In the off-roading world, product research and development is important because we all tend to use and abuse our equipment. Think about it- what other hobby demands the ability to reliably smash your vehicle against the rocks, drive fast in the sand, conquer water crossings, and then devour pavement miles to get you home? It’s those requirements that really accentuated the need for deep research and development of our products. While I can’t go into detail about the most recent product in development (reveal is in Moab at the Easter Jeep Safari!), I can tell you about the process behind the Thor’s Lightning Midsize/Full-size Air Systems. In the beginning, we sat down and designed the system- it needed to deflate tires quickly, inflate tires quickly, and equalize the tire pressure among all tires the system was connected to. Easy, right? Well- not so much. We ordered air hose in bulk and began building a variety of prototype systems.
We drove all over town and scoured the internet for parts for our nascent Air System: we learned about the difference between open and closed tire chucks, what makes a good air manifold (opening diameters, de-burring materials, what kind of metal it’s made out of), different types of air hose, and more! We were overwhelmed. We pressed forward and created an impressive prototype system, which we took out onto the trail for testing. The first off-road trail we did with our system in hand was busy with side-by-sides peppering the trail head like ants headed for an ant-hill. We used our singular prototype system to air down both of our Jeeps, and amazingly people noticed something cool was afoot and came over to talk to us. Long story short, we ended up with orders for Air Systems! We felt a huge rush of accomplishment in seeing our dream actually work: our idea of focusing heavily on increased air flow through high-quality components was paying off.
After a fun day on the trail, we drove home with the realization that we needed to source A LOT of parts, get a production facility in place, and get the foundation of the business laid: website, distribution, etc. We also suffered from analysis-by-paralysis where we ordered different types of t-fittings, air chucks, air hose, and other assorted parts. We ended up with hundreds of useless manifolds that were made out of aluminum (that was a painful lesson). We crafted numerous combinations of parts, conducted timed tests of air flow, deflation, inflation, and equalization. We quickly realized that the components in an Air System dictates how fast, reliable, and efficient the system was going to be. I know this article is getting technical, so stop now if you don’t want to know more about why we picked our components out of all the available options out there!
Friction loss- those two words are the driving force to anyone involved in the world of Air Systems. So, what affects friction loss? The answer is simple: EVERYTHING! Hose length, material, and diameter. The size and material of the air fittings. Basically the nuts and bolts of a tire pressure management system determine how good the system is going to be. Another huge factor in air flow is the tire chuck itself. Different chucks have different diameters and lock-on mechanisms. For the un-initiated, a tire chuck is that actual connection of the Air System to the tire through the valve stem. What we have learned is the valve stem is the weakest link in the whole set-up, but a quality lock-on tire chuck can hep the valve stem operate at it’s best. To give you an idea- our testing showed that tire chucks alone accounted for an almost 20% difference in tire deflation and inflation times. That’s crazy! The thing is- that’s how deep into research we went. We ended up testing 7 different types of tire chucks alone- and we chose the one that worked the fastest- and also cost the most.
Our thought is that your rig is only as strong as it’s weakest link- and the same ideology can be applied to an air system. That’s why we spent so much time and heartache researching every component of our product. In the end, we want to be out there on the trail with everyone and we want to provide the absolute best equipment. We truly believe you’ll be amazed at the speed our air systems work at, and the top-notch quality.