Painting cars is different from painting other materials. Here, it’s more important to have the right tools and equipment to be able to give a vehicle a brand new look. Whether you are a professional or DIY person, you need the best air compressor for painting cars in this case.
Even if you have a high-quality paint sprayer, if the air compressor isn’t good, it will not be able to provide consistent airflow. A good air compressor can help the sprayer to work up to its full potential, and provide a factory looking paint job.
If you are interested in buying one, I have a few recommendations that are suggested by professionals and DIY enthusiasts.
List of 8 Best Air Compressor for Painting Cars
The list includes air compressors of different sizes and prices. Hopefully, you will find the most suitable one according to your needs.
1. DeWalt DXCMPA1982054 Air Compressor for Painting
The first product on the list is from DeWalt, a well-reputable machine manufacturing company. This air compressor provides 7 CFM at 40 PSI and 5.7 CFM at 90 PSI to get your paint job done effectively and efficiently. Its max 155 PSI makes sure that your air sprayer tool performs up to its full potential.
This air compressor features a high flow regulator that can provide 20% more torque to remove stubborn nuts and bolts. Its tough dual voltage induction motor maximizes the pump performance to provide you with hassle-free operation.
You will find its 20-gallon tank capacity to be more than enough to deal with professional paint jobs. The twin-cylinder works more efficiently than a conventional single cylinder and requires less maintenance as well.
Even though the 20-gallon tank makes the unit a bit bigger, the manufacturer implemented pneumatic tires so that the user can move the compressor conveniently. So, this one is a higher capacity and portable unit as well.
You can conveniently plug and operate the air compressor in the standard 120-volt power outlet. Applications that require 240-volt output can also be powered by this powerful compressor unit.
For user-friendly operation, the unit features a quick-set regulator, working pressure, and tank gauge with ON/OFF switch. Made of cast iron metal, you can rely on its durability as well.
- Top-performing induction motor for efficient operation
- High flow regulator eases tough projects
- Convenient on-board controls
- Rear wheels for easy mobility
- 20-gallon huge tank capacity
- Durable cast iron construction
- Dissipates heat much faster
- Quiet operation
- Pump requires oiling
- Draining the tank is quite difficult
2. California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor Spray Gun
This air compressor is an oil-free one, which means it’s much easier when it comes to maintenance and stuff. Powered by a 2 HP motor, it got all the necessary power to deliver to a wide variety of air tools, including paint sprayer. It only takes 25 seconds to recover the compressor from 95 PSI to 125 PSI.
With 6.4 CFM at 40 PSI and 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI, the unit is able to provide your air tools with high flow air pressure for a long time. If you are to maximize the power of your tools, this compressor can be a great addition to your garage equipment.
Compared to conventional air compressors, this one produces quite less noise. The noise level is 70 decibels, which is fairly less and ensures a low noise operation. If you are concerned with how your neighbor reacts to its sound, there will be no issues at all regarding this.
The compressor comes with a 10-gallon tank to supply your air tools necessary air pressure support to get things done. Also, the entire construction stands on wheels, which enhances its mobility. If you are to move the compressor often, you will find it quite convenient. The tank refills quicker than most models.
Its dual piston pump can deliver you more than 3000 hours of life cycle support, where conventional ones provide only 500 hours. The oil-free pump creates no hassle while getting the device started when the weather is extremely cold.
- Oil-free low maintenance pump
- Very quiet operation
- Powerful motor to handle most tasks
- Provides long runtime for air tools
- 10-gallon tank capacity that refills quickly
- Convenient pressure control gauges
- Has some manufacturing flaws
- Hard to assemble
3. Industrial Air IL1682066 Compressor for Painting Car
This unit from Insdustrial Air, With a huge 20-gallon portable tank, this air compressor can handle professional air pressure requirements without any trouble. If you are looking for a heavy-duty unit for your automotive repair shop, this unit will not let you down.
The compressor features a heavy-duty dual voltage induction motor, which is powerful enough to provide high pump performance. No matter what purpose you want to use this device, it will deliver the power that you need to add perfection to your work.
Its 1.6 HP dual voltage motor can be powered via a standard 120V outlet. You can also use the compressor to power-up tools that require 240V.
With a maximum of 135 PSI, it can deliver enough air pressure to get your work done easily. 6.2 CFM at 40 PSI and 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI provide the air tools with longer runtime for convenience.
