What Is an Air Compressor Used for in a Car

What Is an Air Compressor Used for in a Car: 20 Surprising Uses

Did you know that hiring or owning an air compressor can assist you in multiple tasks and reduce costs along the way? Along with versatile uses in a work site, air compressors can help you tremendously if you’re a car owner. Now you might wonder; what is an air compressor used for in a car? Good question.

And luckily, we have just the right answer. Keep reading to know 20 surprising uses of air compressors in cars, along with other juicy details.

By the end of this article, we will unveil some of the best air compressors you can blindly invest in and a handful of tips and tricks that people don’t give away! So, sit back and prepare to have your mind blown by some of these best-kept secrets!

What Can You Do with an Air Compressor?

There are abundant uses for air compressors, but it’s time to think outside the box. Research revealed over twenty benefits of air compressors in cars, making vehicles function better and your life easier. So, let’s see ‘what is an air compressor used for in a car’ and other critical details about its use.

What Is the Function of an Air Compressor in a Car?

Function of an Air Compressor in a Car

It’s said that air compressors are the heart of the A/C systems in vehicles. Without this integral component, cars simply blow the fans after sucking the outdoor air and temperature inside the car.

The refrigerant pressurizes the air compressor, which senses the interior’s temperature and transforms the air into the desired temperature once it activates. The compressor receives energy from numerous sources, such as the serpentine belt. Thus, if the belt ever collapses, the A/C system and car will fail to function.

20 Surprising Uses of Car Air Compressor

Uses of Car Air Compressor

We know you’ve been eagerly waiting to see ‘what is an air compressor used for in a car, so let’s not keep waiting any longer. Here are 20 surprising services of air compressors that you haven’t known before!

  1. Airbrush Painting

    This has to be the most creative usage of air compressors. If you’re interested in revamping your car, scooter, or bike, you can DIY its outlook using petite air compressors.

  2. Snow Machines

    Christmas might not be right around the corner, but you can prepare yourself for it nevertheless. Yes, you can have a makeshift snow machine with an air compressor.

  3. Paintball Gun

    Paintballing sounds like the best retreat right now, doesn’t it? Don’t worry; you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on it. Air compressors make the best homemade guns for paintballing. But remember to wear safety goggles first!

  4. Air Sanders

    If you can’t afford an air sander to sand objects, you can rely on handy air compressors to do the job instead!

  5. Air Blow Gun

    Air compressors to clean dust and grime in your work site are an absolute God-send. The pressure flow rate in this piece of equipment may not be top-tier, but it can still target and eradicate dirt well.

  6. Sandblasting

    Sandblasters are renowned for eradicating imperfections such as rust and paint off wood and metal. However, you can also rely on water, silica, and sand for smaller projects.

  7. Staple/Nail Gun

    Since the construction of portable air compressors, users can nail up to 40 to 60 nails per minute. The maximum gas pressure jams the nail directly into the wood or timber. But these can also be used on steelwork, concrete, and stone.

  8. Pressure Washer

    This one’s a charm to use on cars and driveways as they make the task super easy and quick. However, it must be used cautiously as this equipment can often throw the user off balance.

  9. Tire Inflation

    Inflating tires with an air compressor must be regulated daily as a safety measure. This doesn’t only include cars but bikes, vans, and cycles too. You can purchase air compressors of varying kinds and sizes to fit your vehicle’s needs.

  10. Diving

    Divers can utilize the filtered air from compressors as their breathing gas. There are two kinds of this measure, high and low pressure which can cater to distinct underwater requirements.

  11. Fountains

    Fortunately, air compressors can also control the precision and flow rate of water release from fountains and other water decorative displays. Hence, it’s quite versatile and not just to blast out air.

  12. Cooling

    This one’s a no-brainer as we use air compressors in our everyday use in air conditioners, freezers, and refrigerators without even knowing!

  13. Engines

    Air compressors, as a part of the car’s engines, must allow proper heating or cooling regulations within the cars. It’s also needed for larger vehicles to maintain the brakes.

    And did you know air compressors are used to run many theme park rides? Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

  14. Health

    There are numerous uses for air compressors in the healthcare sector. Dentists use them to clean patients’ teeth as a pressure washer, and hospitals acquire oxygen via machines and prohibit infection spread during treatments.

  15. Agriculture

    Farmers generously use air compressors to spray on their crops, power their pieces of equipment, and transport grain or feed. It’s also a staple tool to ventilate the greenhouses.

