How to use a CO2 inflator

There’s no need to be scared of using a CO2 inflator and indeed once you’ve watched this essential ‘how to’ guide and learned Paul’s “top tips” you’ll never look back. A CO2 inflator can save a great deal of hassle, is easy to use and fits neatly in any bike pack or jersey pocket. There are different styles however, so Paul explains what each does and how they work.

Video Transcript

How to use a CO2 inflator

Okay, so in this tutorial we’re going to be talking everything CO2 inflator.


Now a CO2 inflator is a type of pump that instead of you using air by pulling the pump shaft in and out, we just use a carbon dioxide canister to inflate the tyre. Now, there’s a number of things to understand about CO2 inflators so we’re going to be covering all of those in this video.


What we’re going to be covering is how to use a CO inflator. We’re going to be looking at the common mistakes that people make with CO2 inflators. We’re going to be looking at all the different types of CO2 inflators that are available. And then finally, we’re going to inflate this wheel – we are going to take the air out of it, and then we’re going to re inflate this wheel using a CO2 inflator so we’re going to actually show you how to use it. So let’s get cracking into this tutorial.


So first what is a CO2 inflator. A CO2 inflator uses one of these, which is a carbon dioxide cartridge. Usually they’re around 16 grams. There are one time use, they will inflate a road tyre, they’ll inflate a gravel bike tyre, inflate a mountain bike tyre up to pressure to be able to allow you to keep riding. And they also come in 20 gram cartridges. So if you have a fat bike, or a plus size tyre, then sometimes a 20 gram cartridge can be worth having. But other than that the 16 gram cartridges are absolutely fine.


Like the Betamax and VHS race of its day, you used to get two types of attachments for a CO2 cartridge. You used to get the non threaded push fit design and then you got the threaded design. The threaded design, like VHS won out in that particular war, so majority of the inflaters that we sell, usually the Bontrager product use the threaded type system so you can get these anywhere in the world basically. So wherever you are travelling, you can you can get cartridges.


A CO2 inflator uses carbon dioxide, and then there are different types of inflators that you can use to put the CO2 cartridges into so that is what we’re going to be covering next. So whilst there are lots of manufacturers of inflators, there’s pretty much two types of CO2 inflator that you can get.


You can get the traditional, what we call air Chuck, which is one of these where you have

just a threaded section at the bottom here that the canister screws into. And then you have the section here that goes on to the valve itself. And this particular design is really quite neat because it just literally has a sprung system that once you’ve got CO2 cartridge mounted in here in charge, you put it onto the valve, you just push down and that will then release the CO2 into the tire and inflate so there’s no extra valve tap on the top of this particular inflator. So it just makes it really (a) maintenance free and (b) the longevity of it is very, very good indeed. So that’s what we call just an Air Chuck, CO2 inflator.


The next type we’ve already seen in one of the videos before. This is what we call a hybrid system. And what you have is you’ve got a small pump. So again, as we mentioned in the previous video, if you run out CO2 canisters because of the number of punctures that you’ve had, you do have a get out of jail free card, which is a pump here as well.


Now it is incredibly low volume but high pressure so it will take you ages to inflate a tyre using this pump, but it’s there nevertheless. Then on the top of this particular inflator, you have the part you should just be able to see it just there. You’ve got the part that then accepts the CO2 cartridge. And this has got a valve at the top that we turn the tap open to open the channel for the CO2 to actually go through and into the valve that gets attached onto the bike using this part here. This is actually quite clever, because this is, with the valve in its inner position, this works with a Schrader type valve. And then we can just unscrew that and it just pulls out. As you can see there, it just pulls out and now that is set up to run a Presta valve. So this will use both Presta and a Schrader system so it’s really quite a neat little thing this, this pump. It even at the bottom of the pump itself, it’s got another screw thread on the bottom so you can actually store your canister at the bottom in a non charge state. And then it comes the kit comes with a mounting for the actual frame itself underneath the water bottle so it can just mount onto the bike with your CO2 inflator there, but it is very, very light so most people, to be honest, will put it either in a seat pack or in in the jersey pocket. But both of those options are open to you with a particular type of pump.


So those are the two systems, you’ve just got your air Chuck. And then secondly, you’ve got your hybrid pump and air chuck system. So let’s now go and find out how you actually attach a CO2 cartridge onto the pump and get it charged and ready to go.


Okay, so you’re on the road side, you’ve got a puncture, it’s quite deflating (I’m here all week). And we have your pump. We have your CO2 cartridge, so it’s now time to join the two together. So, the first thing that we need to do is we need to screw the CO2 cartridge into the part of the CO2 inflator that has the piercing system. As you can probably see, just on the end, the CO2 canister is obviously closed and that gets pierced. Hopefully the camera can pick that up, but it gets pierced by a little piercing rod inside the end of the pump.