Made of cast iron, the unit is very well-constructed to endure tough conditions of workshops, repair shops, and outdoor worksites. It also has a twin-cylinder pump with aluminum head and valve plate to dissipate heat much faster to keep the compressor in good condition.
You will find its on-board controls to be convenient to get quick access to the regulator, pressure, and tool gauges. There is an ON/OFF switch that allows you to quickly connect to the air outlet.
Despite having a big 20-gallon tank, its pneumatic wheels make it a very portable unit to move it from one place to another without much effort.
- Large 20-gallon tank
- Pneumatic wheels for great mobility
- Max 135 PSI ensures high air pressure flow
- Dual voltage induction motor maximizes air tool performance
- Easy to operate on-board controls
- Cooling solution isn’t quite effective
- Air release valve at the bottom creates hazards
4. Powermate Vx PLA4708065 Electric Air Compressor
If you want a serious air compressor to handle pretty much every task that requires air pressure, this can be a great purchase considering the specs and features it comes with.
This single stage high flowing air compressor provides a max 155 PSI of powerful air pressure to do professional works. With 14 CFM at 90 PSI, you will find the unit to be reliable enough to allow the air tools long runtime to complete tasks.
Made of cast iron, this compressor unit can withstand all working conditions without any issue. Its three-cylinder construction makes sure there are very minimum residue build-ups, and the performance is uncompromised. The unit runs much cooler compared to conventional units due to the wire formed belt guard.
Its oil-lubricated pump is more long-lasting than oil-free ones. The unit features a dual voltage induction motor to deliver hassle-free convenient operation.
For professional workloads, this air compressor model comes with a huge 80-gallon tank, which will be more than enough no matter for what purpose you are about to use it.
- Huge 80-gallon capacity
- High air pressure flow at 155 PSI
- Three-cylinder efficient running performance
- Operates at much cooler state
- Durably made with protected moving parts
- Convenient tank pressure gauge and switch
- Lacks portability due to huge tank
- Doesn’t come with a power cord
- Not the quietest air compressor
5. Rolair VT25BIG 2.5 HP Wheeled Compressor for Painting Car
Using light-duty air tools don't require much powerful air compressor to function properly. The same goes for the painting sprayer. If you are on a budget and looking for a smaller model, this compressor unit can provide great value for your money.
For convenient operation, this air compressor can deliver 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI, allowing the air tools to work for a long time. It got a powerful 2.5 HP motor that spins at 3400 RPM providing enough power to operate the compressor more efficiently.
The tank has a 5.3-gallon capacity, which is more than enough for small applications. Due to its smaller capacity tank, the mobility of this unit is quite impressive. You can easily move from places to places without much effort.
Made of cast iron metal, the overall construction is pretty durable. You can take this to your worksite; it got everything to protect itself from high intensive work impacts.
To make sure the pump functions well for longer, it got splash lubrication for this purpose. There will be much less wear and tear hassle, unlike oil-free machines.
- Highly efficient motor
- Long runtime for air tools
- 5.3-gallon tank capacity
- Holds pressure well
- Durable construction
- Wheels for easy maneuverability
- A bit louder
- Needs to be close to the power outlet
6. Ingersoll Rand 2340N5-V Two-Stage Compressor
Here we’ve another air compressor with huge gallon capacity. If you are looking for a compressor unit for professional use or advanced DIY projects, its 80-gallon tank capacity will be more than enough for any task you throw at it.
Designed for heavy-duty using purposes, you can rely on this unit for industrial tasks as well. The compressor unit is powered by an industrial-grade 5 HP motor with a max 175 PSI to provide optimal uncompromised air pressure to professional projects.
Constructed with durable cast iron, it can easily withstand the toughest working conditions no matter where you use it, be it indoors or outdoors worksites. Its ODP motor assures you of 100% continuous air pressure duty regardless of the season. The motor got synthetic lubrication to keep the operation running.
Equipped with two-stage pumps, the cylinders remain much cooler compared to other models. It eliminates hot spots to ensure efficient performance, even in the most demanding conditions.
Even though it’s such a series air pressure compressor, the overhung crankshaft makes sure the system is precisely balanced to deliver smooth and quiet operation.
If you are looking for an air compressor to handle heavy-duty tasks such as automotive repairing, machine shops, fleet maintenance, production and manufacturing, general repair or maintenance shop, farms, etc. this one is worth giving a try.
