A few weeks ago I met up with Brian, a ToolGuyd contributor, and I spotted a Kobalt compressor (model 236005) in his shop. This unit is no longer available for sale at Lowes, but I’ve recently seen quite a few of them for sale on Craigslist and ebay, and carbon-copy units are still available at other retailers.
Based on our discussion, it became clear that this wasn’t a compressor many would want to consider buying at full price, or even used at a huge discount. Following is Brian’s review of the unit, including a discussion of how he handled some of the major problems he’s had with it.
I purchased this 17 gallon 1.5HP Kobalt air compressor in 2005 as a closeout sale at a local Lowes Home Improvement warehouse. Since then, the air compressor has seen very little use in a non-commercial environment.
When I first used the air compressor, I noticed how incredibly loud the unit is. When it comes time to fill up the 17 gallon tank, don’t plan on being in the garage without hearing protection handy, you’ll need it. Oil-free compressor pumps are going to be loud, but this unit was perhaps way too loud.
After a couple of light-duty uses, I noticed the regulator started to get loose. Initially, I considered that the regulator was just breaking in and would free up a little with continued use. Well that wasn’t the case at all – as it loosened more and more , I realized that the regulator was started to strip out! After examining it, I noticed that the regulator was made up of very light grade aluminum.
The fine threaded plastic knob attached to the regulator had completely stripped out of the aluminum block after simply using the regulator properly. It’s not like it was abused or mistreated. To repair the threads, I completely disassembled the regulator and re-threaded the aluminum block to accept a coarser thread. One threaded rod and rubber knob later and the regulator worked much better than the factory setup.
When the air compressor fills the tank to 150 psi red line, the unit automatically shuts off. If the unit is left full, it will slowly leak at both the hose connection and at the safety relief valve. After some time the tank will drop down to about 120-125psi, while continuing to leak. I have made proper adjustments and tightened all connections, but the unit still leaks. It is only a matter of time before the leaks get worse.
In the last year or so, the air intake port became loose and now needs tightening every time I use the unit. The compressor vibrates so much when pumping air that it always works the connection loose.
Given the quality and performance issues I’ve experienced with this compressor, I certainly wouldn’t buy it again – even at a discount. Despite its flaws, this unit still serves my needs enough that I cannot justify purchasing a larger or costlier unit. For my next compressor, I will probably try a smaller unit or at least one that is built a lot better than this one.
The compressor came bundled with an air tool kit, and for the most part those tools haven’t disappointed me yet.
On a scale of 1-10, I would rate this product a 6. Its only redeeming quality was that it was fairly inexpensive (and now I know why).
A little googling reveals that some other Kobalt compressors, such as their 1.5HP 26 gallon unit, also suffer from a stripped regulator manifolds and leaky connections.