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Old 12-08-2013, 11:21 AM
Kevin Horton's Avatar
Kevin Horton Kevin Horton is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Posts: 2,365
Default Air Compressor Tank Blow Up - Leg Amputated

A local area car rebuilder had his air compressor tank explode recently. One of his legs was mangled enough that they had to amputate it below the knee. Supposedly the tank was old, and a bit rusty.

Keep the water drained from your tanks guys! If the tank is getting on in years, maybe you should think about taking the tank out of service and replacing it with a new one.
Kevin Horton
RV-8 (Sold)
Moses Lake, WA, USA
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Old 12-08-2013, 11:34 AM
dealfair dealfair is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: George West, TX
Posts: 567

Good Grief!!! My heartfelt sympathies to the gent. Thank you for the heads-up!!
Deal Fair
RV-4 (N34CB)
George West, TX (8T6)
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Old 12-08-2013, 12:29 PM
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flyboy1963 flyboy1963 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Lake Country, B.C. Canada
Posts: 2,434
Default tank

This is NOT how you want to end your building/flying days, is it?

Makes me think...I have a little 40-year old compressor, the outside paint is pristine, but I'll bet the inside is like a 1972 dodge dart.....nearly toast!
perhaps we should all borescope our tanks asap!...the only real way of knowing the inside condition.
I've seen new, premium brand tanks that advertise they are epoxy coated inside, but most of us by the regular (cheapest) ones we can find. the trend toward upright compressors might make this problem even worse; easier to drain, but more surface area, with the moisture concentrated at one spot!
Perry Y.
RV-9a - SOLD!....
Lake Country, BC
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Old 12-08-2013, 12:29 PM
John R. Graham John R. Graham is offline
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Alpharetta, GA
Posts: 88

Best reason yet for keeping the compressor outside the shop, noise, in fact, being the lesser concern.

- John
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Old 12-08-2013, 12:48 PM
FlyArmy FlyArmy is offline
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: AZ
Posts: 187

Do a google image search for "compressor tank explode" and you will find some gnarly images...on the same level as dudes who got hit with a hellfire or detonated a suicide vest. He was lucky it was just a leg. Let's be careful out there.
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Old 12-08-2013, 02:24 PM
David Paule David Paule is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 5,081

When I bought my AC, I thought of pouring a quart of preservative oil into it, letting it sit a week, and then draining it well. I didn't do that. I suppose a quart of primer would have done as well or even better.

Since then, I've never drained more than about a cup of water from it, so that quantity of rust-preventive would have been enough. How effective it would have been, I can't say. I remember I was concerned about the oil contaminating the air -- primer would have been better, I think.

My AC has a 60 gallon vertical tank.

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Old 12-08-2013, 02:57 PM
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KRviator KRviator is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Sydney, Aust.
Posts: 849

We had a locomotive main reservoir tank explode in Melbourne a couple of years ago. Designed for an operating pressure of around 800kpa, they somehow managed to pump well over 1500kpa into it before it let go, here's some photos of the aftermath...

Just because it is "air", we cannot let our guard down. There's more than enough stored energy in most any sort of compressor receiver to do a lot of damage if it lets go.

Be careful.
Once you have tasted flight you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return - Leonardo DaVinci

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Old 12-08-2013, 04:35 PM
BillL BillL is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Central IL
Posts: 6,328

It used to be that all tanks > 30 gal were required to meet ASME pressure vessel standards in the USA. They are thicker, have inspection ports, and have a metal identification plate welded to the tank.

BTW, DO NOT PUT OIL in your tank to preserve it, and be sure any preservative you might consider would not explode under pressure!

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Old 12-08-2013, 04:58 PM
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FORANE FORANE is offline
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: East TN
Posts: 609

I did this to mine...
Remove the drain valve that comes with the tank. It is typically buried well under the tank, hard to reach, covered in cobwebs, and commonly difficult to open/close. In place of the factory drain valve, insert a brass elbow. Connect the elbow to a short brass pipe out from under the tank where it is easily accessible. Put a good valve on the end of the pipe; one that is easy to open/close. Doing this will make draining the tank easier, thus will likely be drained more frequently. Also, doing this will take the water out of the steel tank into the brass pipe.
Lancair 235/340
RV-9A (2013 - 2016)
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Old 12-08-2013, 05:47 PM
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9GT 9GT is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Southern Michigan
Posts: 2,192

This came up before and I posted how years ago I had an old compressor in my garage that overfilled due to a faulty pressure switch combined with a faulty pressure relief valve. I was in the garage working when it blew up. The compressor was under the workbench against the wall. It blew the back wall of the garage out and the workbench apart sending debris over 100' behind the garage. The compressor motor and pump separated from the tank and went flying out the front. Luckily I was not injured. It is mandatory to drain your tank at least once per week AND check the PRV!
David C.
Howell, MI
RV-10: #41686 Under Construction
RV-9A: #90949 Under Construction
RV-10: #40637 Completed/Sold 2016
Cozy MKIV:#656 Completed/Sold 2007
"Donor Exempt" but donated through Dec. 2021
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