If you are new to the auto body paint world or willing to paint your car in the garage, then you should first dive into the world of air compressors that work best with the spray painting guns and to learn everything about them. Not every air compressor works best when you are required to paint the cars and tires. The air compressors that are designed to work with the pneumatic tools can’t give you the same performance when connected with the spray guns. Therefore, it is necessary to pick the right model for the right type of painting work.
To help you to start your new painting work, we have gathered the best air compressors that you can use for painting cars. The list includes bigger units, medium-sized units, and as well as smaller units that feature smaller storage tanks and CFM ratings.
It is up to you what model you pick, but it is necessary to make sure that you are going for the right product according to your needs.
In this article, you will also find a buyer’s guide to know about various factors that you should consider before buying the best air compressor for painting cars. Also, there is a user guide where you will learn how to set up your air compressor kit with the spray guns. Also, you will learn about the type of spray guns that can be used with different air compressor models. Moreover, we have also mentioned some common issues related to air compressors and spray guns along with their solutions.
There are various factors that need your consideration before purchasing the best air compressor for painting cars and tires. So what are those factors? Take a look.
First of all, it is necessary to look at the CFM (Cubic feet per minute) rating of your air compressor. Not every air compressor can work best for painting cars and tires. Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that the one you are buying could meet your spraying needs.
Those air compressors that work best with pneumatic tools may not provide you with the same efficient and effective performance when met with the paint spray guns.
The CFM rating of the air compressor must be high in order to provide the best results. So, before purchasing your best product, make sure that the air compressor has a good CFM rating.
Single or Dual Stage Compressors
Before going to buy an air compressor, you should also decide whether you want to go with a single stage or a dual stage air compressor.
If we talk about the single-stage compressor, then it compresses the air only one time. On the other hand, the dual stage compressor compresses the air two times to provide more pressure.
Most of the air compressor models are a single stage, but the dual stage models deliver more CFM per horsepower. For example, if your motor is of 2 horsepower, then the dual stage model can provide around 8 CFM.
But it does not mean that you can’t work with single stage models. You can use them for painting cars, but for continuous work, it is ideal to go for the dual stage compressors.
Also, along with the maximum output pressure and delivery rate, never forget to check the motor of the air compressor. If the motor is less powered having low horsepower value, then it will deliver lower maximum output pressure as well as delivery time. So, if you need more pressure and good delivery time, then go for the motor having the higher horsepower.
Oil-free or Oil-based Air Compressors
Other than this, it is also necessary to decide whether an oil-free air compressor would be suitable for you or the oil-based compressor.
Oil-based compressors require more maintenance as compared to the oil-free. So, it all depends on your needs.
The size of the tank is also necessary to consider when you have the job of painting cars. But the tank volume depends on how much work you do. Needing a 50-60 gallon air compressor is more than enough for full spray painting. You can also consider a 20-40 gallon air compressor to get your job done with ease. Other than this, 4-5 gallon tanks can also be used for painting.
If your work needs constant pressure with the high flow, then you must go with those compressors that feature large tank volume. On the other hand, for works that require a small amount of compressed air, tank volume becomes unimportant.
A bigger unit allows you to work continuously. You can easily paint the whole car with ease. On the other hand, smaller units take more time to paint the cars. For panting, tank volume is much critical. For even coverage, you need constant and a lot of air with the necessary pressure. And it can only be achieved if you have a bigger unit.
But the smaller units fail to paint the whole cars at once. They don’t possess the right air volume (cfm) for complete painting. If you are purchasing an air compressor for painting your car at your home garage, then you can go for the smaller unit. Also, if you can afford to spend 2 to 3 days on one car, then you can go for the smaller unit. There is a trick for using the smaller units for painting whole cars in steps that we will discuss later in the user’s guide section.
The weight of the Compressor
The weight of the compressor is also an important factor. The materials used in the construction of the compressor along with other factors such as the tank volume make a compressor heavyweight or lightweight. If you need a big size and the heavier air compressor, then it is ideal to go for one that comes with tires and good supportive handle for easy transportation. But if you only need to place the compressor at one end, then you can go for the tireless units.
Also, if your painting needs are not much, then you can go for the compactly sized air compressors that are light in weight.
Always look for those units that feature moisture trap to prevent water mixing with the paint. If your selected unit doesn’t have the moisture trap, then it is necessary to buy one.
Warranty and Price
In the end, never forget to check the warranty of the air compressor you are buying. Also, try to find the best possible air compressor for your car painting job within the money range you set.
In this user’s guide section, we are going to share various important tips. First of all, we will give you some tips on how you can install your air compressor kit with the spray gun. This one will be much beneficial for the new users.
Second, we will discuss what types of spray guns would be suitable for what type of air compressors to make operations easier for you.