  16. Manufacturing

    One of the essential tools in manufacturing is air compressors, which can power numerous pneumatic tools and processes in manufacturing plants and factories to sand, cut, and position them.

  17. Workshops

    Air-powered tools such as electric or petrol air compressors can power other tools required in machines or personal work sites.
    Smaller equipment such as nail guns have high impact, but they acquire their power from air compressors, whereas the full-size ones can also power more robust tools such as pneumatic grinders, sanders, and drills.

  18. Construction

    Diesel, petrol, or electric air compressors can fuel larger equipment, thus, providing an uninterrupted energy source to construction sites. You will no longer require a generator or other hefty machinery to run the smaller ones.

  19. Yard Work

    Air compressors for cleaning every tight space or crevice can make your life easier and tasks quicker. You can eradicate puddles of water, debris, leaves, and weeds from unwanted spots in your yard.

  20. Energy Sectors

    Air compressors are a dependable and safer alternative to drilling oil rigs in oil drilling energy sectors. It’s a spark-free, stable and precise equipment; thus, many oil drilling sites rely upon them.

How Do You Know if Your Car Needs an Air Compressor?

How Do You Know if Your Car Needs an Air Compressor

Just like any other car compartment, air compressors also go through generic wear and tear. However, there are a few early signs of such faulty behavior. Keep reading to know what they are.

  • Noises

    When you turn on the car or A/C, you might hear a few whirring or unusual sounds. This is because when the air compressor fails, it makes some whining and grinding noises. It can also happen when internal components such as bearings go bad.

  • Hot Air

    Air compressors release cool air within the vehicle. However, when it malfunctions, the AC systems will fail too, regulating outside or hot air within the car. It’s also a sign of low refrigerant and a dead compressor.

  • Leaks

    The internal bearings prevent fluids from leaking outside the vehicle. However, when the compressor fails, it might be due to damaged and worn-out bearings causing a fluid leak.

  • Rigid Clutch

    AC air compressors have clutches connected to the vehicle’s engines for power. The compressor generally draws the power only when necessary. However, the compressor will refrain from functioning if the internal pulley or clutch gets stuck.

What Happens When a Car Air Compressor Goes Out?

What Happens When a Car Air Compressor Goes Out

You might know the symptoms of a faulty air compressor, but what happens when they fail? You must look out for a few signs, and they’re listed below.

  • AC Performance

    You will notice a drastic change in AC performance once the refrigerant starts leaking.

  • Inconsistency

    Due to refrigerant leaks, the problems will continue to degrade the AC’s performance. However, the performance will also be inconsistent; you might notice it working fine one day but erratic the next.

  • Freon Levels

    The AC might malfunction even if your AC has the correct refrigerant or freon levels. This is a dead giveaway of a failing air compressor.

What Compressor Is Chosen for a Car?

What Compressor Is Chosen for a Car

Generally, the considerations needed behind choosing a compressor don’t have a straightforward answer. Whether it’s for painting, collision repair, or assembling, there are a few factors you need to check before splurging and getting your hands on the right product.

  • Performance

    The performance of air compressors heavily relies on the indicators which indicate how much air the device can supply per minute in liters. For example, the inflation in larger vehicles should be around 1.5 feet per minute. Whereas, an air supply of 30L/minute for passenger vehicles shall suffice.

  • Maximum Pressure

    Maximum pressure can be calculated via bars or atmospheres. This indicates that the compressed air pressure’s full figure can enter within an enclosed space. The maximum pressure tells users how safe or comfortable a ride can be.

  • Surroundings

    A few factors about an adequately built compressor involve the power source’s location, proper ventilation, and placement of the compressors. Before installation of air compressors in cars, it’s must consult a professional to understand these aspects.

  • Requirements

    Whether you opt for fixed or variable compressors, the decision will ultimately depend on your personal needs and the car’s requirements. To purchase the right product, in this case, consider the type, horsepower, and size of the compressor and match it with your vehicle type and model.

But if you’ve no idea what fixed and variable compressors are, keep reading!

Types of Air Compressor: Fixed vs. Variable Speed Compressors

Fixed-speed compressors function by transmitting steady supplies of voltage to motors. This, in turn, compels the rotary screws at a coherent speed that pulls in and pressurizes the air. The machinery operates on full throttle at a fixed or constant speed, even with a minimum load.

Variable compressors constantly alter the motors’ speed to match the air’s demand. The speed thus coherently fluctuates to line with the system’s output. Furthermore, the compressor operates at full speed when there’s low pressure and at lower speed when the pressure achieves any set value. Thus, it stabilizes the speed according to the output’s requirements.

