DIY Tubeless Air Compressor

Stop buying CO2 cartridges

I’ve trained on nothing but tubeless tires for a few years now, and I’ve grown to appreciate their comfortable ride and resistance to flatting. But the one thing that always irked me about tubeless was the need for a blast of air to seat the tire to the rim (newer Hutchinson tires often seat with a floor pump, but they’re not a sure thing either). Being a home mechanic, that blast has come from a CO2 cartridge instead of an air compressor. I got tired of all the expense and waste so I made myself a mini air compressor tank just to seat tubeless tires.

After a few failed attempts with mason jars and some consultation with Mark Purdy, I dug up a refillable aerosol spray can I bought years ago to use as a dust gun (FYI – it sucked as a dust gun). As luck would have it, the valve head from an Innovations CO2 unit has the same threading as the Schraeder valve on the can. A few parts scavenged from the local hardware store was all I needed to get everything squared away.

Here’s the sad first attempt, where I quickly learned that mason jars don’t hold much more than 5 psi.

Here’s some parts you’ll need. A head from an Innovations CO2 unit, and assorted washers, gaskets, and nuts. My local hardware store only had a T fitting, so we plugged up the third outlet with a nut and a gasket.

The Schraeder valve originally threaded into the side of the can. Since my T joint wouldn’t sit squarely on a washer, the Schraeder valve was moved to the top of the can.

Here’s the Innovations head screwed into the side of the can, and the Schraeder valve at the top, where the aerosol valve used to be.

And here’s the whole thing, all done. The Schraeder adapter from a Silca pump stays attached through the whole process. Pump the tank up to 160+ psi (the can is safe up to 200 psi), and inflate the tire ASAP. The tire will seat with about 30 psi, so you’ll have to follow up with a floor pump and then slosh the sealant around. 

 

45 Comments

Lukas Clamp

or you can do it with a good floor pump and save yourself the trouble.

I converted two sets of wheels and all 4 tires went on with zero issues with my trusty floor pump, some soap suds, and stan’s sealant + yellow tape.

Lorenzo Rivnut

I hope you didn’t find out the hard way a glass jar would not work in this application.

Andy

If I got any presssure in the glass jar I would’ve duct taped it. Wouldn’t want glass sharpnel everywhere. As it was it barely held any air.

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Niccolo Bearing

You need a good burst of air to properly seal tubeless tires with sealant. A floor pump does not provide enough pressure quickly.

Niccolo Bearing

You need a good burst of air to properly seal tubeless tires with sealant. A floor pump does not provide enough pressure quickly.

Kobe Tracknut

“newer Hutchinson tires often seat with a floor pump, but they’re not a sure thing either”

very true. sometimes it just works. many times it doesn’t. using soap really does help though, and make sure the tire is sitting in the middle of the rim, except where the valve is, where it should be against the sides of the rim.

West Coast Reader

I would just use an air compressor, yea not everyone has one but it beats having to build that contraption and it works all the time, can use it to air up my car tires as well, dust out the computer or water after washing the bike/car, blowing up party balloons, etc…

crabon fribé

if you take it to a gas station and use their air machine(with a presta adapter of course) would that work?

Andy

Yeah, but it’s a pain in the ass ’cause you need to have sealant splashing around inside or bring it separately.

West Coast Reader

Well yea you have to have the tank! While we’re getting picky, don’t forget the regulators, hose clamps, pump, hoses, electrical cord, teflon tape, fittings and a wrench to put it together!

Geeze! LOL Can’t wait to see the tankless compressor in action.

And they make mini ones if your under space constraints.

Andy

I was making the distinction between ‘air compressor’ and ‘electric pump’, I guess I should’ve been clearer. Given the choice of making something myself and buying something, I’ll always choose to make my own.

And if you don’t stop LOL’ing Lance will get off his bike.

Gabin Biopace

andy, do you use sealant or not? and how do you deal with the mess it creates when changing tires?

Andy

Yeah, doesn’t work without sealant. The mess isn’t so bad, usually there’s not much left when you take an old tire off. Also, my place isn’t that pristine to begin with.

Gabin Biopace

wait, what doesn’t work without sealant? your invention or tubeless in general?

do you use the hutchinson fast’air?

nerfy

seriously – when will hassle-free tubeless tires come to an LBS near me? i’m very pumped for DI2 in about 2014/15, but tubeless has not been on my radar screen yet

Andy

It’s really not that hard to install, and when you factor in all the times you’re not changing a flat by the side of the road, it’s really worthwhile.

West Coast Reader

Besides Andy is anyone else doing tubeless tires?

I know I wanted to when I first saw Stan with it at the bike convention in Vegas, but soon lost interest once I knew I had to convert my wheels or buy new ones, not to mention they only had Hutchinson tires for it. I’m not seeing the tubeless bandwagon really gaining any speed over here, or are they quietly riding tubeless and I just don’t see it?

Antoine Cogset

i am using the Shimano WH-7850-C24-TL tubeless set-up and love it. was a little confused at first but it all makes sense now.

the Sensei

I run tubeless on both my road bike and my single speed. No more pinch flats from smacking man-holes in the city. And the ride quality is fantastic!

another tubeless lover

I used to use CO2 cartridges to seat tubeless as you described. One problem: the very cold CO2 freezes and clumps the sealant. No good.

Compressors, whether bought or home made, solves the problem.

fyi: I love stans rims, on the road and mtn bike. I use hutchison tires on the road and WTB on the mt. bikes. love em.

Anthony Ceramic

Hey Andy, great project. I actually bought a new Sure Shot can to make something like this (for an airhorn, I’m a pudgy commuter, not a hot shot biker like y’all).

I have a question, on the top of the Sure Shot can, it looks like the Schraeder valve is in a galvanized washer(?) not depicted in the parts layout… So did you use a retaining nut on the inside to retain the Schraeder valve? Did you use a rubber gasket under the washer that the Schraeder valve is attached to? I was hoping that top was an alternate top that the Sure Shot came with, but alas we are in warranty-voiding territory :-)

I almost feel like this is off-topic, since it turned into a tubeless tire discussion, but I decided it was actually more on topic than that.

Glad you weren’t killed by a shard of glass in the mason jar explosion!

Thanks,
Tom

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Andy

I’m trying to reproduce this device, but can’t see what you have done on the top of the can. I have the same unit and seeking help on moving the valve to the top where the sprayer was. Any chance of a shot of the washers you used there and the o-rings?
Sizes of them would be awesome!

Thanks

Aircan Man

Morelli Neck

omg – intelligent life is still out there, good job

ive been contemplating this idea as my new bike has been sat here with one wheel on for a week and missus too busy to get me to a garage.

now for some scavenging :p

Andy Shen

If I had to do it again I’d use a larger vessel. At this size I had to pump it up to a frighteningly high PSI to get enough air in there. Now I just use Mark Purdy’s air compressor since he’s so close.

concerned citizen rob

I just use a sixteen gram co2 cartridge and poof you’re done. Time vs cost of a co2 cartridge I buy on ebay for a buck.

Andy Shen

I’ve always wondered if the really cold air from a CO2 canister (more extreme expansion) did anything to the sealant. When I opened those tires later there’d be big clumps of it in balls, kinda like mozarella. But otherwise, yeah, it works fine.

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