5 Things To Know When Buying Hydraulic Air Compressors For Service Trucks

October 6, 2023

The right hydraulic air compressor can improve productivity, efficiency, and profitability, but it’s an investment that takes careful consideration. This article breaks down the top 5 things you need to know when buying hydraulic air compressors for service trucks.

5. How Much Air Do You Need?

Every air compressor purchase should start with the same essential questions:

  • What are you using the air compressor for?
  • How much CFM do you need?

Hydraulic air compressors for service trucks range from 30 CFM to 185 CFM, which is a substantial range of air. Most operators only need 30 to 60 CFM at 100% duty cycle, but it depends entirely on what the air is used for.

Take a look at what VMAC’s hydraulic air compressors can power:

H40 Hydraulic Air Compressor (40 CFM) H60 Hydraulic Air Compressor (60 CFM)
¾” impact wrenches 1” impact wrenches
Light chipping hammers 60 lb jackhammers
Die grinders Backfill tampers
Tire inflation tools Vertical/horizontal grinders
  OTR tire inflation tools

As a general rule, air compressors get larger, heavier, and more expensive as the CFM increases. Therefore, operators looking for a hydraulic air compressor should choose a high-quality air compressor that meets their maximum CFM needs without greatly exceeding it.

Quickly find out your air requirements with our handy Air Tool Consumption Guide!

4. Do You Really Need A Hydraulic Air Compressor?

Many operators assume that a service truck with a hydraulic crane should also have a hydraulic air compressor but that’s not always the case!

There’s no real wrong type of air compressor—assuming you have the appropriate power source and it meets your needs—but sometimes non-hydraulic air compressors make more sense for certain applications and vehicles.

For example, operators who want to operate their crane and air compressor simultaneously might need a non-hydraulic air compressor because many service trucks can only run one piece of hydraulic equipment at a time. In this scenario, a Direct-Transmission Mounted or UNDERHOOD® air compressor would be a better choice.

A hydraulic air compressor is an excellent bet for service trucks with existing hydraulics in one of two scenarios:

  • The hydraulic crane and air compressor are operated at separate times; or
  • The vehicle’s hydraulic system can handle dual-operation.

Otherwise, a different type of air compressor may be the smart choice!

3. Do You Want A Rotary Screw Air Compressor?

Once you know your specific needs, it’s time to learn more about the two types of hydraulic air compressors: rotary screw and reciprocating. While both types of air compressors will compress air, that’s where their similarities end.

The most obvious benefit of rotary screw air compressors is the ability to run at 100% duty cycle. By contrast, reciprocating air compressors require a large air tank that must be filled up before starting a job and will routinely run out of air. Filling an air tank typically takes several minutes, which can feel frustratingly close to eternity when an operator is standing around and waiting to work.

While rotary screw air compressors offer superior performance, they also have a higher upfront cost that can be a deterrent when budgets are tight in the short-term.

Check out our Easy Guide to Rotary Screw Air Compressors to learn more about rotary screw systems, including a more thorough explanation of their advantages and disadvantages.

2. What Is The Weight & Size Of Hydraulic Air Compressors?

By now, you should know with confidence what your air demand needs are and whether a rotary screw hydraulic air compressor is your priority. The next step is to narrow down your options to find the best air compressor.

One of the biggest differentiators between hydraulic air compressor brands is their weight and size. There are numerous benefits to air compressors that are smaller and lighter in weight, but not all manufacturers have the innovation and capability to produce powerful air compressors that are also compact.

Benefits of lower weight:

  • Reduce GVW
  • Downgrade vehicle class
  • Improve fuel efficiency
  • More capacity for other equipment & tools

Benefits of reduced size:

  • More space for other equipment & tools
  • Improved visibility
  • Sleek, sophisticated look

Take a look at the 3 most prominent hydraulic air compressor brands in North America:

40 CFM Hydraulic Air Compressors By Weight & Size

CFM @ 100 psi &
12 GPM
40 40 40
Compressor Type Recip Recip Rotary Screw
Weight 163 lb
(73.9 kg)
408 lb
(185.1 kg)
150 lb
(68 kg)
Size 4.7 ft3
(0.16 m3)
9.89 ft3
(0.3 m3)
4.1 ft3
(0.1 m3)

1. What Control System Features Are Available?

It’s easy to overlook the controls when looking at hydraulic air compressors. Yet, you will interact with these controls every time you use your air compressor. First and foremost, you’ll want to ensure the controls integrate with your crane controls and are easy to access and use.

Next, you should check which features are included with the controls. Some hydraulic air compressors have very simple controls with only an on/off switch, while others utilize more advanced controls with LED displays.

Basic control systems will display:

  • Temperature
  • Pressure
  • Machine Hours

More sophisticated control systems have additional features that can help protect the air compressor and extend its life, including:

  • Error Messages
  • Service Reminders
  • Standby mode
  • Automatic cold climate protection
  • Automatic system warm up

Summarizing 5 Things You Need To Know

There are a lot of things to consider when buying hydraulic air compressors, but you’ll be well equipped to make a smart purchase if you:

  • Know your CFM requirements
  • Confirm you need a hydraulic air compressor
  • Understand the implications of size and weight
  • Know the advantages of rotary screw air compressors
  • Research control system features

For additional questions and information about hydraulic air compressors, talk to your local VMAC dealer!