Using an air compressor with your paint gun helps make the project faster, more effective, and more efficient. But, getting a good quality air compressor is not as easy as some people think because you need to surf hundreds of websites, read users’ remarks, etc.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of compressors with honest reviews and pros and cons (based on user reviews) so that you can easily choose the best air compressor for automotive painting.
This article will discuss ten of the best air compressors to paint cars. Also, we will explain what size air compressor is best for painting cars and air compressor features to consider when choosing the right air compressor.
- 1 Best Air Compressor for Automotive Painting
- 1.1 1. Senco PC1010 Hotdog Air Compressor
- 1.2 2. California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor
- 1.3 3. Master Airbrush Air Compressor Airbrushing System
- 1.4 4. California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet
- 1.5 5. DEWALT Air Compressor – HandCarry with Wheels
- 1.6 6. WEN Oil-Free Vertical Electric Air Compressor
- 1.7 7. CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor
- 1.8 8. PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor
- 1.9 9. DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor
- 1.10 10. Makita MAC5200 3.0 HP* Big Bore™ Air Compressor
- 2 How to Select an Air Compressor for Automotive Painting?
- 3 How to Install a Paint Gun with an Air Compressor?
- 4 How to Maintain your Air Compressor for Painting Jobs?
- 5 What are the Benefits of Using an Air Compressor for Automotive Painting?
- 6 Electric Air Compressor or Gas-Powered: Which One is Best for Automotive Painting?
- 7 Should I Try Painting my Car?
- 8 Steps to Take Before Painting Your Car?
- 9 How to Paint a Car Using a Small Air Compressor?
- 10 Common Problems with Air Compressors & Paint Guns
- 11 What size air compressor for painting cars?
- 12 Conclusion
- 13 FAQ’s
Best Air Compressor for Automotive Painting
The Senco air compressor is an ideal air compressor for small work. It has proved to be ideal for nailers and drivers. You can deliver many drivers in a minute, making the small easier and more convenient.
The Senco air compressor is the smallest air compressor available, with only 1-gallon of an air tank. The compressor has ½ horsepower and 125 PSI, and this small air compressor takes less time to fill and gets empty very soon.
The compressor is the best cheap air compressor for painting cars. The only thing is it will perform the task in steps. As the compressor is small, it does not have enough capacity to work for a long time, and you need to let it rest for a while. It is a well-built and quiet compressor.
The Senco hotdog air compressor comes with the following specification:
- The compressor is portable and lightweight.
- It has 1.4 CFM and 125 PSI.
- The compressor comes with a 1-gallon air tank.
- It can deliver 20-44 drives in a minute.
It is one of the best air compressors for auto painting. It has a large air tank of 8-Gallon which makes it easier to work with it for a long time. The oil-free compressor is ideal for many purposes. Since it is an oil-free compressor, it does not need regular maintenance, but it makes its lifespan shorter.
The California air compressor has a steel tank with 60 decibels of sound, making it ideal for indoor and environments where quieter air compressors are required.
You can use painting tools and projects with the compressor, but you will need a larger air compressor for car paint, and you will have to do it in 2-3 steps if you want to use this one.
The 1 Horsepower motor works at 1680 RPM, and it is durable and efficient as it has 3000 hours of working time.
The California air compressor has the following specifications:
- The compressor comes with a wheel kit and air filters
- It works on 110V with 120 PSI max.
- It has minimum running watts of 2500.
- The sound level of the compressor is only 60 dBA.
- It can work continuously for 30-60 min.
- It works on 8.5 amps.
- It needs less maintenance as it is an oil-free compressor.
- The compressor comes with an 8-gallon air compressor.
Master airbrush air compressors are ideal for painting purposes. It has high-quality brushes that allow efficient painting. It comes with three brushes.
An instruction manual is included to help you understand and use the compressor. It has two brush holders that make it easier to use and enhance efficiency.
The master airbrush has the following specifications:
- It comes with another 3 of the best-selling airbrushes.
- It comes with a bonus master airbrush, a quick start guide, and a resource access card center of the airbrush.
- It performs higher performance with its ⅕ HP.
- It has a single-piston with 2-cooling fans, protecting it from getting heated.
- The compressor comes with an airbrush holder for two brushes.
- It comes with a water-based acrylic airbrush paint kit.
The California air compressor is an oil-free Ultra-quiet series designed specifically for indoor and workshop environments. The 2-HP motor of the compressor works on 1680 RPMand works for a long time without needing rest.
