How to Paint a Car With A Small Air Compressor

(Last Updated On: July 26, 2022)

You might have this question boggling in your head that can you paint a car with a small air compressor? We say yes, it’s possible to perform a paint job with a small compressor. Although it is recommended to use a 60-gallon tank with a 5 to 6 HP compressor. This will generate enough airflow to your spray gun.

With a small compressor, you will have delays. You will have to do it in several steps running the whole day. Matching the CMF of the spray gun and the compressor is the key here. To answer your question on how to paint a car with a small air compressor, we came up with this writeup to encourage your painting endeavors.

Today, we will be discussing the steps to use an air compressor to paint a car and many more. Bear with us. 

How to spray paint your car with an air compressor  

People might prefer to use a large compressor for automobile painting projects. If you have a small air compressor, don’t be disheartened. It’s possible to paint a car with compact, portable compressors. DIYers and car enthusiasts now tend to paint their cars in their garages. It saves a lot of money compared to servicing in a pro garage.

Following some basic steps, you will be able to spray paint your car using a small air compressor by yourself. 

Step 1: Safety gears

You must protect yourself at all costs while working with paints. It’s all about chemicals and fumes, and you don’t want to inhale any of those and hamper your health. Wear goggles, a respirator mask and gloves for safety measurements.

Step 2: Cover your working place

If you are working inside your garage, you should cover the interior with plastic rolls. These plastics will protect the walls, ceiling and other gears in your garage from getting splashed with paint.

Step 3: Proper ventilation

Wherever you are working, you need proper ventilation when performing a paint job. Use fans such as exhausts. If you have windows, open them, let the fumes and stench escape otherwise you will be inhaling harmful chemicals causing potential health hazards.

Step 4: Use a workable compressor size

It is the most important part. You must know your workload and the type of vehicle you are dealing with. For painting a car it’s best suited to get a decent-sized, 60-gallon tank compressor to finish a full painting job without having to barge. For automobiles, it is recommended that you paint a car in a single pass, otherwise you will be over-spraying in time and hamper the glossiness. 

With smaller compressors, you will have to give it some time to recover. You will have to wait for the tank to refill, needing more overspray. 30-gallon tanks can be put to good use as well. It puts less load on your electrical system but you need to maintain a few things. 

Connect the hose between your compressor and the air hose. Make sure to utilize other attachments according to the manual.

Step 5: Spray gun attachments

Make sure you have your spray gun fitted with regulators and filters. The filters eliminate the dirs and unnecessary specs from the paints and give you clean paint. Regulators let you control the flow and other features.

Step 6: Mixing auto paint

It is important to mix the paint according to the recommended ratio. You will need the right supplies, to mix and match the fluids. It’s up to you whether you will be using single-stage paint or 2 stage clear paints. If you are dealing with 2 stage paints, make sure you know what is a base coat and clear coat are.

You will be needing thinner and hardeners for the completion of the mixing procedure. You must follow and abide by the guide to achieve your desired result.

Step 7: Check the airflow

Now you will need to check whether the compressed air spray is providing a consistent CFM. You can do this by dummy paint on cardboard. Once you are happy with the flow you are good to go. For the best car painting job, you must ensure that the compressor has a CFM rating of 15-18 units. Although smaller compressors such as 30-pound ones can deliver 5-7 CFM ranging from 40-90 PSI.

Step 8: Use an HVLP sprayer if you are working with a small air compressor

A basic painting fact, the higher the pressure, the better the finish. If you are using a small compressor you must know that such compressors don’t have a high-pressure system.

So, what can be done? Well, if you get an HVLP sprayer (High volume low pressure), you don’t need to worry about bumping the pressure anymore. When using HVLP sprayers, make sure to use 10-15 PSI for the base coat and 20-25 PSI for the clear coat.

Step 9: Apply the paint

Once you’ve checked the pressure and airflow, it’s time to paint the desired surface. Apply the paint coat to your car’s surface. Try to keep it as clean as possible. Redoing patches after patches will make the paint job uneven. Remember, if you are using a small compressor, you will have to be patient with the overall process.

You will need breaks to let the sprayer come back to life after some use. Take your time, do the job in steps to attain the best finish. You must have prior knowledge of paint sprayers otherwise your car might look like a mess and you might eventually end up in a professional painting garage. 

Final verdict

When using a small compressor for example 15-30 gallons you will have to drain your tank frequently. This is because water will build up due to constant turning on/off of the sprayer. You can use a water separator to make things easier for you. Your sprayer will need to catch a breath because you won’t be able to cover a whole car in a single pass. It might take you days to complete a full project.

If you’ve gone through this article, you already know how to paint a car with a small air compressor, plus other things that need to be considered. Just follow the instruction manuals and the steps we have mentioned above for a considerable paint job. If you don’t know, now you know.

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Mitchel Shawn was a Co-worker and Engineer of a Gardening Tool manufacturing company since 2013 and a passionate researcher on Machinery goods. Picking the right tools for your work-station and making life easier is an untold helping journey by SHAWN. With this Reviewer Guides Blog, you'll definitely get help in revealing the accurate product spec which actually helps in real life works.