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What is Air Start?

February 9th, 2015

For land-based reciprocating and turbine engines, the term "Air Start" generically refers to a type of engine starting system.  The main component of this system, from which it derives its name, is the Air Starter.  An air starter is a mechanical device that utilizes stored energy in compressed air or gas to create the necessary power and torque to start an engine.  More specifically, an air starter is designed to work with reciprocating engines that are equipped with a ring-gear attached to the flywheel. 

Often there is some confusion that accompanies the usage of the term "air start" because while it generally refers to air starter based systems, it might also be used to describe air-in-head or direct start systems.  While both an air starter and air-in-head system use compressed air to start an engine, an air starter utilizes an air motor to rotate the flywheel while an air-in-head system directly injects compressed air into the cylinder.  Direct air systems can be highly effective, typically for large-scale engines, but they tend to be technically complex and require a significant amount of maintenance and expenditure in order to ensure reliability.    

TDI 56S Turbine Air Starter installed on a Solar Saturn engine

TDI 56S Turbine Air Starter installed on a Solar Saturn engine

By comparison, an air starter is a mechanically simple product that can be integrated into many pre-existing engine room set-ups with relative ease.  Requiring only compressed air or gas, something frequently available in most engine rooms, with the right piping configuration and regulation of pressure, air start presents an economical and reliable option for any business operating large scale engines from 5 to 1300L in size.  Furthermore, air starters are adaptable to a wide range of engine types, with models capable of starting both reciprocating and turbine engines fueled by diesel or natural gas. 

However, while an air starter does provide a great many benefits, it should be stressed that although it is a key component, it only represents a portion of an air start system.  Unfortunately, over time air starters have come to be viewed as a mere "bolt-on product" rather than an important asset within a larger essential system.  In the same sense that an air starter is only as valuable as the air or gas system that supports it, an engine is only valuable if it can actually start and run.  Without a holistic, long-term approach, starting can become an incredibly expensive, perennial problem not only involving the frequent replacement of broken and damaged starters and engine components, but also considerable amounts of revenue lost through engine downtime. 

Two Ingersoll Rand ST1000 Air Starters installed on a EMD 16-710 engine

Two Ingersoll Rand ST1000 Air Starters installed on a EMD 16-710 engine

In order to serve our customers in the best way possible, our approach emphasizes system and solution-based thinking rather than product sales.  Undeniably, our experience has shown that "air start" describes an engine starting system, not simply the presence of an air starter.  Cardinal Valley’s goal as Air Starting System Specialists is to assist our customers in developing and maintaining their systems at a level that ensures the proper function of the air starter and the ability to start the engine every time, on demand.  

Our website is designed to help customers walk through the process of selecting which starter might be right for their application based on the starter Type, Manufacturer, the customer’s Industry, or the Engine application. View our selection of air starters

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