Third, we will guide on how you can use your small air compressor tank for painting the cars or how you can paint the cars by using the small air compressor tank without any painting defect.
And in the end, we will guide you on how you can deal with some of the common problems associated with the air compressors and spray guns.
- Installation of the air compressor kit with the spray gun
In order to start your car painting work, first of all, you need a filter/regulator, then an air hose, a regulator, and in the end, the spray gun.
The filter/regulator will be connected with the air compressor. Then the air hose will be connected to the filter/regulator. After that, the regulator will be attached followed by the spray gun.
2. Types of spray guns suitable for different models of the air compressors
If you own a standard spray gun, then first you have to look at the CFM rating that it requires. Also, connect your spray gun with the compressor having 10-15 gallon of air storing capacity.
If you have an HVLP spray gun, then these sorts of guns don’t require much air pressure. They can be easily operated with a lower amount of pressure. They just require around 40 PSI pressure for easy operation. But it doesn’t mean that they also require less amount of air. They need much air to provide you with the best results. Therefore, if you have an HVLP spray gun, then you must use the air compressor where the tank has an air storage capacity of 30-40 gallons. Your air compressor must deliver at least 15 CFM and must be a 2-stage compressor. These HVLP guns don’t work with the pancake style air compressors. The bigger units are best suited to these sorts of guns.
If you have an LVLP spray gun, then these sorts of guns neither require more volume nor more pressure. They can give you the best results with low volume and low pressure. If you have an air compressor having a low CFM rating, then you can freely connect the LVLP spray gun with your compressor. An air compressor having a tank volume of 15-20 gallons is best suitable for the LVLP spray guns to paint the cars at once.
3. How to paint cars by using small air compressor tanks
Small air compressor tanks have low CFM ratings; therefore they fail to paint the whole cars at once. The smaller tank loses the race in the middle and runs out of the air. But if you are smart enough to deal with the pressure drop and can adjust accordingly, then you can go with the smaller air compressor tank for painting the car.
By doing this, you will experience the condensation problem. And here you have to act smartly. Just draining the water once will never be sufficient. After every 2 or 3 passes around your car, you have to drain the water. This is the safest thing that you can do while painting the car with the smaller air compressor tank.
But if you can’t take the risk of painting the car at once, then you can do your work in steps. But here you will face the problem of over-spraying on the clear coat stage. The over-spraying on the clear coat will turn the glossy portions dull, and your whole car will turn into an uneven painting piece.
So to deal with the dull surfaces of the car, you must have to completely color sand and buff to make the paint look even.
But if you have much time to paint the other persons’ car or you are going to paint your own car in the garage then here is another trick for you.
This trick will take at least three days to complete your painting job. Start painting your car from the hood, then paint the front bumper, and in the end paint two front fenders of the car. Do all this at once. But make sure that you have done two coats of base and two coats of clear coat.
Now, the next day, mask paint all the painted parts of your car that you did last day. After that, paint the doors and roof with two coats of base and two coats of clear coat. And the next day, paint the remaining part of the car that is the rear end.
In this manner, your smaller air compressor won’t get hot. Also, you will be able to paint your complete car without uneven painted surfaces.
4. Common problems associated with air compressors and spray guns and how to deal with them
If the bubbles are coming out of your spray gun, then there is a problem of CFM. The air compressor that you are using with the spray gun is not delivering the required CFM. There is some leakage out there that needs to be checked. So, thoroughly check the connectors and the regulator to get rid of the leakage problem.
Low-pressure problem is the common problem that many people face while working. If you are facing this problem with your smaller unit, then all you need is to check the hose length. If it is big, then you should reduce its length to get the right pressure. Or you should wait for some time to get back the right pressure.
On the other hand, if you have a bigger unit having large tank volume then there might be a problem with the regulator or your connectors might be leaking air.
Dripping is another common problem that people face while painting the cars. It is caused due to the presence of water in the line. If your compressor is equipped with a moisture trap, then there is a need to make it empty. Wipe it thoroughly with a piece of cloth and then start repainting. Also, you can use a dryer.
The addition of more water in the line also caused due to your tense working environment. If there is more heat and humidity, then there are more chances of adding water into the line.
Tailing is another common issue that occurs when the type of work and the amount of air coming out of the compressor fail to match. So, if you are facing the tailing issue, then it is recommended to wait some time until the compressor produces the required amount of air and pressure.
Moreover, if you are failing to get the even finish then either you are new to the job that you don’t know the correct technique of painting the cars or you didn’t clean the car’s surface properly before painting. If you don’t know the right technique, then first learn the art of painting. And if you forgot to clean the surface properly, then you have to start from the beginning. Remove the paint, clean the surface thoroughly and then start painting again.
