I have a small, 5 gallon, pancake compressor which has a maximum 150PSI rating. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the air capacity to power the demands of an HVLP paint sprayer or a die grinder without the loud motor kicking on.

Porter Cable Pancake Compressor

To increase the air capacity, I'm considering adding an auxiliary, portable air tank . The manual clearly says it is rated for 125PSI maximum, but the air relief valve has 140PSI Max rating punched on it. To keep it from blowing off, I'm planning on replacing it with a 150PSI one.

Auxiliary Air Tank

I also thought about derating the air compressor by setting it to 125PSI, but the pressure switch cannot be adjusted, at least not without replacing it.

I'm terrified of the tank exploding and covering me with shrapnel. At the same time, however, I have a hard time believing a mere 25PSI or 10PSI (depending on whether you believe the manual or the relief value) would cause the tank to explode. Is this a valid concern?


3 Answers 3


Don't do it!!

Just buy a pressure regulator to put between the two tanks that will decrease the pressure to below 125. You can get these for \$17 at home depot (https://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-1-4-in-NPT-Regulator-with-Gauge-41155HOM/205331831) and maybe even cheaper elsewhere.

I'm terrified of the tank exploding and covering me with shrapnel.

This is a valid concern. You should treat pressure vessels as if they were bombs, because in some sense they are. Failures are "Not Good".

I have a hard time believing a mere 25PSI or 10PSI (depending on whether you believe the manual or the relief value) would cause the tank to explode.

Well, in some sense, you are right. If you take a tank rated to 125 psi and put 135 psi in it, it probably won't have an issue. But the magic word there is "probably". Let's quantify that. We can't answer the question "is it safe?" as if it was a yes or no answer. It's more like a probability that there will be in issue.

why should we think in terms of probability? Well, what determines the strength of the tank? For starters, there is the thickness of the wall. There are always manufacturing variations. Some tanks will be a tiny (thousandths of an inch) thicker, and others thinner. So due to this, some will fail at a slightly higher pressure, and others at slightly lower pressure. There are many other sources of variation, but this easiest to think about, so let's stop here.

Now I'm going to make up some numbers here, but it will illustrate the point. At the rate pressure, 125 psi, the probability of failure is very very small. Maybe not zero, but small. Let's just say 1 in 10 billion for sake of argument (i.e. every person in the world has an air tank, one of them explodes at the rated pressure). Now, if you go a little above the rated pressure, say 130 psi, now maybe 10 out of those 10 billion have an issue. It's still a pretty small number of tanks that have an issue, so you keep going. At 135 psi, now maybe 1000 out of the 10 billion (or 1 out of every 10 million) have an issue. At 140 psi, it's 1 out of every 100,000. At 145 psi, it's one out of every 10,000. and at 150 psi, it's 1 out of every 1,000.

Again, I'm just making up the numbers, but you get the point. It's like a game of russian roulette. If you are just a tiny bit over in pressure, you're "probably" good. But the higher you go, the riskier it becomes. Most tanks won't have an issue at a little bit over the rated pressure, but how do you know if yours is the unlucky weakest one?

Given that you can stay within the rated pressure with a $17 part, it's just not worth taking the risk

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I won't need the $17 part, since my compressor has a built in output pressure regulator. I was hoping for something like a pressure regulator but limits the incoming pressure to a fixed 125psi. It would prevent manually exceeding the 125 PSI. Unfortunately, I don't know what they are called. $\endgroup$
    – user148298
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ @user148298 try to look for "pressure regulator valve" they should be built to stop the flow of medium as soon as the pressure on its output exceeds some set value. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 14:45

A 10 or 25 psig overpressure of a tank is well into a potential failure for the tank. The 140 psig safety valve is used because that accounts for the true pressure capability of the tank plus the tolerance in lift pressure for the safety valve. If you replace it with a 150 psig valve, you are risking the tank building up pressure past it's breaking point to reach the point when the 150 psig safety valve opens - the tank will vent via rupture before the valve has a chance to do anything.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow! Your answer is a bit unsettling. It's terrifying a tank with such a tight tolerance can be sold for consumer use, especially when it is sold alongside compressors with higher PSI ratings. I would expect a 20% margin as these tanks are meant to be filled by other compressors. $\endgroup$
    – user148298
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 3:19
  • $\begingroup$ These are commodity items, so they are designed to be as inexpensive as possible, so that means using the least amount of metal. The relief valve is there to prevent a catastrophic failure if a higher discharge pressure compressor is filling the tank, but if you change that relief valve, you are likely removing that layer of protection. $\endgroup$
    – J. Ari
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ A typical maximum test pressure is 30% above maximum working pressure. At standard temperature. A consumer pressure vessel should be good for 130% at maximum rated temperature, which means it shouldn't kill you at 120% at room temperature, unless you use it more than once. Which is good, because killing consumers is generally a bad thing. If it does fail, it won't be on the first attempt: it will be after you've forgotten about it, and your kids are playing nearby. Pressure ratings are to protect you from failure, not from stupidity :~) $\endgroup$
    – david
    Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 5:07

If you have the Porter Cable compressor pictured, there's a regulator on the outlet. You could set that to 100 psi and fill your tank and be fine. As everyone has mentioned if you fill it to 150 psi you'll probably kill yourself or at least soil some underwear when one of the end caps explode.


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