Now, their distinctions run deeper than their characteristics. Variable-speed compressors initially have low currents, whereas fixed-speed compressors pose larger spikes. Since the initial surge is high, fixed-speed demands higher energy than variable-speed.

However, fixed-speed has wider operation bands compared to a variable. Lastly, they acquire greater stress since fixed-speed runs at high energy and speed. Thus, a variable-speed system has higher longevity.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Car Air Compressor

When you hit the bull’s eye while using air compressors in cars and elsewhere, things can barely go wrong. But, there are still a few pros and cons to compressors that you must be aware of.


  • There’s a wide range of types and specifications to choose from.
  • Some compressors are versatile and portable.
  • Easy and hassle-free power source with multiple uses.
  • Lightweight, compact and long-lasting.
  • Easy to maintain.


  • These are expensive replacements.
  • It can get extremely noisy when going through wear and tear.

How Does a Tire Inflation Compressor Work?

The main purpose of a tire air compressor is to inflate tires when their pressure’s low. It could also work as a quick sealant when needed. Car tire compressors are attached via the cigarette lighter sockets for maximum output, but they can also work via battery terminals.

The inflators convert electrical energy to potential energy, transmuting it into pressurized air. The pressurized gas doesn’t require manual, strenuous constant pumping to inflate the tires.

Why Have an Air Compressor in Your Garage

Some of us are still unaware of how vital it is to have an air compressor ready for our beck and call at any time. People rely on owning a compressor in their garages to inflate their cycles, bikes, and car tires.

However, they’re also handy as makeshift grinders, grease guns, or sandblasters whenever required. Plus, it saves a ton of money as users no longer travel back and from to professionals and shops simply to get their car tires inflated.

How to Use an Air Compressor on Your Flat Tire


Anxious about filling car tires at home? Don’t be; follow these simple steps to get the job done effectively.

  • Step 1

    Before the fill-up, you must know how much air each tire should hold. This will give you an idea about when to stop as the reading on the pressure gauge reaches that point. You can also refer to the manual for this. Here’s a pro tip; always fill a cold tire for accurate results.

  • Step 2

    Remove the stem cap from its valve stem and keep it aside. Replace it when the filling is complete.

  • Step 3

    Once the fill is complete and according to your satisfaction, connect the air compressor hose to the tire valve stems. As everything gets secured, switch on the compressor, fill the tires gradually and watch out to avoid over-inflation.

What Size Air Compressors Do You Need to Work on Cars

screw air compressor pump

Generally, any auto-body, repair, or vehicle service shop recommends air compressors with 5-30HP and air receivers of around 80-240gallons. These ranges can easily power up pneumatic tools and other equipment as needed. However, for an at-home air compressor, a range of 20-30gallons should suffice too.

But, the question remains of which compressor you must go for. Now, oil compressors need lubrication to minimize friction on the piston. Oil compressors are highly efficient and contain a larger tank capacity than oil-free ones.

Moreover, these models provide constant operations and are best suited for tire servicing. You can also consider screw compressors for tire servicing as they’ve high and consistent performance and efficiency.

Necessary Specifications of Air Compressor for Car

Specifications of Air Compressor for Car

Although most air compressors have uniform performance, users must know several critical specifications to choose the correct model. Let’s see what those specifications are.

  • PSI & Pressure

    Compressors can pressurize air and are measured in PSIG or pounds/square inch gauge, which can tell you about the barometric pressure and pressure within its tank. Most pneumatic tools contain 90-PSIG to function. However, the heavy-duty ones will require more.

  • CFM & Capacity

    The amount of air that an air compressor can produce is its PSIG which is measured in CFM or cubic feet per minute. If you plan to run multiple tools, capacity knowledge is a must. For instance, low capacities suffice for nail guns, but other heavy-duty products will require more.

  • HP

    One horsepower is equivalent to 745.7W or 550-foot pounds/second and can measure the motor systems’ overall performance. A well-rounded air compressor will have production of 4CFM at 100-PSIG for each power unit.

  • Tank Size

    Larger tanks mean they run longer without compressor motors and have plenty of leftover compressed air to power other tools. You also save a ton of power and energy.

  • Motor Type

    Most air compressors operate on natural gas, diesel, or electricity. Electric motors are economical and reliable, but gas-powered compressors have a high power range and convenient portability. However, consider the portability, investment, fuel, and electrical costs to determine your best option.

