Air compressors are a great tool to have in your garage. While there are a lot of air compressor uses around the house you’ve never thought of, there are a lot of great ones for your vehicle, as well. From powering air tools to cleaning and more, here’s a look at things you can do with your compressor when working on your car.
One of the more obvious automotive uses for a compressor is to power air tools. If you have a large (at least 20-gallon) compressor, you can use it to drive air ratchets, grinders and much more, just like the pros do. Before using your compressor with any air tool, however, be sure to set the air pressure to the correct setting for each tool. If the tools spin too fast, you risk damaging the internal parts and could hurt yourself.
Compressors are also great for touching up paint on your car with a spray gun. Start by sealing off the area you’ll be painting in to protect anything nearby, mask off windows and anything you don’t want to get paint on, and always use a respirator. Finally, set your compressor to just enough pressure to draw the paint out of the gun, and test-spray on a piece of cardboard to ensure that the paint comes out in a fine and well-spread mist.
Spin It Up
Spinning parts can be tough to clean; every time you scrub them with a brush, they start turning rather than allowing you to apply pressure to remove dirt. Hold the part in a vice or leave it attached to the car. Using your pressure nozzle, blow across the spinning part to get it moving just fast enough keep spinning on its own (not spinning at high RPM!). Then, while continuing to let the air move it, hold your brush to the part to clean it. Don’t use your hand to stop the part when you’re done; instead, blow a small burst of air on the opposite side to apply resistance to the part and slow it down.
Probably the most common use for a compressor on your car is to inflate the tires. Be sure you have a pressure gauge handy so you know how high you’re inflating them. Set the maximum pressure to just below the max inflation marked on the sidewall of the tires to avoid overinflating them. When you’re ready, simply attach the nozzle to the valve stem and blow it up, checking the pressure every so often with your gauge. Once you’ve reached the recommended pressure set by your vehicle manufacturer (usually 32 psi), move onto the next tire until all four are properly inflated and equal.
Aside from powering or cleaning tools and inflating things, compressed air can be a tool itself for various odd jobs. When changing your spark plugs, remove the wires, put on your safety glasses, and give a brief blast of compressed air into each hole to remove any dirt and debris before you remove the plug and expose the combustion chamber. Compressed air is also great for removing loose surface rust and blasting rotted areas out without using your hands and risking getting a cut. Use an extended reach air blow gun and a full face shield to protect you from the nasty stuff that will be dislodged.
Compressors can serve many purposes around your car. From tools to painting, cleaning and even some simple maintenance, there are plenty of occasions when compressed air comes in handy.
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Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.