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Equipment For Home Painting
Air compressor
All sorts of home shop compressors, including
ones with rotary pumps and vertical tanks, are
available from a variety of sources, but an old
standard for many years is the 2-hp, 2-piston
Sears unit with a 20-gallon tank. It puts out 10
cfm at 40 psi, or 8.5 cfm at 90 psi, which is fine
for old-style spray guns and most air tools, but
not for HVLP guns. After years of winding and
unwinding a 50-ft. hose, I recently got the
spring-loaded reel and highly recommend it.
You can improve your car’s finish in a couple ways without a compressor and spray gun. One way
is to buff and polish the paint to make it look new again; the other is to disassemble and partially
prep the car yourself before taking it to a one-day-type paint shop. We’ve covered the first already,
and the other is shown in Chapter 7. But even in these two cases, it’s nice to have home spray
equipment so you can at least spray some professional-quality (i.e., not spray can) primer during
the sand-and-prep stage, or spot-in a few bad places on an old paint job that can then be
otherwise rubbed out and saved without a full respray.    

There are a couple other ways to paint a car without buying your own compressor and other spray
equipment, but I don’t recommend them. In fact, they might not even be available in most places
anymore. The first is to rent a compressor (and possibly other equipment) to use at home. But a
quick check of equipment rental yards recently produced slim results. They either had low-capacity
gasoline-powered portable compressors (or the small electric ones, with no air tank, more
compatible with air brushes), or “airless” units designed for house painting. In the past, I have
rented spray equipment from my local automotive paint store—obviously of the type needed for car
painting—but a round of calls to such paint supply houses recently produced no positive results. I
think the main problem is the recent change in paint equipment technology, primarily due to HVLP
(high-volume, low-pressure) systems and government demands that such systems be used by
professional shops with no provisions for the occasional, at-home painter. Perhaps you could do
better in your area.
Another approach, at least in the past, was a rental spray booth. I have used these a few times.
The good part was that you got to paint your car in a clean, filtered, well-lit professional-type booth
that had a nice, big compressor, filters, hose, etc. All you had to bring was your gun, paint
materials, and a prepped car to paint. The bad part was getting the car there and back, stripped—
especially after it was painted. You couldn’t leave the car in the booth overnight. But it’s probably a
moot point, because I couldn’t find any spray booths for rent, and if you can’t find one in car-crazy
Southern California, perhaps they are a thing of the past. Can’t hurt checking your area, though.
Get a Compressor
If you were only going to paint one or two cars in your life, you could consider trying to rent or
borrow a compressor. In the long run, however, the amount you save going that route hardly
justifies not buying your own. Compared to other shop tools, and especially compared to the cost of
a professional paint job, a good home air compressor is downright cheap. In fact, you can get one
for about (or less than) the cost of an entry-level one-day paint job, and way less than something
like a home welder, band saw, or the like. A recent check of Sears (the old stand-by for home-shop
tools) and other home builder big-box stores yielded a decent selection of good compressors in the
$300 to $500 range and even big, shop-quality ones for less than $1,000.
Normally, I would say get the best compressor you can afford, because as soon as you have one,
you find all sorts of uses for it, and you probably want to add some air tools to your garage closet.
But since we’re concerned with the low-buck approach here, my first advice is to get your own
compressor, period. My second admonition is to get one that operates a spray gun adequately and
continually throughout a paint job. This immediately brings up the question of what type of spray
gun to get, including HVLP (high-volume, low-pressure). We will get to this shortly.
Several 110-volt compressor models are available, with horsepower ratings manufacturers are
playing with to make them more appealing. What was a 2-hp compressor is suddenly a 6-hp
compressor—until it’s running. Obviously a HP rating “when running” or “under load” is the only one
that counts. I’d recommend at least 1-1/2 and preferably 2 hp (while working), and a 25 to 30 gallon
air tank. Even more important is the compressor’s air rating in cubic-feet per minute. The
designation is SCFM, for standard cubic feet per minute. This is often given at air-pressure levels
of 40 pounds per square inch (PSI) and at 90 psi. A regular siphon-feed spray gun requires 6 to 8
scfm at 40 psi, while many air tools, such as sanders, can require 6 to 8 scfm at 90 psi. If all you’re
going to do is paint, the lower rating is fine, but it’s always better to have more capacity than less.
Air compressor
To run most HVLP guns, you need a
larger, industrial-type compressor,
such as this 5-hp unit with a 50-gallon
tank, which puts out 14 cfm at 125 psi.  
Unfortunately they cost about $1,000
new, and buying a used unit is risky.
The vertical tank is a definite
My personal choice, and therefore my recommendation to you, is to acquire a 220-volt compressor.
The last thing you want to do in the middle of a paint job is blow a fuse (i.e., trip a circuit breaker)—
which very likely not only shuts off the compressor, but turns off all the lights as well. Most houses
are wired with 220 volts from the power pole; running it to your garage is not a big deal. If you’re at
all serious about working in your garage—on cars or whatever—I strongly recommend wiring it with
a 220-volt circuit. Other shop equipment, specifically MIG welders, are available in 110 and 220 volt
types, too, and 220-volt is better. I speak from experience.  
220 electrical outlet Electrical switch for air compressor
Large or small, I highly recommend a 220-volt compressor to avoid blowing circuits in the middle of
a paint job. Plug shapes and sizes vary; make them match. When rewiring the garage, you’ll find
that an in-line off/on switch is helpful. A bright red “on” light is even more so, since the compressor
shuts itself off at a set pressure, but starts back up in the middle of the night (after leaking down) if
you forget to turn this switch off.
The smart choice in the long run is to get the best practical compressor that you can afford.
“Practical” means don’t go to the machinery auction and buy some huge industrial unit that takes a
crane to lift and is very likely worn out. It also means don’t go to the “Offshore Tool Shack” or the
“Backdoor Freight Dock Emporium” and buy something cheap just because it looks like something
good. If you’re saving $1,000 to $2,000 (or much more) on just one paint job, why not spend a little
more money on your compressor? It lasts a lot longer than one paint job. And get one now that
runs air tools because eventually you’ll want some.   

