What PSI Compressor do I Need?

Most air tools require between 70 and 90 PSI. Any light to medium air compressor can easily handle 90 PSI, but you should always make sure that the compressor delivers more flow than necessary. If the air flow is not sufficient, the tool will not be able to work properly. Air hammers and chisels require about 90 to 100 PSI of pressure, depending on the size and model of your air tool.

For most nail guns, you will need a compressor capable of producing a pressure of about 120 PSI to make your nail gun work, and perhaps even more for the heavier frame guns. If your compressor delivers a base pressure of 90 PSI, you will also need about 4 CFM to make your air hammer perform well. Air guns have small pressure chambers designed for high pressure, so you need a compressor that can deliver 3,000 PSI or more. Air guns can easily be operated with a compressor as long as it can produce 90 to 100 PSI of pressure.

Car tyres usually have a recommended air pressure of 32 to 35 PSI, depending on the make of car, and most air compressors can easily produce this pressure. Air impact wrenches are heavy-duty tools with very different compressor requirements, but you can get by with 90 to 100 PSI on most models. For air tools in general, it’s a good idea to invest in a compressor that can deliver at least 90 PSI. To build your own Cerakote station, you don’t need to invest in a large compressor – a 20-gallon compressor with a maximum pressure of 150 PSI is enough to keep the spray nozzle depressed for a good while.

So how do you know how much air pressure is needed for a particular application? Air tools for general use with portable compressors typically require 0 to 5 cubic feet per minute (cfm) at 70 to 90 pounds per square inch (psi), while larger tools connected to stationary systems typically require more than 10 cfm at 100 to 120 psi. The paint spray guns you need for painting cars can operate at 40 to 40 PSI as long as your compressor can deliver at least 9 CFM of air. All compressors except one (Central Pneumatic 9527) provide enough pressure for frame nailers (usually about 120 psi). A portable 3-gallon compressor, on the other hand, can do a faster job even at a safer pressure of, say, 35 PSI.

For most passenger cars, a pressure of 32 to 35 PSI is recommended, so you can easily fill most vehicles with a typical 90 PSI compressor. Check the minimum requirements for your particular staple gun, but generally the requirements are quite low (70-90 PSI), so almost any compressor will do.


Jeff Stelling

Jeff Stelling is an air compressor obsessive who has been working with compressors for over 25 years, since he was an apprentice engineer in the mid 90’s. He designed Aircompressorcompare.com to offer technical guidance and buying advice for compressors.