and you won’t be restricted by your trailer’s capabilities or driving expertise.

If you’re a business owner, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your staff aren’t trying to negotiate your expensive equipment in heavy traffic, park in precarious situations, or backup in environments where space can be highly limited.

Speaking of which…

8. Improve your access to job sites

Dropping your tow-behind can also improve your access to important job sites, as tow-behind compressors are clunky and can limit your work opportunities. A lot of mobile service work is in remote or off-road areas, requiring vehicles that can navigate the challenging terrain. Trailers don’t tend to do well in tricky environments, requiring additional time and care to get to the work site—if accessible at all.

7. Free up your hitch for other equipment

Tow-behind compressors take up a seriously underrated asset on your vehicle: the tow hitch! Many workers have equipment that can only be transported by a hitch, while others simply prefer to tow a trailer with their tools. If your air compressor is taking up that spot on the hitch, you’ll need to make other compromises to get your equipment where it needs to be.

In some cases, business owners send out an extra vehicle and driver just to get all the right equipment in one spot. In others, favorite pieces of equipment are left behind or require extra trips to retrieve. When you mount your air compressor to the truck itself, you free up your hitch and improve your productivity.

One fantastic example of this improved productivity is with asphalt crack sealing, where cracks need to be blown out before they can be sealed. A truck-mounted air compressor can be used to blow the dirt out of the cracks, as the hitch pulls the asphalt applicator immediately behind.

6. Have an air compressor that’s always with you

Imagine this: you’ve just arrived at your next job only to realize it needs the air compressor you left behind. You have to actively plan for every trip with your tow-behind compressor, and decide whether it’s worth bringing along. What a hassle!

Alternative mobile air compressor systems have the compressor mounted to the truck itself, which means it goes everywhere the truck goes. If you need air, it’s there. You’ll never have to experience the frustration of needing the air compressor that’s halfway across town.

5. Need fewer safety checks & measures

You probably already know that there’s more than just physical baggage with a tow-behind, and they carry the need for extra safety precautions everywhere they go. The hitch, taillights, and tires all need to be checked frequently and, if any of these parts are failing, you’re not going anywhere until they’re fixed.

In addition, tow-behind air compressors make it harder for vehicles to stop quickly and safely. That means you need to reduce your speed whenever you’re towing your compressor, wasting valuable time that could be spent on the job or with your family. Throw in tow bar regulations, a larger blind spot, and the need to monitor the compressor itself, and you’ve got a lot of extra safety checks in your day.

And let’s not forget about thieves. Tow-behind compressors are often targeted by thieves because the units can be stolen in just a few minutes. By contrast, compressors that are mounted directly to a vehicle are significantly harder to take, while UNDERHOOD air compressor systems are practically impossible to steal.

When you stop towing your air and upgrade to a mounted air compressor, a lot of these safety concerns are instantly eliminated. Your compressor becomes a part of your truck or van, requiring fewer checks and precautions, and driving becomes safer.

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4. Less engine maintenance

Tow-behind air compressors require their own engine, in addition to the engine that’s included in the vehicle that’s doing the towing. That means two engines need to be maintained for every tow-behind compressor. This maintenance takes up valuable time and money that could be used elsewhere.

While some mobile air compressors require their own engine, many don’t. Recent air compressor innovation has been highly focused on utilizing existing energy sources to power mobile air compressors. For example, gas and diesel vehicle engines, transmissions, and PTOs that run hydraulics can all be used to power an air compressor.

3. Finish your jobs fasters

Time is money. The faster you finish your work, the more time you have to wrap up your “to do” list, take on more jobs, or even just enjoy an extra long break or two. Tow-behind compressors take time to properly position, set up and use.

When you upgrade a tow-behind to an UNDERHOOD, underdeck or abovedeck mobile compressor, you’ll be amazed at how quick and easy it is to get a job done. In some cases, the prep is as fast as flipping the “on” switch and grabbing the tool, while the job itself can be just as quick.

If you’d like more time in your day (and who wouldn’t), it might be time to give your tow-behind the boot.

2. Enjoy fuel & weight savings

Tow-behind air compressors are beasts. They’re notorious for being overweight monsters and they got that reputation for a reason… The Atlas Copco XAS 110 is a relatively small tow-behind compressor that can produce 110 CFM and weighs in at 1100 lbs. By contrast, the UNDERHOOD 150 air compressor provides similar air power and weighs about 200 lbs. That’s a huge difference! Choosing a lightweight air compressor means you’ll be able to add more tools and equipment to your truck, carry more materials, or take advantage of better fuel economy.

1. Discover more innovative alternatives

One of the best reasons to ditch a tow-behind air compressor is because there are much better options out there! Tow-behinds have the luxury of being overweight space-hogs, while other compressor styles have continually adapted to market demands with fresh innovations. For example, vehicle-mounted compressors can deliver more than enough air for light to medium duty applications, and do so in a system that’s significantly smaller, lighter and more compact than a tow-behind.

