View Full Version : Formatt Fabrications CO2 Tank - Review Completed! 12/24/05 UPDATE

12-06-2005, 02:01 PM

We've all heard of PowerTank. We've all read the debates of CO2 vs OBA. With the cost of a PowerTank, it gave a lot of advantage to an OBA setup. However, there is a company out there that is selling CO2 tanks at a much lower price than PowerTank. This changes up the debate quite a bit because now CO2 is MUCH more affordable!

Formatt Fabrications started out when a few friends with engineering and architecture backgrounds got together and became frustrated at the lack of high quality custom parts for their XJ's. Being a ZJ owner, I know the feeling!

Formatt makes some very nice custom, handbuilt products for XJ's like rocker panel replacements, LED taillights, tube doors, and also is a dealer Rubicon Express, SkyJacker, and several others.

Now onto the good stuff. I will be testing their 20lb CO2 tank with adjustable regulator and mounting bracket. I will do several tests with the CO2 tank against my 33 gallon 120v Craftsman air compressor. I will time how long it takes to fill a 33x12.50 from 12psi to 35psi, as well as a 245/75R16. I will compare these numbers to my shop compressor to see how fast this tank can fill up your tires. I will also use air tools on the tank to get a feel for those. I basically plan on emptying the tank as fast as I can and then telling you what I was able to accomplish before the tank got emptied.

These are the specs on the tanks:
- 0-150 psi adjustable regulator w/ guages for tires and air tools
- built-in valve guard/handle
- high strength aluminum alloy
- all cylinders are new and certified
- 10lb tank dimensions - height: 21" diameter: 6.875"
- 20lb tank dimensions - height: 28" diameter: 8"
- CO2 tanks are sold empty

Here is what their tank and mounting brackets look like:


More information about Formatt Fabrications can be found at their website: www.formattfab.com (http://www.formattfab.com)

And now, on to the test results!!!

I wanted to put the tank through a good test that real life use could be compared to. Since most of us are familiar with using compressors in the shop, I decided to start off by timing the two in a race. The tire I used is a 33x12.50R15 BFGoodrich Mud Terrain K/M mounted on a 15x8 wheel.

The CO2 tank:

And the Competition! A Craftsman 33 gallon compressor with a 2 HP motor:

I've had the compressor for 2 or 3 years now, so I'm quite familiar with it and have been happy with its performance.

So I aired down a tire to 10 psi and then aired the tire up using the CO2, aired it back down, and then used the compressor. I was quite surprised and impressed at the times.

Formatt Fab CO2 tank: 1:15
Craftsman Compressor: 1:20

So the CO2 tank actually beat the compressor! I had set the adjustable regulators on both units to approximately 100 psi so that should have had no effect on the results. Granted 5 seconds is quite negligible in most situations, but comparing to most of the gas station compressors I've used in the past . . . yeah, I'm stoked.

I also timed my deflators to compare how long it would take to air down vs air up. I've got the little $12.99 jobbers that you screw on the valve stem. Nothing fancy, but they work. And apparently quite SLOW!! They came in at 5:49 from 35 psi to 10 psi! When I air down on the trail I usually do one side at a time, so I'm spending over 10 minutes to air down, and I would air up in half that time!

Now onto the torture test portion of this. I wanted to see what all I could get done with one fill of the tank. Many reviews have just measured how many tires they could air up. Well, I will not be using my CO2 for just airing up, as I have a tendency to break things on the trail as well, so I wanted to measure what I could with air tools as well.

I decided my test would be to not only air up as many tires as I could, but to mount and dismount the wheels from my vehicle. Typical 5x4.5 bolt pattern axle 8.8, so 5 lug nuts per wheel.

I was able to take the wheel off and put it back on 8 times AS WELL as air up the tire from 10 to 35 psi 8 times with my 20lb tank.

Now there is STILL a good amount of CO2 left over in the tank, but the gauge has frozen so that no more CO2 is getting through. This is the nature of the beast with CO2, and seeing as how I used a lot of it really fast, I believe the gauge has frozen. I don't have time to let it thaw today and see how much more I can get out of it, but I will try tomorrow.

My interpretation of these results is that I can air up my Jeep, Pam's Jeep, a couple other Jeeps, AND do some minor trail repairs without using up all of the tank. Since the tank only costs a little over $10 to fill up at a local fire exitnguisher shop, I consider this to be quite a satisfactory performance of the unit and a valued asset on the trail.