A couple of other considerations: every home garage needs more room, so a good choice is a
compressor with a vertical tank (if you’re in earthquake country, bolt it to the floor). Also, most home
compressors have wheels, but I’d suggest finding a permanent location for it, and attaching a hose
long enough to reach wherever you need it. You need at least 25 feet to get around a car to paint
it—50 feet is much better—with at least 3/8-inch internal diameter. Be advised that air hose creates
a pressure drop (sort of like resistance in electrical wire). The longer and smaller (i.d.) the hose,
the greater the pressure drop is between the compressor and the end of the hose—it can be as
much as 10 psi per 25 feet of length with 3/8-inch hose. That’s another reason to get a better
Since compressing air separates water from it (turns humidity into water drops), you need a good
water trap at the compressor outlet (actually 25 feet from the outlet is best), and another one
(possibly disposable) at the end of the hose, near the gun. The compressor tank also has a water
outlet on it; drain it regularly.
A water trap in an air line
Since compressing air causes any
moisture in it to condense, you need a
water trap in the line for painting. This
one, mounted at the compressor
outlet, is doing some good (you can
see water in it, which needs draining),
but it really should be 20-ft.
downstream to work effectively, which
can be difficult to do in your garage.
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This has been a sample page from

How to Paint Your Car on a Budget How to Paint Your Car on a Budget
by Pat Ganahl
If your car needs new paint, or even just a touch-up, the cost
involved in getting a professional job can be more than you
bargained for. Fortunately, there are less expensive
alternatives-—you can even paint your own car at home!
In How to Paint Your Car On A Budget, author Pat Ganahl unveils
dozens of secrets that will help anyone paint their own car. From
simple scuff-and-squirt jobs to full-on, door-jambs-and-everything
paint jobs, Ganahl covers everything you need to know to get a
great-looking coat of paint on your car and save lots of money in
the process. This book covers painting equipment, the ins and
outs of prep, masking, painting and sanding products and
techniques, and real-world advice on how to budget wisely when
painting your own car. It’s the most practical automotive painting
book ever written!
Click below to view sample
pages from each chapter!
Introduction - Budget Painting
Chap. 1 - Automotive Painting
Chap. 2 - Paint Stripping
Chap. 3 - Bodywork
Chap. 4 - Painting at Home
Chap. 5 - Paint Products
Chap. 6 - Paint Preparation
Chap. 7 - One-Day Paint Job
Chap. 8 - Sand and Paint
Chap. 9 - Full Paint Jobs
Chap. 10 - Restorations
Chap. 11 - Sand & Buff
8-1/2 x 11"
128 pages
Approximately 400 color photos
Item: SA117
Price: $22.95
Click here to buy now!
This is a great book that any enthusiast will love,
whether it's your first paint job or your 50th.

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