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There are a hundred clichés about being ingenious, but usually the necessity in question comes down to one thing: cash. Sometimes when you’re up against it, you’ve got to improvise. At the beginning of the year, our big shop air compressor died on us. All our big tools run on compressed air. Our grinders, our impact drivers, and especially our service lifts need a steady supply of thick wind to function. We borrowed a small unit temporarily, but it meant one hose for the whole shop. We needed our machine sorted out, and quickly. We figured it wouldn’t be a big deal, since our compressor was new enough to still be under warranty.
Or at least, it shouldn’t have been a big deal.
Even after lots of phone calls and meetings with service rep, we still couldn’t get the manufacturer to honor their warranty. Their excuse was they didn’t have the parts, and that they were unwilling to take apart a new unit to serve an existing customer. Needless to say, we won’t be doing business with them anymore. But we still need air in the shop. We searched around for somewhere to get ours rebuilt. We were looking at about a $1200 bill for a new unit, but our man Mutt had a better idea.
Armed with his extensive knowledge of improvised machines (the guy builds fighting robots, after all), Mutt headed down to Axe Man Surplus to see what he could pull off. He found a high-volume compressor engine, a large drive pulley and other odds and ends it would take to cobble together a working unit. The bill? About $150. Another few hours of installation and tinkering had the compressor back up and running for the first time in months. Not only was it pushing air again, but our bargain batch unit was outperforming our old, expensive unit by a significant clip. Not only does the compressor have to kick on less often now, but when it is running, the volume of usable air is much greater. Our tools are spinning quick again. Our lifts are popping bikes off the deck with ease. Best of all, there’s now plenty of air to go around. Makes sense to go this way in the end. We are mechanics, after all.
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