Have you ever wondered if an air compressor is something that would make your car-related work easier and faster? It is hard to imagine a modern workshop with none of that ugga-dugga sound coming from it. Using an air compressor and corresponding tools has several upsides, including reduced work effort and improved efficiency in general. With that in mind, it is easy to see why even DIY mechanics want to have them in their garages. Although there is a wide range of air compressors on the market, choosing between them may not be that simple. To help you get the right one, we will find out how they work and explore what the best of them have to offer.

California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor




Established in 2002, California Air may not have the heritage that many other manufacturers on the market do. Still, with a team of seasoned industry experts, this San Diego-based company has a lot of experience that backs it up. Their entire product range revolves around pressurized air, with efficient and quiet compressors being the most prominent. Other devices include anything from dental equipment and air tools to oil-free pumps and spray guns.

The 8010 Air Compressor is one of their best-selling products, and it is easy to see why. With a familiar shape and traditional layout, it will easily fit into any workshop or garage. Unlike most of its competitors, this air compressor has a dual-piston pump that ensures quiet operation and low energy consumption. And those pumps won’t have to turn on very often, thanks to a storage tank with the largest capacity. As a result, this air compressor is very smooth and will not disturb your family members or neighbors when running.

There are, however, some potential drawbacks with this air-compressor, with its dimensions being the biggest one. It is the largest on this list by some margin, which may be an issue in smaller garages and workshops. In addition, the airflow may not be sufficient for heavy-duty applications or spray painting.

Makita Air Compressor 2.4 hp




In the world of tools that may take on any job, Makita is the name that needs no introduction. This manufacturer from Japan has been around since 1958 and spared no time to prove its value. High-quality tools and equipment that are capable and robust made them popular among both professionals and amateur users. Makita has a wide product range that spans from battery-powered hand tools to heavy-duty industrial equipment.

Among all the tools and equipment Makita offers to their customers, this MAC2400 Air Compressor holds a special place. Its most striking feature is the compact dimension and unique shape that set it apart from the rest. This, together with its lightweight construction, makes it portable and suitable for all sorts of applications. But despite its size, this air compressor packs quite a punch, as it offers the highest airflow among the three. In addition, it uses oil for lubrication, which will ensure its longevity in even the harshest situations.

Still, even a manufacturer such as Makita can’t make a product that has no downsides. With this air compressor, that compact dimension has taken its toll on the capacity, which is the smallest here. Despite not being an issue for most applications, this makes it less suitable for continuous heavy-duty use. In addition, it is not the quietest air compressor on the market.

CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor pancake




When a manufacturer claims to be a trustworthy and authentic American Icon, there must be something to it. With Craftsman, this is anything but an empty claim, as they have both knowledge and tradition to back it up. Established in 1927, this manufacturer has a versatile product lineup that aims at both professionals and amateurs. And as they always point out at Craftsman, all of their products are proudly made in the USA.

Their CMEC6150K air compressor is popular among DIY enthusiasts, although its name may not be easy to remember. So, we will simply call it Pancake, which perfectly describes the specific shape of its tank. Thanks to it, this air compressor has a relatively small footprint while not sacrificing too much of its performance. The resulting device is both capable and doesn’t take too much floor space. As an additional upside, this air compressor comes together with a set of accessories and hardware. This allows installation in a true plug-and-play fashion, which is not something that other manufacturers can say about their products. To make things even better, all this comes with quite an affordable price tag.

On the downside, the Pancake is a rather noisy device, which may be a tradeoff to its competitive price. And similar to its counterpart from California Air, the airflow may leave some users wanting more. Still, with all things considered, this air compressor offers excellent value for money.

How Does The Air Compressor Work?

In its essence, the air compressor works similar to the car engine, but only in reverse order. As a result, both the engine and air compressor have a fair share of similar components. For a start, we have one or more cylinders with a pair of valves on top. Within a cylinder, there is a piston that moves up and down and compresses air while doing so. The pressurized air then travels through a series of pipes and valves to the storage tank. When you connect your tool to the compressor, it actually uses the pressurized air within this tank. There is also a pressure switch, which controls the compressor. When the pressure inside the tank drops below a certain level, it turns it on.

