Will a 6 Gallon Air Compressor Run an Impact Wrench?

When we need to remove a tight bolt, we usually use an impact wrench. Unfortunately, most of the time our air compressor cannot hold enough pressure to keep the power strap running. In this case, will a 6-gallon air compressor run an impact wrench?

Yes, you can run an impact wrench using your 6-gallon air compressor. However, it will be slow and inefficient because the motor on the big compressors is usually more powerful than that of small ones which put restrictions on what you can do with it. This means that you should consider upgrading to a larger one or using it in combination with an electric compressor instead.

In this article, we’re going to explain why it’s impossible for a 6-gallon air compressor to run an impact wrench, how it can be done and what you should do if you encounter the same problem.

What is an Impact Wrench?

An impact wrench is a tool used to tighten and loosen bolts with one hand. It uses the rotation of an internal hammer as its main source of power thus making it more powerful than air wrenches, manual ratchets, and spanners. Impact wrenches are comparable to torque multipliers in this case.

Because an impact wrench is so much more efficient at tightening and loosening nuts compared to other tools, most people prefer using it over them, especially when they’re working on a tight bolt that needs some extra force to be removed or installed properly.

The disadvantage of using an impact wrench is that you need a compressor with enough pressure that will drive the hammer inside the wrench at high speeds. In some cases, you may even need multiple compressors because large compressors normally create more than enough pressure to get the job done.

Will a 6 gallon air compressor run an impact wrench?

Air compressor is the device used to power air tools, so yes it can.

Supplying air pressure to the tool is achieved pneumatically using compressed air from either an electric compressor or gas-driven compressor. An impact wrench usually has two kinds of nozzles: typical socket nozzles and swivel jointed 360 degrees rotating which enables you to use the tool in both horizontal and vertical positions.

You can use your 6-gallon air compressor to power an impact wrench provided that it has the capacity to do so, meaning that it is able to reach the minimum required pressure for the operation of the tool. A regular household AC-powered electrical air compressor usually starts at 100psi running up to 150 psi. 

To provide sufficient airflow, you’ll need 3 hoses connected directly into the regulator (at least 2″ diameter hose), which gives you enough torque to run pneumatic tools requiring more than 100PSI.

For example, you would be able to operate any standard 1/2″ drive impact wrench using your 6-gallon compressor as long as it doesn’t exceed its maximum working pressure of 150 PSI.

Will it last? Yes, but not long.

Using a 6-gallon compressor with an impact wrench puts restrictions on the kind and the size of your pneumatic tools because it cannot pump air fast enough to power larger or more than one tool at a time.

For this reason, we do not recommend using your 6-gallon air compressor to run an impact wrench for longer than 5 minutes in continuous operation. The issue is that even though you will be able to get the job done faster and easier due to its great torque and no-load speed, your compressor motor might burn out if you leave it running after 5 minutes.

When using an impact wrench, start tightening slowly and then increase the torque when the nut starts to move and then stop immediately when you feel resistance against the movement.

Do not over tighten which might damage the threads on the bolt/nut, especially if it is made of soft material such as aluminum. If your compressor can’t produce enough air pressure for a longer time, consider upgrading to a larger one or using it in combination with an electric compressor.

However, if your job requires less than 10 minutes of continuous operation, this should not be a problem regardless. Just remember that doing so will also restrict the type and size of tools, that you can run because we already mentioned that 6 gallon compressors are slow, and cannot power large tools.

What Compressor is the Best for Impact Wrench?

The answer to this question depends on your budget and what you will be using it for. The more money that you invest into a compressor, the better performance you’ll get out of it.

It is important to remember that if you are going to use an impact wrench regularly, invest in a large air compressor because they have higher maximum working pressure which enables them to power larger tools at once.

However, if your budget is limited, you can still make do with a small one.

As far as the minimum required pressure for the operation of an impact wrench, it ranges from 70 PSI to 100 PSI. If you are going to use your compressor only on occasion, any model will suffice provided that it provides enough power to run the tool.

There are many sellers of small compressor units of low quality but there are also brands that manufacture high-quality models that provide sufficient airflow for DIY tasks such as stapling or hammering nails into wood, blowing up inflatable toys, etc. Just pick whatever fits your needs and of course your budget.

Note: If your 6-gallon air compressor has a maximum working pressure lower than 150 PSI, you should not even consider using it with pneumatic tools requiring more than 100PSI. The same goes for running HVAC control systems or any other kind of equipment that uses over 150 PSI.

What Can You Do with The Air Compressor?

You can many things with an air compressors. They are great for painting, framing, inflating tires and other household jobs. If you own a truck or car, they can also inflate your vehicle’s tires within seconds even in the coldest weather conditions.

The only thing that you cannot do is using them for industrial purposes. They are not heavy duty units meant to be used on a daily basis over an extended period of time.

Do not run your compressor continuously, especially if it is made of plastic parts. Over time, the temperature will rise and can damage or melt the components, especially if it is a small unit.

Since they are not powerful enough to power larger tools such as drills, sanders or saws, you can use them only for painting purposes. However, painting does not usually require a high volume of air which means that even the smallest compressor will suffice for painting vehicles and equipment. They can also be used with framing nailers.

For painting, the air pressure that the compressor provides is more important than its horsepower rating because painting requires a very steady stream of air flow.

An air compressor can also be used for inflating tires. If you are looking for a cheap solution, the best one is to buy an air tank which comes with a pressure gauge and hose. When using this type of device, make sure that the valve stem of the tire is not very deep because otherwise it will need more time (several minutes) to fill up.

Final Words

In our opinion, the best 6-gallon compressor you can get for powering an impact wrench is a single-stage air compressor that runs at lower RPM but delivers more CFM.

Since most professional power tools require no less than 100 PSI to operate, we would recommend purchasing a model with a minimum working pressure of 150 PSI or higher in order to ensure maximum performance and reliability while making the best out of your investment.



Shawkat is a passionate home and auto mechanic who enjoys sharing his knowledge with others. He has been working on cars and homes for over 9 years and has a wealth of experience to share. From indoor tools to outdoors, crafting to automotive, you will see his passion for tools. And he is not alone here, either. He collaborates with other users to give you the best possible tool experience. As the founder of Geartoolsbuddy, Shakat is always happy to help people with their queries and doubts about power and hand tools.