PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
May 29, 2018

Have you ever noticed how small tires seem to go flat every time you turn around?

Actually, this is an exaggeration, but I’m sure many hobby farmers can relate to this frustration. Automobile tires go flat on rare occasions (which is something to be thankful for) and rarely need air added, but the small tires found on lawn mowers, yard carts, wheelbarrows and such seem to go flat with annoying frequency.

I suppose this is to be expected—automobiles have the advantage of driving on paved roads or an occasional well-maintained dirt or gravel road, while small farm machines navigate all sorts of tricky terrain bound to cause some issues over time, compromising the integrity of the tires and causing them to leak a bit. Throw in the fact that many small tires don’t have inner tubes—which means that the integrity of the tire is maintained only by the air pressure holding the tire in place against the rim of the wheel—and the issue becomes even more clear.

For these reasons, I think every hobby farmer should have an air compressor on the farm. Having the ability to plug in an air compressor and quickly refill tires that are flat (or simply low) represents a huge benefit, saving you time and trouble on those inevitable days when you have 1,000 projects planned—and the machine you need has a flat tire. Been there, done that!

But what size air compressor do you need? Even a brief look at the available options can be confusing, because plenty exist on the market. I’ve come to learn pros and cons of the various sizes of compressors, and in order to have the perfect air compressor for every need you might want more than one.

For example, small air compressors designed specifically for inflating tires are very convenient and easy to use. They’re lightweight and portable, and they do the job quickly (though it’s possible that the smallest models could have trouble inflating large tires to high pressure levels). They’re better suited to small tires such as those found on lawn mowers and yard carts.

In contrast, large air compressors—which have tanks of air that let them avoid running constantly—can handle large tires in addition to tasks other than inflating tires. A quality air compressor is a must-have tool for high-level carpentry and construction projects, for example, because they can power nailers, staplers and similar tools that will speed up your workflow.

However, large air compressors take up more space and can be quite heavy, making them more difficult to transport. You might find it easier to bring your machines to the compressor rather than the compressor to the machines, and for simple tasks such as occasionally inflating a lawn mower tire, a large air compressor might be much more than you need.

There are other options to consider as well—for example, the 12-volt plug found in most automobiles can power some small air compressors, so if you’re out and about and away from electric outlets, you can run the compressor straight from your vehicle.

If you don’t already own an air compressor or two, I suggest that you start shopping—it’s a great tool to have on hand.

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