What Size Air Compressor for Changing Tires?

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Air compressors are the unsung heroes of your garage, providing the air pressure needed to change tires fast.

But not all compressors are created equal, and the size you need can vary depending on your vehicle and usage.

So, in this guide, we’re going to delve into the world of air compressors and their role in tire changing – a skill that’s not just for mechanics, but for anyone really.

Now, let’s dive into our first section where we’ll understand the role of air compressors in changing tires and their benefits.

Understanding Changing Tires and The Role of Air Compressors

Changing tires is a fundamental aspect of vehicle maintenance.

Whether it’s a routine tire rotation or an unexpected flat tire, the process involves removing the old tire from the wheel and replacing it with a new one.

But where does an air compressor come into play?

Normally, an air compressor is known for generating pressurized air, which is used to inflate tires to their optimal pressure. Maintaining the correct tire pressure is essential for vehicle safety, fuel efficiency, and prolonging the lifespan of your tires.

But the benefits of an air compressor extend beyond just inflating tires. It’s also used to power air tools, such as an impact wrench, which can significantly speed up the process of loosening and tightening lug nuts when changing tires.

This can be a real time-saver, especially if you’re dealing with a flat tire on the side of the road.

What Size Air Compressor For Changing Tires?

When it comes to selecting the right air compressor for changing tires, size does matter.

And we’re not just talking about physical dimensions here.

The best way to approach this is by considering the scale of your applications – are they small, medium, or large?

Small Scale Applications

For occasional tire changes at home or in a small workshop, a compact air compressor is typically sufficient.

These air compressors usually have a CFM rating of 2.0 to 4.0 and a PSI rating of 90-100, enough to operate a standard impact wrench for loosening and tightening lug nuts. The horsepower is usually in the range of 1-3 HP, and the tank size is around 6 gallons.

What I like the most about these air compressors is that they are portable and easy to store, making them ideal for light-duty, infrequent use.

Medium Scale Applications

Now, if you’re a professional mechanic or a serious DIY enthusiast who changes tires frequently, you’ll need a more powerful air compressor.

To be more detailed, you’ll want to get yourself a medium scale air compressors that has a CFM rating of 4-5 and a PSI rating of 90-150. Their horsepower usually falls in the 3-5 HP range, and the tank size is around 10-20 gallons.

These units provide enough power to run an impact wrench efficiently, allowing for quicker and more frequent tire changes.

Large Scale Applications

For those running commercial garages and tire shops that handle a high volume of tire changes, a large air compressor is a must.

These heavy-duty units have a CFM rating of 5 or higher, a PSI rating of 150 or higher, and a horsepower rating of 5 HP or more. The tank size is typically 20 gallons or higher.

What’s great about these large scale air compressors is that they can power multiple impact wrenches simultaneously, making them ideal for busy workshops where multiple tire changes are happening at once.

Tips For Using Air Compressor For Changing Tires

Using an air compressor to change tires can be a real game-changer as it makes the process faster, easier, and less physically demanding.

But to get the most out of your air compressor, there are a few tips and tricks you should know:

Choosing the Right Impact Wrench

The first step is choosing the right impact wrench for the job.

For most car tires, a 1/2 inch impact wrench is ideal as it provides enough torque to easily loosen and tighten lug nuts without causing damage. Remember to pair it with an air compressor that has a CFM rating of 4 to 5 @90 PSI to ensure efficient operation.

To be honest, 3/8-inch and 3/4-inch impact wrenches should work too for changing tires, so that’s that.

Setting the Correct Pressure

Setting the correct pressure on your air compressor is crucial too.

I mean, too much pressure can damage the lug nuts or the threads on the wheel studs, while too little pressure can leave the lug nuts insufficiently tightened.

A good rule of thumb is to set the pressure at around 90 PSI for impact wrenches.

Using the Impact Wrench Properly

When using the impact wrench, start by removing the lug nuts from the tire make sure to position the wrench so that it’s perpendicular to the lug nut and apply pressure gradually.

Once the lug nuts are removed, you can change the tire.

After placing the new tire, use the impact wrench to tighten the lug nuts. Be sure to tighten them in a star pattern to ensure even pressure.

Maintaining Your Equipment

Proper maintenance of your air compressor and impact wrench will prolong their lifespan and ensure safe operation.

Thus, regularly check for any signs of wear or damage, keep the tools clean, and lubricate moving parts as necessary.

Also, remember to drain the air compressor tank after each use to prevent moisture build-up.

Best Air Compressor For Changing Tires

Craftsman 10-gallon Air Compressor


  • Tank size: 10-gallon
  • PSI: Max 150 PSI
Craftsman Air Compressor, 10 Gallon Peak 1.8 Horsepower Oil-free Compressor, Max 150 PSI, Vertical Compressor Air Tools, Model: CMXECXA0331042

First off, it’s got a powerful 1.8 peak horsepower induction motor.

This thing is not only strong but also surprisingly quiet. I mean, it fills the tank from zero to full in less than 180 seconds, which is a real time-saver when I’m in the middle of a tire change.

The tank size is 10 gallons, which I’ve found to be more than enough for my tire changing needs. It keeps me going for longer without having to take frequent breaks to wait for the tank to refill.

One of the things I love about this air compressor is its versatility.

It comes with 2 quick couplers and delivers 4 CFM at 90 PSI, making it suitable for a wide range of air tools. Whether I’m using an impact wrench for changing tires or a paint sprayer for a DIY project, this air compressor has got me covered.


  • Powerful 1.8 HP motor that provides strong power for all your air tool needs.
  • 10-gallon tank that offers ample capacity for longer work periods.
  • 4 CFM at 90 PSI: Suitable for a wide range of air tools.
  • Oil-free and maintenance-free
  • Portable design making it easy to move around with a sturdy handle and 8-inch wheels.


  • It can be a bit noisy

Frequently Asked Questions

1) How much air pressure does a tire changer need?

Based on my experience and research, a tire changer typically requires an air pressure of around 90-150 PSI. This range ensures that the impact wrench used for loosening and tightening lug nuts operates efficiently.

2) Do portable air compressors work for changing car tires?

Yes! I’ve used portable air compressors numerous times for changing car tires. They’re compact, easy to use, and ideal for pumping up tires in a jam. However, it’s important to ensure that the portable air compressor you’re using has the necessary power and pressure to operate an impact wrench effectively.

3) What is the difference between a tire inflator and an air compressor?

While both a tire inflator and an air compressor can inflate tires, they are not the same. A tire inflator is a type of air compressor designed specifically for inflating car and truck tires. They are typically more portable and convenient for inflating tires on the go. On the other hand, air compressors are more versatile and powerful, making them suitable for a wider range of tasks, including operating an impact wrench for changing tires.

Hi, I’m John Smith, a proud husband, and father of two little beautiful girls. After a long time of thinking I made up my mind to build a website around my passion.. helping people who need smart advice from handymen with years of experience.

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