The durable and portable compressor has dual piston pumps and 3000 houses of working duration. The compressor can work in any environment without needing maintenance. If you are looking for a compressor with high power, less maintenance, a large air tank, and less noise is ideal for you.
The California air tool comes with the following specifications:
- The compressor has 70 decibels which makes it a quiet compressor.
- It is an oil-free and maintenance-free compressor
- It works on 2 HP and low amps
- The compressor has 6.40 CFM at 40 PSI and 5.30 CFM at 90 PSI.
- It can continuously work for 40-60 minutes.
- It comes with a 10-Gallon compressor tank and 125 PSI max
- It comes with wheels and handles.
The Dewalt air compressor is a great indoor compressor with higher CFM to handle heavy equipment. Because of its fast recovery feature and 78 decibels of sound, this compressor is convenient.
The compressor has great motor life and is maintenance-free because it is an oil-free compressor. You can use an extension cord with the compressor as its motor is high quality.
You can do nailing, painting, and many other heavy-duty projects with the compressor. The compressor is a great choice for painting as it has a 4.5-gallon air tank.
The Dewalt air compressor has the following features:
- It has a maximum of 225 PSI, with 5 SCFM at 90 PSI.
- It has a faster recovery time.
- The compressor has a vertical stand and foldable handles.
- The compressor has 78 dBA, which is great for quiet environments.
- It works on 1.6 horsepower.
The WEN air compressors are the best air compressor for auto painting, as they come with a large tank. The compressor is great for garages, shops, and job sites. You can use nailers, staplers, and spray guns with the compressor.
The compressor has the capability of handling heavy tools and equipment. The couplers and simple hose come with the compressor. The 15 amp motor has a safety valve that prevents it from accidents.
The 10-Gallon air compressor is a high-quality compressor with 2-pressure gauges and a drain valve. It required 2-years of warranty.
The Wen air compressor has the following specifications:
- It has 4 CFM at 90 PSI and 5 CFM at 40 PSI.
- The compressor is oil-free and needs no maintenance.
- The air compressor has a 10-gallon air tank with stainless steel.
- It has 150 max PSI.
- It has a drain valve, a quick coupler, and two pressure gauges.
- It comes with a rubber handle and wheels.
- The compressor has 92-93 pounds of weight.
The Craftsman air compressor is ideal for small projects, nailing, trimming. You can quickly complete your tasks with this 6-Gallon air tank. The compressor’s quality is top-notch due to its US manufacturing.
This portable air compressor comes with wheels and handles, making it easier for the user to handle and transfer it. It has great pressure for many applications and tools, and it has a fast recovery. This compact and durable compressor has no maintenance issues as it is an oil-free compressor.
The craftsman air compressors come with the following specification:
- The compressor is an oil-free and portable compressor.
- It has a 6-gallon air tank.
- This durable air compressor has 150 max PSI.
- Its 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI provides it faster recovery time.
- It is a lightweight 32.5-pound air compressor.
Using compressors helps save time and makes work efficient. The compressor is ideal for many projects. The 6-gallon air compressor can handle air tools to spray paint. However, if you want to use the compressors to paint a car, they are small. Still, it can perform this task in 2-3 steps.
The compressor has a tank or pancake style, which provides stability and comes with rubber feet that reduce vibration. To paint a car, you’ll need either a bigger tank compressor or waste your time while it gets to recover.
The Porter-Cable air compressor comes with the following specifications:
- The compressor is portable and has a maximum pressure of 150PSI.
- It works on 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI and has a faster recovery time.
- The compressor has a 6-gallon air tank,
- It has rubber feet and handles.
- The compressor has a 120V motor and a low amp.
- It has an oil-free pump.
- It has two regulators and couplers.
This compressor is excellent quality and can handle many pneumatic tools and equipment. You can easily do sanding, cutting, trimming with the compressor.
You can use the Dewalt pancake air compressor when painting a car but in intervals. The compressor comes with a 6-Gallon air tank which is relatively insufficient for painting a car.
The advantage of the compressor is that it can still handle heavy tools, and you can paint your car with it because of its faster recovery time and high PSI. You can easily put the compressor anywhere, and it is noiseless.
- The compressor has a higher PSI of 165
- It has 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI, making its recovery time faster.
- The compressor has a high-efficiency motor.
- The compressor has a 78.5 noise level.
- It has high flow regulators and couplers.
- The compressor is oil-free.
The Makita brand produces high-quality air compressors that last longer and have many helpful features. Although it is one of the best air compressors for auto painting, it is small for heavy work, like cars.