Best Air Compressors for Painting Cars and Tires
1. Powermate Vx PLA4708065 80-Gallon Electric Air Compressor
Item Weight: 354 Pounds
Product Dimensions: 31.5 x 34.8 x 77 inches
Voltage: 240 V
One of the most powerful and best air compressors that you can use for painting cars and tires is the Vx PLA4708065 from Powermate. It offers a longer tool run time so that you can complete your painting projects on time.
Its 80-gallon tank is made up of steel that can sustain the maximum pressure of 150psi. Also, it has an excellent recovery time of 14CFM at 90psi.
The compressor features an oil-lubricated, cast iron three cylinder pump. It has a powerful 240-volt induction motor that delivers 4.7 horsepower for maximum performance.
Its oil based pump also features aluminium head and valve plate for keeping the surface cool. It dissipates the heat more quickly to provide efficient and effective performance. Also, the wired formed belt guard is responsible for providing an extra cooling effect.
Its moving parts are well protected through the fully enclosed metal belt guard.
The air compressor also features an on and off switch and a highly visible pressure gauge for easy operation.
The other features include oil-level sight glass, stainless steel flex valves, and a large air intake filter with silencers.
2. Campbell Hausfeld HS5180 Air Compressor
Item Weight: 300 Pounds
Product Dimensions: 31 x 41 x 78 inches
The second best air compressor that you can be used for painting cars is the Campbell Hausfeld HS5180. It features an 80-gallon air storage tank that is vertically designed to save your space in the garage.
This air compressor can operate most of the high-demanding tools including the automotive spray painting. It features a two-stage, commercial duty cast iron, oil-based pump for maximum performance and durability. This two-stage pump has an excellent life of more than 12,000 hours.
Other than this, the air compressor can deliver the maximum output pressure of 175psi. It also has a fast recovery time of 14 CFM at 90psi.
It requires 230V household power to operate in full swing. Also, it offers safe operation as the compressor features a fully enclosed metal belt guard. Other than this, there is an on and off switch and a highly visible pressure gauge for easy operation.
3. DEWALT D55146 Hand Carry Compressor with Wheels
Item Weight: 80 Pounds
Product Dimensions: 33.5 x 44.8 x 24.5 inches
Another best air compressor on the list is from DEWALT that is a hand carry compressor equipped with wheels for easy transportation. It features two 10-inch, non-flat foam tires that make it easy to move around the workplace.
The air compressor can easily stand in a vertical position to save the space. Also, it has a collapsible handle to make pulling easy.
It has a 4.5-gallon tank storage capacity, and the maximum tank storage pressure it can deliver is 225psi. Also, it offers a quick recharging time of 5.0SCFM at 90psi. Moreover, it works quietly as it produces only 78 dBA noise level.
The 1.6HP high-efficient motor can be easily used with the extension cord. The oil-free pump is maintenance free. Also, both the pump and the motor have a longer life, thanks to the efficient high-pressure technology.
The air compressor also features a metal console panel that makes everything visible. Also, it provides protection to the regulator, two couplers, and the gauges.
4. Industrial Air ILA188354 Belt Driven Air Compressor
Item Weight: 185 Pounds
Product Dimensions: 24.8 x 24.8 x 49.8 inches
This Industrial Air compressor is ideal for painting cars in the garage. It has a vertical designed, 30-gallon tank equipped with two pneumatic tires for easy transportation. Also, it has a front handle and a small footprint for excellent mobility.
It can deliver a maximum output pressure of 155psi for maximum tool performance. Also, it has a flow rate of 5.7 CFM at 90psi and a 7.0 CFM flow rate at 40psi.
It features a heavy-duty dual voltage induction motor that works with 120V outlet but also supports 240V.
The air compressor comes with oil based, cast iron twin cylinder pump. It also ensures fast heat dissipation as it features an aluminium head and valve plate.
It is also quite easy to use. The on and off switch, air regulator, and highly visible tank and pressure gauges make it easy to operate.
5. Makita MAC5200 Big Bore Air Compressor
Item Weight: 88 Pounds
Product Dimensions: 29 x 19.5 x 19 inches
This Makita MAC5200 is one of the best portable units come with 8-inch rugged wheels for easy transportation. It also has a folding handle that features multiple hangers for carrying air fittings and other accessories while working or moving the compressor from one place to another.
It is featured with a powerful 3.0 horsepower motor and its 5.2-gallon tank helps to maintain the maximum operating pressure of 140psi. Also, it offers a flow rate of 6.5CFM at 90psi and 6.9CFM at 40psi.
Its excellent performance, durability, and fast recovery time are due to its cast iron pump with big bore cylinder and piston. The pump is oil-based that keeps it free from wear and features a big automotive style filter for maximum air intake and efficiency.
