When you’re looking for a portable, yet reliable and powerful air compressor there are a number of key considerations.
Price is one thing, but almost more important is the build quality and the features. When you’re busy on a project you don’t want to be using a pump that requires strict operating conditions, and you also need one that as essentially maintenance free.
Whether you’re using the pump around the home, on a work site, or as an emergency compressor on the road, I have found one that ticks all of the right boxes with very few compromises, and it’s in the form of the Porter Cable PCFP02003.
Features Quick Overview
Table Of Contents
- Features Quick Overview
- Application – Versatility in a Portable Package
- Frequency of Use – How Durable is the Porter Cable PCFP02003 Air Compressor?
- Ease of Use
- Hose Outlets
- Tips on how to set up your Porter Cable PCFP02003 compressor for use
- Performance Rating, Tank Size, Pump Type, and Noise Level
- What is SCFM?
- Dimensions (Assembled)
- Construction Quality
- Tips for Owners
- Consumer Ratings For the Porter Cable PCFP02003
- Other Cost Considerations
- Power Source
- Warranty & Documentation
- List of Technical Specifications
- 135 PSI (max) Pancake Compressor
- Oil-free pump design
- Portable with an easily manageable 26lbs. standing weight
- Dual outlet design
Application – Versatility in a Portable Package
Upon inspection it’s immediately noticeable just how portable the Porter Cable 3.5 Gallon compressor is. However, don’t be fooled by the size. This is a seriously versatile compressor and you will find use for it in a myriad of applications.
It would be impossible to cover every instance where you could use this machine, but considering that it has a variable pressure setting, a 90 PSI optimum running pressure, and two connectors for multiple tools and you can imagine how it would be the perfect fit for a number of jobs.
As an air compressor, it is the perfect tool for use on tires and inflatables. It would be useful in a home workshop, or even at a smaller auto repair business. Marine use is not out of the question, for use on portable inflatables and even rigid hull inflatable pleasure craft.
Obviously the most popular place for this compact workhorse is going to be in home workshops. It’s highly geared towards pneumatic hand tools like nail guns, and can even run a die grinder for a short period.
If you’re doing light to moderate remodeling then this is a compressor that you’re going to want to have nearby. It’s not as noisy as some alternatives on the market, and the motor only runs as necessary to maintain pressure.
We’ve even found use for this compressor to power a blow gun, which is great for cleaning workspaces, or even more specialized tasks like clearing dust from electronics, especially complex arrays like those found inside computer cases.
Anywhere that you need a moderately powerful compressor that doesn’t need to stand up to industrial workloads you will find a use for the Porter Cable.
Frequency of Use – How Durable is the Porter Cable PCFP02003 Air Compressor?
Although you can easily get through a day of work on the Porter Cable, that doesn’t mean that it’s an industrial solution. Porter Cable recommends a 50% – 75% average duty cycle. This means that you shouldn’t run the unit continuously for more than 45 minutes in any hour, and a maximum of 30 minutes is ideal.
When run within specifications you can expect the PCFP02003 to run well past its warranty cycle, although there are a few minor issues to keep in mind, which we’ll come to later in our review.
Weighing in at 26 pounds, with a recessed handle, you’re not going to have trouble getting this unit where it needs to be. It’s light enough and small enough to go anywhere. It can sit in the back of your truck, in the trunk of most passenger vehicles, and won’t take up too much space in an RV or on a boat.
The Porter Cable is top heavy by design, although the leg mountings are sturdy enough to not make this much of a problem. On slippery surfaces like polished concrete or even boat decking it’s advisable to keep the unit on a rubber mat to prevent any movement.
Ease of Use
This model is simple to use with easy to read gauges. You can essentially plug in, switch on, charge up and go. The gauges are large in relation to the unit and clearly marked for use even in a dim workshop. The gauges indicate outlet pressure and stored tank pressure. The large regulator adjuster is easy to use, and located right in front of the gauges for ease of access. Depending on the air tool you intend to use, you can adjust the regulator to the corresponding PSI rating. Just make sure you look up the correct air pressure that your tool needs by consulting its manual.
There are two quick connectors attached to the single hose outlet. This allows you to run two tools, although it’s worthy to note that you’ll achieve maximum efficiency by only running one.
The connectors are standard female air tool quick connects, so your hose line will fit right in with a male quick connector.
This compressor is essentially maintenance free due to the oil-free pump, however there is one key precaution to take if you want to prolong the life of the unit.