At this point, some of you may be wondering what makes the piston move, right? Well, that’s easy – there is an electric motor that does this. It connects to the crankshaft beneath the piston and spins it, pushing the piston up and down. As said, just like the car engine itself, just the other way around.

What To Look For When Choosing The Air Compressor?

Take a look at Amazon or any similar place, and you will quickly notice that air compressors come in many shapes and sizes. To select the right one, you must know which features are crucial for the intended application.

See also: Portble Air Compressors For Car

● The capacity of an air compressor is the amount of pressurized air it can hold while not working. In most cases, the size of the storage tank and the pressure it can withstand will define this value. You should get a compressor with a bigger capacity if planning to use air tools a lot.
● Another significant characteristic is airflow, which tells us how much air under pressure the compressor can provide to its consumers. This will determine power and torque output for tools that connect to the air compressor. The measure for airflow is cubic feet per minute (CFM), and you want more of them for heavy-duty applications.
● Overall dimensions and shape of the air compressor may be a limiting factor in some situations. If there is not much space in your garage, you will probably want something small and compact. Another typical scenario is when you frequently need to move the compressor between locations, so it has to be portable.
● Like any other tool or equipment, air compressors need to be maintained, with exact requirements differing between the manufacturers. Oil-free variants are less demanding when it comes to this, as they are practically self-contained units. This makes them practical, although such compressors may not be the best option for prolonged heavy-duty applications.

Are Air-Powered Tools Better Than Electric Ones?

Not so long ago, air-powered tools were the only option for professionals and DIY users who wanted something reliable. Still, with the recent development of electric motors and corresponding batteries, cordless power tools have become a viable alternative. Besides having compact dimensions and being easy to use, these devices require almost no maintenance. And if we compare them with professional tools that use compressed air, they are not that expensive, either. Because of that, cordless tools may seem like an ideal option for DIY users and automotive enthusiasts. But is it really so?

Let’s start with the price itself. Sure, this works in favor of electric tools, as long as you only need one or two. This balance, however, will swing in favor of their air-powered counterparts when a user wants to have several different tools. The reason for this is the simple construction of air-powered tools, which makes each of them considerably cheaper. And thanks to this simplicity, these tools are also robust enough to cope with harsh working conditions. Lastly, there is a question of longevity, as air-powered tools will not wear out like those who have batteries.


When comparing power consumption with other similar devices, air-compressors and corresponding tools are not the most efficient devices out there. As a general rule, it will use approximately 7 horsepowers of electricity to produce one horsepower worth of compressed air. However, its capacity is something users need to know, which is where cubic feet-per-minute (CFM) values come into play. This tells us about the amount of air under certain pressure a compressor can produce at any given moment. How much of it is enough depends on the applications, as some tools require higher airflow than others. While impact guns and angle grinders require 2 to 5 CFM, paint-spray guns may need up to 10 CFM.

Predictably, there is a connection between an air compressor’s noise level and its price, with quieter ones being more expensive. Because of that, you may be tempted to buy a louder one, as these offer better performance at lower prices. This may be just fine if you have a large property and a dedicated room to put the compressor in. However, if it’s going to be in your garage, the noise it generates will quickly start to annoy you. To make things worse, your family and neighbors won’t appreciate the constant rattle, either.

To answer this question, we must first explain why some air compressors need oil and others don’t. Just like a car engine, some air compressors use a special oil to lube its moving part and decrease friction. Reduced component wear and robust durability are the apparent upsides here, although such compressors demand more maintenance. As opposed to them, oil-free compressors have a layer of Teflon or similar material that acts as a lubricant. This eliminates a need for lube-related maintenance, making them ideal for amateur and DIY applications.

Last Words

As we have explained, there are several interesting air compressors to choose from if you are looking to buy one. The one from California Air is the best compressor in its traditional meaning, which is also very user-friendly. On the other hand, Makita offers a product that is capable and robust while also being portable. In the end, Craftman’s Pancake brings in competitive performance at a very affordable price.

We do an efforts to find, research and recommend the best products. So, we may receive commissions from purchases that you make after following the links in our product reviews.