How To Paint A Car With A Small Air Compressor? | Step By Step Guide

You can paint a car at home or an auto body painting with a small air compressor. You have to choose an Air Spray Gun and air compressor depending on the work. Although, it is possible to paint your vehicle with a small air compressor. But experts do not suggest it. Painting requires a continuous flow of air without any break. Hence, it is always recommended to use an air compressor with a large size tank.

Another issue with the small air compressor is that it takes a lot of time to refill and makes you feel irritated. Even the result will not be satisfactory. You will see rough strokes and an unsmooth surface. You can come over these issues by choosing an easy to refill or a bit large size air compressor.

Before discussing the step-to-step method for painting a car, let’s have a look at the type of air spray gun and air compressor you will need. Here we go!

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Spray gun:

You will need a suitable air spray gun with attachments including a hose, filter regulator, and disconnect fittings etc. You also have to choose between the HVLP (high volume low pressure) and LVLP (low volume low pressure) spray guns.

Apart from these things, you will need a few other tools that I am listing below.

  • An air compressor
  • Safety kits: Goggles, gloves, mask, and clothes.
  • Paints (make sure to choose paints and solvents as per your requirements).
  • Covering, to cover the glasses and tyres while painting.
  • Cardboard

Parameters for air compressor:

  • Air Pressure

The first and the foremost considerable parameter in the selection of an air compressor for painting a car is its Air Pressure. The air compressor you are going to use must have the air pressure compatible with the spray gun and the task that you are going to accomplish. An air compressor with higher or lower PSI than that required by the tool may affect its efficiency.

I will not be wrong by saying that the selection of an air compressor depends entirely on the air spray. If you made the suitable choice for a spray gun, selecting an air compressor will be a piece of cake for you and vice versa.

  • CFM

CFM or cubic feet per minute is the amount of air in cubic feet produced by an air compressor in one minute. For car painting and other similar jobs, you will need an air compressor with comparatively higher CFM. Higher CFM is supposed to break the paint into many particles to ensure an even and smooth painting.
According to experts’ recommendations, a CFM of 15 to 20 is enough for tough jobs. But in the case of simple and minor tasks, you can go with the CFM of 5 to 10. In tasks like car paint, lower CFM results in uneven and rough painting.

  • Tank size

Here comes the most important factor in choosing the air compressor to paint a car. As I have discussed earlier that painting requires a continuous job otherwise it may cause the car surface to look dull. In order to improve the efficiency, all you need to do is choose an air compressor with a tank size of more than 50 gallons.

But as the title states “Small air compressor”, you can go with the tank size of 10 gallons. You can further compromise on the tank size if the vehicle is smaller in size otherwise 10 is just enough for this sort of job.

  • Horsepower

The horsepower of an air compressor is the rate of its work done. Horsepower rating defines the performance of the air compressor but this does not mean that higher horsepower can increase its performance. Most of the air compressors work efficiently with a horsepower of 1 and 2.

  • Power source

You can find electric-powered as well as gas-powered air compressors in the market. If you do not have proper access to electricity especially when you are working away from home or facing load shading, the gas-powered air compressor is excellent for you. Otherwise, electricity is cheap, easily available, and safe to use. Other than this, electricity has an advantage over gas in many ways.

How to paint a car with a small air compressor?

Here is the step by step procedure to paint a car with a small air compressor. Before starting, make sure that you have all the required tools.

  1. Wear safety gloves, goggles, and a face mask to protect your body. The paint contains some harmful chemicals that can damage your skin.
  2. Now, prepare the paint by mixing the paint, solvents, and other particles. Do not forget to maintain the specific ratio. Also do not mix old paint with the new one.
  3. Connect the spray gun with the air compressor using the hose. Make sure that the hose is tight and is not allowing any leakage.
  4. Before painting on the car, try it on any piece of cardboard etc. If it is giving the desired outcome then go ahead otherwise fix your sprayer.
  5. Start painting the car or its required surface. Cover the car windows and glasses.
  6. If you want to apply multiple coatings then wait until it dries. It may take 12 to 24 hours.


This was my article about painting a car with a small air compressor. Owing the best sprayer will make it easy for you to choose the air compressor with the specification listed on it. Keep in mind that you can struggle with a small air compressor while painting a large vehicle.

I have tried my best to explain the procedure in detail. Keep all the factors (given above) in mind before purchasing the air compressor for car painting. If you have any further queries, feel free to contact us. Have a great day.

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