- Heavy-duty industrial air compressor
- Handles tough jobs smoothly
- 175 PSI max air pressure
- Large 80-gallon tank
- Durably made of cast iron metal
- Runs relatively cooler
- Not a portable unit
- A lot heavier
7. DeWalt Pancake Air Compressor Spray Gun
Even though the tank capacity of this air compressor from DeWalt isn’t substantial, it’s able to deliver high-speed air pressure. With this, you can deal with most applications that require air pressure without much hassle.
The high efficient motor of this compressor unit provides a max 165 PSI air pressure to ensure efficient operation. There will be no hassle while running the motor on extremely cold days. Its high-flow regulator will increase the performance of air tools while allowing them to do their best as per the ability.
To handle light-duty air tools and applications, the pump of this compressor unit provides 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI and 3.7 SCFM at 40 PSI that allows the tools to run for a decent period. Also, the quick recovery period is quite impressive in this one.
With a noise level of 75.5 dBA, you can rest assured about its quiet running performance. If you prefer to work in a quiet environment, this air compressor will not make much disturbance. As the pump is oil-free, you don't need to spend much time on its maintenance.
It has 2 universal couplers to allow users to flow air pressure from two air tools at a time. As the pump size is only 6 gallons, there will be no issue while carrying or moving this pancake-shaped compressor unit.
- 165 PSI high-flow air pressure
- Provides long runtime with quick recovery
- Produces low noise
- Oil-free long-life pump
- Motor can start in cold temperature
- Lightweight and portable unit
- Poor fittings cause fast air leaking
- Regulator requires frequent adjustments
8. California 8010 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor for Painting
If you don't want to compromise when it comes to the noise, this ultra-quiet air compressor is the one you need to get if you are okay with 8-gallon tank capacity. Even though it’s a bit larger than other compressor units, there are wheels to make it move effortlessly, which assures you of easy mobility as well.
This one is the quietest air compressor on the list. It only produces 60 dBA of noise, which is super quiet compared to its competitors. It will not cause any disturbance from the sound aspect for sure. Also, the pump is an oil-free one, meaning you don't need to put much effort into its maintenance work.
Powered by a 1 HP motor, it can provide your air tools a maximumair pressure of 120 PSI to do tasks more effectively. At 40 and 90 PSI, the pump delivers 3 and 2.2 CFM respectively to ensure a decent runtime without much compromise.
It only takes 165 seconds to fill the pump from an empty state. 30 seconds of recovery time is also quite impressive in this unit.
This low maintenance air compressor has an 8-gallon tank and still weighs only 48 lbs;thus, it’seasy to maneuver.
- Ultra-quiet operational noise
- Oil-free clean air
- Requires less maintenance
- 8-gallon tank capacity
- Lightweight and easy to move
- 120 max PSI for effective operation
- Convenient pressure gauges
- Leaks air pressure in a small amount
- Has some design flaws
How to Select the Best Air Compressor for Painting?
Before you finalize which air compressor you are getting for painting cars, there are a few things to consider to make sure the unit you get is worth spending every penny. Undoubtedly, the tank capacity and size aren’t the only things that determine how good a compressor unit is.
As the unit you are about to get is primarily for painting purposes, you need to make sure that the device can deliver a steady stream of paint easily. Be sure to check for the following aspects when you select an air compressor.
All the air compressor units mention PSI (pounds per square inch) value. It determines how much air force the pressure tank can deliver. Compared to HVLP paint sprayers, airless paint sprayers require more PSI.
Therefore, if you primarily use an airless sprayer, make sure the compressor unit is able to provide a decent PSI for painting cars.
However, if you mostly use HVLP sprayers, a compressor with low PSI will do the painting quite easily.
In most cases, people also use the compressor unit to power up other air tools as well. If you are about to do the same, and pre-planned to use the air pressure for a secondary tool, be sure to check the PSI requirements of that tool.
It will make sure you will be able to do multiple tasks using the same compressor without compromising much regarding the performance. Most higher capacity air compressors will be more than enough for such tasks. If you are to buy a lower capacity budget-friendly unit, make sure you select the right one for your needs.
CFM - Cubic Feet Per Minute
This particular term indicates the amount of air a compressor unit delivers at a certain pressure. The numbers and figures might seem overwhelming to you. But, you need to give importance to this aspect to get the right equipment needed for the paint job.