If you need an air compressor for painting a car, then the compressor is small, and you will have to complete your task in different steps. There is a three-day technique, which you can use to complete the painting of a car with this compressor.
One of the ideal factors about the compressor is that it is usable indoors and in quiet places as it is less noisy. The 3HP with cast iron pump and fast recovery feature of the compressor makes it ideal to use even when it is small for painting a car. The safety valve of the compressor is another great feature that protects the compressor.
The Makita air compressor comes with the following specifications:
- The compressor has a cast iron pump and piston.
- Two nailers can be used with this.
- It comes with a big bore cylinder.
- The compressor has a powerful 3-horsepower and thermal overload.
- The motor can produce 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI and 6.9 at 40 PSI.
- It comes with a 5.2-gallon air tank and maximum PSI of 140.
- The compressor is oil-lubricated.
- The compressor has foldable handles and wheels.
How to Select an Air Compressor for Automotive Painting?
What will be the best compressor for the paint gun that can paint a car easily? What qualities and factors to consider? While selecting the Best Air Compressors for Car painting, we need to consider these factors:
PSI ( pounds per square) determines how much air pressure an air compressor can supply. The compressor provides pressure on the paint gun, which helps it operate and work smoothly and efficiently. There are two types of spray guns: one has a high volume and low pressure (HVLP), the other has a low volume and less pressure (LVLP).
As their names tell, they both needless pressure to work, so you do not need a lot of PSI in your compressor. Maximum work for the compressor is 25-35 PSI, and if you need heavy work, 40-45 is an optimum pressure.
CFM is a (cubic feet per minute) it is like a primary factor of the compressor. It measures the flow rate of the air the compressor can produce. CFM requirement for the compressor depends on the spray guns CFM.
If your spray gun is small, you need a less CFM compressor. If your spray gun is 12 CFM, your compressor should be 15-20 CFM. If both CFM of the spray gun and compressor are the same, then your result of paint will not be good.
The tank capacity of the compressor is helpful for your work. You can paint a car with a small and large air tank. However, the smaller tank will make your task difficult and time-consuming. The large compressor makes the painting process easy, and it gives proper finishing and cleanness.
By having the larger tank, the spray gun will have constant air, and the work will be more efficient. If you use a 30-Gallon compressor, it is best to purchase a 60-80-Gallon air tank, giving efficient results.
Portable or Stationary
The stationary air compressor is useful, primarily for industrial purposes. They are large and are loud. However, it also depends on your environment. For automotive painting in a workshop, you can buy any compressor.
If you need it for all purposes, then the portable will be great as you can take it from one side to the other. On the other hand, you can attach a pong hose to it and let it sit in a corner. For painting a car, the portable compressor is the ideal choice.
Oil-Lubricated or Oil-Free
The oil-free compressors are usually most common these days. They do not need maintenance, and you can easily use them as they are portable. The oil-lubricated are ideal for doing heavy work, ideal for industry use mostly. Most of the compressors for painting are oil-free.
The noise level of the compressor is a great deal depending on the environment you are going to put your compressor in. A quieter or oil-free compressor is better if you need to use it indoors.
The compressor for the automotive shop should be less loud as it will make your work easy. Otherwise, the noise will be painful to bear for long-term use.
The compressor’s horsepower is an integral factor, and it depends on the HP of the compressor how much work you can do with a compressor. For painting, you should choose a compressor with 5-10 HP, and it will smoothly and efficiently handle the spray gun for the long run.
How to Install a Paint Gun with an Air Compressor?
Do you pick up the spray gun and start working with it? Of course not, you need to attach it to the air compressor, and then it works. Compressors are expensive, and you cannot just start using them.
Using an air compressor with a spray gun for painting a car is not difficult, and it requires a few simple steps, and you are good to go:
- The spray gun has a cap on it. Firstly, remove it.
- Ensure there are no leakages in the hose.
- Connect your hose: one end with the compressor and one with the spray gun. (connect properly).
- Using tread tape, seal your hose on both ends.
- Switch on the air compressor and wait until the pressure reaches the required pressure level. And this you are good to go.
How to Maintain your Air Compressor for Painting Jobs?
When we buy an air compressor, many people do not realize that they also need to maintain the compressor. Most air compressors are expensive, and when you put your money into something, you need to look after it to make it last longer.
Always check the main components of the compressor, and if necessary, ask for professional help. After every use, check the air compressor.
