What Size Air Compressor Do I Need To Work On Cars

You can find different sizes of air compressors on the market. But, the power of an air compressor does not always depend on the size of the Air compressor.

So, first, you must know how much pressure or compressed Air your car needs. Then, however, you will find the ultimate guideline for choosing the perfect air compressor according to your requirement.

Let’s check below in detail. 

What is the recommended Size of an Air Compressor to work on cars?

Size doesn’t matter in the Air Compressor working on cars or the automotive sector. So, CFM and the Pressure flow are noticeable. However, for work on a vehicle, you can find a compressor from a 12 volts unit, which is enough for emergency use, including air-up car tires. Also, the rotary pump is so reliable.

So it would be best if you went for a Rotary pump. At the same time, The PSI(Pounds square inch) or lower pressures require 90 PSI.

Finally, the feature you need attention to is SCFM or Standardized Cubic Feet Per Minutes, which has to be SCFM. Besides, the ideal range of airflow should be a 20 to 30-gallon range of airflow.

Overall, A 90 PSI and 4 SCFM and 20-30 gallon of airflow range on the Compressor are ideal for work on cars.

There are three common variants available on the market, and those are,

  • 30-40 CFM Air Compressor@100% Duty Cycle, 90 psi (¾” impact wrench, Air hammers, Die grinders)
  • 60-70 CFM Air Compressor@100% Duty Cycle, 90 psi (1″ impact wrench, Sanders, Vertical & angle grinders) RECOMMENDED
  • 90-100 CFM Air Compressor @100% Duty Cycle, 90 psi (5 spline impact wrench, Pneumatic saws, 90 lb pavement breaker)

check our another article on Top 10 Best air compressor for Cleaning PC If you like

How does an Air Compressor work?

An air compressor is a pneumatic device that converts energy using an electric motor into potential energy stored in compressed Air. An air compressor compresses more Air into a storage air tank, increasing the pressure. When the pressure reaches the peak limit, the engine can stop automatically.

Air compressors consist of a minor, motorized pump that collects ambient Air and pumps it into a tank. A pressure switch monitors the pressure build-up in the tank and stops the Compressor when the target pressure is reached. 

This reserved Air is then available for your use. 

How to choose an Air compressor to work on cars?

As I mentioned before, you must keep some specifications essential for choosing an air compressor. These are mainly the compressor pressure in CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) and continuous CFM compatibility.

So, the CFM rate is more important than the size compressor. Besides, if you use the Compressor for multiple tools, you must consider the Compressor’s CFM rate. If you are looking for a compressor for car work purposes, you should consider portability, machine power, rotary screw, and power source.

However, it would be best to go for the Air once you know your CFM requirement. 

Reciprocating vs. Rotary screw

Rotary Screw and Reciprocating Screw are the two most common mobile compressor machines. Between them, the Rotary Screw is more efficient than the Reciprocating Screw.

Because the Rotary Screw can work faster by delivering more Air than the reciprocating or piston screw. This Rotary Screw is also perfect for automotive works.

On the Contrary, the Reciprocating or piston crew is capable of high pressure but is relatively heavier than the Rotary crew. So, our recommendation will be the Rotary Screw.

Why should you choose a Rotary Screw instead of Reciprocating?

  • A rotary screw is compatible with continuous airflow, allowing flawless worktime with an air compressor. On the flip side, reciprocating is inexpensive and unable to flow Air continuously.
  • The 100% duty cycle makes the Rotary Screw 1 step more forward than the Reciprocating Screw. As a result, the Compressor can work super-fast. At the same time, the Reciprocating Screw is available for simple maintenance.
  • It is much quieter than reciprocating while compressing Air.
  • Higher CFM per HP of Rotary Screw gives many advantages like time and power saving capability.
  • This screw provides large quantities of Air, which will benefit automotive use.
  • One of the most significant characteristics is no need for an air receiver tank. It can flow directly from the machine.

You may like: 15 Best Portable Air Compressor for Home Garage.

Portable or Stationary

Portable or Stationary

Portability is one of the most critical things in air compressors. Because the Compressor can be needed for different purposes anywhere, if it is lightweight and handy, it will make work easy, especially in car use. Therefore, some convenient designs like Tow-behind, wheeled, vehicle integrated, etc., are the most popular designs. 

Fuel/Power Sources

It’s a good thing that most air compressor companies offer multiple power source options. For example, you will find Gas, Hydraulic, and Electric power sources options. Among them, the electrical power sources option is a popular one. Therefore, these power source options can be chosen by you according to your needs. 

What electrical configuration of an air compressor do you need?

An air compressor is a high-energy consumer. As a result, it contributes to the most electricity bill. However, to know the exact need for power sources, you need to know what phase of electricity you are getting.

The electrical configuration of an air compressor is generally available in four options. And these are 230 volts with a single stage, 200-208 volts with three phases, 230 volts with three phases, and 475 volts with three steps. So, choosing the ideal configuration according to your power supply or your area’s electricity type would be best. 

Note: I recommend a certified electrician to verify electrical configuration information because electrical power sources are tricky to choose. If you make a mistake here, then that would be very costly to solve the damages. So, I urge you to match the electrical service to available power on site.

Where should the air compressor be kept?

You can place the air compressor at several places, but there are some placement restrictions you must follow. Sometimes the room temperature gets unstable and inadequate ventilation can cause the Compressor to shut down. You should maintain 36 inches of space around the air compressor to allow the Compressor to breathe correctly. Try to keep the Compressor at 104° F at room temperature. You will find this information more accurately in the user’s manual.

Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM)

Some essential specifications of Air Compressor

Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM)

CFM means Cubic Feet Per Minute, which is the range of Compressor with maximum pressure. In addition, you will find multiple CFM variants, which start from 30-40 CFM and up to 90-100 CFM air compressors. The 60-70 CFM air compressor is efficient for car purposes use. 

Pounds Square Inch (PSI)

PSI or Pounds Square Inch indicates the low pressure of airflow. An air compressor is built with 90 PSI. While buying an air compressor, you must pay attention to this sector. 

Power supply

Power sources are essential because there are multiple options like Fuel engines, Hydraulic and electric. All those power-supplying motions are made according to different needs or work purposes. Therefore, you need to know your requirement to select the power supplying option. 


Horsepower is the measuring point of the air compressor power. Therefore, the Horsepower shows the capability of the engine.

Final Words

An air compressor is being used for different purposes. Such as paint sprayers, air blowers, and automotive works needed an air compressor. That Compressor comes in various sizes and has additional power ability.

In addition, an air reservoir or air tank is also available in multiple sizes. And, I have tried to let you know the significant point that helps you choose the ideal air compressor.

So, if the question,” what size Air compressor do I need to work on cars?” Ask your question in the comment box, and I will answer ASAP. I hope that the instructions have helped you.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email