View Full Version : What is the minimum compressor size to paint a car?

03-25-2005, 09:33 AM
I've been looking at one of the samller IR 60 gallon, 7.9hp peak.

Will this do the trick if i ever want to paint a bike, or a small car? :boobies:

03-25-2005, 03:12 PM
I'm sure you'll get a more qualified response than mine but I'll throw my two cents in here. H.P. and size are only a couple of things to take into consideration. If you're trying to paint a full size car I would think that 60 gallon would be on the lower end of what might potentially get the job done. The compressor's ability to recover is an equally important factor. A dual stage or multi piston set up will usually recover faster than a single piston or single stage compressior. A high H.P. motor is certainly desireable but you can have more horses than the compressor pump is able to use effectively. I would think that if you are painting a motorcyle tank or other small item you would have plenty of air with the set up you describe. A car might be another story. I'm sure you are probably also taking into consideration the environment that you are using the compessor in. An ideal painting environment is much harder to achieve than most people plan for. Keeping the dust down and proper ventalation can be a real trick. I'm aware of an individual who decided to undertake a paint job in his garage. He was very thorough in his preperation. He hung what was in effect a canvas paint booth that he was able to wet down as well as keep the floor damp. Even with all his effort he got so much dust in the finish that he couldn't live with it. I'm sure it can be done but I don't think it is easy. Perhaps I assume too much. You don't even say that you are trying to do this at home.

Double Venom
03-25-2005, 07:24 PM
Gravity feed gun, Siphon feed, pressure gun, or an HLVP type gun?

Gearhead is right on though. The compressor you described should be big enough to handle any of the three. The key is the CFM, NOT the horsepower!


03-25-2005, 09:52 PM
FWIW I have a 33 gallon CH compressor that I paint bikes with. It runs all the time, but it's still useable. To do it again, I'd go with a larger setup.


04-26-2005, 01:34 PM
Horsepower raitngs, tank capacity, Max PSI, in my opinion are not important. Duty cycle, and CFM is what you need to look for. Some of the cheapo compressors will not last very long because they will have to work constantly. They then heat up , cause water vapor to form in the lines and ruin your paint job. You need a compressor with a high CFM Rating. I would say the minimum would be 15 CFM @ 100 PSI. BUY the LARGEST CFM Rating You can Afford.
What about a compressor that pumps 18 CFM and 14 CFM @ 90 PSI. and cost less than $800.
check out

09-20-2005, 03:47 PM
Just make sure the compressor puts out the CFM the tool needs, and you wont need to wory about how big the air tank is, because you will always have the amount of air your gunna need.


09-20-2005, 06:41 PM
15 years ago I did several backyard paint jobs, I started with a CH 3hp 20 gallon compressor, definintely the minimum, most of my work was doing partials with only a few completes. now that I do not paint anymore ( due to health reasons) I have a 7 1/2 hp 2 stage 80 gallon compressor delivering 25 cfm, go figure. most HVLP guns require 12 to 14 cfm. as far as dirt in the garage paint job goes, remember most debris comes from the car being painted. I always found it good practice to mask from the back of the quater panel to the floor sealing off the underside of the car, then thoroughly blow the entire car clean.

09-20-2005, 07:41 PM
One problem you may run into if your compressor is running constantly when painting is moisture in the lines, b ecause the air is so hot and it doesnt have any time to cool down. this is just something to consider.


09-21-2005, 12:04 AM
I have a 30gal CH that I painted some cars with in my makeshift booth in my garage. I have to stop every so often to wait for the tank to re-fill, I've learned to plan it out so that I don't end up stopping in the middle of a panel. Get a low CFM consumption gun, like the Sharpe Platinum, run hard copper lines with drop down T-drains, use a air-water separator (not at the gun), etc.

Check out this place,
do a search on homemade booths, etc.

09-21-2005, 01:40 AM
the paint guns tend to use very little air and most home compressors could keep up it's the body work with the air sanders that the smaller compressors can't keep up wiht

09-21-2005, 07:54 PM
Im not so sure about this... a ture HVLP gun will draw 10-15 cfm @40, which is still a pretty good amoutn of air. You can paint small objects with a home compressor, but if you are going to be painting a car with it, you will probably wind up with start/stop lines from where you stopped painting to wait for the compressor to keep up.


09-21-2005, 07:56 PM
Plus, You will probably run into alot of moisture because the home-sized compressor will be working pretty hard to keep up.


09-22-2005, 08:18 AM
Ohhhhh this is an ancient thread
I bought a hefty sized compressor since.... and will be painting a mini soon
Havent bought a spray gun yet but probably won't be buying HVLP

09-22-2005, 10:10 AM
Go with an HVLP... you can get them for like 1-200, and YOull use it for evertything. My friends got one and he never uses spray paint anymore, he uses the gun ALL THE TIME


09-22-2005, 10:46 PM
I agree with Jim.
Lot less overspray = less waste of money.
My Sharpe Platinum was $139 with a small tip for color and clear. I use my Harbor Freight gun with the bigger tip for primers, $49.

Have you done this before? I'm not in the position to teach anyone but I studied a lot before taking the plunge. I did a dark metallic too so technique was important.
Good luck and post pics!

09-23-2005, 06:58 AM
HVLP guns are also more friendly towards the environment, as Owen mentioned, less overspray.


09-23-2005, 06:28 PM
I always use a roller...

09-23-2005, 10:50 PM
I always use a roller...

Krooser, Were talkin about Compressors/paint guns, like For painting a car or motor cycle... But yeah, Rollers sure do beat brushes for interior stuff. :bounce:


09-25-2005, 10:05 AM
I'm about to embark on my first non-rattle can paint projects. I'm going to be painting my old Toro ride on mower first to get some practice first and then I'll be painting some small auto body parts like rear spoilers and parts about that size.

I was thinking about picking up an HVLP gun to run with my compressor but am now thinking my compressor is ridiculously undersized. I bought it when all I was doing was using it for a pneumatic roofing nailer and wanted it to be small and lightweight but now that I'm doing painting, I'm wondering if I need to upgrade its size.

I have a 2HP, 6GAL, 2.7SCFM @ 90PSI compressor - can anyone suggest a good compressor that is somewhat compact since garage space is limited that would be good for my new applications. I'm not going to be doing large volumes of work, just my stuff and probably some friends stuff from time to time.

Thanks in advance for the help.

09-25-2005, 11:40 AM

That compressor is meant for a nail gun, blow gun, and inflating tires. Its not meant to be used with a paint gun, let alone an HVLP. HVLP means high volume low pressure. Your Compressor probably puts out around 4cfm@90, and that May not even run a paint gun, and if it does you wont get very good results. you want something in the 10cfm@40 range to get good results, and some guns need even more.

Start a new thread titled something like "what compressor to buy" or whatever and tell us your requirements, if you do any automotive work, and most of all your budget, and well help to pick ouit whats best for your situation.


09-25-2005, 01:32 PM
Is this a one time thing for the mower and the auto parts? If so, I would borrow a large one from someone. I do paint, run air tools (wrenches, cutting, sanding, etc.) and wish I had gone with a larger one. Upright 80 gallon or so, although it is nice to be able to wheel my compressor around.

09-25-2005, 02:03 PM
Thanks for the input - I'm off to start the new thread as suggested. Look for it.

09-25-2005, 03:58 PM
I always use a roller...

Rollers > spray guns

100% transfer effeciency (minus a few runs and drops) ... save materials and better for the environment