There are a few of these to maintenance to prolong the life of your air compressor:
- If your compressor is oil-lubricated, change the oil.
- Check the nuts and bolts of the compressor after every use and before every use. Continuous use and vibration of compressors can lose them.
- Check the intake valve of the air compressor and clean it.
- Regulate the hoses of the compressor.
- Check the filters, and clean them.
- Ensure that your compressor is moisture-free.
- Drain your air compressor.
- Check the oil tank and make sure it is not rusting.
- Compressors have safety valves, regulate those valves, protect the compressor from incidents and getting tempered.
What are the Benefits of Using an Air Compressor for Automotive Painting?
While painting, an air compressor does wonders for the user. The air compressor can provide a lot of air to the spray guns, ultimately giving smooth results. A spray gun with an air compressor saves a lot of time for the user, making the project easier and faster. The right spray gun with a good air compressor is essential for good results.
The CFM of both the spray gun and air compressor is necessary. With a small air compressor, you can easily spray small and light projects, while with large tanks and air compressors with higher CFM, you can even paint a car and van.
Electric Air Compressor or Gas-Powered: Which One is Best for Automotive Painting?
Electric air compressors are very efficient compressors. They are quite compressors, and you can do many DIY projects with them because their power is low. You can only do small and DIY tasks with the electric air compressor’s PSI, CFM, and HP. Electric compressors have induction and universal motors.
On the other hand, gas air compressors are much more portable and compact and capable of handling heavy tools because of their higher power. The higher CFM of the compressors works best for painting purposes. So, gas compressors are ideal for automotive painting.
Should I Try Painting my Car?
Do you want to paint your car? You do not want to take any professional help? You must be in confusion whether you should try it or not? Or can you do this by yourself or not? So to answer that, yes you can try to paint your car.
It does not mean that you will not do well if you paint your car or that you can compromise on any results.
There are a few things that are required to achieve good results.
- A 60-80 Gallon air compressor with 15-20 CFM and 5-10 HP.
- A spray gun with at least 12 CFM.
- Max PSI required for painting a car is 40-45 PSI.
Few precautions to take for yourself while painting your car:
- Always use goggles and face masks before starting the painting process.
- Before painting, check the compressor and the leakages.
- Make sure the area is well ventilated.
- Do not over-spray or overuse your compressor.
- Make sure you spray horizontally or vertically without changing directions in between.
Steps to Take Before Painting Your Car?
When you paint a car using an air compressor, it is not like you pick up the spray gun and start painting.
You need to prepare your vehicle before applying paint to it. Before an automotive shop owner sprays paint on a car, there are three steps they must follow.
The cars are not clean, so you cannot just go and start applying paint on them. It needs preparation. The first thing to do is sanding. Sanding is clearing and smoothing the car surface on which the color can better settle down.
Sand your car using sandpaper or an orbital sander (electric), sand it in circulator motion, and sand it to bare metal. Although it takes time, it is worth it, as it gives professional results. It also helps to avoid headaches from matching colors.
Start applying thinner after you sand your car, and try to coat at least 2-3 coats of liquid on the vehicle. While applying thinner, make sure you have full ventilation and wear a face mask. After drying the thinner, do block sanding, which helps in revealing low spots.
Thinner acts like a shield seal that smooths it out and allows the paint to settle down easily. Using a high-quality thinner to apply on the car. The thinner depends on your paint selection. If you are painting plastic paint, choose plastic thinner.
Paint the Car Using an Air Compressor
When painting a car using an air compressor, always choose the right compressor for this process. The spray gun should have the right CFM, and the CFM of the compressor and the spray should not match. Always choose a compressor with higher CFM than a spray gun.
After this, you need to choose the right paint. The paint should be the right color, which will settle down on the car properly. The quality of the color matters, or else the color won’t settle down on the car smoothly.
How to Paint a Car Using a Small Air Compressor?
Although using a compressor for painting a car may seem complex, it isn’t. However, this applies only to large compressors. When you use small compressors with less CFM, it makes the painting process time-consuming.
The small compressors have small air tanks, and they do not have enough stored air for continuous use. The smaller tanks run out of air quickly. So be ready to take breaks to let it recover. We will discuss two ideal techniques to apply when working with small air tanks.
When you paint a car with a small compressor, you will face condensation issues. Draining water for once will not be effective. To avoid condensation problems, you will need to drain your compressor after two rounds.
This process might seem hectic, but it makes the work smoother, and it takes a few minutes to drain water. After draining using a fabric, dry it out completely and leave it open for a few minutes.
