How to Choose the Best Air Compressor for Automotive Maintenance

How to Choose the Best Air Compressor for Automotive Maintenance

Think about all the money you can save and all the money you can make (possibly) if you know how to run maintenance on your own car. Yes, it is possible, and a good quality air compressor will help you achieve that goal.

You just need a set of air tools to fix and tweak your car into a brand new automotive! Investing in a high-quality air compressor will ensure it lasts for a very long time while you are able to save tons of money on DIY automotive repair and revamp.

Therefore, in this article, we are going to focus on what a good air compressor is and all the factors that make up one. Please enjoy!

What is an Air Compressor?

An air compressor is an equipment used to store compressed air. The stored energy can be converted to mechanical energy when used with different tools.

The equipment usually has a tank for storage, a pump, and a motor. It can be electric or driven by fuel, such as gasoline, diesel, etc. The pressure switch installed in the device monitors the air inside and alerts when the air pressure drops below the minimum threshold. The switch can also shut off the motor when the air pressure reaches the maximum level.

The most typical air compressor for a home garage is the low-pressure air compressor. It can supply 150 psi of air. On the other hand, there are medium-pressure air compressors of 150 to 1000 psi and high-pressure devices of 1000 and higher psi.

When you want to use the air compressor to tweak and repair your automotive vehicle, you will need a variety of pneumatic tools, like paint guns, screwdrivers, pressure washers, impact wrenches, drills, ratchets, and sanders.

You will find a range of air compressors according to type, model, and convenience. Check out Able Sales to browse through a variety of products.

Factors to Consider when Choosing the Best Air Compressor

Electric air compressors are considered safer than other types of air compressors because they are not flammable. When you are working in a garage, you don’t want to work with a device that can easily ignite a fire and cause an explosion.

Here is a list of factors to ponder before buying a good quality air compressor.

Air Flow

The airflow is normally measured in cubic feet per minute, which can be referred to as “CFM”. The flow of air in the compressor depends on the pressure in the tank.

The CFM rating of the air compressor is related to the amount of air your tools need to operate. For example, an average impact wrench may need between 4 to 6 CFM. So the ideal air compressor, in this case, should be able to provide 6 CFM at 90 PSI.

Usually, most pneumatic tools need 90 PSI to run. However, you may need more PSIG for heavy-duty operation.

Air Compressor Pumps

The most common air compressor pumps are oil-lubed and oil-less. The oil-less air pumps are generally maintenance-free, but they don’t last long. The packages for these pumps are also small, and they weigh less than oil-lubed pumps.

On the contrary, with the oil-lubed pumps, you have to keep them running by changing the oil and maintaining oil levels. These pumps last longer, and when they run, they stay cool and quiet.


The power output of the motor is known as the horsepower, and it is called ‘HP’ in short. The motor has to work together with the air compressor to fill up the tank. A piece of good equipment can produce 4 CFM at 100 PSIG per unit of power.

The motor of an air compressor can either be gas-powered or electric-powered. Gas-powered devices are more powerful and portable compared to the electric ones.

What is more, for high HP units, pressure regulation is needed. The regulator prevents the need for starting and stopping the motor continuously. Load or no-load control stops the device when it reaches a certain pressure, while the modulation control lets the unit draw less air.

Tank Capacity

The psi is important in buying a good air compressor, but so is the capacity of the tank. The higher the pressure, that is the psi; the higher the volume, that is the tank storage capacity.

Your pump can’t provide all the air that you need to power your air tools. Therefore, it is important to have a high storage tank capacity to lower the pressure on the pump.

As you can guess, the larger the capacity, the better it gets. For instance, 5 gallons of capacity is enough to run an impact gun and to inflate tires. To use a grinder, sand, spray paint, or other tools for a continuous amount of time, you will need a bigger tank.

Having a large tank has its benefits. It allows you to power different tools without operating the motor until the air runs out. But remember that a large tank will cost more than a small one.

Duty Cycle

An air compressor can’t run forever, just like any other machine out there. It needs to rest after a long time of use. A duty cycle is the amount of time the compressor will run.

For instance, heavy-duty air compressors generally have a duty cycle of 35% or more. If an air compressor has a 100% duty cycle, it is considered as ‘ultimate duty.’

But you don’t need a heavy-duty air compressor. An air compressor with a 15% duty cycle should be good enough. It will have a downtime of 8.5 minutes for every 1.5 minutes it has run.

Other Factors

Some air compressors may come with accessory kits. You are lucky if you get them on sales. Otherwise, it will add on to the purchasing price.

Instead of getting a metal feet device, get the rubber foot pads for the compressor. It will reduce noise and vibration. The compressor with metal feet is usually cheaper in comparison, but it can’t reduce the noise produced.

It is better to buy an air compressor that can easily be moved. So look for the brand and model that allows you to do so.

Most air compressors will come with one hose connection. However, having two is more convenient, especially when you are swapping tools.

Lastly, the gauges of the equipment must be visible and readable. You need quick feedback to understand the condition of the air compressor.

Bottom Line

Automotive maintenance can be fun, and it is also a good learning experience. Many people struggle to bring out their creativity sometimes. It can be interesting to channel your creative abilities towards repairing and revamping your automotive.

Even choosing the right air compressor is not as difficult as picking other sophisticated equipment. A good air compressor can be determined by the capacity of its tank, horsepower, airflow, and psi.

It also depends on your DIY requirements. The more power your tools need, the larger should be the tank of the air compressor. Additionally, be mindful of the design of the device for aesthetics.


  • Our own experience

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Affiliate Disclaimer

Mechanopedia is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Scroll to Top