Tow-behind air compressors took the world by storm after World War II, when they met a simple need: available compressed air, wherever you want it. Tow-behind air compressors gained their initial popularity in the mining industry. They powered rock drills before being adapted for other industries in the decades that followed.
But pneumatic technology evolved rapidly, and the limitations of tow-behind air compressors eventually became apparent. Manufacturers began to look at innovative ways to solve these problems, and, in the 1980s, 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 nine 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. Chaotic driving situations 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 cramped environments with limited space.
Speaking of which…
8. Improve your access to job sites
Dropping your tow-behind can also improve your access to essential job sites, as tow-behind compressors are clunky and limit your work opportunities. Much mobile service work is in remote or off-road areas, requiring vehicles to 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 to get all the right equipment in one spot. In others, favorite pieces of equipment are left behind or require additional trips to retrieve. When you mount your air compressor to the truck instead, you free up your hitch and improve your productivity.
One fantastic example of this improved productivity is with asphalt crack sealing, where debris is blown out of cracks before the cracks are sealed. A truck-mounted air compressor can 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. What a hassle! With a tow-behind air compressor, you have to actively plan every trip with your tow-behind compressor and decide whether it’s worth bringing along.
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 frequent checks and, if any of these parts are failing, you’re not going anywhere.
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 should 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. Thieves often target tow-behind compressors because the units can be stolen in just a few minutes. By contrast, compressors mounted directly to a vehicle are significantly harder to take, while UNDERHOOD™ air compressor systems are practically impossible to steal.
Many of these safety concerns are instantly eliminated when you stop towing your air and upgrade to a mounted air compressor. Your compressor becomes a part of your truck or van, requiring fewer checks and precautions, and driving becomes safer.
4. Less engine maintenance
Tow-behind air compressors require their own engine to serve as a power source. That means two engines need maintenance for every tow-behind compressor: one for the compressor and one for the truck. This maintenance takes up valuable time and money.
While some mobile air compressors require a separate engine, many don’t. Modern air compressor innovation has 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 enjoy an extra-long break or two. Tow-behind compressors take time to position, set up, and use properly.
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 around 1650 lb. By contrast, the UNDERHOOD™ 150 air compressor provides similar airpower and only weighs 200 lb. That’s a huge difference! Choosing a lightweight air compressor means you’ll add more tools and equipment to your truck, carry more materials, and take advantage of better fuel economy.
1. Discover more innovative alternatives
One of the best reasons to ditch a tow-behind air compressor is that better options exist! 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 significantly smaller, lighter, and more compact system than a tow-behind.
With modern compressor technology, you can enjoy all the benefits of mobile air while 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 operators.
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
- 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
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 you have to endure a lot of downsides. If you can upgrade to a modern mobile air solution, then it’s time to ditch your tow-behind air compressor!