Compared to other air tools, paint sprayers run continuously. Thus, they need relatively higher CFM ratings than other tools to be able to paint efficiently.
Make sure the CFM rating of the compressor unit meets the required CFM of the sprayer tool. Otherwise, your car will end up having paint flowing unevenly, or the paint will be splattered out of the nozzle when you press to spray on a car.
Again, an expensive and larger compressor unit will have a higher CFM rating. But, if you are settling for a small or medium unit, make sure the CFM rating is 30-32% higher in the compressor to paint effectively. Also, for using other air tools, be sure to consider their required ratings as well.
You need to pick an air compressor of the right tank size to be able to get consistent air pressure power to paint vehicles effectively. Compared to other light-duty air tools, painting sprayers deal with more demanding jobs. Thus, a smaller capacity compressor will not get a strong ground for the paintwork.
Professionals and experts recommend getting a 50-gallon air compressor to efficiently handle the task. However, you can go for 30 gallons or lower if the CFM requirements of the sprayer meet with what the compressor can deliver.
First, you need to determine whether you will move the compressor unit or not.
Smaller air compressors are very easy to lift and move from place to place. As these come with a smaller capacity, it’s not your concern.
Larger capacity compressor units come with wheels or no wheels to serve specific purposes. Units with wheels are easier to move from one place to another. So, if you need to move the compressor frequently, be sure to get one that comes with wheels for easy mobility.
If you have fixed a place for a compressor in your garage or workshop, and there is no need to move the unit, you don't need a wheeled compressor. These come with huge capacity, which is too difficult to move even on wheels. Therefore, larger units are for setting on a specific place or location.
As it’s about compressor machines, more or less all the air compressors produce noise. However, if noise is an issue that you cannot compromise with, be sure to get an air compressor that produces 70 dBA noise or less. It will keep the work environment a lot quieter.
If you want the air compressor for your home garage, a low noise unit will make sure the neighbors aren’t annoyed by the sound.
Oil or Oil-free
The pump or motor of air compressor units requires lubrication more or less. Oil-free units come pre-lubricated, and you don't need to lubricate externally any further, thus, less hassle for maintenance.
Even though maintenance is a concern for pumps that require oil, these last much longer than oil-free ones. Oil-based compressors are far less prone to wear and tear, which isn’t the case with oil-free units.
Installing Air Compressor Kit with a Spray Gun
Whether you plan to DIY paint your car or you are a professional, achieving a perfect finish is what matters. Even though you get the most expensive and powerful air compressor, if the entire setup isn't good, most probably, the paint job will end up leaving 'orange peel' effects on the car.
You will need an air compressor, filter or regulator, air hose, regulator, and obviously, the spray gun. Here I suggest using an HVLP spray gun.
Check the Compressor Unit
First, make sure the compressor unit can deliver the required PSI and CFM by the spray gun. If you manage to set up the entire system, there will be no pressure drop or volume loss, and imperfect coverage.
Get the Right Air Hose
The next step is to get an air hose of the right diameter and size. Pressure also drops if the hose is too long. Similarly, less air pressure is delivered if the hose is narrow.
Consider using a hose more than ¼ inch with an ID for your spray gun. As HVLP spray guns require larger volumes of air pressure, make sure you get one with more than 5/16 inch diameter. 8.5mm diameter hose can be a standard one to choose from.
Now, you need to make sure the air hose is of appropriate length. Get an air hose of 10m long. A longer hose will lose pressure, anda smaller hose can provide more air pressure than what is required.
If you attach the air hose to the gun, and there is no need to remove it frequently, it would be better not to use any quick disconnect fittings. Not using one will not affect the finish, but using unnecessary connectors can cause the pressure to drop.
But if your work requires you to use fittings, be sure to use less restrictive ones. The female portion of the connector should not be too small.
Get a Good Quality High Flow Regulator
Then, you will need an air regulator to make sure the air pressure is constant and smooth. Here again, don't use a too restrictive regulator as it can cause an excessive pressure drop. Get a wall-mounted regulator, it delivers constant air pressure to the spray gun and minimizes unwanted pressure drop.
Connect the Gun and Start Spraying
Once you are done with the rest of the setups, attach the spray gun to the regulator, and give your car a nice looking brand new look.
