What Size Air Compressor Do I Need To Paint a Car in 2024?

What size air compressor do I need to paint a car?

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Last Updated on April 16, 2024 by John Patterson

If you own a car, you always want it to shine like a new penny.

But the reality is quite different. Over regular uses, cars are likely to lose the shine that they used to have. So, you have to take out the car painting kit and paint it over again.

Talking about car painting kits, there come the air compressors because the amount of compression you need to source here is only possible with good quality, high power compressors.

And in this article, we are going to show you to select the right size of the air compressor.

What size air compressor do I need to paint a car?

What Does the ‘Size’ of An Air Compressor Mean?

The size is quite a distinct term when it comes to air compressors. By the size, mostly it’s the tank capacity of the model.

That being said, the tank capacity is not only the only performance indicator. If you think that the bigger the tank capacity is, the higher the power it will deliver, you are entirely wrong.

The list of factors that come into consideration about the size (performance) of an air compressor, these are considerable-

  1. The air tank capacity.
  2. The CFM Rating.
  3. The air pressure (psi).
  4. The motor power (Horse Power).
  5. The power source.

In the segments below, we will be discussing each of these points. So, you would receive an accurate indication of the power.

1. The air tank capacity

The capacity to contain compressed air indicates how much usage you can make out of an air compressor. Especially, when it comes to painting your car, the size of the air tank plays an even more significant role.

Ask us why? Well, it indicates how uniform and consistent flow you can get out of the compressor. Larger air tanks are more likely to provide a more uniform flow of air. On the other side, smaller air tank sizes deliver discrete paint release.

So, we would recommend you to get at least 40 gallons. If you can afford a bigger one, we would recommend you to go for up to 60-70 gallons.

Related Reading: Oil-filled vs oil-less air compressor.

2. The CFM Rating

CFM stands for cubic foot per minute, which is a direct indicator of how fast airflow can a compressor produce. Keeping the psi reading the same, there is a direct relationship between the CFM count and the compressor’s ability to pump out more air.

If you have got a compressor of low CFM rating, painting a car with that would be very hard. As a result, you would notice that some areas of the car are better painted than some other areas of it.

So, what is the ideal CFM range for painting cars? Well, we would recommend you to go for compressors with 14-18 CFM rating. If you can afford higher, that would be even better. But don’t exceed the limit of 25-30, as they are mostly used for industrial purposes.

3. The air pressure (psi)

Delivering the right air pressure is a must for any job with compressed air. But an unknown factor is, you don’t need to get a compressor with a super high psi count to achieve a finely done car painting.

The ideal psi range for a car painting compressor is 20 to 25. Even 15 or 30 psi compressors will do the job fine if you have ample expertise in painting the cars.

However, if you are looking for cheaper alternatives, you will have to deal with a lower psi count. That won’t bother the quality of the painting, but it will ask for more time and effort to paint the car nicely. Some cheaper types of low psi compressors are the LVLP sprays.

4. The motor power (Horse Power)

Now, that’s entire of an essential factor, and it’s the Motor Power. Motor power counted in units of HP (Horse Power), and we’re sure that it’s a common term for everyone.

Now, what does the motor power indicate?

To be straightforward with the answer, the motor can do compression of the air. A higher horsepower can certainly deliver higher air pressure, and that’s what we call a better compressor as well.

For a job like a car painting, it’s highly advised to get a compressor with a high HP count. As that’s what will save your day. The ideal motor HP for car painting is around 10HP.

5. The power source

How does your air compressor ruin and what is its power source and type?

Three questions are combined here, and that’s what we’re going to talk about now.

In terms of power source, there are portable and stationary types of compressors in the market. Portable air compressors are run on the gas power source, and you can move anywhere with them. Usually, they are used in camping, car tire inflation, or other mini-compression jobs like these.

On the other hand, stationary compressors are stuck in one place. You can’t take it anywhere else but the place it’s installed onto. They run through AC power.

When it comes to car painting air compressors, we would tell you to go with stationary compressors. Although they are not remote, they can deliver the high output that you need in car painting.

How Does The Compressor Work?

Well, this part is about the mechanism of the compressor, which also plays a functional role in its functionality.

The two major types of the working process in conventional air compressors are- reciprocating air compressors and rotary screw air compressors.

The first one uses pistons in the same vein, and that’s the heart of the engine system. The other is more complex in terms of functionality. But one obvious benefit is, they produce less noise.

Also, there are gas-powered compressors and electric power compressors. But nowadays, gas-powered compressors are mostly used in light workloads such as tire inflation.

In Conclusion

A perfect blend of the right capacity and power is essential for finding the right size of the air compressor for car painting. Keeping pace with that, don’t forget to keep an eye on the price-quality ratio as well.

About the author

John Patterson

Hi there! My name is John Patterson. I’m a meticulous guy who loves to deal with the perfect tools for various needs. No matter if it’s a woodworking tool or gardening tool or anything else, I don’t compromise the quality and usability. Since 2010 I’ve been testing different tools for different DIY and professional tasks. Later in 2015, I decided to share my knowledge with the world. I started by answering people in the forums and several Q/A sites like Quora. Then I founded this blog to aid others like you with my knowledge and experience.