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Best Air compressor for Painting Cars 2018- Buyer’s Guide and Reviews

Best Air compressor for Painting Cars

When it comes to power tools, none are quite as useful or as versatile as an air compressor. With one machine you can equip and operate a slew of different devices, such as nailers, staplers, and framers, just to name a few. Today, however, we are going to go over one particular industry that needs high-quality air compression to get the best results possible. We are referring, of course, to automotive painting. If you’ve ever tried to get a new coat of paint on your car, you have probably wondered how it all works.Best Air compressor for Painting Cars

Well, using compressed air the auto body shop can spray the paint and coating directly onto the material to get a polished and clean finish each time. However, not all air compressors are up to the challenge, so if you’re interested in adding some paint to your vehicle, you’ll need something that can provide excellent results without creating any problems.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best air compressor paint sprayer, as well as go over the various features and specifications that you’ll have to check to make sure you’re getting the right model.

Top 5 best Air Compressor for Painting cars Comparison Chart

PRODUCT 

IMAGE

MODEL

WEIGHT

EDITOR RATTING

PRICE

Editors ​First Choice

DeWalt D55146

80 pounds

California Air Tools 1060SE

82.5 pounds

Campbell Hausfeld 14CFM 5HP 208-230V

8 ounces

Master Airbrush KIT-SP19-20

11.9 pounds

PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003

34.1 pounds

How to Choose a Portable Air Compressor for Painting

Size

When doing a coat of paint with an air compressor, the most important thing you can have is a constant stream of air coming out. If the unit has to recycle on a regular basis, that means that you will have to take longer and you’ll run the risk of creating bubbles or diluting your paint with water collecting in the tank. As such, you’ll want to get a machine with a large enough reserve to last for hours on end, unless you want to spend days working on your project.

For auto painting, it’s best to go big and get something with 20 gallons or more, but if you’re low on space or funds, then you can go with something smaller.

Output

This measurement is usually referred to as cubic feet per minute, or CFM. The higher the output, the more surface area you can cover in a shorter amount of time. However, if you are doing detail work, then you will want something with a lower output so that you don’t risk overdoing the paint. The other thing to consider is the pressure level. Most air compressors will deliver air at about 90 PSI (pounds per square inch), which is more than enough to operate most airbrush nozzles. Overall, just make sure that your compressor can deliver enough air at once to get the job done efficiently.

Motor

Because painting doesn’t require a lot of power, you won’t need a super deluxe motor in most cases. That being said, something with about half a horsepower or so will do the job just fine and ensure that you’re not putting too much effort into your paint job. While it may be tempting to opt for something bigger and more robust, the fact is that unless you’re doing a lot of other jobs besides painting, more is not necessarily better.

Oil-Free

Finally, some compressors need oil to lubricate the machinery and keep it running smoothly. However, if you use that kind of machine for auto painting, you will get small flecks of oil into the paint, which could make it run or clump, depending on the situation. To ensure that this doesn’t happen you need to get an oil-free pump.

What Makes an Air Compressor Ideal for Painting?

When looking at different air compressors, the most important factors to consider when buying one for automotive painting are the size of the tank and the output level. If you’re doing broad strokes, then you’ll need something with a higher SCFM rating. Also, to make sure that you can do the job in one sitting, you’ll need a massive reserve tank that won’t have to recycle often.

The biggest challenge is making sure that you have a steady stream of air. If you have a limited tank, then you’ll have to pause every few minutes while the compressor recycles, which can get quite annoying over time. Also, the more it recycles, the more water will collect in the tank, meaning that you will have to drain it every few times it regenerates to ensure that your paint isn’t getting watered down.

To help reduce the amount of power and pressure you need, the best thing to do is get a gravity fed airbrush. This device puts the paint above the nozzle so that gravity does most of the work for you while the air just delivers it to the surface. This way you can reduce the amount of output you need, thereby enabling you to go with a smaller device. If you can opt for a larger one, however, we highly recommend it as it will take much less work overall.

What is the correct pressure for spray painting?

There are different ways used to paint the outside of a house or car. Spray painting as among the many methods you may use. It is important to note that spraying is not about pressure but air volume. Therefore, your spray gun should have low pressure and high volume.  When the pressure is too little, you should expect to have an orange peel outcome with excess pressure causing you to waste more material than required as a result of unnecessary bounce-back.

The secret to doing everything right is by knowing the correct pressure. Most spray-gun makers give the air pressure information accompanied by their product. This is one way of helping you to attain the best pressure. Although there are additional factors that may affect the right pressure for spray painting, it is necessary to be careful not to have an inconsistent spray pattern Such pattern may cause streaking. Change the pressure if you change weather conditions.

