How To Install Onboard Air Compressor

An onboard air compressor is a smaller version of a portable compressor.  It is designed to be out of the way, either mounted under a truck, tucked into a truck bed, or in other space where a larger air compressor wouldn’t fit. 

An onboard compressor is both portable and not.  Once mounted to your truck or 4 by 4, it’s staying put.  But it goes with you, wherever you drive.  And since it runs off your vehicle’s battery, you don’t need another power source to fill the tank or run the compressor.

To withstand off-road driving conditions, onboard compressors must be built to handle those conditions.  Even if you have room for a small compressor on your truck, you need to ask yourself if it can handle those conditions.

Most of these onboard air compressors are 30 amp, 12v applications, so you’ll hook it up to your car battery or whatever battery is in your vehicle while it’s running.

The power from the battery operates the compressor allowing you to quickly and easily inflate tires or whatever else you need to inflate. 

Installing Onboard Air Compressor in Toolbox

One of the trickiest parts of getting an onboard air compressor is deciding where to place it.  Some people put them under the car, but many pumps should be mounted in clean and dry conditions.  And there is also the concern of having debris hit it.

Another location commonly used is inside the hood.  Some compressors come with brackets for under-the-hood mounting.  Cars seem to have less and less space under the hood these days, so that might be tricky.

How about a mounted toolbox on a truck?  Is that a good location?

Your goal in mounting the compressor is two-fold.  First, you want it to be accessible so that you can change air filters and you want it to stay dry and clean.  Second, you do not want it to get too hot when you are running it.  Overheating an air compressor is an easy way to have it fail prematurely.

Mounting it inside a toolbox can accomplish both goals.  Unless you drive with your toolbox open, it will be protected from the elements.  And if you open the toolbox when using the compressor, it should get adequate ventilation.

If you decide to mount it in a toolbox, use these tips:

  • Mount the compressor in the toolbox so it does not slide around.
  • If using a smaller toolbox, then mount it to the pick-up bed so it cannot slide.  
  • Drill the hole near the bottom of the toolbox and deburr it before running cables.

Mounting it inside a toolbox is not difficult.  As long as you don’t plan to remove the box frequently, it’s a location worth considering.

VIAIR Heavy Duty Onboard Air System

How To Wire Onboard Air Compressor?

This is a tricky question, as each model and each manufacturer have their wiring requirements and specificities.

In general, you can wire your onboard air compressor by following these easy steps:

  1. Choose the Location to Mount your Compressor
  2. Take accurate measurements
  3. Install the components into the tank
  4. Mount the built-in air system
  5. Do the wiring setup as shown in the instructions’ manual

How to install an ARB air compressor?

The difficulty of this task depends on the make and model of your vehicle. The average installation time is three hours, and that’s if you are a pro.

These are the primary stages, but each has several sub-steps, so we advise that you search YouTube for more detailed instructions.

  1. Mount the Compressor
  2. Mount the Solenoid
  3. Build the air distribution assembly
  4. Attach the short wiring harness to the switches
  5. Run the wires in the engine bay
  6. Run the wires to the switches in the passenger compartment
  7. Cut the wiring harness as needed
  8. Re-attach the connector ends
  9. Connect the unit to ignition power and light power