What Is a Mobile Compressor?

Amy Rodriguez

A mobile compressor is an air compressing machine that has the ability to be moved easily from one project area to another. Also known as a portable compressor, these devices are available in small, lightweight models designed to be carried and heavier, wheeled versions. Consumers should consider their intended compressor applications before choosing a model for purchase.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Basic air compressors use a combination of a motor and storage tank to pull outside air into the machine. As more air enters the storage tank from the force of the motor's motion, the molecules become extremely compressed into a dense mass. As a result, the compressor owner can attach an air tool, such as a nail gun, to the machine to generate mechanical motion. A mobile compressor functions in the same manner, just on a smaller scale than a larger, stationary model.

A small mobile compressor is generally used in home garages or installed within a pickup truck for field work. These compressors are commonly built with a horizontal storage tank; this design choice makes the mobile compressor easier to physically handle and lowers the machine's center of gravity to prevent overturns in a vehicle trunk or bed. The main drawback to these small machines is the tank size. Most of these compressors have a 2 to 6 gallon (7.5 to 23 liter) air storage tank which only powers smaller air tools, like a drill.

A large mobile compressor offers more power since its storage tank can be as large as 30 gallons (114 liters). These compressors are commonly used in large workshops, such as a small business or hobbyist's workroom. Due to their large size, these machines must have wheels for portability around the workshop. In addition, the large tank is commonly designed in a vertical shape to preserve floor space. Consumers should make sure that the vertically shaped compressor is moved carefully around the workshop to prevent accidental overturns, which are more likely because of its tall and heavy design.

The mobile compressor is commonly offered in both gas or electrically fueled versions. Consumers who require a compressor in their vehicle will need to use a gas mobile compressor since electricity is not readily available on the road. In contrast, home or small business workshops should use an electrically driven mobile compressor. This compressor type does not emit harmful gas fumes and also provides a quiet running sound; the gas compressor version is naturally noisier during operation.

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