Which 6 gallon compressor should I buy?


#1

A while ago, I bought this 6 gallon compressor at Home Depot––Porter-Cable 6 Gal. 150 PSI Portable Electric Pancake Air Compressor-C2002 - The Home Depot––for $99.00. I jumped at the chance because I had been waiting for the price of one of these compact compressors to come down from $120, literally, for years. I have an old noisy monster commercial 30 gallon compressor in the garage but I want to get rid of it and replace it with a portable unit. 6 gallon ones seem the minimum size to get. But when I got home and looked at the HD reviews, and found out Amazon had it for $90, I got the impression that the reason the price had come down is because the model was cheapened with inferior parts. I read reviews like:

The (pressure cut off) switch goes bad, does not turn off the compressor when it reaches 150 psi, and then the relief valve opens to prevent damaging the tank. The problem is so common with this unit that the manufacturer cannot keep the replacement part in stock. So many compressors break with this problem that the part is always back ordered. And even then, you need to decide if you want to spend $30 and 90 minutes to fix a $99 compressor. (Knowing it will happen again)

It worked fine for a few years using it maybe twice a year. Then it had a problem where the the pressure in the tank would rise but the other gauge showed 0 pressure. I went on the internet and found that this is a common problem with this unit. Inside the regulator the parts are plastic junk. Porter Cable no longer makes a rebuild kit (but when they did it was the same plastic junk)and you have to buy a new regulator for about 50 bucks.

A textbook cost reduced design. I did a quick tear-down and found the following.

  • The tank pressure limit switch is an extremely inexpensive, nonadjustable unit supposedly rated for 15A switching. While the motor load is called out at 10A, in service the pressure switch contacts appear to weld shut and prematurely fail to open at 150PSI, causing the pressure relief valve vent avoiding disaster. You can find many end user documented cases of this problem. This may however be remedied by addition of a 20A 120VAC relay to switch the motor load and will eliminate premature failure of the pressure switch (part cost of the pressure switch is $25 ±, where the proactive relay modification will set you back about $5).
  • The compressor piston appears to be some sort of sintered lubrication impregnated alloy running in a drawn stainless steel cylinder. No idea what the expected life on this engineering feat may be but I’m not very optimistic. I’d pick up a replacement sintered piston ring and cylinder sleeve if PC would offer these at a reasonable price. Otherwise after the pressure switch modification above, these appear next in line to wear in service such that the pressure achieved (one of the few market differentials for this unit) and effective air volume displacement of the compressor will gradually decrease (repair part cost $25 ±).
  • The motor is an inexpensive universal, brushed type which contributes to the runtime racket. The brushes while reasonably substantial, are a presumed wear out component with a replacement pair setting you back a whopping $20 ± per set. Other expected wear items such as the compressor reed valve plate seems to be a reasonable design and is inexpensive to replace. Ball bearings and even the timing belt are available elsewhere as generic parts.

and on and on…

Amazon reviews were similar.

I haven’t opened the box or brought it back yet, but I am looking for an alternative. I am willing to spend more but there’s a limit.

I only need it for nailgun use, tire filling, air blowout, and occasional small angle grinder.

What are alternatives that people here have found more reliable?


#2

I have a few year older Bostitch version (2013?) that I have thoroughly abused including leaving it in the back of my truck through a few Michigan winters. Just an FYI Bostitch, Porter Cable, DeWalt and many others are made by Stanley Black+Decker(SBD), while the tools from all their brands vary wildly virtually all of their 6 gallon compressors are the same. I can absolutely recommend them, If and when mine dies I’ll probably replace it with another SBD 6 gallon unless I find a Rolair for a great deal.


#3

Well, I think things have changed radically since 2013. Every one of those brands has similar bad reviews now. And prices and features seem to vary quite a bit too. I guess Bostitch might be the best of them given its higher price. That Rolair sounds interesting.


#4

Since the rise of discount big-box stores (Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes etc.) plus Amazon and other Internet outlets - the American buyer has seemingly become fixated on low-price buying. If you couple that with Companies that are fixated on quarterly profit growth in order to attract investors similarly focused, we may have created a penchant for cost cutting and value engineering at the expense of quality and longevity. The perception that buyers are always seeking “the latest and greatest” rather than being attracted to tried-and-true designs with the prospect of long-term serviceability and use - may also be a compounding factor in the quality of small compressors. Finally, from the wide divergence of comments (5 stars to 1 star) that you read on sites like Amazon, one gets to thinking that there may be QA/QC issues at the factories in China that produce these compressors. That leaves me hesitant to recommend brands like Eagle and Emglo that I’ve had good luck with in the past.


#5

Unfortunately, all that you say is true. That makes it all the more difficult to choose.


#6

Amen

I was going to recommend this Eagle:

but then read some of the reviews on Amazon

some of the issues may be QA/QC - or another common theme which relate to UPS, FedEx et. al. having issues shipping heavy objects without them sustaining damage in transit. I can remember an age before Styrofoam - when heavy pieces of machinery were shipped in wooden (often oak) crates or strapped onto pallets. But that was also before “free” (if anyone really believes its free) shipping.


#7

Thanks. I love the price range: $119.99 - $660.00. :slight_smile: Yeah, I saw the critical reviews and it seems the usual QC/QA issues.


#8

Well here is another gripe or reason that you need to take online reviews with more than just a little pinch of salt.
Amazon , Home Depot and Others seem to blend some reviews together - lumping reviews for model x in with reviews for model y.

Then, of course, are what may be “just out of the box” reviews - gushing about how nice an shiny something is - but giving the reader no real info about how it will work in the long haul. Along with all the other reviews ranging from those that seem to be thoughtful, to some that might even be made up or dishonest - you really need to try to read between the lines.


#9

I’m fairly certain I have that same PC compressor I too bought it at lowe’s one day with the price was 99.

It’s better made than the HF 6 gallon compressor that occasionally is 99 dollars - but I figure they are made in the same factory.

It is loud - but it does the job. If I had done it differently I’d have gotten one of the other kits available that came with a nailer or some such. I think there was a bostich one (same parent company) that came with a bostich 2 devices - like a 18 ga nailer and a stapler - with hose for 199. I thought hard about it but didn’t need/want those tools at the time. But the 18 ga nailer is like another 70 dollars so it was probably worth it.

My compressor is atleast 3 years old and still works well when it dies I will get something else and it might be the more capable/quieter Dewalt branded one if the price is right. Otherwise It would probably be another 99 dollar special. As the 6 gallons is all I really need for now.


#10

Oh, absolutely. You do. I think the reviews I originally quoted were by people who really knew what they were talking about. They talked about longterm durability, based on their own experience and knowledge. Those are the only useful reviews. I never look at 4 or 5 star reviews. I assume they are either by newbies, who are dazzled by the shiny new toy they just got, as you say, or by, sometimes paid, shills. I can spot fake or stupid reviews a mile away. I can also appreciate a well-thought-out and informative review.


#11

Yeah, well, anything is better than the HF version. I already have a nailer and other tools that I need, so I only want a compressor. Three years is a long time in the current business model. Something can be cheapened overnight. That’s great that it lasted three years but, from what I have read, the newer ones may not.

The Bostitch looks like it is better made than the PC but it has the same negative reviews. Dewalt too.


#12

well use case has alot to do with it too. THE PC labeled device is not meant for a contractor to use day in and day out. I mean it would work but not for years. For the home owner / hobbist it works fine. If I was a trim carpenter I’d buy a rollaire or something else.