What Size Air Compressor is Needed to Paint a Car

With paint guns, supplies, and how-to videos becoming readily available more DIY enthusiasts are taking to painting a car at home. The proper equipment is needed when painting and something as simple as a slightly undersized compressor can translate to a poor paint job and can be quite frustrating. We’ve decided to give you a few tips that can help you choose the right equipment when painting.

  1. Choose a compressor that can handle your needs- Most paint guns demand a LOT of air. The output of your air compressor is crucial in getting optimum paint gun performance. The number that you really need to look at when shopping for an air compressor is the CFM output of the compressor. Most paint guns are rated with a suggest CFM that they operate best at. Many guns (high end professional guns especially) are “air hogs” and require in excess of 12 CFM! This means you need a compressor that can steadily output well over 12 CFM to be able to handle those paint guns. If your compressor has an equal CFM rating as what your paint gun requires that means your compressor will be working at its max to keep up. Excessive running of your compressor and cause additional moisture added into your air tank and also can decrease the life of your compressor. If the compressor you want is out of your price range and the paint gun is the only tool you need with those high CFM requirements you can look into a low CFM gun that still can provide a professional paint job. The Eastwood Concours paint gun line for instance, requires only 3CFM at 22PSI! This means your compressor won’t have to work nearly as hard to keep up.
  2. Make sure you have adequate air reserve- Ok so you decided on a low CFM paint gun and your small pancake compressor in theory can keep up, but there’s still a problem. The tiny air tank of a pancake or similar compressor isn’t enough reserve for the air that is pulled through a paint gun. Painting a car means that you may be running your paint gun with the trigger wide open for long periods of time with little down time. Tools like an air nailer only requires air for a very short time and doesn’t suck the air down like a paint gun. This means your tank will empty often and require the compressor to continuously run. Running your compressor constantly while painting means your compressor will get hot, lose efficiency, and also put out hot air which has a lot of moisture in it.

So what does this all mean? We suggest picking your air compressor size by calculating what the averaging out what your most commonly used air tools will require for CFM. If you are a occasional painter you may be better purchasing a lower CFM paint gun if you can’t afford a large high-output compressor. On the flip-side, you can NEVER have too big of a compressor and we suggest getting the largest, best performing compressor you can afford as you can grow into it over time. Find our full line of air compressors that can meet your CFM requirements here: https://www.eastwood.com/shop-equipment/air-compressors.html .

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