Rolair JC10 Air Compressor — Review

© 2013 Peter Free


17 May 2012 (updated 04 January 2013)


Photograph of Rolair JC10 air compressor for review by Peter Free.


The above photograph shows the pipe plug and new output coupler (both installed and circled in green) that Rolair sent me to get my JC10 operating properly at altitude.


Updated information regarding country of origin — China, not the USA


The previous version of this review’s title indicated that the Rolair was made in the USA, which I had been led to believe at the time.


Joseph Raymond ( informed me in January 2013 that he had talked to Rolair and the unit is now manufactured in China, with quality control being done in the United States.  We can infer what that means in practice.  Especially given the initial woes that I experienced with mine in 2012.



Rolair’s excellent customer service fixed 3 significant problems with my JC10


Excellent customer service made the difference for me.


I may buy a Rolair again.



Mechanical problems on arrival


My JC10 arrived from Acme Tools (a vendor that I also recommend) with 3 significant problems, any one of which would have prevented it from operating properly:


(1) The unit’s cold start valve would not seal properly, meaning that the air tank would not fill — unless I first sealed it with my finger


(2) The pressure regulator’s plastic adjustment handle (an inverted cup) sheared off at the adjustor shaft — forcing me to use pliers on the regulator’s metal shaft to adjust the air pressure


(3) The output air hose coupler leaked so much that the compressor had to run continuously to keep up with it — which would quickly have seized the oilless compressor pump


Rolair’s very capable and helpful customer service


Rolair’s customer service proved to be as they advertise.


The company uses an email system to handle customer interactions.  This system works more efficiently than the telephone.  And it leaves you with a record of what you said to whom.


Doug Schlefke, national service manager, responded to my initial email within an hour.  He immediately arranged for me to drop the unit off at a local authorized service facility.  I was on my way there, within 2 hours of sending Mr. Schlefke my initial advisement.


Repairs, however, took a week.  When I got the JC10 back from the service facility, the unit still did not work properly:


Even when the cold start valve would eventually click in, the compressor ran for 40 to 45 seconds beforehand, without beginning to fill the air tank.


And about 40 percent of the time, I still had to put a finger over the cold start valve to get it to click shut and fill the tank.


The air hose coupler still leaked as much as it had before the warranty work.


I recontacted Mr. Schlefke.  He arranged to mail me a pipe plug to replace the cold start valve and a tighter style of coupler.  I received them a week later.


I installed the plug and coupler, and the unit now works properly.  I am pleased with it.



Explanation for the cold start valve problems — altitude


Mr. Schlefke observed that air compressors lose about 4 percent efficiency for every 1,000 feet (305 meters) of altitude.


Since I live at 6,200 feet (1,890 meters), he thought the pump was not building pressure fast enough to close the cold start valve.  His hypothesis accords with my finger-covering solution to the valve’s obstinacy.


That is why he recommended removing the cold start valve and replacing it with a pipe plug.  He had run into the same problem with someone else who lived at 6,000 feet.



The JC10’s considerable virtues


Exceptional quietness is the JC10’s premier virtue.  It can be used indoors without bothering anyone.


I use the compressor for small jobs like running a pneumatic upholstery stapler.  Like the Fasco stapler that I reviewed, here.


The JC10 is the smallest of Rolair’s air compressors.  And most people can carry it in one hand via its thoughtfully located handle.  It makes for a workable “going upstairs” package.


You can see the JC10’s specifications, here.



Quietness — two videos for proof


Dan Fox, Quiet Air Compressor! New Rolair Oilless Comparison, Rolair via YouTube (13 May 2011)


Dave Reinhold, Rolair JC10 Compressor Review, Festool Owners Group via YouTube (21 August 2011) (this video shows Dave using tools that are considerably more demanding of air supply than my stapler)


Minor negatives


(1) The machine’s horizontally facing pressure gauges cannot be seen from a standing position.


       They should have been designed to tilt upward.


As it is, if you do want to see the gauges, you will either have to stoop down to look or place the unit on a table.


(2) The JC10’s owner’s manual is comparatively poor. 


My sample of the manual made no mention of the cold start valve.  Nor did it show it on the parts diagram.  And it was not listed in the abbreviated trouble-shooting section.


The manual’s operating instructions were not properly keyed to the either of the manual’s two diagrams.  And both diagrams were so small, and their visual perspectives so obtusely chosen, that readers could not be certain that they actually comprehended what Rolair intended to convey.


Nor did the manual include an explanation of how the machine should operate.  I had no idea whether the 40 to 45 second preliminary no-fill period was normal.  It wasn’t.



Here, I am indebted to Dave Reinhold’s video, in which he says that his JC10 filled its tank from empty to peak pressure in about 45 seconds.


Since this is an oilless compressor, I would assume that overheating it is just asking for trouble.  Consequently, the manual should mention recommended limits for continuous pump operation.


Note — January 2013


Joseph Raymond told me that he learned that the unit’s prescribed duty cycle is 70 percent, which is not mentioned in the manual.


(3) There is no mention anywhere in the owner’s manual (or in Rolair’s advertising) regarding possible problems with using the JC10 at altitude.


Given that millions of people in the mountain west live at altitudes similar to mine or higher, Rolair ideally would have thought to warn us that some modifications might be required.


Recommended — if you can’t find a true “made in USA” unit


I long ago concluded that the best measure of people and corporations is how they cope with customer difficulties.


Rolair gets an A for coping efficiently with the problems that I had with my JC10. The unit, now modified to cope with moderate altitude, works very well for the light duty indoor purpose that I bought it.