What size air compressor for this and that? It’s a common question for a lot of hobbyists and contractors just getting into air powered tools, and it’s a good thing to know which of the hundreds of sizes, shapes, and makes of air compressor is the best fit for your tool.
You need to consider several things when evaluating the “size” of the air compressor. Capacity is a good thing to have, and the bigger the tank(s), the more tools you can reliably run off your air compressor unit.
What’s crucial for most of your air tools, though, is that they get enough air pressure you need to check on the PSI, or pounds per square inch, rating of your compressor.
And to keep up with your air tool, your air compressor will need to have a good flow rate as well, so check on the CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating, too.
Related Post: How to Find the Correct Tire Pressure for Your Car?
Read on as we run through some of the most asked air compressor capacity questions for the most popular air tools.
1. What Size Air Compressor for a Nail Gun?
For most nail guns, an air compressor can put out around 120 PSI of pressure for your nail gun to work, and perhaps more so for the heavier framing guns.
Aside from air pressure, you will also need to have enough flow to keep up with your nail gun.
A compact air compressor unit with a 1 HP motor can provide around 2 CFM, and that will typically let you drive nails with a framing nail gun at a rate of around 15 per minute.
The same compressor, on the other hand, will reliably drive a smaller brad gun at 70 nails per minute or more.
The larger the nails you need to drive, the bigger the CFM you may need from your air compressor.
If you are planning to run more than one gun off of the same unit, make sure to plan for double the capacity, or more, as well.
2. What Size Air Compressor for an Air Gun?
Air guns have small pressure chambers designed for high pressure, so you will need an air compressor that can run 3,000 PSI or more.
Since most airguns and PCP gun chambers are not that large, the air volume and CFM is not the issue here, but you will need a high-pressure air compressor to load up your airguns your typical 150 PSI portable air compressor will simply not cut it without a special valve that lets you gradually build up pressure in the chamber.
For loading multiple air guns, manufacturers also offer specialized air compressors that can output 4,500 PSI and up.
3. What Size Air Compressor for an Air Hammer?
Air hammers and air chisels need pressures of around 90 to 100 PSI, depending on the size and model of your air tool.
If you have the baseline PSI of 90 from your air compressor, then you will also need around 4 CFM to be able to run your air hammer at a good rate as well.
4. What Size Air Compressor for an Air Impact Wrench?
Air impact wrenches are heavy-duty tools with widely varying air compressor requirements, but around 90 to 100 PSI will get you started with most models.
The volume you need to operate your air impact wrench at a good clip will depend on the size of your air tool.
The smallest 3/8 inch impact wrenches can run off a 3 CFM air compressor, while a 1/2 inch air wrench will need 4 CFM both of these sizes can be run off a 1 HP portable kit.
3/4 inch air impact wrenches, on the other hand, will need 7 CFM or more from a larger air compressor.
5. What Size Air Compressor for an Air Ratchet?
Air ratchets can easily run off an air compressor as long as it can put out 90 to 100 PSI of air pressure.
Air volume is usually not an issue with air ratchets since you can run both the smaller 1/4 inch ratchets and the larger 1/2 inch tools with just 3 CFM.
6. What Size Air Compressor for Air Tools?
For air tools in general, you will do well to invest in an air compressor that can put out at least 90 PSI.
Most wrenches, impact drivers and air hammers operate at around this range, and you can run most sandblasters with this level of pressure, too.
The CFM requirements of air tools vary widely, though, from 1 CFM for brad nail guns to as much as 70 for sandblasters.
When planning for an air compressor for a variety of air tools, pay attention to the most demanding of your tools CFM-wise as you shop around.
7. What Size Air Compressor for an Airbrush?
Airbrushes are precision tools that don’t need a lot of air volume to run the biggest airbrushing jobs will need just a bit over 1 CFM, even if you are using your largest nozzles to airbrush over a van or a truck.
For the smallest jobs, like painting miniatures or nails, you will need just a bit more over 0.3 CFM to run your smaller nozzles.
8. What Size Air Compressor for Airing Up Tires?
Tires come with their own valves, so you will only need around 4 CFM to reliably run a tire inflator and have it work with a wide variety of tires.
Most passenger cars recommend 32 to 35 PSI, as well, so you can easily fill up most vehicles with your typical 90 PSI compressor.
9. What Size Air Compressor for Auto Painting?
For auto painting, you will need a paint sprayer gun and plenty of CFM at least 9 to 12 CFM will let you run most paint sprayer guns on the market.
High volume paint sprayer guns will need 12 CFM each, and even more so if you are planning to run several guns at the same time. For detailed work, airbrushes can easily run off a 1 CFM compressor.
10. What Size Air Compressor for Automotive Air Tools?
For automotive air tools, you will need to add up the total of your tools’ CFM air requirements, and most workshop garages will need a 70 CFM air compressor to accommodate a fairly complete set of automotive air tools.
