What Can a 3-Gallon Air Compressor Do?

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If you want to know what can a 3-gallon air compressor do, you’re probably thinking of getting one. In this article, you will know the different applications of this compressor and how different compressors can be differentiated in terms of use.

What Can a 3-Gallon Air Compressor Do?

A 3-Gallon air compressor can do many things that only require light applications. It won’t do well with heavy-duty power tools and extended continuous use. the application you can do is limited to its CFM output and PSI capacity.

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You can expect a 3-gallon lightweight air compressor to have low CFM and PSI compared to larger ones. Hence, it won’t have much air power and air capacity for long jobs and ones that require a lot of power.

That’s not to say that 3-gallon compressors aren’t helpful. They are portable and lightweight, which makes them great for traveling and light applications. 

Applications of 3-Gallon Air Compressors

Here is a list of the common applications that 3-gallon portable air compressors are used:

  • Inflating small objects
  • Powering lightweight tools
  • Spray painting
  • Light air drying

There are many other applications you can do as long as you are creative and know the limitations of a 3-gallon compressor. Hence, if you want to know more about the capabilities of a lightweight compressor, continue reading.

We’ll also explain why a 3-gallon compressor works in the following applications:

Spray Painting

Because of their lightweight and portability, 3-gallons portable compressors are superb for small-area painting. You can use it for painting small decorations, doors, and even larger areas if you’re willing to spend time waiting for the tank to refill.

A 3-gallon is also advantageous in certain situations where portability and lightweight are essential. For instance, reaching hard-to-reach places is only possible with a handy lightweight air compressor and may get complicated if you use a high-powered one.

It also generally has a decent coating and quiet operation. If you pick a good model, you can run it for longer than the average lightweight compressor.

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Low-Powered Inflating

3-gallon compressors are suitable for inflating a lot of inflatable objects. Examples of everyday objects you can inflate with these portable compressors are:

  • Party balloons
  • Small tires (bike and motorcycle)
  • Pool tubes
  • Inflatable mattresses
  • Inflatable pillows and cushions
  • Inflatable kid’s toys
  • Inflatable pool
  • Sports balls (basketball, soccer, and volleyball)

Still, you need to consider the model of the compressor, its CFM, and PSI. Not all 3-gallon compressors can inflate all of the objects on the list. So it’s important to know the quality of your compressor first.

Light Pneumatic Tools

3-gallon compressors can also be used for light-duty tools. They are great for lighter applications like

  • Bolting
  • Nailing
  • Fastening
  • Stapling

You can use heavier tools like impact wrenches and blowguns if your compressor model can handle it. However, it’s still better to use a larger compressor with these tools.

3-gallon compressors are great for handling these tools and applications when dealing with specific materials that can easily break or be compromised.

Dry Cleaning

Since you can quickly move around a 3-gallon compressor, it is suitable for cleaning and blowing air within a room or area. You can use it to dry clean your:

  • Furniture
  • Dust buildup on windows, ceilings, and other hard-to-reach areas
  • Appliances
  • Other home tools

You can even use low power to blow dry clean some daily objects at home like

  • Keyboards
  • Laptop keypads, air vents, fans
  • Some computer parts
  • Toys 
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Important Metrics in 3-Gallon Air Compressors

To know more about your compressor, you need to know the metrics and how it relates to its usage, and what applications it can do.

  • CFM – the flow rate of your compressor at a given pressure. Think of it as the amount of air your compressor can blow.
  • PSI – the compressor tank’s maximum pressure. If it goes beyond the maximum, the pump automatically shuts off. This is a good indicator of how long your compressor can operate for different applications.
  • HP – means horsepower and relates to CFM. the higher the HP, the higher the CFM. this means more power. However, higher HP also means louder noise and more power consumption.

Related Question

Will a 3 Gallon Air Compressor Run an Impact Wrench?

A 3-gallon air compressor won’t effectively power impact wrenches due to its limited air capacity and power. For an impact wrench, you’d need 10-15 CFM; a 3-gallon tank won’t achieve this. Instead, opt for a compressor with a 6 to 20-gallon tank, targeting 4-5 CFM at 90-100 PSI. Alternatively, an electric unit could serve the purpose efficiently.

Can I Paint With a 3 Gallon Air Compressor?

You can spray paint with a 3-gallon air compressor easily. However, do keep in mind that you might need to refill more often compared to a larger tank if you’re doing a large area for painting. 


Now that you know the limitations of a 3-gallon compressor, you can know where to use it. If you’re planning to buy a compressor, you now know if a 3-gallon is right for you.