Operating and Maintaining Air Compressor for Painting Projects
When you are all set for the paint job, know that there are two techniques to follow. Depending on your compressor configuration, specs, and your set up, you need to determine which one to go with.
You will require 1 gallon of primer or base coat, 3 gallons of topcoat, and 2 to 3 gallons of clear coat. This is for a small or midsize vehicle. For a larger vehicle, get 1.5 gallons of primer, 4 gallons of topcoat, 3 to 4 gallons of clear coat.
Stripping or Sanding
First, you need to sand out the older clear top and base coats using a sander. For corners and crevices, you will need to use your hand for a better result. Sand the entire surface smoothly and evenly as you can.
When it’s done, use a clean rag and paint thinner to wipe dust. Then let the thinner evaporate before proceeding further.
Mix the primer and thinners according to the instructed ratio. Now, mask off surfaces you don't want to paint. Hold the paint gun six inches away from the car panel and spray in a sweeping side-to-side motion. Only hold the trigger when you move the gun.
The best is to do it from the roof down. Make sure you apply thin and even coats. You will need to give 2 to 3 coats to cover the panels. It takes about 10 minutes to apply. The primer will take 20 to 60 minutes to cure between coats. You need to smooth the powdery finish of the primer using 2000-grit wet and dry sandpaper.
Now, use a dampened rag and thinner to wipe down the cured surface. Don't use too much thinner, or it will strip out the primer.
Here comes the main part. Mix your paint and thinner, maintaining the instructed ratios. Apply the same spraying technique as you did for primer. It will require 3 to 4 coats to finish. Be sure to let the coats dry in between them.
Before proceeding to the final coat, remove powdery effects using 2000 grit wet and dry sandpaper. Wipe off the residue using a clean rag. You need to do the same after applying the clear-coat lacquer as well.
Remove the masking tape before the clear coat dries. Then, let the coat cure according to the instructed time. Once it dries, see if there is any imperfection. If you find any, sand off the area using 2000 grit sandpaper, and respray following the same processes.
Technique to Follow for Smaller Compressor Tank
If you have a small air compressor tank, you need to frequently drain water to be able to avoid the condensation issue. Consider draining water from the tank after every 2 passes. Draining water from a smaller tank takes only a few minutes, this patience will buy you satisfactory results and even finish.
Consider using a dry cloth or dryer to wipe out all the water from the tank.
Frequently Asked Questions
What size air compressor do I need for painting cars?
The recommended size of an air compressor for painting cars using a sprayer is 50 gallons. As the spraying gun requires more PSI and CFM, smaller compressor units don't meet the requirements.
However, 30 gallons or fewer compressor units can do the task if PSI and CFM requirements of the gun meet the compressor’s specs.
Can you paint a car with a 30 gallon air compressor?
Using a 30 gallon or less air compressor to paint cars is quite difficult if the PSI and CFM have a lower rating. A smaller tank will struggle to paint the entire car at once.
However, if you can adjust a few things and counter the pressure drop, only then it’s possible to paint even with lower PSI and CFM rating. I have mentioned one technique to follow for smaller compressor units in the previous section.
How many CFM do you need to paint a car?
To be able to get a smooth and evenly finished paint job on your car panel, you will need an air compressor with 12 CFM, at least. It will ensure a steady output to make sure the pressure doesn't drop and ruin the paintwork.
What PSI should I use to paint a car?
An HVLP (high volume low pressure) sprayer gun can handle paint jobs on cars using 10 to 15 PSI without much hassle. There is no need for higher PSI to be able to do so. CFM is something that is more important and needs to be higher than PSI for painting.
Can you spray paint with a pancake compressor?
Most pancake compressor units have 6 to 7 gallons of tank capacity and come with much lower PSI and CFM. Thus, as far as painting is concerned, it would be tough to get a good paint job using a pancake compressor.
How many layers of clear coat should I apply?
Applying 3 to 4 layers of clear coat will be more than enough when it's about painting cars. You need to let each of these coats dry before attempting another layer. It takes roughly about an hour to cure properly, including applying time.
In the end, if you ask me to recommend the best air compressor for painting cars, I would recommend you to go with the Ingersoll Rand 2340N5. This particular compressor unit has a huge 80-gallon capacity with higher PSI. Also, the PSI and CFM ratings are more than enough for doing professional paint jobs.
If you are to buy a professional-grade air compressor for an automotive repair shop, this industrial grade compressor will bring great value for your money.