If you already own an air compressor but you’re just using it to fill the tires or to clean off your workbench, you’re missing out. You could be harnessing the value of compressed air and the huge selection of air-powered tools. We rounded up some cool specialty air tools and accessories that most DIYers have never seen. Of course, we also included the old standbys, like a really good impact wrench and ratchet.
All the tools shown here will run on a midsize air compressor that’s rated for about 5 cfm at 90 psi. If your compressor has a 20-gallon tank, you’ll have more than enough air to complete most tasks without having to stop repeatedly for it to repressurize.
We picked name-brand tools that are built for professionals. They cost more, but they’re tough as nails, and you can get them repaired in the event of failure. However, many stores carry lesser-known brands that do almost the same job but for a lot less dough. They’re fine for DIY use. But plan on tossing them in the trash once they break—they’re usually not worth the cost of repair.
In-line oiler doesn’t forget to oil
You add oil to it. It adds oil to your air tool. Not exactly rocket science. Find one in the air tool section at any home center.
Air scraper does the dirty work
If you’ve ever had to remove old adhesive, caulk or sealant, or baked-on gaskets, you’ll appreciate how hard it is to chisel off the stuff. That’s why you need an air scraper. Just screw in one of the heavy-duty scraper blades and hit the trigger. The tool cycles the scraper blade back and forth 4,800 times per minute in 3/16-in. strokes to peel off even the most stubborn sealant or gasket material. Note: Don’t use the steel scraper blades on soft aluminum engine components.
The Florida Pneumatic FP-706K General Purpose Scraper Kit comes with five varying-width scraper blades, an oiler, a regulator and a molded case.
Find it at a local air tool supplier or at homedepot.com.
Change fluids without getting wet
Snap an air line onto this fluid evacuator and you can forget about taking a bath in oil, brake or transmission fluid, antifreeze, or water. The unit comes with three sizes of tubing to fit most dipstick tubes. Just shove the tube down the dipstick and open the air valve on the base of the unit. The compressed air flows through a venturi aspirator to create a vacuum that sucks the liquid into the 2.3-gallon tank. The unit also comes with an adapter to bleed brake calipers/cylinders and hydraulic lines.
Find the Mityvac MV7300 PneumatiVac fluid evacuator at tool stores or at tooldiscounter.com.
Needle scaler blasts off rust and paint
This air tool may look like a sea monster with tentacles. But the tentacles are actually nineteen 1/8-in. needles that hammer off rust, scale and dirt at 4,600 blows per minute. Move the adjustment collar forward or backward to vary the needle force and coverage area. Use it to knock rust and old paint off your car, wheelbarrow or other metal object. You’ll still have to deal with the pits from the corrosion, but at least the flakes will be gone. Wear hearing and eye protection and leather gloves, because this baby kicks up a lot of dust and debris, and it’s loud.
The scaler comes with a set of needles and a chisel attachment. Replacement needles are available. Find the Chicago Pneumatic CP7120 Needle Scaler at a local air tool supplier or at tooltopia.com.
Miniature 1/4-in.-drive impact wrench fits in tight places
Battery-powered impact drivers have the power to bust small nuts and bolts. But they simply don’t fit in tight places. That’s where this mini impact wrench comes in handy. It’s only 6 in. x 5 in. (including socket), compared with a typical 9-in. x 9.5-in. 18-volt tool. And at 1.3 lbs., it’s half the weight of a battery-powered driver. This mini wrench puts out about 50 ft.-lbs. of reverse torque, which is more than enough to remove small fasteners. Switch from forward to reverse with the flick of your thumb.
The Ingersoll-Rand 2101K 1/4-in. Drive Air Impact Wrench kit comes with the impact wrench, impact sockets and a plastic case. Find it at a local air tool supplier or at sears.com.
Powerful impact wrench removes tough fasteners
We’ve covered professional air-powered impact wrenches before. But this one is kind of a hybrid professional/consumer-grade unit. It packs pro-grade torque (700 ft.- lbs. in reverse) and is built with a lighter weight composite case. It costs a lot less than its professional cousins. Find the Ingersoll-Rand No. 2350XP at a local tool supplier or at sears.com.
Reactionless ratchet saves your knuckles
Air ratchets can really speed up repair jobs. The only downside is that they slam your knuckles against the nearest hard surface once the bolt bottoms out. But a reactionless ratchet solves that problem. As soon as the bolt head hits bottom, the ratchet converts to an impact motion and the handle stays in place, protecting your knuckles. Find this Husky unit (No. H4120) at homedepot.com.
Three-way air hose swivel gives you hose flexibility
An air hose swivel eliminates hose kinks by swiveling in two directions. So you can use your air tool at any angle. Just screw the swivel directly into the tool and install the nipple on the other end. Find the Astro Pneumatic AST-3SB10 at a local air tool supplier or at tooldiscounter.com.
Maintain tire pressure with a pro-quality inflator gauge
We know why you never check the air pressure in your tires. It’s because you hate the routine of inflate, check, inflate, check, deflate, check. Get a combination inflator/gauge and you can do it all in a fraction of the time with the same inflator that tire shops use. Press the air chuck onto the valve stem and read the pressure. Then hit the trigger to add more. Read the pressure as soon as you release the trigger. This Milton No. 506 inflator is definitely professional grade and worth the price. Find it where air tools are sold or from toolfetch.com.
In-line blow gun
This isn’t the best blow gun we’ve ever used. But it’s small and designed to stay on your air hose full time. That way you’ll always have a blow gun handy. What else can we say? It’s versatile and cheap, and it’s easy to install.
Our favorite rust buster
The single most effective way to free up any rusted fastener is to first spray it with penetrating oil and then vibrate the heck out of it. And this hammer bit is just the tool to do that. Slap it into any air hammer and place the head against the rusted part. Pull the trigger and watch the rust leap off the part. Find the Grey Pneumatic No. CH117 hammer bit at industrial tool suppliers or at jbtoolsales.com.
Back to Top
Spray like a pro
Old-style high-pressure spray guns and aerosol paint cans are great for applying paint to your project and everything else within a 20-ft. radius. But if you want to paint just your project and not deal with overspray, you need a high-volume low-pressure (HVLP) spray gun. This Kobalt No. 301339 unit from Lowe’s has all the adjustments you’ll need. You’ll also need a pressure regulator (Kobalt No. 357092, and a Kobalt No. 336415 air filter).
Thin the paint according to the paint manufacturer’s recommendations and practice on cardboard to perfect the pattern, spray distance and application rate. Then go to town on your painting project.