Portable air compressors have almost endless functionality. You can use them for almost anything from powering tools to painting. One of the most common uses for an air compressor, however, is to inflate tires. 

Air compressors come in all sorts of types, sizes, and power ratings. Most people buy air compressors for simple, home-related tasks like airing up car or bicycle tires. Some air compressors are small and portable, while others are large and bulky.

If you don’t know a lot about air compressors, all those specifications can be somewhat confusing. In this article, we will cover all the basics of air compressors and their associated features. 

It can be hard for the average person to know what size air compressor they need to fill car tires. While it will vary depending on the type of vehicle you have and what size tires are on it, most of the time a 2 to 6 gallon air compressor with 1 to 2 CFM of air flow will work just fine.

We will cover the things you need to know, and we will let you know what air compressor aspects don’t apply for your needs. 

Benefits Of A Owning A Portable Air Compressor

Air compressors are extremely useful machines. Having one, enables you to carry out tasks that would otherwise be impossible. They are useful for inflating car and bike tires, cleaning electronics, and cleaning up things like sawdust. They can even be used for yard work and painting.

It’s not uncommon for professionals and businesses to make use of multiple air compressors. In these situations, large air compressors with plenty of power, and smaller, more portable air compressors are used in conjunction.

Really powerful air compressors enable their owners to do woodworking projects and many other advanced home improvement tasks. Small, compact air compressors, on the other hand, are an excellent choice for lighter tasks like airing up bike and automobile tires.

Auto Tire Air Compressor Benefits

It’s a common assumption that air compressors are only used for industrial work and tire inflation. You would be surprised, however, at just how versatile these machines really are. The right size air compressor for painting a car is going to be a completely different size needed for airing up tires. So, its real important to make sure you don’t over-buy. 

Making sure you get the right size air compressor for a given task is one of the most important aspects of finding the perfect air compressor for you. So, we have detailed a few common air compressor use-cases and their associated sizes.

Tire Inflation

If you use your own air compressor to inflate your tires when they need it, not only will that save you money but you will also be able to air-up tires that have come completely off their bead.

The best portable air compressor will not just be limited to car tires. It will also be able to do motorcycle and bicycle tires. 

So, if you get an air compressor to air up your tires, you won’t have to take a trip to a gas station to get your problem resolved.

This can be especially useful if you have a tire with a slow leak and don’t have time during the work week to take your car to the shop. Having an air compressor to air up your tires can be a real life-saver when you need it the most.

Paint Sprayers

Air compressor-based paint sprayers are not only more powerful than traditional painting methods, but it’s always easier to achieve an even coat. This is why almost 100% of body shops use an air compressor to paint. 

Air compressor-driven paint sprayers are the only type that can provide that perfect, smooth, no drip finish that you see in the automotive industry.

Powering Power Tools

Remember, even though you may be looking for the best air compressor to inflate car tires, you will be able to use that machine for more than that. Air compressors are excellent for running power tools.

Pneumatic power tools are often much more powerful than an electric power tool of the same size. So, that’s why some of the best nail guns, drills, sanders, wrenches, and ratchets run on compressed air.

The great thing is that most pneumatic tools don’t need a ton of power if you are operating only one of them. So, if you get the best air compressor to fill up car tires, you will also be able to use it to run any pneumatic tools that you may purchase later.

Multiple Purposes

An air compressor is a true multi-purpose tool. Pressurized air is extremely useful for carrying out many different household tasks. As long as you get the right kind of air nozzles, you will be able to use your compressor for everything from clearing the driveway to home improvement tasks.

So, What Size Air Compressor Do I Need To Fill Car Tires?

The truth is that you can use any size air compressor to inflate your car tires. The best car air compressor for tires is going to be powerful enough to not take too long to air up your tires. The worst air compressors for inflating tires will take 20 minutes or more to air up a single tire. 

If you get an air compressor that has a high CFM rating but also has a small air tank, you may be spending more time waiting for the air compressor to recharge its tank than the tire inflation process itself. 

While it depends on what type of vehicle you have, as a general rule of thumb you need somewhere between 1 and 2 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute). CFM is the volume of air that can be moved by the air compressor.

This is important to know because there are many air compressors out there, such as the ones powered by an electric cigarette lighter, that produce far less than 1 CFM.

You should avoid tankless air compressors. This is because the most efficient car air compressor uses a tank to store its pressurized air. So, as long as you find a relatively powerful unit that has a decent-sized storage tank you will be able to quickly inflate car tires, bicycle tires, or even truck tires.

Using An Air Compressor To Inflate Your Tires Will Save You Money

If you don’t believe us, then just take a look at fueleconomy.gov. The organization just happened to perform a recent study that showed just how much fuel economy you can lose by not keeping your tires properly inflated.

In fact, if your tires are under-inflated, you can expect 0.2% less gas mileage for every 1 PSI low your tires are.

That may sound small, but it adds up big time when it comes to miles per gallon over an extended period of time. Also, properly inflated tires have far superior traction characteristics compared to tires that are not full.

Another important factor to take into consideration is the fact that keeping your tires at the proper pressure extends their lifespan. This is because when your tires are under-inflated, there is an unnecessary amount of wear placed on certain parts. 

As you may know, tires are not cheap. A complete set of new tires for most vehicles will cost about $400 dollars before installation. So, keeping your tires properly inflated will save you a ton of money in the long run because you will not have to buy new tires as often as you otherwise would have.

The air compressor for filling car tires will be powerful enough to perform many more tasks and it will have a 100% duty cycle, which means it can run continuously without any sort of cooldown period. You can find a lot of 3.5-gallon 2.0 CFM air compressors that meet this criteria. 

When using this air compressor, you won’t have to wait for the compressor to kick-in when topping off tires.

If you are restoring a full flat, though, then you may have to wait a few minutes. In regards to bicycle tires, motorcycle tires, and inflatable water-toys, this Porter Cable model is a fantastic pick.


Air compressors, especially the compact, portable air compressors are extremely versatile machines. Sometimes, however, you just need to find the best air compressor to perform a single, simple task such as airing up your tires. 

If you don’t know a lot about air compressors or you have not purchased one before, it can be really overwhelming to know what size air compressor is needed to fill car tires. It ultimately will depend on the type of vehicle you have and what size tires are on it, but a 2 to 6 gallon air compressor with 1 to 2 CFM of air flow will typically do a great job with car tire inflation. 

We hope this article helped answer any questions you may have had regarding the proper size air compressor needed to fill your car’s tires. Thank you for reading!