Recommended of Best size Air Compressors for painting cars

1. DEWALT D55146 4-1/2-Gallon 200-PSI Hand Carry Compressor with Wheels

Our first stop is with a moderately sized compressor by DeWalt. While this particular model is not conducive for large painting jobs, if you are doing casual work or spot painting then it can do wonders. DeWalt has always been a high-quality brand for consumer power tools, and this compressor is a gold standard for the industry.

What we like about this model is that it has a relatively large reserve tank that can hold up to 4.5 gallons. Also, the output is phenomenal with 5.0 SCFM at 90 PSI. If you are looking to cover a wide area in a short period, then this is an excellent way to do it.

We also like the fact that this compressor comes with wheels so that you can move it much more easily around your workspace. Also, the fact that it can work horizontally or vertically means that you can make sure it’s out of your way while you work. Finally, the quiet operation makes it ideal for garages that don’t want a ton of noise.

Pros

  • High-capacity motor
  • Durable construction
  • Low maintenance design
  • Works in multiple positions
  • Easy to transport
  • Easy to use
  • Works well in most environments

Cons

  • Some components are not as durable as others
  • In some cases, it may take a while to recycle
  • In rare instances, the unit may start leaking

Highlighted Features

  • Powerful 1.8 horsepower motor
  • Large 4.5-gallon reserve tank
  • 5.0 SCFM output
  • Max PSI of 200, operating PSI of 90
  • Keep in vertical or horizontal position
  • ten-inch pneumatic tires for easier transportation
  • Collapsible handle for your convenience
  • Quiet operation at 78 dB
  • Roll bar protects internal components
  • Dual connectors available
  • Oil-free and maintenance-free pump
  • One-year limited warranty

2. PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor

Next, we have another highly capable (if somewhat limited) compressor. This pancake style unit from Porter-Cable is ideal for small paint jobs, as it would take over a quite some time to do a full-scale finish on a car. That being said, if you work mostly on models or small projects, then this can be a great device for your needs.

When talking about performance, this compressor comes with a 3.5-gallon tank, it delivers up to 2.0 SCFM at 90 PSI, and it only weighs 26 pounds. That means that transporting it from place to place is a breeze as all you have to do is pick it up by the handle and carry it to wherever it needs to be. Also, it is relatively quiet, operating at 82 decibels.

Pros

  • High-capacity motor
  • Durable construction
  • Low maintenance design
  • Quiet operation
  • Lightweight and portable
  • High output
  • Easy to use
  • Fast recycle times

Cons

  • Can take a while to recycle
  • Not as powerful as other models
  • In rare cases, the unit may overheat

Highlighted Features

  • Powerful ten-amp motor
  • Large 3.5-gallon reserve tan
  • Delivers up to 2.0 SCFM
  • Max PSI of 135, standard PSI of 90
  • Lightweight at only 26 pounds
  • Durable oil-free pump
  • Quiet operation at 82 dB
  • Quick-connect coupler for fast changes
  • Rubber feet for stability
  • One-year limited warranty

3. California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air Compressor, Silver

One of the biggest issues with air compressors is that they are quite loud. Fortunately, if noise is a particular concern to you, then this next model from California Air Tools should be your ideal choice. Although it is smaller and doesn’t have as much reserve as the others we’ve seen, it operates at only 56 decibels, which is quieter than human speech. As such, if you work on small projects then this could be the perfect compressor for you.

What we like most about this unit is the compact design (it weighs less than thirty pounds), the quiet operation and the low maintenance of the motor. In fact, this particular motor is rated to last up to 3000 hours before needing any work done, which is impressive given its size and output. Overall, this is a fantastic unit for anyone doing a small to moderate amount of painting.

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Ideal for small jobs
  • Low maintenance design
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Built to last
  • Quieter than most other models
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Not as powerful as other models
  • Has to recycle more often than larger units
  • Some components are not as durable as others

Highlighted Features

  • Sturdy 0.6-horsepower motor
  • One-gallon reserve tank
  • Delivers up to 1.2 SCFM
  • Operating PSI of 90, Max PSI of 120
  • Ultra quiet operation (56 dB)
  • Lightweight design is only 29 pounds
  • Oil-free pump
  • Low maintenance design lasts up to 3000 hours
  • Top handlebar for easy transportation
  • Rubber feet for stability
  • One-year limited warranty

Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor, 80 Gallon Vertical Two Stage 14CFM 5HP 208-230V 1PH (HS5180)

While our previous compressor was built for small jobs, this next model from Campbell Hausfeld is designed for a professional auto body shop. So, if you’re serious about getting into automotive painting and want to make sure that you can get any job done right the first time, this is the compressor for you.

As you’ll notice, this thing is massive with an eighty-gallon reserve tank. That means that it can deliver up to 14 SCFM at 90 PSI, which is more than enough to power multiple airbrush tools at the same time. Plus, because the motor is oil-free and low maintenance, this machine is rated to last up to 12,000 hours before needing any kind of servicing. Overall, this is what the professionals use to make sure that they can paint a whole car in one sitting.