With modern compressor technology, you can enjoy all the benefits of having mobile air, while also freeing up cargo space, reducing gross vehicle weight, and working more efficiently. These benefits are why you’ll see onboard air compressors mounted to the vehicles of hard-working people like construction workers, military personnel, public works and utility workers, and fleet managers.

Vehicle mounted compressors are the smart choice for people who:

  • Need mobile air regularly
  • Have light/medium-duty applications, such as
    • Post pounding
    • Pressurizing gas lines
    • Road repair & crack sealing
    • Pavement breaking
    • Sandblasting
    • Sprinkler irrigation
    • Fiber optic cable shooting
    • Utility servicing
  • Want more space for cargo or other equipment
  • Prefer less weight and strain on their vehicles
  • Have the budget to make a long-term investment

At the end of the day, you deserve equipment that helps you get your job done quickly, easily, and safely. Tow-behind air compressors are necessary for some types of work, but there are a lot of downsides that you may have to endure. If you have the option to upgrade to a modern mobile air solution, then it’s time to ditch your tow-behind air compressor!

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The Big Benefits of Rotary Screw Air Compressors In Texas

Not all air compressors are created equal. Performance, quality, safety, and adherence to local laws all vary between manufacturers and even individual air compressor models. Rotary screw air compressors do an excellent job of performing under the Texas heat, while also following local bylaws and regulations. In this article, we’ll break down 6 reasons you should choose a rotary screw air compressor for your work in Texas.

Improved Performance & Function

1. Prevent air compressor failure

You don’t stop work when the temperatures hit the high 90’s and your air compressor shouldn’t either! Air compressors already generate a lot of heat, which is tackled by cooling systems, but when the summer sun combines with the air compression process, some air compressors get too hot to handle—or function!

Hot air compressors cause many problems, including:

  • Lower air flow & efficiency
  • Excessive water vapor
  • More energy & fuel required
  • Unsafe for workers
  • Air compressor failure

Air compressors are comprised of many moving parts that cause heat to increase rapidly. Reciprocating air compressors can reach temperatures of up to 500°F on a regular basis. Compare that to a rotary screw air compressor, which uses an oil injection system to operate at half that temperature, and it’s clear which compressor has the advantage right out of the gate. If you need your air compressor to work 100% of the time, rotary screw is the way to go.

2. Minimize water vapor

As Texas temperatures and humidity rise, the amount of water in the compressed air increases as well. Increased water volume can lead to higher maintenance costs due to air compressor rust, breakdown, and component failure. The hotter the air, the more water you have in your system.

Because rotary screw compressors don’t run as hot as other compressor types, the amount of water created during air compression in minimized, reducing the water that can get into your air compressor, tools, and final application. This smaller volume of water is easier to remove, giving rotary screw air compressors a big advantage over reciprocating air compressors.

When handled properly, most people don’t see the extra water in recip compressors. That’s because reciprocating compressors always require an air receiver tank, which helps capture and drain most of the visible water from the compressor. But even if you don’t see it, that water is still there.

3. Work at 100% Duty Cycle

While this isn’t Texas specific, it is a big deal: rotary screw air compressors supply air on demand, which means you can get to work within seconds of turning it on. The convenience of instant air is why so many workers have become loyal to rotary screw air compressors, always choosing them over the reciprocating/piston-style air compressors.

4. Reduce weight & save space

Rotary screw air compressors are smaller than reciprocating compressors, resulting in trucks that are lighter and have more available space. For example, VMAC’s G30 gas driven air compressor weighs only 205 lbs, while similar-CFM reciprocating-style air compressors easily weigh 400 – 500 lbs and take up twice the amount of space (because they require a large air receiver tank.) They’re hogs!

Choosing a lightweight rotary screw air compressor means you’ll be able to add more tools and equipment to your truck, carry more materials, or take advantage of better fuel economy.

Adheres to Texas Regulations & Bylaws

5. Circumvent vehicle idling restrictions

Essentially all Texas cities have signed a memorandum that prohibits trucks lighter than 14,000 pounds from idling more than five minutes at a time. Operators working with light-duty trucks, such as the Ford F250 and F350, aren’t allowed to idle within most Texas cities—including Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Fort Worth.

Fortunately, clever system designs eliminate the issue. Above-deck air compressors like the G30 gas drive and D60 diesel drive allow operators to utilize a powerful rotary screw option that doesn’t require idling. Because these air compressors are mounted to the vehicle itself, they are always with you and ready to work—no idling needed!

6. Avoid noise complaints

Busy urban areas are already littered with noise and some Texas bylaws forbid workers from making more of it. For example, Fort Worth doesn’t allow noise in a commercial area to exceed 80 decibels between the hours of 7 am to 10 pm. Residential areas are even more restricted, with a maximum 70 dBA during the day.