Now, where so many people make a mistake is they don’t check the air tap (unlike the air Chuck that’s using a spring system). This one’s actually using a valve tap just like your tap at home. So you must make sure it’s closed before you put a new cartridge into the end of the inflator. Because obviously as you pierce it, it will then just exhaust out of out of the tap. So that’s common mistake number one. Number two is so making sure that that is closed. We then screw the cartridge into the end and you will feel the cartridge the sealed cartridge come up against the piercing part.


Now this is where so many people panic because they carry on inflating so that the piercing part goes through the cartridge. But of course, the cartridge isn’t yet sealed up against the rubber O ring that’s inside the end of the pump. So what basically happens is, is that you pierce the cartridge and you will lose, you’ll hear some hissing of the CO2 inflator, and you’ll lose some CO2 whilst it seating boss you’re screwing it and seating it against a rubber O ring and this is where so many people panic and go it’s broken, it’s not working, and then they lose all of their pressure in the CO2.


So my top tip is to feel when the CO2 canister gets up against the piercing part, then redo your grip. And you’ll, you’ll hear I’ll shut up while I’m doing this. And what you’re going to hear is the CO canister get pierced, and then you’ll hear it all stop hissing as we then tighten up against the rubber O ring. So we’re going to do that just now.


There we go, possibly didn’t hear anything, it’s such a good system is there so that is now pierced and charged and ready to go. And what we’re going to do just to show that that is working fine. I’m just going to put it on to the Presta system just there. And if I just open the tap you can probably just see – there we go. So that is now CO2 coming through the tap through the valve, and would if it was attached to a wheel would then be now inflating our our tyre.


So now I’ve used a little bit of CO2, we’re not going to get full inflation on this in during the demonstration, but it’s going to be good enough to show you show the tyre inflating using the CO2 system.


So hopefully you can see here we’ve got a completely deflated tyre and everything is, is now out of this particular tyre. So we’ve got our presta valve with the valve open and ready to accept our CO2 inflator and inflate the tyre up. So again, we’ve got this inflator into the Presta system. So we’re going to push this over and screw the end of the inflator on that’s it. So that’s the inflator on and then what we’re going to do is we’re going to just open the tap and you’ll be able to see tyre inflate.


And there we go. That is the tyre now inflated. Now obviously there’s going to be more pressure that could go in with a completely fresh CO2 canister. We lost a bit whilst demonstrating how the how the system worked, but that is your tyre inflated and that will be ready to go. So just make sure the tap’s closed. We’ll unscrew the pressure valve off there. Take the inflator away, and then close our valve cap on the pressure valve. So that is our tyre reinflated using the co2 system. Works absolutely brilliantly and you can see just how fast it is to reinflate using a CO2 system as opposed to using a small hand pump. So if you can get the confidence to be able to use one of these systems, it’s really going to be beneficial to you. So we’re now going to move on to common mistakes with CO2 inflators.


Number one we’ve already covered and that is if you’ve got the hybrid style system that uses a valve cap, as opposed to a sprung system to release the CO2 is making sure before you put the CO2 cartridge and pierce the end of the cartridge, making sure that that tap is closed, otherwise you lose all of your CO2 and then won’t be able to inflate your tyre. So that is common mistake number one.


The next mistake that we see is a little bit of chemistry now. So CO2 molecules are smaller than air molecules. So if you re inflate your tire using a CO2 cartridge, within 72 hours or so afterwards, you come back to your bike, your tyre will be completely flat. And the reason is that whilst tyres are built with phenomenal tolerances, they’re designed around the larger air molecules as opposed to the smaller carbon dioxide molecules. So whilst you should reinflate your tyre before every ride, as we’ve already discussed in the pump section of the video, if you have reinflated you tyre using a CO2 cartridge when you get home deflate your tyre immediately and re pump it up with air. The amount of new inner tubes over the years before somebody who actually told me about this, myself the amount of new inner tubes that I’ve thrown away thinking that it’s been repunctured because it’s absolutely flat when it came back to it a couple of days later, isn’t true. So when you get home deep like the tire reinflate with using your truck pump, and you’ll be good to go.


And really, those are the two main issues that we see with co2. Other than that there is no negatives. It’s all about confidence. It’s all about knowledge of how to use it and also knowing those common mistakes that people have. So we really hope you find this this tutorial useful. And, again, we’ve got a full range in store of CO2 inflators and pumps. So if you’re interested in CO2 inflators do let us know, and we’ll be delighted to help you.