When it comes to picking an air compressor for automotive jobs, there are four major specifications you’ll need to decide on:
- pump configuration,
- tank size,
- output, and
- electrical requirements.
Your optimum combination of these specs will most often come down to your available space, the tools you’ll be using, and your shop’s electrical configuration.
There are three basic types of pumps commonly used today.
- Lightweight invector compressors are best-suited for casual use, such as inflating tires or cleaning off parts with an air gun.
- Direct-drive compressors feature standard induction motors are perfect for the occasional to moderate use owner who doesn’t want to deal with service issues.
- Belt-drive pumps are quieter than their oil-free counterparts and are best suited for do-it-yourselfers and professionals who frequently use their air compressors.
What about air compressor tank size?
Air compressor tanks vary widely in size, ranging from two gallons to 120-plus gallons. And some huge commercial models even have 240-plus gallon tanks!
Tools that work in short bursts — an impact wrench, for example — work reasonably well with a small tank. Tools that continuously use air such as die grinders, paint equipment, and sandblasters require a larger tank. If you can’t decide between two comparable air compressors, buy the one with the larger tank.
What about air compressor output ratings?
When it comes to output ratings, you can rate an air compressor in a number of ways.
Some do it based on the pump output pressure or by the electric motor’s horsepower output. The real compressor performance gauge is output at a given pressure. The rate at which a compressor can deliver a volume of air is noted in cubic feet per minute (CFM).
CFM actually varies with atmospheric pressure, air temperature, and humidity, so manufacturers created a standard called standard cubic feet per minute or SCFM. This is CFM corrected to sea level with 68-degree air at 36-percent relative humidity.
Learn more about how to choose the right air compressor for your garage or shop…
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