Air Compressor Reviews

California Air Tools 5510SE Review

The California Air Tools 5510SE is an ultra quiet (60db) portable air compressor that is ideal for home use, DIY or small contractor jobs. With a one horsepower motor and a 5.5 gallon tank the 5510SE is the perfect machine for tire inflation, air brushing and dust blowing. The compressor will also power air tools that don’t require a high CFM, such as staple guns and brad guns.

The 5510SE is available with either a steel tank or aluminum tank. There are two obvious benefits of having an aluminum tank as opposed to steel, lighter weight and rust free. However, the aluminum tank is more expensive and only you can decide if the weight reduction and rust free qualities are worth the extra cost.

California Air Tools 5510SE opposite side

So, let’s take an in-depth look at the California Air Tools 5510SE portable air compressor to find out if this machine will meet your requirements.

Motor and Pump:

The 1.0 HP, Oil-Free, Dual Piston Pump System delivers 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI and 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI, which is California Air Tools motorabout average for this class of compressor. The new “SP Series” of ultra quiet air compressor motors have been designed to increase the duty cycle which in turn allows for longer continuous operation of the compressor.

The motor operates at only 1680 RPM, which, when combined with the oil-free dual piston pump, makes the machine very quiet and also reduces the possibility of premature wear. The pump has a life cycle before wear of 3000 hours plus.

The 5.5-gallon tank fills from empty to its maximum pressure of 120 PSI in approximately 120 seconds. Recovery time from 90 PSI to 120 PSI takes approximately 40 seconds, which is quite fast. The factory set pressure switch is set for a maximum pressure of 115 – 120 PSI and to re-start at between 85 -90 PSI.

Duty Cycle:

Not being able to find a duty cycle listed on the manufacturer’s website or in the included instruction manual, we sent an e-mail to California Air Tools and asked them why it was not listed. The reply was; “We do not state duty cycle because duty cycle can vary depending on PSI and CFM you are using and the environment where the air compressor is located. At 2.20 CFM @ 90 PSI the duty cycle is 70%”.

Design & Build:

The design of the California Air Tools 5510SE is excellent. Everything is easily accessible and simple to operate.

The only downside with the design is the fact that the gauges point outwards and not upwards, making them impossible to see without bending down, not a deal breaker, but something you should be aware of.

Build quality is also very good, all welds are clean and flat and the paint finish is both smooth and well covered.

Weighing in at only 46 Lbs for the steel tank version and 35 Lbs for the aluminum tank version, the compressor is very light and maneuverable. Having wheels and a pull handle makes moving the compressor very easy, this is great if you need to continuously reposition the machine. On the rear of the compressor is a grab handle that can be used to assist in lifting the machine into a vehicle or to carry it up stairs.


The controls on the 5510SE are fairly standard for this type of compressor. There are two gauges that show tank pressure and regulated output pressure. The gauges are clear and large enough to make them easy to see. However, as mentioned above, the gauges are not angled upwards so you will have to bend down to see them.

Located above the gauges is the air output pressure regulator, and to the right of that a standard 1/4” quick connect female coupler. To the left of the gauges is the pressure release valve and the on and off switch. On the bottom of the tank is the drain valve.


For many people, noise can be a big issue when choosing a compressor. One of the main selling points of the 5510SE is how quiet it is. At only 60 db it is one of the quietest portable air compressors on the market. Having a quiet compressor means that you can use it within confined areas such as a small shop or within a home without having to wear ear protection or disturbing others.

Pros:California Air Tools Quiet Compressor

  • Very quiet operation (60 db)
  • Light weight; 46 Lbs (steel tank) and 35 Lbs (aluminum tank)
  • Oil free pump for longer life
  • Wheels and pull handle make it very maneuverable
  • 1.0   HP motor with twin pistons
  • 3.10 CFM @ 40 PSI  and 2.20 CFM @ 90 PSI 


  • Gauges are not angled upwards.
  • Some customers have complained about the packaging, or lack of it.


The 5510SE is a very well designed and built machine that is ideal for a wide variety of DIY or small contractor jobs. From tire inflation to operating low CFM air tools this compressor will easily cope.

If you are looking for a highly maneuverable, very quiet portable air compressor that won’t break the bank, the California Air Tools 5510SE is well worth considering.

Updated: April 6, 2017 — 9:13 pm
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