[Top 5] Best Air Compressor for Painting Cars

Best Air Compressor for Painting Cars

Car painting used to be a messy and tedious process, but since the advent of paint sprayers, the process has become somewhat more comfortable. An air compressor is an essential component in a sprayer, as it will ensure a pressurized flow of paint and make the painting process faster. Whether you are attempting to paint your car yourself or are a professional car painter, you need to understand what to look for in the best air compressor for painting cars. To make it easier for you to choose the right air compressor for auto repair shop, we will review some of the best air compressors you can paint with. We will also discuss some of the factors to consider before you choose an air compressor for car restoration.

Comparison Table of Air Compressor for Painting Cars

ImageProductAir Tank CapacityPrice
California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Air Compressor10 GallonCheck Price
Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor30 GallonCheck Price
Stark Portable Quiet Air Compressor10 GallonCheck Price
Industrial Air Belt Driven Air Compressor30 GallonCheck Price
Porter Cable Portable Air Compressor20 GallonCheck Price

Top 5 Best Air Compressor for Painting Cars

1. California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Air Compressor

Key Features

  • 10 Gallon Air Tank.
  • Ultra Quiet.
  • Oil-free Pump.

The California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor is one of the quietest air compressors you can get. With a 2 HP motor that operates at 1680 RPM, it is indeed a perfect compressor to paint cars with. It comes with an oil-free dual piston pump system that makes for an impressive performance and durability. Another exciting thing about this air compressor is that it can reach a PSI of 125. This makes it suitable for several other purposes apart from car painting.

The 10-gallon steel air tank is not the largest you will get in the market, but it is still a reasonable capacity for car painting, and it comes with wheels for mobility. Furthermore, it comes with an easy start valve that ensures an effortless start using fewer amps. With the two pressure control gauges, two universal ΒΌ" quick connectors, the condor press switch, and more, you have everything you need for a smooth painting process.

Pros
  • Ultra-quiet operation.
  • It comes with wheels for mobility.
  • 1 year limited warranty.
  • Oil-free pump.
Cons
  • The 10-gallon tank is on the small side.

2. Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor

Key Features

  • 30 Gallon Tank.
  • Two-cylinder Pump.
  • Large Semi-pneumatic Wheels.

The Campbell Hausfeld VT6271 is another versatile air compressor that is perfect for painting cars and several other DIY projects. It delivers 10.2 CFM at 90 PSI, which is more than sufficient to paint your car. The air compressor comes with a 30-gallon tank on wheels that make it easy to move around in an auto shop or personal garage. It comes with a dual-stage motor that is rated at 240V.

Furthermore, it is a highly durable air compressor with a superior pump crankshaft that combines with a V-belt drive to provide a long-lasting motor with about 5000 hours of performance. It does make some noise, but we believe that shouldn't be a problem in a workshop setting. It has a maximum PSI of 135 that makes it suitable for several other projects apart from car painting. If you want a durable air compressor to paint your car and power other pneumatic tools, the Campbell Hausfeld VT6271 is one of the compressors you should consider.
Pros
  • It is a durable air compressor.
  • It is versatile.
  • User-friendly design.
  • Up to 5000 hours of product life.
Cons
  • It is not the quietest compressor.

3. Stark Portable Quiet Air Compressor

Key Features

  • Maximum PSI of 125.
  • Automatic Shutoff.
  • Durable Cast Iron Cylinder.

If you need a portable air compressor that can be moved around easily, you should take a look at this Stark machine. With a maximum PSI of 125, the compressor is perfect for car painting and several other projects. More air intake is made possible by the large automotive style industrial air filter, and the cast iron pump with a big bore cylinder makes for durability. The highlight of this machine is the portability, plus the fact that it comes with wheels for mobility.

You would never guess that it has an airflow of 7.2 CFM at 40 PSI and 3.5 CFM at 90 PSI, as it is a seemingly small air compressor. The 3.5 HP motor is powerful enough and comes with thermal overload protection. Impressively, it comes with an automatic shutoff feature that shuts the pump off when it attains maximum pressure. Compared to most air compressors, this Stark compressor operates without making much noise.

Pros
  • It operates quietly.
  • Durable cast iron tank.
  • Automatic shut off.
  • It is a portable compressor.
Cons
  • Plastic handle is not durable.