Pros

  • Extra large design
  • Built for commercial purposes
  • Won’t run out of air quickly
  • Built to last
  • High-capacity output
  • Low maintenance design
  • Ideal for most airbrush jobs
  • Stays out of the way

Cons

  • Might be too large for some work areas
  • Can be hard to move into place
  • Power cord may not be included

Highlighted Features

  • Powerful five horsepower motor
  • Extra large 80-gallon reserve tank
  • Durable cast iron construction
  • Delivers up to 14 SCFM
  • Max PSI of 175, standard PSI of 90
  • Oil-free and maintenance free design
  • Lasts for up to 12,000 hours
  • Two-stage pump for better results
  • Vertical design to save space
  • Robust 22-amp motor

Master Airbrush KIT-SP19-20 Art Airbrushing System Paint Kit with Standard Compressor Review

Our final stop is an air compressor that comes with everything you need to get started on your airbrush painting career. While this setup is not exactly built for automotive painting, it is ideal for arts and crafts, making it a perfect addition to any workshop or garage.

What makes this whole set unique is that it comes with everything you need to get started. An extra long hose, three different nozzles, and a complete set of paint are included, as well as brush cleaners to keep your injectors clean between sprays. All of that comes with a robust ⅛ horsepower motor that delivers up to 0.8 SCFM at 45 PSI. As we mentioned, this particular setup is not built for full-size cars, but rather arts and crafts. Overall, if that’s something you’re interested in, then this is the best kit to get, hands down.

Pros

  • Ideal for arts and crafts
  • Comes with everything you need to get started
  • Complete accessory kit provided
  • Low maintenance design
  • Power saving operation
  • Quiet and compact
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to clean
  • Provides excellent airbrush results
  • Perfect for beginners and experienced painters

Cons

  • In some cases, the unit may not come with all the accessories listed
  • Not ideal for commercial paint jobs
  • Some nozzles may arrive damaged

Highlighted Features

  • Sturdy 0.5 horsepower motor
  • Delivers 0.8 SCFM
  • Max PSI of 57, operating PSI of 45
  • Automatically shuts off when not in use
  • Large one-gallon reserve tank
  • Oil and maintenance-free motor
  • Water filter ensures clean, dry air
  • Complete airbrush kit included
  • Hoses, nozzles, and paint provided
  • Mini brush cleaning set included
  • How-to airbrush manual provided

Final Verdict

If you’re serious about doing automotive painting, then we highly recommend buying the Campbell Hausfeld 80-Gallon Compressor. Although larger and more expensive than anything else on this list, it provides the best features and benefits of anything else we’ve seen. That being said, if you are not planning on doing a ton of paint work on your car, then the DeWalt D55146 is your next best bet. While it will take longer to finish a piece, it won’t take up as much room, and it has the best delivery system for a smaller compressor.

Mary T. White
 

Hi everyone, I'm a trained AC service technician who uses several tools in my profession. I created this interactive platform to share experiences and vital information. Feel free to share your views and ask any question.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
John O'Donovan - January 21, 2018

At the start you use CFM and then without any explanation you switch to SCF with no further mention of CFM. Or am I reading incorrectly?

Reply
    Mary T. White - January 23, 2018

    Difference between SCF and CFM
    Most of the time, you will find yourself in a situation where you have to heat the airflow. At this point, you will consider factors such as the amount of “stuff” that you need to heat up (scientists refer to this as mass flow rate) and the right temperature to use.
    What is CFM?
    CFM is an acronym for Cubic Feet per Minute. In the US, this is the most common measure of the volumetric air flow rate. Normally, the volumetric air flow refers to the amount of air going through a given unit regardless of whether the source is a blower, fan or an airline that is compressed.
    What is SCFM?
    SCFM, on the other hand, stands for Standard Cubic Feet per Minute. This means the unit only works on condition that all the other factors are standard and its values vary from one company or organization to another.
    It is, therefore, safe to say that the main difference between CFM and SCFM is that the former’s values are taken under actual conditions while the latter’s values are taken in standard conditions.

    Reply
John M O'Donovan - January 21, 2018

Mary, The heading is Best air compressor for painting cars…
So how does the pancake compressor fall into that category when you say that it could take a week to paint a car with it. How does that allow this unit to be applicable for the category even if you’re not bein quite literal with the week part.
I’ve bothered to read the entire article and I am trying hard not to be synical in thinking that this article is more geared towards marketing as many tools within a favorable price range to the common man than it is towards giving proper information.
Just some constructive criticism and not chastising.

Reply
    Mary T. White - January 23, 2018

    There is no contradiction there, it is one of the best as per its highlighted features and capabilities as far as a user is not dealing with the large-scale projects.

    Reply

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