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Proof of the BIG Bang Theory or Air Compressor Explosion

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  • Proof of the BIG Bang Theory or Air Compressor Explosion

    If you don't drain your tank, there will be a BIG BANG.
    I posted this several years ago on another site, but there are several new members here. I was in my basement working on the computor when I heard and felt an explosion. I went outside to see what happened, and found my neighbor standing in his driveway looking like he was in a state of shock. He was using his air compressor to blow the grass off his lawn mower when the air tank blew up.

    He had a garage full of Harleys and expensive cars and only about 6 feet by 6 feet of open floor space. He had his compressor mounted up on a shelf about 6 feet off the floor. When it blew it knocked the outside lights off the garage wall, blew the shelf away and the compressor landed on the only open space left. He was lucky, but the cars and Harleys were all splattered with rusty water and oil slime.

    He gave me what was left of the compressor, and I could see the rusty water line about half way up the tank. I also saw a sheet metal screw sticking inside the tank. Apparently a couple years earlier the tank had sprung a leak through a rust hole so he plugged that hole with a sheet metal screw and kept using the compressor and kept on NEVER draining the water.

    I've also included 4 pictures of an air compressor my neighbor put out on the curb a few weeks ago. It had a sign saying that it was free and the pump was locked up. All that was wrong with it was the serpentine belt wasn't lined up, and it came off the pump pulley. I told my neighbor, but he said he didn't care and had already bought a new compressor, so I got a nice compressor for free. The first thing I do when I get a compressor is remove the cheap screw type drain valve and buy an elbow, short pipe, and a good quarter turn valve, so I can run the drain valve to an easily seen and accessible spot. I also add a 2 x 4 to the leg to put the tank on a slope, so the water runs to the drain valve. This also keeps the leg out of the dirt. Hard to believe the factory wouldn't give the tank the correct slope for drainage.

    Notice the large plug on the end of this tank. This is an indicator that this is the heavy duty tank, not the cheap model like many stores used to sell, and the one that blew up in the first picture.
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  • #2
    Tom i remember that big bang post from a few years ago. That tank looks like tissue paper in the photo.
    what size tank is on that compressor you fixed? 20 gallon?
    i have an old craftsman stationary here at the house with a 30 gallon tank 110v...works great for home use
    Last edited by Mitch; 06-10-2017, 05:26 PM.
    3 ~ Tudor's
    Henry Ford said
    "It's all nuts and bolts"


    Mitch's Auto Service ctr

    Comment


    • #3
      You lucky son of a gun. That looks like a good compressor. I too remember the explosion story.

      Comment


      • #4
        I always drain my compressor when I'm finished. My compressor is in the attic of my garage. With hookups all around. I found it's the best place for it. For one it's nice and quite in the garage and out of my way!

        Comment


        • #5
          Just to add a bit of scare to all of this, the latest trend at big box home stores is compressors with 225psi tank pressures. They have the same (or less) cfm ratings as the older compressors, but uninformed shoppers like to see big numbers on the tank. NONE of them have ASME certified tanks. and several have the drain plug on the side, requiring the owner to lay the thing over to drain it.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Mitch View Post
            Tom i remember that big bang post from a few years ago. That tank looks like tissue paper in the photo.
            what size tank is on that compressor you fixed? 20 gallon?
            i have an old craftsman stationary here at the house with a 30 gallon tank and one cylinder motor 110v...works great for home use
            Yes, the tank is a 20 gallon ASME rated tank, and the motor is 220 volt running a 2 cylinder single stage pump at 10.44 CFM at 40 pounds pressure. This will run my blast cabinet just fine, although it runs pretty constant while blasting. Right now it shuts off at 127 PSI, but I will lower the pressure shut off to 80 PSI. 80 does everything I need it to do, and there is no point in running the machine harder than it needs to be run.

            Comment


            • #7
              One more thing I should have mentioned is to check the set screws on both pulleys if you hear a clicking or rapping noise. I have a small one cylinder compressor where the set screw likes to come loose after about 20 hours of use. My neighbor's pulley sounds loose, but after 2 years he still hasn't checked it, so one of these days he may find it spinning free on the shaft.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Tom Wesenberg View Post
                One more thing I should have mentioned is to check the set screws on both pulleys if you hear a clicking or rapping noise. I have a small one cylinder compressor where the set screw likes to come loose after about 20 hours of use. My neighbor's pulley sounds loose, but after 2 years he still hasn't checked it, so one of these days he may find it spinning free on the shaft.
                Well, that should net you another compressor!! I sure wish I had neighbors like you.
                You wana look waaay far up da road and plan yer route because the brakes are far more of a suggestion than a command!