4. Industrial Air Belt Driven Air Compressor

Key Features

  • 155 Maximum Pressure.
  • Belt Drive Technology.
  • Heavy-Duty Induction Motor.

A larger tank size means that you won't run out air often, and it gets you running for more extended periods. Weighing about 185 pounds, the Industrial Air ILA1883054 Compressor comes with a 30-gallon tank and wheels that make it easy to move around. With a cast iron twin cylinder pump that comes with an aluminum head and valve plate for fast heat dissipation, the compressor is one of the most durable ones on the market.

The compressor features a 1.9 HP motor that is not the most powerful motor but is still suitable for car painting. Furthermore, the dual voltage motor is wired for a 120-volt outlet, but it can also be converted for a 240-volt application. The compressor is shipped with synthetic oil for optimum performance. Also, it is a straightforward machine to operate as it comes with onboard controls that allow easy access to the various controls. To further assure you of the durability, a 2-year limited warranty comes with the compressor.

Pros
  • Easy machine to operate.
  • Two year limited warranty.
  • Belt drive technology.
  • Easy to operate.
Cons
  • Not the most powerful compressor.

5. Porter Cable Portable Air Compressor

Key Features

  • 7" Semi-Pneumatic Wheels.
  • 20 Gallon Tank.
  • 150 Maximum PSI.

The Porter Cable PXCMF220VW Air Compressor features an oil-free motor that makes it economical to operate. The 20-gallon tank size is perfect for car painting and several other tasks. With a horsepower of 1.5, the oil-free induction motor is trusted to run continuously as you paint. However, it should not be run continuously for more than 45 minutes. The compressor is rated 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI and 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI. It has a maximum PSI of 150 and requires a low voltage startup.

The package includes a pressure switch, a tank pressure gauge, and a pressure relief valve that makes for quick tank draining. Weighing 97 pounds, it is quite heavy, but the 7-inch solid rubber wheels make the unit mobile. With a sound level of 84 dBA, the noise level is quite high, but some customers have testified to a low noise level. As it has no belts or pulleys, it is an easy portable air compressor to maintain.
Pros
  • It is easy to operate.
  • Oil-free induction motor.
  • Easy to maintain.
  • Sturdy rubber wheels.
Cons
  • Noise level is quite high.

Features and Factors to Consider When Buying Air Compressor

If you don't have a profound knowledge of how paint guns and air compressors work, you are likely to be overwhelmed when choosing an air compressor to paint your car with. Because there are so many air compressors on the market today, it will be very easy to select a wrong compressor if you don't know the features and factors to consider.

CFM Rating

Air compressors require a specific volume of air to function correctly, and this is measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute). However, different models come with varying abilities as regards the volume of air they pump, and this directly influences how good a paint job you can achieve with the compressors. Needless to say that the higher the CFM rating, the costlier they become.

You should consider the type of painting to be done with the air compressor. Simple paint repair works can be done efficiently with low CFM compressors, but a full car painting must be done with a reasonably high CFM compressor. If you operate an auto body shop, we would recommend 10-18 CFM. However, if all you need to do is some minor paint repair, a much lower CFM rating will do. CFM in portable compressors can be lower.

Air Pressure

In conjunction with the CFM rating, you have to consider the air pressure rating before you buy an air compressor. It is simply the force of the airflow that a compressor delivers, and it is rated in PSI (pounds per square inch). To get an even paint job, the PSI does not necessarily have to be high.

Your spray gun type will be either HVLP (high volume, low pressure) or LVLP (low volume, low pressure). They will both function well at low pressure. On average, air tools require around 90 PSI, but paint sprayers require varying levels of pressure.

Tank Size

While this doesn't directly affect how well your paintwork comes out, it does affect how often you run out of compressed air and have to run the motor. The larger the tanks, the more air it can store for the painting process, so it will only serve you well to get a compressor with a reasonably sized tank.

Unlike some pneumatic tools that use air intermittently, a spray painter requires a continuous flow of air, so you should get a compressor with sufficient tank space. However, if you want a portable compressor, you may be limited when it comes to tank size.

Horsepower

Another factor you should before you choose an air compressor is the horsepower. While a high horsepower doesn't necessarily translate to an efficient painting process, it seems reasonable to choose a compressor with a high horsepower as it will be versatile enough to power other pneumatic tools.

