What Can A 3 Gallon Air Compressor Do? Exploring the Capabilities

There are various types and sizes of air compressors available on the market, but a 3 gallons air compressor is the machine every household should own. It is the most entry-level and smaller machine you can buy. The main feature of this compressor size is that it is an easy-to-carry and portable device due to its smaller size; for example, if you are going on a picnic, planning to go camping, or working on various DIY projects; this size of compressor always comes in handy.

As the size of the compressor is only 3 gallons, so it also has some limitations. Due to its small and compact size, you cannot do the heavy-duty or commercial job on this compressor. However, you can still do different DIY stuff and many more. Some of the examples are given below.

What kind of jobs does a 3 Gallons air compressor do?

There are plenty of air compressors that can do heavy-duty jobs and light-duty stuff as well. But if you plan to buy a compact air compressor, 3 gallons could be the best fit. It can solve various problems. A 3-gallon air compressor can easily handle many types of light-duty jobs. Some of the uses are given below.

  • Small to medium Inflating
  • Light duty Pneumatic tools
  • Small-scale painting jobs
  • Dry Cleaning
  • Nail guns & staple guns

1. Small to medium Inflating

A 3-gallon air compressor can easily fill up almost every inflatable object you have. You can conveniently fill up these inflatable things with this premium compressor.

  • Car & bike tires
  • Balloons
  • pool tubes
  • sports balls
  • Inflatable futons or mattresses

If you are filling up a big empty tire or something else that requires more PSI than the compressor can provide, you may need to fill up the tank again to air up the tire fully.

Not all 3-gallon compressors work well or are viable for jobs requiring inflation. Many models are unable to sustain a constant CFM at a particular PSI. The brands like DEWALT, Craftsman, and Bostitch manufacture quality air tools in this tank size.

2. Light duty pneumatic tools

The majority of compressors offer sufficient pressure for DIY tools and applications. All pneumatic tools require an air compressor to perform the job. You can use a 3 gallons air compressor for nailing, stapling, and airbrushing.

For nailing and stapling, compact and portable air compressors suit the most. That’s why a 3-gallon size air compressor with customizable CFM and PSI could be the best option for performing trims and molds.

This applies to all the small and light-duty drills and hand-held pneumatic tools. A good 3-gallon compressor can easily power these small to medium tools, requiring short air bursts for up to half an hour.

3. Dry cleaning

There are multiple applications of 3 gallons air compressors for dry cleaning. It is portable and small enough to move around at home in any room and space. These are some examples of dry cleaning with the size of the compressor.

  • Tools and Hardware
  • Furniture, e.g. (Closet, draws, tables )
  • Small to medium appliances and Electronic parts

Most air compressors have adjustable pressure ranges. Due to this feature, you can customize appropriate pressure and set low PSI for gentle cleaning.

3 gallons air compressors have access to small spaces inaccessible to humans. You can clean these spaces with this size of air compressor efficiently and conveniently. For example, musical instruments, digital cameras, keyboards, etc. These require only short bursts of air which a 3 gallons air compressor can easily handle.

4. Small painting jobs

A 3-gallon air compressor can also do small painting jobs efficiently. You can conveniently paint a door, do beautiful fluid art, airbrush art, and do other small painting tasks. But it also depends on your work, if you are trying to do a heavy job it can not work for you.

5. Nail & staple guns

For nailers and staplers, this machine can do the job all day for you. Every small air compressor creates enough pressure and cfm for running the nailers, as these tools require small air pressure for the job, so a 3-gallon air compressor is best for you, and it also meets your budget.

Things to consider before buying

Multiple models and desgins of 3-gallon air compressors are available in the market. Once you go into the shop, you might be bombarded with ads all over, and you have no idea how to buy the air compressor or what the specs are that you should look for. Here are some specifications you should look at before buying the air compressor. CFM, PSI, Tank size, and time to fill the tank.

CFM tells you how fast and rapidly a compressor can supply air. Most of the 3 Gallons air compressor comes to around 0.6 CFM. You can not do wrenching with a 3 gallons air compressor because it requires more CFM.

PSI refers to the maximum air pressure of their tank at which it will automatically turn off the pump. Most 3 gallons of air compressors have 90 – 150 PSI, which is more than enough for most tools and light-duty work.

There are various reasons that you are planning to buy an air compressor. If you want to do professional work, you should go for large-size tanks because they run longer and have plenty of volumes to pressurize and store air. And obviously, larger-size tanks take more storage. But if you want to buy an air compressor for DIY stuff, 3 gallons air compressors could be the best fit if filled quickly and can do most of the jobs.

The time to fill an empty tank generally depends upon the tank size. If you have a large tank, it can take much more time. Similarly, if you have a smaller tank, it can refill itself in less time. We have tested multiple models of 3-gallon air compressors. It usually takes 3- 5 minutes to fill up an empty tank. The exact and accurate time depends on the model of the air compressor, CFM, and PSI of the compressor.


A 3 gallons air compressor is a multipurpose machine that serves many light-duty jobs. It is more portable and easy to carry around due to its small size and reasonable weight. However, it can not serve every job for you. Always remember why you need it and what kind of jobs you want with it. Compare the various models and sizes available in the market and get the best one that perfectly fits you.

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