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                • #9
                  Today I checked out a small one cylinder compressor another neighbor put out on the curb. The sign said small leak in tank, so today I plugged it in and pumped it up to 80 PSI to find the leak. I found a very small pin hole, but as soon as I poked it the hole opened up to 1/8", so I drilled it to 1/2" to check the surrounding metal. 6" away I found another small rust spot, which easily poked through. I was lucky the tank didn't explode, as the whole bottom is very rusted. The tank has a drain plug, but not a drain valve. Well, this saved a couple pennies, but made it most unlikely the tank would ever get drained. I'll cut the mounting frame for the motor and pump, then use the tank for some kind of yard art.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    i never close the drain valve all the way. I leave it cracked, so it is constantly allowing water to drip out. Been doing it this way x 40 yrs

                    i do occasionally open it up to check it/drain it, but with the above method, i don't get much out

                    I power down my compressor at night
                    Last edited by tbirdtbird; 08-31-2017, 07:40 AM.

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                    • #11
                      I'm surprised that no body uses something like this, especially on the larger shop compressors. At one time my drain cock was leaking from crap getting into it, yes it kept the water drained but the compressor ran to much not to mention the additional electric usage along with the added compressor hours.

                      . https://www.amazon.com/Automatic-Tim...or+drain+valve
                      3 ~ Tudor's
                      Henry Ford said
                      "It's all nuts and bolts"


                      Mitch's Auto Service ctr

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        When I was in school an oxygen tank in the shop fell over and the valve hit the lower shelf under a bench and broke off. The tank became a missle and went through the shop wall and across the street. Luckily across the street was just a cow pasture and nothing other than the shop wall was hurt. I was not in the shop when it happened, so not a first hand witness to the event, but did help to repair the shop wall. Don't take the caps off of cyl's until it is chained. Bad things can and do happen. Compressed gases of any sort have the potential to be dangerious. Rod
                        Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.

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                        • Mitch
                          Mitch commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I bet more than a few people had to change their shorts

                      • #13
                        Also check to see that your compressor shuts off at a certain pressure, a tire store here in our town had their big compressor blow up because of this it killed 1 guy and disabled 2 others.

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                        • #14
                          I thought that the pull out spring loaded pressure release was tubed down to the bottom of the tank and would always blow out the water if any existed when you pulled it out to release pressure. Is that not so? I only take mine up to 80lbs also, because I have never had a need to go higher. I relieve all pressure after every use, but have not unscrewed the plug on the side to see if there is water to drain. I have to tip the tank to the point that the oil reservoir on the pump leaks out the oil fill. If I am doing it wrong, it looks like I will need to devise some new way to be safe.

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            The pressure relief safety valve does not go to the bottom, and does nothing to drain moisture. It should blow off air if the pressure switch malfunctions and doesn't stop the motor. The best thing I ever did was to install an elbow and 6" extension to get the drain valve to the side of the tank so it's very easy to reach and open. I also change the cheap drain valve to the better ball cock that opens with only a quarter turn. Adding the 2 pipes and ball valve costs less than $10, and sure makes it a better compressor.

                            Like Dave, I used to leave the drain valve slightly opened to drip off the moisture, but once in a while it would clog, so I made the change to the better drain.

                            I tried the automatic drain from H/F and the plastic line crapped out during the first use. I like the idea of the automatic drain, but be sure to buy a quality unit.

                            Comment


                            • #16
                              Here's a picture of the drain I install on all my compressors, to make draining much easier. Compressor Storage 3.JPG
                              Attached Files

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                              • #17
                                I need to do something like this. The drain is almost impossible to get at. It is only about an inch off the floor. My compressor is an upright style, and has the quarter turn valve, so the tank will drain sufficiently, it's just hard to get at the valve.
                                Last edited by CarlG; 09-01-2017, 01:34 PM. Reason: Added more info.
                                Alaskan A's
                                Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska
                                Model A Ford Club of America
                                Model A Restorers Club
                                Antique Automobile Club of America
                                Mullins Owners Club

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                                • #18
                                  My compressor is a old westinghouse twin cylinder 250 lb pressure. It is about 1956. It was in my Dads repair garage, it is a 250 lb so it could work the car hoist, which was air over hydraulic. I drain it every time I use it and only run it at 100 lbs now days.
                                  You would be surprised how much water you get out of it in the summer time.

                                  Comment


                                  • #19
                                    Today I went to Home Depot to get the bits & pieces to make a drain assembly like Tom shows in post #16. After I had gathered the several pieces together, I found this: already assembled and ready to go. Had it on my compressor tank in about 5 minutes after I got home.
                                    You do not have permission to view this gallery.
                                    This gallery has 1 photos.
                                    Alaskan A's
                                    Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska
                                    Model A Ford Club of America
                                    Model A Restorers Club
                                    Antique Automobile Club of America
                                    Mullins Owners Club

                                    Comment


                                    • Mitch
                                      Mitch commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      A faucet supply line .. good goin!

                                    • DaWizard
                                      DaWizard commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      Sure hope that hose holds the pressure, it's only made for water.

                                    • Mitch
                                      Mitch commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      i guess Carl will find out lol
                                      I bet it does

                                    • CarlG
                                      CarlG commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      Actually, it was in the air compressor section, and is labeled specifically to replace the drain valve to make draining the tank easier. It's been holding 210# for 6 hours now.

                                  • #20
                                    Now I realize why Gomer had his compressor in a separate room at the Sunoco where I worked in the early 70's, away from the shop floor.

                                    Never gave it much thought until now.

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