GET TO KNOW YOUR HORN KIT
If you're new to aftermarket horns or are considering installing one, understanding how your horn kit works and the components involved can seem intimidating. This guide will walk you through the essential components of a train horn kit, their functions, and how to maintain and troubleshoot your system for optimal performance.
MAIN COMPONENTS: HORN, AIR COMPRESSOR, & AIR TANK
Three main components are crucial to ensuring your horn kit functions correctly: the horn, air compressor, and air tank. The specific horn, air compressor, and air tank you choose will influence not only the sound of your kit but also the capabilities of your onboard air system. Familiarizing yourself with each component will help you make informed decisions when purchasing a kit and ensure your system remains in top condition.
The Horn: The main purpose of the horn kit is, of course, the horn itself. Understanding how it works and the factors that make horns different from one another will help you select the right one for your needs and ensure it continues to perform at its best.
Our kits typically feature two main types of horns: train horns and air horns. Train horns produce a deep, low tone and are generally louder than air horns. In contrast, air horns have a higher pitch and may not be as loud as train horns. However, some air horns can be louder than certain train horns, so personal preference plays a role in choosing the best option.
Various factors determine the sound of a horn, including the bell's shape and length, the materials used, and the air pressure it receives. Many horns have multiple bells and are tuned to produce a specific chord. Generally, larger horns with more bells produce louder sounds. Exceptions to this rule exist, such as our compact Shocker XL Train Horns, which are nearly as loud as a massive metal-cast train horn due to their high-quality components and materials.
Maintaining the horn itself typically requires little effort, but keeping your air system free of moisture and debris will ensure your horn maintains its intended pitch and volume. Since horns inevitably get wet, choosing one with stainless steel diaphragms and regularly draining your air tank will keep your horn sounding perfect every time you use it.
The Air Compressor: The air compressor is the powerhouse of the system. A more powerful air compressor translates to greater capabilities for your kit. Picking the right compressor is crucial, as is understanding how it functions and how to maintain it.
Air compressors intake, filter, and transfer air into your air tank. All horns require a compressor, with louder horns demanding more air and higher pressure. It's important to choose a compressor rated for your tank size and desired pressure.
Air compressors generally fall into two categories: Fast-Fill and Constant or Heavy Duty. Fast-Fill compressors prioritize speed, quickly filling your tank. They're ideal for users who frequently use their horns and want the tank ready for action as soon as possible. Conversely, Constant or Heavy Duty compressors favor a longer or continuous duty cycle over speed. If you plan to use your system for regular pneumatic tasks, like tire inflation or 4x4 air suspension, opt for a compressor with a long or constant duty cycle.
Some compressors, such as HornBlasters 1NM air compressor, combine Fast-Fill and Constant Duty capabilities, providing a constant duty cycle up to 200 PSI and a rapid fill rate.
Proper installation and maintenance are crucial for your compressor. Ensure it's installed upright, protected from moisture and debris, and compatible with your vehicle type. Some compressors, such as our HornBlasters 127H Air Source Unit and 228H Air Source Unit, are designed for indoor use only, while others can withstand the elements. Regardless of the compressor's weather resistance, keeping it as dry as possible will ensure its longevity. If necessary, you can relocate the compressor's filter to a dry area, like a toolbox, using the supplied Air Filter relocation kit.
When installing your compressor, be cautious not to over-torque the check valve – the small metal piece connecting the leader hose from the compressor to your air tank. Set your torque wrench to no more than 15-17 pounds of torque. Over-tightening the check valve can cause damage, leading to air flowing back into your compressor and rendering your air system inoperable. If you don't have a torque wrench, tighten the valve slightly past hand-tight.
The Air Tank: The air tank's size determines the amount of air available for your system. Familiarizing yourself with your air tank is vital for choosing the right size and maintaining it for optimal system longevity.
The air tank size influences your system's capabilities. For instance, a 1-gallon air tank will not provide sufficient air to power a set of Nathan AirChimes. While having more air is generally better than less, consider factors like available space on your vehicle and compressor compatibility. Most compressors are rated for up to 5 gallons, so you'll need a compressor for every 5 gallons of air capacity.
If you plan to use your system solely for honking the horns, the air tank size will determine how long you can continuously blast your horns. Generally, each gallon of air allows for about 2 seconds of blast time. A 2-gallon kit, for example, provides around 4-5 seconds of continuous honking.
To maintain your air tank and the entire system, it is crucial to drain the air tank regularly. Moisture buildup in the components due to infrequent tank draining is the leading cause of customer issues with horn kits. Spending a few minutes to drain the tank occasionally can extend your system's lifespan and potentially save you hundreds of dollars in replacement parts. Install the drain at the bottom of the tank, where water collects. To use it, turn the drain counterclockwise until air and moisture are released, then tighten it before refilling the tank with air.
MINOR COMPONENTS: PRESSURE SWITCH, SOLENOID VALVE, SAFETY BLOW-OFF, & AIR GAUGE
Pressure Switch, Solenoid Valve, Safety Blow-Off, & Air Gauge While the air tank, air compressor, and horns are the primary components of your kit, several minor parts are essential for a functional horn kit. Correct installation and maintenance of these parts are crucial for your kit's longevity.
The Pressure Switch: A vital component in your kit, the pressure switch automatically turns your compressor on and off. Some pressure switches have a built-in relay, while others require wiring to the relay. Make sure you have a sealed pressure switch if you expect your vehicle to be regularly exposed to water or dirt.
The Solenoid Valve: Also known as the Air Valve, the solenoid valve controls the airflow to your horns. Understanding its function ensures that your horns sound off at your command. These valves are directional, so confirm the arrow on the brass part of the valve is in the direction of flow during installation.
The Safety Blow-Off: This component relieves pressure in emergencies. Should a pressure switch fail and cause over-pressurization, the safety blow-off valve releases pressure from the tank, preventing an explosion. Make sure you have a properly installed safety blow-off valve on your tank.
The Air Gauge: The air gauge monitors the air pressure in the tank, helping diagnose issues with your onboard air system. Installing an air gauge can save you time and money by identifying problems quickly and accurately.
As you explore the world of train horns and on-board air systems, remember that new technology is continually emerging. If you have any questions not covered here, feel free to reach out via phone, email, or chat. Happy honking!
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
While we cover the basics here, there is still so much more to learn about Train Horns, On-Board Air and what they are capable of, with new technology being made available constantly. You now have the tools to get the most out of your horn kit, but it doesn’t stop here! We are always available by phone, email or chat should you have any questions that we didn’t cover here. Happy Honking!