- Day 1: complete two base coatings and two clear coatings at once and start with the hood, bumpers, and fenders.
- Day 2: After mask painting, previous parts of the car start working on two base coats and two clear coats on doors and then the roof.
- Day 3: Mask paint the parts you worked on: day-2, and then the only thing remaining is the rear, base, and clear coat.
You can use both of these techniques. However, the effective one is a three-day technique as it gives finishing to the car.
Common Problems with Air Compressors & Paint Guns
Machines are human-made, and they have issues that you need to understand. There is no machine which does not get problems while working. Even the best budget air compressor for painting cars can stop working.
However, you should know what possible problems can occur and how you can solve them.
1. CFM Leakage:
There is a possibility that you see bubbles coming out of your spray gun, and the bubbles can be the result of CFM leakage.
Solution: If there are bubbles from the spray gun, immediately check your regulator and connectors to see if there is leakage. If there is leakage, fix it using a tread tape or, if necessary, replace the connectors.
2. Pressure Issue from the Compressor:
Your compressor can cause low-pressure issues. It could be because of the length of the hose. The longer the hose, the longer it will take time to restore. The long hose can cause a pressure drop. It can also happen because of the regulator or the connectors.
Solution: make sure to either replace/ reduce the air hose length. Or either fix or replace the regulator and connectors if they have leakage issues.
3. Moisture in the Compressor
The other issue most of the compressors face is dripping. The dripping of water can indicate trapped moisture in the compressor. When there is a lot of heat and moisture, this problem occurs.
Solution: If there is dripping from the compressor, make sure to empty your compressor and dry it. After emptying your compressor using a cloth, dry out the moisture and let it open for some time to let it dry completely.
4. Insufficient Buildup Pressure
One of the most common issues with compressors is when the user uses the compressor with heavy tools, and the air is not enough for the equipment.
Solution: Always check the air pressure in the compressor from the regulator and let it recover at the right amount of air required for the task.
5. No Smooth Finishing
When you fail to get a smooth finish using a spray gun, it can be due to three reasons: you are a beginner, do not have the right tools, or the surface needs cleaning.
Solution: Being a beginner, you need practice before professional working, tools you should choose according to the task. If the surface has an issue, then clean the surface before painting a car.
What size air compressor for painting cars?
Paint Sprayer Gun
A paint gun is a tool that makes it easy and time-saving to paint a car, and it is ideal for shop owners who need to paint many vehicles at once. An HVLP and LVLP paint gun are two, which you can choose according to your needs.
Painting a car requires a large tank of 60-80 gallons since it needs a lot of air. A small tank will be time-consuming and will make work a slow process.
CFM is a primary factor of a compressor, and it should be high enough to handle heavy tools. In the case of a 12 CFM gun, you must choose a compressor that has 15-20 CFM.
Paint guns require at least 5-10 horsepower from a 60-80 gallon compressor paint gun. A horsepower provides power to the paint gun.
The paint gun needs 20-25 PSI for light work and 40-45 PSI for heavy work. Ensure your compressor can handle a paint gun with 90 PSI or more. Large compressors have high PSI.
Selecting the best air compressor for automotive painting is now easy as we know which factors to consider while looking for it. It is important to consider CFM, HP, PSI, portability, maintenance, or particularly, when painting, consider the tank size.
Your car needs some preparation before you start painting on it with sandpaper to clean it and then applying thinner to seal the actual body of the vehicle. Also, it allows the paint to settle down smoothly.
One of the best air compressors for auto painting includes at least 30-60 Gallon, or if you need to paint a car, 60-80 Gallon air tank because it allows continuous use and makes the process faster.
What type of air compressor is best for painting cars?
A paint gun is a heavy tool, and car painting needs time to complete. For compressors, a large air compressor is needed to complete this task. These heavy working 60-80 Gallon compressors work best with at least 15 CFM and 5-10 HP.
Can I use a 6-gallon air compressor to paint a car?
Painting a car with a 6-Gallon air compressor is not a good idea. You need at least 60-80 gallons of paint to paint a car. Small compressors are not sufficient for heavy work and will run out in no time. The process will take time, and you will need to complete the car at different time intervals.
Hamza is a founder of Compressors Insights. He is an Electrical Engineer having strong experience in Technical and Power tools. He has been helping electricians, and HVAC technicians regarding tool selection, and how to use power tools (Compressors, Pressure Washers, Multimeters, etc)