How to Choose an Air Compressor for your Auto Repair Shop

You need to find the best air compressor for your auto repair shop. But what qualities should you look for? And how do you even get started?

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In this blog post, we give you the best methods to find an automotive shop air compressor. You will understand:

  • Power needed
  • Best shop uses
  • Installation process
  • Preferable sizes
  • And much more

Let’s get started!

First things first

Air compressors suck surrounding air and then mechanically squeeze it through the pneumatic tools for powering air components in your vehicle. Once the maximum air pressure (PSI) has been attained, the duty cycle is complete.

The volume of air (or air flow) a compressor can generate is measured in square cubic feet per minute (SCFM). Usually, this is the most important factor that helps you choose the right compressor to power all your air powered tools.

Air compressors for auto shops generally use around 5 SCFM. This can vary, however, depending on the demand and workload each day.

How do I choose an air compressor for my auto shop?

There are some questions you need to ask yourself before thinking about purchasing your air compressor. These could look as listed below.

How much power do I need?

A compressor delivers 4 to 5 SCFM, at 10 PSI, for every unit of horsepower. This means:

  • 1 unit of horsepower = 4 to 5 SCFM at 10 PSI
  • 100 units of horsepower = 40 to 50 SCFM at 100 PSI

The rule of thumb, however, changes at 125 PSI. More power is needed to compress at that level, which means that the output will be smaller.

The right air compressor will save you money and prove plenty capable for daily tasks in your shop. Professional-grade air compressors for auto shops are built to withstand the toughest job sites, as they are durable and portable.

However, simply estimating how much power you need won’t be helpful. If you are running it higher than you need, you will burn more heat and energy. This will make for more costly repairs and maintenance for your machine.

Air pressure requirements are another consideration. You have to keep air pressure loss and usage under control. Trying to keep optimum pressure is the priority.

What will the compressor be used for?

Make sure you have a list of all your uses and how often you execute them. If your uses are sporadic, a screw, piston or reciprocating air compressor for mechanics might be the best fit. You will be able to determine the size, horsepower and type based on your usage.

However, if you have a collision repair auto shop, you may want something that can handle consistent use such as a rotary screw compressor.

Other factors that might influence your decision could be how quiet you want it to run, or how clean you want the air to be. If clean air is your concern, such as when using paint spray guns, then a rotary screw compressor is the way to go.

Where will it be installed?

Where you place the compressor is just as important. For this reason, you may want to consider a portable air compressor. For a stationary air compressor, however, factors to consider include:

  • Where are your power sources located?
  • Is there adequate ventilation?
  • How will other areas of the business be impacted by this placement?
  • Can the building I house it in cater for its electrical needs?

All of these things are also crucial in helping you choose your compressor. You don’t want to make an investment that doesn’t fit your location.

For instance, the compressor will be the largest energy consumer in your shop. Make sure you know the electrical capabilities in your facilities.

Air compressors for auto shops can draw up to seven times its full load on startup. This means it draws up seven times more energy to start up than it does to run normally. You will have to be sure your electrical system can take this load. Otherwise, you may want to reconfigure some electrical planning.

You will also have to make sure the room temperature remains stable. The air temperature should ideally stay below 104° F. Ventilation is key in this regard. Otherwise, the compressor will overheat and shut down.

You also want to maintain about 36 inches of space around a compressor. This will allow it to breathe and allow you easy access to its components for regular maintenance.

Any specific limitations to your compressor will be included in its user manual.

What size air compressor do I need for my mechanic shop?

Depending on your needs, compressors come in all shapes and sizes. Options include everything from  12-volt units to large industrial systems like rotary pumps.

To choose the right size for your shop, you need to focus on:

Once you take these into consideration, you will be able to determine the size you need for your shop. Most tools have specifications and compressors that match. For impact wrenches or ratchets — the two most used tools — you will need a rating of about 90 PSI and 4 SCFM.

A paint job may need anywhere between 35 PSI and 60 PSI. Tire machines may need 130 PSI and truck jacks may need 165 PSI.

The 20- to 30-gallon range is your best bet for an at-home automotive shop. These have the power you need, and still reserve air for higher volume with tasks such as using a cut-off tool.

Wondering what the typical air line pressure of an automotive repair shop is? Usually maximum operating pressures for auto shop air compressors are available in standard pressure settings of 115 PSI, 145 PSI or 175 PSI.

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In conclusion

You can determine what type of air compressor is best for your professional auto body work using the insights and considerations listed in this blog post. Identify your criteria and narrow down your options based on these requirements. From there, you can choose an effective air compressor that suits your auto repair shop.

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