For 70 CFM, you can run three sizes of impact wrenches, an oil pump, a grease gun, a tire inflator, and a washer all at the same time depending on the models, of course.
11. What Size Air Compressor for a Blast Cabinet?
For a typical sandblasting enclosure or blast cabinet, the volume you need depends on the nozzle – plan for 20 CFM at 100 PSI.
Smaller nozzles will need just 10 CFM at 80 PSI, while larger ones will need 15 CFM or more.
Most blast cabinet users rely on 5 HP multiple stage air compressors to ensure a steady supply of air.
12. What Size Air Compressor for Blowing Out a Sprinkler System?
For blowing out an entire sprinkler system all at once, or one zone at a time, you can get by with a good 10 CFM air compressor with 80 PSI to match.
Keep in mind, though, that your typical polyethylene pipes can only take so much pressure it’s a good idea to start off with 50 PSI off the compressor air pressure regulator.
13. What Size Air Compressor for Blowing Out Sprinklers?
To blow out individual sprinklers, you can take the gallons per minute (GPM) sprinkler head, divide it by 7.5, and that gives you the CFM you will need to blow that sprinkler head out.
That’s less than 0.4 CFM for a typical 3 GPM sprinkler head, but it gives you a good idea of how much air volume you will need for a zone of sprinklers.
14. What Size Air Compressor for a Body Shop?
The amount of air volume or pressure you will need for a body shop varies widely, with some tools needing as little as 2 CFM, while larger ones requiring 20 CFM or more.
The usual body shop air compressors range from 115 PSI, 145 PSI, or up to 175 PSI.
15. What Size Air Compressor for a Brad Nailer?
Brad nailers don’t need much in the way of air volume you can operate a brad nailer with just 1 CFM of volume at 90 PSI. You can also run the smallest brad nailers at around 60 PSI, too.
16. What Size Air Compressor for Car Painting?
Paint spray guns for car painting can be run at 40 to 45 PSI, but they will need 9 to 12 CFM to operate properly.
17. What Size Air Compressor for a Car Repair?
For car repairs, you will need an air compressor that can run all your tools. Many workshop garages will have a 70 CFM air compressor to run their air tools, including all the air wrenches, oil pumps, washers and inflators they use.
18. What Size Air Compressor for Car Spraying?
The paint sprayer guns you need for spray painting cars can be run off 40 to 40 PSI, as long as your air compressor can put out at least 9 CFM of air volume. Airbrushing cars, however, can be done with as little as 1 CFM.
19. What Size Air Compressor for Car Tires?
Passenger car tires will usually have a recommended air pressure of 32 to 35 PSI depending on the car make, and most air compressors can put out that much pressure easily.
Since car tires have valves, too, CFM is also not an issue – that’s why you can use even bicycle pumps on them.
20. What Size Air Compressor for Cerakote?
To build your own Cerakote station, you don’t need to invest in a large air compressor a 20-gallon compressor with a max PSI of 150 will let you hold down the spray nozzle for a good amount of time.
21. What Size Air Compressor for Changing Tires?
For changing car tires, you will need an inflator plus maybe a couple of impact wrenches to make the job go faster.
An inflator can easily run off of a 1 CFM air compressor, while the biggest 3/4 inch impact wrenches will need 7 CFM.
For a complete tire changing solution, a unit that can put out 8 CFM should serve you well at 90 PSI.
22. What Size Air Compressor for a Coil Nail Gun?
Coil nail guns are industrial guns that can drive framing nails, and you will need a 2 or 2 1/2 CFM air compressor to run those at 90 PSI.
23. What Size Air Compressor for a Plasma Cutter?
Plasma cutter requirements vary widely between different manufacturers, but you will typically need 6 CFM of volume at your typical 90 PSI. It also depends on your cutting requirements, too.
If you plan to cut through a lot of thick plates, for example, then it’s a good idea to invest in a compressor that can do 1.5 to twice the rated minimum for your tool.
24. What Size Air Compressor for a Sand Blaster?
A sandblaster with a typical #4 nozzle needs plenty of CFM to operate, and you will need at least 70 CFM to run this tool reliably at 90 PSI.
25. What Size Air Compressor for Sandblasting?
For sandblasting in a blast cabinet, then you will need to plan for the largest nozzles you have you can expect to need around 20 CFM at 100 PSI for the larger blast cabinet nozzles.
Sandblasters for exterior use require a lot more, with your usual #4 nozzle needing at least 70 CFM at 90 PSI.
26. What Size Air Compressor for a Sandblasting Cabinet?
If you’re using just one nozzle out of your set for your sandblasting cabinet, then you will need to plan for your biggest nozzle expect to need an air compressor that can run 20 CFM at 100 PSI.