Furthermore, we advise that you be wary of the horsepower ratings you see on these products. Some manufacturers exaggerate the power of their compressors in a bit to sell more. However, many of the air compressors on the market are appropriately matched to the air tank size, so you don't have to be particularly concerned about the horsepower.

Portability

It may seem like a good idea to get a stationary compressor if you operate an auto painting workshop. Nevertheless, there are portable models that can be easily moved around - some even come with wheels. For DIY enthusiasts painting personal vehicles, we recommend a portable compressor that can be easily moved around and stored away.

How to Use a Spray Gun With an Air Compressor

It is not impossible to spray paint without an air compressor. There are several other ways to paint cars effectively. One of the best ways to spray paint automobiles is with an air compressor, and here is how you can do that.

Turn on and Adjust the Compressor

After taking all the preliminary steps of selecting paint, and preparing the car surface, turn on the air compressor to get the pressure building up. You will have to adjust the pressure on the compressor, relative to what is needed by the sprayer. This information typically comes in the manufacturer's instruction.

Attach Hose to Sprayer

When attaching the hose to the sprayer, you have to make sure that the connection is as tight as possible. If the connecting elements are not quick-connect couplings, you may want to wrap Teflon tape around the threads to ensure an airtight connection. 

Thin Paint and Fill Cup

You need to thin the paint so that the sprayer doesn't clog. This is why it is advised that you use solvent-based paint instead of waterborne paints. Thin as much as the paint requires, without getting it too thin. Fill the spray cup with the paint after thinning.

Test Spray Gun and Paint

Aim the spray gun at another surface for testing and power it on to test the flow rate. Adjust the pressure level if required until you get the right flow level and pressure. Holding the sprayer about 10 inches from the car surface, you can now begin the painting process.

Types of Air Compressors

Although air compressors come in different designs and styles, there are three types you can paint your car with.

Rotary Screw Compressor

Rotary screw air compressors work through two internal rotors that turn in opposite directions to trap air in between them and generate pressure. They come with an internal cooling system and don't require much maintenance.

Reciprocating Air Compressor

By means of a piston cylinder, this type of air compressor builds up air pressure by compressing the air it takes in. It comes in single or multi-stage variation.

Centrifugal Air Compressor

This compressor works on the transfer of energy from a rotating impeller to the air. It slows down and cools the air that comes in through the diffuser to build up potential energy. Regardless of size, a centrifugal compressor is able to produce high levels of energy.

Maintenance Of Your Air Compressor

Routine maintenance is necessary if you want your air compressor to remain functional for long enough. Some regular maintenance checks you should carry out include:

  • Check compressor pump oil and replace if necessary
  • Clean or change air filter element
  • Check and replace worn compressor belts
  • Drain water from the tank.
  • Clean tank regularly
  • Tighten bolts and nuts
  • Clean the intake valves

Frequently Asked Questions

How many CFM do you need to paint a car?

The CFM output is one of the critical things to consider when buying an air compressor for auto body work. While a lower CFM rating may be sufficient for minor paint repair work, an average CFM of 10-18 at 90 PSI is recommended for painting cars. With portable compressors, a much lower CFM can be suitable. The CFM of an air compressor should be considered alongside the pressure.

How can I make my air compressor quieter?

It is expected that an air compressor will make some noise, but some machines just make too much noise. If your air compressor is making too much noise, there are some things you can do to make it quieter.

Install rubber on the motor

Rubber is a well-known noise absorbing material, and the impact noise that comes from the compressor can be reduced by installing rubber grommets on the motor.

Put air intake outside

As compressors take in air, noise is generated, somewhat similar to a vacuum. The noise level from air intake will undoubtedly be very high in a confined space compared to the noise from air intake in an open space. Pass the hose outside to get the air intake from outside, and the noise level will reduce.

Buy soundproof box

One of the most effective ways to make an air compressor quieter, a soundproof box will considerably reduce the noise from your compressor in your workshop. However, you should be aware of the cost implication of buying an additional soundproof box.

Lubricate

Like most machines, air compressors feature moving parts that experience friction and generate noise as a result. By lubricating the bearings, the friction will reduce, and so should the noise level.

Conclusion

These are some of the top air compressors for car painting on the market. They are quite portable and come with wheels for mobility. Whether you run an auto painting shop or are a DIY enthusiast, one of these compressors will combine with your spray gun for perfect paint works. Also, we discussed some of the features and factors to consider before you finally choose an air compressor.

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