It is also a tough air compressor that can withstand any extreme working environment. Thanks to its roll-cage construction that makes it sturdy.
Other than this, it also produces less noise. Moreover, the air compressor is equipped with copper finned discharge tube that dissipates the heat more quickly and keeps less water in the tank.
6. PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free Pancake Compressor
Item Weight: 31.3 Pounds
Product Dimensions: 19 x 19 x 18 inches
Voltage: 120 V
Another air compressor that you can use for painting cars and tires is the PORTER-CABLE C2002. It is an oil-free compressor having a 6-gallon tank. The air compressor is quite easy to use, and it is also light in weight so that anyone can carry it easily.
The low amp 120V induction motor not only provides the best performance but also lasts for long. It won’t take time to start in the cold weather conditions and can easily start with the extension cord. The oil-free pump adds durability and requires little or no maintenance.
It is a pancake style air compressor that has a maximum tank pressure of 150psi. This tank pressure fills more air into the tank so that you can use your spray guns for long. Also, it has a recovery time of 2.6 SCFM at 90psi and 3.7 SCFM at 40psi.
The compressor also features two air couplers so that two users can work simultaneously. It also comes with a water drain valve and has rubber feet to provide stability.
Other than this, the air compressor features shroud, handle, and console cover for easy handling and protecting the main parts of the compressor.
7. DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake Compressor
Item Weight: 32.2 Pounds
Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 16.6 x 20.1 inches
Voltage: 120 V
The DEWALT DWFP55126 is a pancake style compressor that can be used for painting. It also comes with a 6-gallon tank and can deliver maximum output pressure of 165psi.
It features an oil-free pump that adds durability and provides maintenance-free operation. The 10 amp, 120V high-efficiency motor is easy to operate with the extension cord. Also, you can paint your cars in the winter season without any trouble.
With 75.5 dBA, it produces less noise to make you work stress-free. It offers a flow rate of 2.6 SCFM at 90psi and 3.7 SCFM at 40psi.
The air compressor also features a high flow regulator for maximum performance, and its two universal couplers make work easier, efficient, and effective.
Other than this, it also comes with a ball drain valve that quickly and thoroughly drains the tank. Also, the air compressor has rubber feet that provide stability to the tank. Moreover, it features a removable console cover to provide great protection to the controls.
8. Campbell Hausfeld DC060500 Air Compressor
Item Weight: 62 Pounds
Product Dimensions: 16 x 23 x 16 inches
Voltage: 120 V
If you want to finish your car painting projects faster, then you can consider this DC060500 air compressor by Campbell Hausfeld. It comes with a tank storage capacity of 6 gallons and can deliver a maximum output pressure of 125 psi. Also, it has a flow rate of 2.4CFM at 90psi.
It comes with a pancake design and features an oil-free dual piston pump that requires no maintenance as compared to the oil-based pumps.
The best thing about this air compressor is that its key components have four times longer lifespan as compared to others. The induction motor provides excellent motor performance. Also, it makes less noise during operation as it has an operational noise level of only 68 dBA. You can comfortably use it indoors.
It also comes with a steel handle having a soft grip that makes it easy to carry from one place to another.
9. California Air Tools 10020C Oil-free Air Compressor
This air compressor from California Air Tools features a 10-gallon capacity air tank that comes with wheels along with a comfortable grip handle for excellent mobility.
It offers a good flow rate of 6.40 CFM at 40psi and 5.30 CFM at 90psi. The air compressor has an oil-free dual piston pump system to provide maximum performance. Also, it requires no maintenance at all. The pump has an excellent life cycle of more than 3000 hours. It won’t wear before reaching this milestone.
The 2.0 HP low amp induction motor makes less noise as it operates at only 1680 RPM. The motors having low RPM make not only less noise but also increase the duty cycle.
This air compressor also requires low amps to operate in all weather conditions. It is featured with the easy start valve that works on no-load condition and starts the motor quickly to spin freely.
10. Rolair VT25BIG Wheeled Compressor with Overload Protection
Item Weight: 104 Pounds
Product Dimensions: 19 x 19 x 37 inches
Another air compressor that comes with wheels and overload protection is the Rolair VT25BIG. It features a 5.3-gallon air tank storage capacity and can deliver 6.5 CFM at 90psi for quick air recovery.
The oil-lubricated cast-iron cylinder pump provides maximum performance and durability. The splash lubrication offers great pump life. It regulates the temperature of the system for quite an efficient operation.
With 3400 RMP motor, it is quite a noisy air compressor. It produces around 86 dBA noise level that makes it a noisy unit.
The air compressor also features a high flow regulator for maximum performance. It also has two universal couplers so that two users can easily work simultaneously.
Also, its comfortable grip handle along with tires make transportation easy.