Many of us are looking for some sort of solution for a way to have air tools and be able to air up tires on the trail. There are complicated On Board Air systems available, and several MUCH higher priced CO2 units available on the market right now. The Formatt Fab 20lb CO2 tank is a simple design, and works very well. I did not feel any difference in strength in my impact gun over my compressor, and it airs up the tires a hair faster than my compressor does. If you have the room for a 20lb tank, I would recommend going with the 20lb unit. Most of this recommendation comes from my background, as an Eagle Scout I have always believed in Be Prepared, and if it can fit and there's a chance in hell I'll need it, it goes. If you don't have room for a 20lb tank, the 10lb tank would be an excellent alternative!

12/24/05 Update

We used the Formatt Fabrications CO2 tank again today to try and get the Aussie Locker installed, still PLENTY of CO2 left in there. Unfortunately all we were able to do was take the diff cover off and put it back on, but there was still as much power as it when it was first filled!

12-06-2005, 02:12 PM
Looks pretty sweet, any idea roughly what it would cost to fill the tank?

12-06-2005, 02:28 PM
Dave... thanks a bunch for the post!!

Cue-Ball: In Denver here, we pay just under $9.00 to fill the 10# tank and $13.00 to fill the 20# tanks.

(Dave, I'll get you all the info on where to take that thing to get it filled... it's really not too far from your place)

I'm running 35's on my XJ and I can get 6 solid trips out of my 10# tank.. that's 24 tires from 10 psi back up to 26 psi. That's also assuming you're not messing around with the tank to fill up the kids' bicycle tires. :)

It'll take me about 1:15 to fill each tire on the trail. Gotta like that.

12-06-2005, 02:33 PM

Welcome to the boards, I look forward to hearing from Dave how he compares it to his compressor at home.

I am not that familiar with the tanks, how are they with air tools (i.e. impact gun to change tires, etc.)?

Mtn WJ
12-06-2005, 02:40 PM
I bought mine about a year and a half ago and so far it has been great. It cost me about 12bucks to fill it at a welding shop. High Country fills co2 tanks now too for the same price fyi.

I think it was one of the best deals going for co2 especially when you consider that the regulator is fully adjustable in which most other low cost tank set ups are not adjustable. The mount bracket is very beefy too.

I have only filled it once when I first got it. I used it a lot in Moab working on my Jeep running air tools and have re-filled my 32 inch tires from 16 to 34 psi about 5 or 6 times since I bought it. It still reads above the red area on the guage so who knows when it will need to be re-filled.

I generally keep it a 90 psi because at too high of preasure you end up filling your tires too fast and have to bleed them down afterwards and 90 will run most air tools. Another cool thing about the adjustable regulator is I can dial it down to 25 or so and use it as shielding gas for my ready welder. I carry solid core wire just in case but have only used the flux core to date but just in case.

Anxious to see your review. Should be interesting.

By the way there is an anti-siphon type valve on those that other brands do not have. It is very small and can be easily removed. I still have mine on but I may take it off because on extended uses it has developed frost on it. So far it has not restricted the flow.

12-10-2005, 02:58 PM
Matt was kind enough to meet up with Pam down in Castle Rock and drop off the tank, so I will be getting it filled on Monday hopefully and will have some results for everyone here pretty soon!!

12-11-2005, 10:39 PM

Welcome to the boards, I look forward to hearing from Dave how he compares it to his compressor at home.

I am not that familiar with the tanks, how are they with air tools (i.e. impact gun to change tires, etc.)?
Sorry... been swamped with xmas orders!

The tanks are awesome with airtools! I use mine for everything... I don't have air setup at home so when I'm reinstalling control arms and such, I just hook up the CO2 tank instead of doing it by hand.

The regulators are 150 psi adjustable. For filling tires, I set mine to 130. For airtools, 90. If you're not using it much for airtools, set it to 130 and never think about it again.

Keith (mtn wj)... you know, i never even thought about using the CO2 for welding purposes. good call! I see you're getting it filled at High Country... How much are they charging you to fill your 10#'er? Just down the road at Evans, if you head west for about a mile, you goto Red Comet. $8.83 is a hell of a deal!

FYI: I'm running a christmas special until the end of December... check the vendor section.

Thanks for the questions guys.. keep 'em coming!

Mtn WJ
12-12-2005, 06:53 PM

Actually I had mine filled at a welding shop near them but I will check out Red Comet when I need a re-fill next time. HC was around 12 bucks from what they told me when I was there. I only mention it because it would be convinient if you were going there anyway and are open on Saturdays. They sell the Power Tank which in my opinion is way over priced more than twice your sale price. You guys are still the best deal going. I bought mine when you ran your first sale. Ohh yea and I have filled up bike tires with it. Freaks people out when you pull an air house out of your rear hatch to pump up some poor kids bike tire. Just another chance to be an everyday hero.