And if you are running multiple nozzles at once, then you just need to add up the requirements for all the nozzles you need to run. Smaller sandblasting nozzles need just 10 CFM, while regular ones can run off of 15 CFM.
27. What Size Air Compressor for Soda Blasting?
Soda blasting is similar to sandblasting, except that it uses baking soda or sodium bicarbonate in place of sand.
The largest nozzles will need 20 CFM at 100 PSI, and most soda blasting jobs will need anywhere from 25 to 100 PSI.
28. What Size Air Compressor for a Tire Changer?
If you are looking into a portable tire changer with an inflator, then you will need an air compressor that can put out 4 CFM to match, at the usual 90 PSI.
29. What Size Air Compressor is Best For Home Use?
The best air compressors for home use should have enough power to run all your tools while remaining compact and easy to transport and store.
For home use, you will need at least 150 PSI to run a wide variety of tools. 6 gallons is plenty for most uses in the home and the garage, and should be able to supply you with 1.2 CFM or more.
30. What Size Air Compressor for Filling Car Tires?
For filling car tires, you will only need to run them up to the 32 PSI for most passenger cars, or maybe 35 PSI on a cold day.
A portable 1 or 2 CFM compressor, at 90 PSI, should serve you well for filling car tires. If you need to run a tire changing machine, though, then you will need 4 CFM or so.
31. What Size Air Compressor for a Finish Nail Gun?
You will need 2 CFM for running most models of finish nail guns. You will also need at least 70 PSI to run your tool, as well.
32. What Size Air Compressor for a Floor Nail Gun?
Pneumatic floor nail guns, or flooring nail guns, can run off of 2 CFM and will need at least 70 PSI to run, just like your typical finish nailers.
Some high capacity floor nail guns for some of the larger jobs will need 2.4 CFM or more.
33. What Size Air Compressor for Fluid Film?
Fluid film sprayers, which are used to undercoat and rustproof cars, will need air compressors with at least 4 CFM of volume any less and you may have a hard time running the sprayer for the time it will need to finish a car. You will also need 100 PSI to run a fluid film sprayer as well.
34. What Size Air Compressor for a Framing Nail Gun?
Framing nail guns and framing nailers will need around 4 CFM to be able to keep up with a fast-paced framing job.
At the minimum, you will need 2.5 CFM at 90 PSI, and you will also need at least 60 PSI to run your framing gun as well.
35. What Size Air Compressor for Hardwood Flooring?
For hardwood flooring installation, you will need a flooring nail gun specifically designed for hardwood for the best results, along with a 4 CFM air compressor.
At that volume, combined with a good capacity you lessen the risk of your air pressure dropping below recommended levels which can result in nails being underdriven.
36. What Size Air Compressor for a Garage?
For a typical garage air compressor, you need enough capacity and pressure to run all the air tools you will need.
That will usually include a tire inflator, which needs just 1 or 2 CFM to put out the 32 PSI needed for most passenger tires.
You may also have an impact wrench, which will need at least 3 CFM to run. In any case, you can plan ahead based on the specs of the heaviest air tool you have (or plan to get) in your collection.
37. What Size Air Compressor for an Air Grinder?
For pneumatic angle grinders, you will need 6 to 6.5 CFM to run one at around 90 PSI.
You will need slightly less for a die grinder, which you can reliably run at 5 CFM plus you can run a die grinder at 70 PSI as well.
38. What Size Air Compressor for a Hopper Gun?
Hopper guns are used to add texture to walls, and just like any sort of paint spray gun, you will need the right air compressor to match.
For spray texturing using a hopper gun, you will need an air compressor that can put out at least 2.4 CFM at 90 PSI. More volume, like 5 CFM or so, will help a lot for extensive jobs.
39. What Size Air Compressor for an Impact Gun?
Impact guns vary widely in the CFM needed to run them, depending on the size. 3/8 inch impact guns need 3 CFM at 90 PSI, while half-inch impact guns need at least 4 CFM for the same pressure.
The largest 3/4 impact guns, on the other hand, will need at least 7 CFM for the best results.
40. What Size Air Compressor for a Nail Gun?
Depending on the size of the nail gun, or nailer, you may need as little as 1 CFM to as much as 4 CFM to operate your tool at a good pace.
Brad nail guns, the smallest tools of the bunch, will need just 1 CFM at 90 PSI.
On the other end of the scale, framing nail guns, sheathing staplers, and roofing nail guns will need at least 2.5 CFM to run, and 4 CFM for the best results.
41. What Size Air Compressor for a Paint Gun?
Spray painting in general calls for a lot of air volume capacity, and you can expect to need at least 9 CFM from your air compressor to run a low volume paint gun.
A high volume paint gun, on the other hand, will require at least 12 CFM to get a good spread of paint out of it.
Paint guns do not need a high-pressure rating from your air compressor around 40 to 45 PSI should do it for most models.