Mobile air compressors are loud. That’s just a fact. But rotary screws are known to be quieter than their reciprocating counterparts, because the two rotating screws don’t actually touch one another while they compress air. As a result, rotary screw air compressors are more likely to fall within noise bylaws.

But even when they don’t, the neighbors are much less likely to file a complaint when you’re in and out within minutes. Rotary screw air compressors are faster and more convenient than other compressor types, allowing you to quickly complete your jobs and minimize any disturbance.

The Right Air Compressor For Texas

To sum it all up, there are a lot of benefits to using a rotary screw air compressor in Texas, including:

  • Better heat performance
  • Working at 100% duty cycle
  • Reducing discharge air temperatures
  • Minimizing water vapor
  • Circumventing idling restrictions
  • Avoiding noise complaints

The right air compressor makes your job easier by ensuring you can get your work done quickly, efficiently, and safely. Rotary screw air compressors do all of these things, while holding up in the tough Texas environment.

If you’d like to read more about the advantages of rotary screw air compressors, check out some of our other blogs on this topic:

Cullen Diesel Chooses UNDERHOOD™ 40 Air Compressor: Improves Efficiency & Morale

This is the third and final blog in VMAC’s three-part series featuring Cullen Diesel, the Detroit Diesel and MTU distributor for BC. Cullen Diesel mechanics are factory trained and certified in Detroit Diesel and Mercedes engines, and frequently work in challenging and remote locations in the logging, marine, mining, and industrial sectors.

Dennis Miskow Cullen Diesel

Dennis Miskow, Branch Manager of Cullen Diesel’s Vancouver Island, BC operations

Dennis Miskow is the Branch Manager of Cullen Diesel’s Vancouver Island, BC operations. In Part 1 of the Van Series Air Compressor blog, he discussed his decision to choose a Mercedes 4×4 Sprinter van. In Part 2 of the Van Series blog, he explains why he chose an UNDERHOOD™ 40 Van Series Air Compressor instead of a standalone gas drive air compressor for the van. In Part 3, Dennis shares what a typical service job looks like for Cullen Diesel, and how the UNDERHOOD™ 40 is improving morale and helping his mechanics work more efficiently.

Cullen Diesel Service Jobs

Cullen Diesel’s team of heavy-duty mechanics have experience in servicing and repairing mining products, logging and marine equipment, generators, construction and industrial equipment, as well as trucks and buses with Detroit Diesel, Mercedes and Allison transmissions. A typical service job sees mechanics travelling up to logging camps, down to docks for marine repairs, and other remote locations. As Dennis mentioned in Part 1 of the blog series, this is where the Mercedes-Benz 4×4 Sprinter van really shines: “On its first service call it drove easily up the logging roads to the job site, right behind the trucks.”

UNDERHOOD™ 40 Van Air Compressor: “It’s Been Exactly As Advertised.”

As discussed in Part 2 of the blog series, the Sprinter van is upfitted with an UNDERHOOD™ 40 Van Series Air Compressor. “Investing in the right tools for the job is part of the professionalism that Cullen Diesel is known for,” notes Dennis. “The Sprinter van provides a modern look for our service vehicle and having an UNDERHOOD™ Air Compressor tucked away is part of that clean, professional look we’re striving for.” Investing in the best quality air compressor is also important for his mechanics’ day-to-day work. Dennis explains: “Having an UNDERHOOD™ air compressor allows my team to work more efficiently, but it also improves morale. My technicians appreciate having high-quality equipment that always works, instead of struggling with a frustrating piece of equipment that doesn’t perform.”

And it’s not just the improved look and morale that has Dennis praising VMAC’s air compressor. “The UNDERHOOD™ Van Series is cleaner, quieter, and quicker than our previous gas powered standalone air compressor,” says Dennis. “Operation of the compressor is convenient and easy-to-use. You just push a button and it’s working and producing full air power.”

It’s now been three years since Cullen Diesel first got their 4×4 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van equipped with the UNDERHOOD™ Van Series Compressor, and so far, “it’s done exactly what we want it to do,” confirms Dennis. “The air power is there and there’s been no issues and no downtime. It’s been exactly as advertised.”

And when asked for his advice to anyone who is thinking of upgrading to a UNDERHOOD™ Air Compressor, Dennis’ answer is confident and succinct: “Do it!”

Subscribe to the VMAC Blog to continue reading customer job stories like this Cullen Diesel story with Dennis Miskow.

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Reciprocating engine driven air compressor or a rotary screw engine driven air compressor

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When deciding whether to install a new engine driven air compressor or change your existing design, it’s important to understand operating characteristics, capabilities and limitations of the two alternative air compressors commonly considered. Continue reading “Reciprocating engine driven air compressor or a rotary screw engine driven air compressor”