After use, the tank should be completely drained to eliminate condensation that can cause corrosion and eventual failure. After reducing the pressure to around 60PSI, tilt the unit towards the drain valve underneath the device. Carefully drain the tank of all moisture, which will be forced out with the remaining pressure. Leave the unit tilted until there is no further evidence of moisture being released.
The Porter Cable comes sparsely packaged, and for the price it’s not surprising to find that there are no included accessories. Although it would have been nice to receive at least an air hose, this is not a total negative against the unit. ¼ Inch standard industrial quick connects can be used to mate accessories to the Porter Cable.
Tips on how to set up your Porter Cable PCFP02003 compressor for use
As stated above, unfortunately the compressor doesn’t come with any accessories, other than a female (threads inside) ¼ inch coupler (or quick disconnect as it is also called).
This means, than in order to connect the unit with the pneumatic tool of your choice, you need to acquire a certain set of extra accessories. The minimum you need are two extra ¼ industrial type couplers (one male and one female) and a hose that is suitable for pneumatic use and has the right pressure rating for the tool you will be using. In addition, you also need to have some teflon tape handy to wrap around the threads of the quick connects, so as to make sure you eliminate any air leaks while using the tool.
A brass connector set sold online or a hardware store near your location can be a very good, cheap solution for your fitting requirements.
Once you have your fittings in place, all you have to do is to screw the male quick connect to one end of the hose. Then use a female quick connect on the other end of the hose. That way you can screw a male quick connect on each of your tools (tire inflator, air ratchet, impact wrench, etc) and not worry about having to screw or unscrew to attachments.
Based on what users recommend, one very good choice for a hose that you can use with a wide range of air tools, is the 25 foot yellow hose from Goodyear, priced at under $20. This has a pressure rating of 250 psi (which is compatible with most home use air tools), is 3/8 inch and comes conveniently fitted with ¼ inch couplers at both ends. You only need to screw the male end with the compressor coupler, the other male end with the air tool and you are ready to go!
Performance Rating, Tank Size, Pump Type, and Noise Level
Technically, the PCFP02003 will pump 2.0 SCFM @ 90PSI. The maximum pressure is limited to 135PSI and once you switch it on, it can reach this maximum setting from zero pressure in a maximum of two minutes.
The 3.5 gallon tank allows for extend run times and quicker recovery, and the compressor will kick in to maintain stored pressure, which can be restored to maximum capacity in under two minutes. Because this is considered a portable unit with a modest 3.5 gallon tank, the compressor is going to come on frequently throughout use.
Users report that when the tank is fully loaded, it has enough capacity to let you top off up to eight vehicle tires without stopping and restarting. However, when the tires are flat, then it’s not enough and you need to wait until full pressure is restored.
It’s important to note that the compressor can get quite noisy, especially if you use it in a confined space such as the garage of your house. It’s nothing unexpected of an oil-less compressor with a diaphragm pump, but some users who were expecting a whisper quiet unit will be disappointed.
Users should note that the rubber compressor line leading to the tank will become hot during use, due to the nature of compressed air.
What is SCFM?
The SCFM (stands for Standard Cubic Feet per Minute) is the big number that tells consumers what this compressor will or won’t handle.
Anything that is air driven has a requirement for a certain SCFM in order to operate efficiently. This compressor delivers 2.0 SCFM under standard operation. Small tools like a brad nailer probably have a SCFM requirement of 1-2 which means this compressor will deliver the SCFM needed to operate that tool. An impact wrench, though, often requires 4-10 SCFM which means this compressor won’t deliver enough force to make the tool work as well as it should and the buyer would be disappointed.
So, this is an important tip: When selecting an air compressor, always check the SCFM rating of the most powerful tool you need to operate. Then, choose an air compressor with a SCFM rating that exceeds that of the tool.
18.5 in (Height) X 17.25 in. (Width) X 18.25 in. (Depth)
The unit is produced in the USA, and for the most part is constructed of quality metal and rubber components. In initial tests the unit has held up well. However, customer feedback indicates two areas of concern for heavy users.
Some customers note that the compressor line running to the tank is made from rubber, where steel or aluminum would have served better. This is more aesthetic than performance impacting.
The only real questionable area in the design and construction is a small plastic part of the regulator assembly. It has been well documented that it is at risk of failure, and the only replacement option is a full replacement manifold from Porter Cable.
- High PSI.
- Fast recharge time.
- Small and portable.
- Versatile for a number of applications ranging from home improvement, to light automotive work, and even marine.
- Good warranty coverage.