  • Cooling

    Cooling features are a must-have to prohibit continuous system failure. Furthermore, a perfect cooling specification assures proper cooling and heating with adequate internal functioning, such as after-cooling, diaphragm cooling, inter-cooling, and heat exchange.

5 Best Air Compressor Uses for Your Car

Now, the only question remains: Which air compressor should you splurge in? Worry not; we’ve taken care of that too. Here are our top-five picks.

1. EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump

Portable air compressors such as the EPAuto can directly power your vehicle via the cigarette lighter port. It’s used to inflate tires as well. This equipment works wonders on any car with an engine size of around 3.5-liters.

However, it can’t cater to trucks. Moreover, the gauge featured in this air compressor informs users about the current psi and comes with LED flashlights.

2. EGWO 3000Amp Car Jump Starter with Air Compressor

Finding a perfect portable jump starter with air compressors is often difficult. The JF.EGWO has optimized capacity and a built-in 150psi compressor which can inflate tires, sports balls, and swimming pools. It comes with LCD screens, emergency lights, USB ports, and an auto-stop system for higher safety.

3. Schumacher SJ1332 Rechargeable AGM Jump Starter

Why is Schumacher renowned as the best portable power pack for cars? Good question. This model is dipped with versatility and powerful performance with its 1200-peak amps, AGM batteries, and portable power.

The best part is you can charge smartphones with this. The 150psi air compressor can inflate any tire or even mattress as it has the full potential to convert power quickly.

4. Viair 88P Portable Compressor

The Viair portable air compressor brings a lot of convenience with its corded design. Even though it has a 120psi maximum pressure rate, its design doesn’t take up much room. It comes with other needed accessories and kits, a huge win-win for everyday DIYers.

5. Dewalt Compressor

If you’re willing to go cordless, the Dewalt 20V is an excellent product. It works on high-volume and high-pressure hoses, so your job will be completed in a jiffy.

The digital gauge on this model is straightforward to read, making it accessible via novices. However, since the product is cordless, you’ll need to purchase 20V batteries separately.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Q1. Can a Car Run without an Air Compressor?

A) If you want to disable the AC, you can run a car without an air compressor.

Q2. What Does an Air Compressor in a Car Do?

A) Without an air compressor, you will only have fans blowing the air that they suck in from the outdoors. It will not change the temperature as the refrigerant can't sense and alternate them into desired airflow temperature.

Q3. How Does the Air Compressor Cool Your Car?

A) The compressor compresses the gas and transforms the refrigerant's temperature into high-pressure gas. This then pushes the refrigerant through outdoor coils and releases it of its heat, condensing it into liquid.

Q4. Why Should You Use Compressed Air For Auto Detailing?

A) Compressed air is needed to clean accumulated debris and dust in engines. It's also great for cleaning caked-on dirt and wax buildup during detailing.

Q5. How Does a Tire Air Compressor Work?

A) Tire inflators transform electrical energy into potential energy and reserve it as pressurized air. Pressurized gas doesn't require any strenuous pumping to inflate the tires.

Q6. How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Car Air Compressor?

A) It costs around $994, and the average price range varies from $842-$1146.

Q7. What Does a Bad Air Compressor Sound Like?

A) Any open compartments within the air compressor will create a rumbling, clicking, rattling, or ticking sound.

Q8. How Much Power Is in Watts Used by a Car Air Conditioner?

A) On average, the power needed to operate a car's air conditioner is about 3kW.

Final Words

So, are you ready to shop for some of the best air compressors on the market? Now you have the answers to what is an air compressor used for in a car, so you’re no longer out of the loop!

An air compressor is a versatile tool that can aid various work sites and projects. That’s the beauty of it! However, many are still unaware of its all-rounder specifications, and let’s face it; they’re missing out.

Here’s a pro tip; before making the big splurge, ensure that these pieces of equipment match your desired needs and budget. For complete assurance, refer to our top five list of air compressors, consisting of items that can cater to various requirements, budgets, and individual preferences.

About the author

Michael is the lead content creator for Wheelspick.com. As a car enthusiast and based on his real life experiences he is sharing his opinion about various automotive vehicles and parts. So you can get the best experience! Happy reading.

About The Author

Michael H. Smith

Michael H. Smith

Michael is the lead content creator for Wheelspick.com. As a car enthusiast and based on his real life experiences he is sharing his opinion about various automotive vehicles and parts. So that our reader, can focus solely on buying best gadgets for their automobile and get the best products reviews and guide experience!

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