General Comment for Everyone-
By the way some shops prefer to switch tanks with you instead of filling your own up to save you time. I prefered to keep mine because it was new. When you prefer to keep your tank you will need to allow for 45 minutes or so to have it put in the Freezer before they fill it. This is supposed to give you more volume in the tank versus not freezing it first.

12-13-2005, 06:25 PM

Good call on HC and being able to fill on Saturday.

FYI: Red Comet will cool your tank down first before filling.. love that. :)

12-20-2005, 06:23 PM
Alrighty, got the review done and have added it to the first post in the thread!

12-20-2005, 07:14 PM
Alrighty, got the review done and have added it to the first post in the thread!

Very impressive. Nice unit and a great price.

I too was a boy scout, although much to my dad's disappointment I never became an Eagle Scout, but still I like to be prepared.

Mtn WJ
12-20-2005, 08:28 PM
Well I cant not chime in on the Eagle Scout Theme. I too am a proud Eagle Scout and yes I live by the Motto Be Prepared.

Anyone have a gallon of gas I ran out. J/K

12-20-2005, 08:50 PM
I'm an eagle scout too, believe it or not.


12-21-2005, 12:50 AM
Dave... Really glad to see your results we're what you were wanting!

Also, I'm absolutely positive that you could run this complete test 1 or 2 more times with the left over CO2 in your tank. The best way to know how much you have left is to weigh that thing empty then weigh it full. It should be right around 20# heavier. I'm guessing you probably used maybe a 1/3rd to half of your CO2 in there.

With a 20# tank, you can very easily get 40-45 tire fills, if that's all you're using it for.

Mtn WJ
12-21-2005, 01:38 AM
Yea I was thinking he easily is only about half empty. I have run my 10lbs bottle for a year and it still has co2 in it. I should weigh it before I run the trails. I was told with 32 or 33s you can likely run a full summer of wheeling on one bottle. This ofcourse depends on how many times you wheel and how often you fill up other peoples tires and the amount of repairs using air tools.

Maybe Dave can put it on the scale.

12-21-2005, 02:40 AM
Keith... unless you're not wheeling, you've GOT to be getting low. You should get 6 trips out of your 10# tank. Anymore than that and you're flirting with diasaster. :)

12-21-2005, 03:00 AM
That's the problem, Keith hasn't been wheeling since June!!!

Mtn WJ
12-21-2005, 03:55 AM
Well I think that year started and stopped prior to last June. Besides I would go wheeling except it is illegal to drive in Douglas County with Christmas Lights on your Jeep.

12-21-2005, 03:47 PM
Just went out and hooked the impact up to the CO2 tank and it is indeed NOT empty. Ran the impact for a little bit before I got bored of the cool noises air tools make, lol.

So there is still certainly CO2 left in the tank . . . AWESOME!!!!

12-24-2005, 07:15 PM
See the 12/24/05 Update

01-01-2006, 07:38 PM
VERY sweet - that's about HALF the price of the Power Tank setup I was looking at, and I think that one was only a 15#. I'm gonna go check out the formattfab.com site right now! :)

01-23-2006, 12:04 AM
I am looking at ordering this setup. Can any one tell me what I need to get to make it work with my ARB as well? I just installed an 8.8 and it came with an ARB. It did not come with any of the accessories, just what is inside of the diff. I would like to have a switch mounted near the dash.

01-23-2006, 12:47 AM
IMO I would get a small compressor for the ARB, like the one ARB sells.

01-23-2006, 10:12 AM
Is there a cheaper option than the $265 compressor than the ARB? Seems kinda high.

01-23-2006, 10:17 AM
Oh yeah, one other thing, what other componets will I need, to make it work from inside the Jeep?

02-11-2006, 12:11 PM
I am looking at ordering this setup. Can any one tell me what I need to get to make it work with my ARB as well? I just installed an 8.8 and it came with an ARB. It did not come with any of the accessories, just what is inside of the diff. I would like to have a switch mounted near the dash.

I would PM Colorado 5.9. He runs his ARB off of his PowerTank.

02-11-2006, 12:25 PM

Do something like that.

As you running the lockers off CO2... just plumb them in. Do like this:


But use the Power Tank as the air source. Pretty easy.