- Made in the USA.
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Build quality is let down by the fragile plastic in the compressor manifold.
- Some consumers report being shipped a unit without the manual.
- The top heavy design can reduce stability in some situations.
- It will not perform well with most professional grade pneumatic auto tools.
Tips for Owners
If you’re the proud new owner of this powerful Porter Cable compressor, you’ll likely want to get started right away. However before you jump the gun it’s important to make use of these tips which will protect your unit in the long run.
- For first time use ensure that you have closed off the drain plug located at the bottom of the tank.
- On first time use run the unit with the air line open before storing any compressed air. Keep this open for about 15 minutes before storing compressed air and operating as normal.
- Make sure you adhere to the 50%-75% duty cycle. While it’s possible to run the unit continuously, this could place unnecessary stress on components and potentially lead to failures. Any failures attributed to misuse will void warranty coverage.
- In the event that, for whatever reason, the pressure inside the tanks is elevated to an unsafe level, then a safety valve is activated and releases air until the pressure is reduced. When you first assemble the unit, make sure you check it by pulling the level on it to make sure it’s operational. It would be a good idea to make it a habit and check it once a week from then on, just to be on the safe side.
- Most importantly, make sure that you completely drain the unit after each use. If you neglect doing this, then over time moisture will build inside the tank and lead to corrosion. In order to perform this task, you just release open a brass knob that is situated in the lower part of the tank. A small tip: In order to avoid damaging the surface that the compressor is sitting on, make sure you place a container under that knob to collect the dirty water that might flow out with the air.
Consumer Ratings For the Porter Cable PCFP02003
After reading all the reviews that have been published on different vendor sites, it is obvious that users are having a very positive experience with this particular compressor. The overwhelming majority are saying that the unit meets their expectations in terms of ease of use, range of features and benefits and they are overall satisfied with its performance for the job they bought it for.
From a scale from 1 to 5, I give it an overall 4.5.
With a list price in the $200 to $300 range, the Porter Cable would be a fairly priced unit, however the reality is that most retailers are offering the PCFP02003 for around the $100 mark, making it an absolute steal for anyone who needs a smaller compressor at home or on the road.
Click the link below to get the latest price and offers on Amazon.
Other Cost Considerations
Depending on what type of job you want to perform with this unit, you will need to make a quick budget estimation of what the overall cost will be.
In this calculation you will need to add up the following cost elements: Fittings/ connector requirements, air hose and the particular type of air tool that you will need to perform the job.
To assist you to make a quick budget estimate, here are a couple of examples that we included in this review:
- To inflate tires: You will need a connector set (total around $6), one hose (around $20) and a tire inflator (around $15): total around $41
- To nail brads with a brad nailer: connector set (around $6), one hose (around $20) and a brad nailer (a mid range one would cost about $50): total around $76
- To blow air: connector set (around $6), one hose (around $20) and a blow gun (a mid range one would cost about $ 15): total around $41
The Porter Cable requires 120 volts at 10A. You can run it from a standard outlet, provided it is grounded. To maintain integrity in the power supply it’s recommended to avoid using extension cables, instead we advise that a longer air-line is more appropriate if you need additional distance.
Warranty & Documentation
The Porter Cable PCFP02003 is made in the USA and comes with a 1yr limited manufacturer’s warranty on the compressor components, as well as a full 1yr warranty for faulty or defective workmanship.
Full documentation is available from the manufacturer’s website.
Here’s a video to help you get a better idea of how the air compressor looks like.
Also, if you want to have a look at other air compressors, check out our comprehensive air compressor reviews list.
List of Technical Specifications
(Courtesy of Porter Cable)
- Model No. PCFP02003
- Bore 1.875″ (47.6 mm)
- Stroke 1.250″ (31.8 mm)
- Voltage/Hz-Single Phase 120/60
- Horsepower 0.8
- Decibel Rating (Noise Level) 82 dbA (Outdoors)
- Minimum Branch Circuit Requirement 15 amps
- Fuse Type Time Delay
- Air Tank Capacity 3.5 Gallon (13.25 liters)
- Approximate Cut-in Pressure 105 psig – (the pressure rating at which the compressor automatically switches on)
- Approximate Cut-out Pressure 135 psig (the pressure rating at which the unit automatically stops)
- SCFM @ 40 psig 3.1
- SCFM @ 90 psig 2.0
- Regulated Pressure Rating (Approximate) 3–150 psi
Quick Connect Type 1/4″ (6.4 mm) Industrial