Inflate tires with your Micro-start

I make no secret of my continually renewed admiration for Antigravity Batteries’ Micro-Start XP-1 and XP-10 battery pack/jump-start kits. The half-dozen or so of them scattered among the Overland Expo training team have been used and abused beyond reason, and they continue to function. We’ve started everything from motorcycles to 460-cubic-inch gasoline engines to turbodiesels. We’ve hooked three in series and produced excellent field welds (much to the horror of company president Scott Schafer). We make sure one is in any vehicle we’re driving.

Motorcyclists have begun carrying the smaller XP-3 and XP-5 Mini, freeing them as well from the tyranny of jumper cables or the need for a good Samaritan if caught with a discharged battery. Now Antigravity has come up with a cunning little air compressor, about the size of a sandwich, that can either be powered from a Micro-Start battery or plugged into a standard cigarette lighter socket.

I expected it to perform as well as the company’s other products, and it did: A quick test on Roseann’s R80 G/S took the front Continental 90/90-21 tire from 8 PSI to 35 PSI in two minutes flat, and the compressor didn’t even get warm doing so. The inflation hose is only about three inches long, so the pump simply hangs off its screw-on chuck. A dedicated 18-inch cord connects it to a Micro-Start power source (I used our XP-1); the ten-foot cigarette-lighter cord is long enough to reach into a vehicle or to another motorcycle.

Of course, since this is a Micro-Start product, there's by now a certain assumption we'll abuse it. So I left the compressor hooked up to the power pack and connected it to a 235/85 16 BFG AT KO2 on our Tacoma. Ambient temperature was 95ºF. The tire was at 20 PSI; 16 minutes and 30 seconds later it had reached its nominal 40 PSI, and the compressor, while quite warm to the touch, was still buzzing away happily. The power pack still showed three of five status lights. So, while I certainly wouldn't use this as a primary compressor for a four-wheeled vehicle, in a pinch it would suffice.

What more can I say, except I hope the manufacturer edits the features list on the box. The tire inflator is yet another excellent offering from Antigravity Batteries. And at $25 it is a bargain.

The Microstart XP-10

Since I first reviewed the Micro-Start XP-1 kit (here), it has done nothing but continue to impress me. Besides seriously abusing it by setting up an in-the-field welding system using two additional units wired in series, I’ve started a giant 460-cubic-inch V8, and have demonstrated it numerous times. Yet it recharges quickly and holds its capacity for months with little loss. When asked about it I tend to gush uncharacteristically.

The only “failure” I experienced occurred when I tried to jump-start our old Mercedes 300D turbodiesel. The combination of amperage-hungry glow plugs and an 18:1 compression ratio finally defeated the XP-1—it groaned silently to a halt before the engine could catch. I put “failure” in quotes because that was expressly beyond the manufacturer’s design parameters and thus could hardly be considered the unit’s fault. (Antigravity Batteries also lists 400 cubic inches as the upper limit for starting gasoline engines, but I comfortably exceeded that.)

Recently the company sent me a new, larger unit called the XP-10. Still almost unbelievably lightweight (17 ounces compared to the XP-1’s 15), it’s claimed to be fully turbodiesel capable.

And indeed it proved so on the chilly 50-degree morning I tried it, first disconnecting the 300D’s battery cables, then hooking up the Micro-Start’s clamps. I turned the key, the glow-plug lamp came on and then went off, indicating readiness—and a farther turn of the key resulted in an immediate five-cylinder diesel rattle. 

It’s difficult to overstate how significantly the Micro-Start changes the safety dynamics of backcountry travel, particularly for solo travelers. In the past you either relied on a single battery for both starting and ancillaries, perhaps in conjunction with a low-voltage cutout, and basically prayed not to have a problem, or you went to the expense, complexity, and weight of a dual-battery system. With a Micro-Start along it’s like having a second (or third) starting battery in your coat pocket. Even if you rely on a single-battery system and it dies completely, once you jump with the Micro-Start the unit can be recharged via a cigarette lighter outlet while the vehicle is running, and be ready to work again in a couple hours. (In fact it can normally accomplish four or five starts in a row with no recharging at all if the engine is in good tune.) That should get you back safely and easily from the most remote stranding.

Jeez, I’m gushing again. Just get one.


Antigravity Batteries is here