42. What Size Air Compressor for a Rattle Gun?
Rattle guns, or impact wrenches, will need at least 3 CFM at 90 PSI for the smaller 3/8 inch models. For 1/2 inch rattle guns, you will need 4 CFM to get good results.
And for the largest 3/4 rattle guns, those will need at least 7 CFM – and even more so if you are running several rattle guns off of the same air compressor.
43. What Size Air Compressor for a Staple Gun?
Heavy-duty staple guns, just like the ones used for attaching sheathing around home exteriors, will need at least 4 CFM at 90 PSI or so. Getting enough air volume is important to keep the air pressure consistent, which helps prevent under-driving staples.
44. What Size Compressor for an Air Fed Mask?
Air fed masks, or respirators, are useful for welders that use their tools all day, and most welders will usually need an air compressor in any case. It’s the same case for contractors that do a lot of bodywork paint.
Air fed masks require an air source that can put out 6 to 15 CFM and a pressure of around 65 to 100 PSI.
You will also need the proper air filters to ensure the quality of the air going into the air fed masks as well.
45. What Size Air Compressor for a Jackhammer?
Jackhammers, the full-size versions, have widely varying CFM needs depending on their size but even the smallest chipping hammers will usually require at least 35 to 40 CFM.
You also have 60-pound breakers that need 60 CFM, and you also have the 90 CFM models.
Most air compressors designed to operate jackhammers are also rated to run several of them at the same time.
One common size of air compressor, for example, is the 185 CFM variant. At this size, this air compressor can run two 90 CFM jackhammers, three 60 CFM jackhammers, or four 45 CFM jackhammers at once.
46. What Size Air Compressor for Lug Nuts?
To break off lug nuts, you will need an air impact wrench with enough torque for the job – along with a 4 CFM air compressor to match.
That’s for the 1/2 inch impact wrench that can deal with most automotive lug nuts if you have lug nuts that need a 3/4 inch impact wrench, then you will need a larger air compressor that can do 7 CFM.
47. What Size Air Compressor for a Motorcycle Lift?
A good motorcycle lift will need an air compressor capable of 5 CFM, at the recommended 100 PSI of air pressure.
At the very minimum, you may be able to get by with 3 CFM at 30 PSI at this air supply level, you can disengage the safety lock mechanisms of most motorcycle lifts to bring it back down.
48. What Size Air Compressor for Texture Guns?
Texture guns and texturizing hopper guns will need at least 2 to 2.4 CFM at 90 PSI for most of the nozzles you need for your work.
That said, there is a wide variety of spray texture guns that have a wide range of air supply requirements, too.
For a texture gun, it’s always a good approach to set it to 70 PSI to start, so you have a good idea of the texture you will get for the paint, nozzle, and air pressure you are working with.
Then adjust the pressure, 5 PSI at a time, until the texture gun nozzle gives you the texture you want.
49. What Size Air Compressor for Trim Work?
For trim work, you will need a variety of tools that may include a pneumatic saw or a finishing nail gun.
An air saw will need 4 CFM at 90 PSI, while a finishing nailer to install the trim will need 2 CFM as well.
If you are using your trim work tools at the same time, then you will need an air compressor with the capacity to run them all simply add up all of the CFM requirements of your tools, add a 5 CFM allowance on top of those, and you can arrive at a good baseline for your air compressor needs.
50. What Size Air Compressor for Winterizing?
Winterizing jobs will have you blowing out the water from pool lines, sprinkler systems, and other types of plumbing.
For these kinds of jobs, it depends on the thing you are trying to winterize.
If you are winterizing a pool or a sprinkler system, then you may need a 10 CFM air compressor and the air hose to match to do a typical pool or sprinkler system.
Of course, you will need a larger air compressor if you are dealing with a large pool or a very extensive sprinkler system.
If you are winterizing an RV or a mobile home, then a one-gallon compressor will do the job, if perhaps a bit more slowly than you would like.
A 3-gallon portable air compressor, on the other hand, will do a faster job even at safer pressure levels such as 35 PSI.
51. What Size Air Compressor for a Woodshop?
Air compressors for a woodshop will need to power a wide range of tools, from orbital sanders to nail guns.
They are also incredibly useful for cleaning up, too. Some tools require a lot of CFM to run, such as an orbital sander that needs 10 CFM on its own.
An air-powered disc sander, on the other hand, requires at least 20 CFM, and it’s just one tool, too.
If you are planning to run more than one air tool at the same time, then you need to add up all of the CFM requirements for all the air tools you need to run in your woodshop.
Mid-sized air compressors for the workshop work really well, with 25-gallon compressors giving you enough capacity to run tools that need a lot of air.
Fixed air compressors with 60-gallon tanks are even better at running more tools at the same time, including sanders and sprayer guns.