California Air Tools 5510SE Review

California Air Tools 5510SE Portable Air Compressor
  • Quiet
  • Powerful
  • Efficiency
  • Value


My neighbor Larry has this compressor in his garage. I’ve used it to do touch ups on my antique truck and a bunch of smaller jobs around the house, like filling tires and cleaning my lawn mower. Old Larry says the California Air Tools 5510SE is low maintenance, and I like that it is extremely quiet, powerful, maneuverable, and inexpensive. It is value for your money, and even better value if your neighbor owns one. This California Air Tools beast is as slick as the fancier “pretty boy” pancake compressors from name brands like Dewalt. I should know, I have access to most of them at my day job. Let me tell you about Larry’s compressor.

Product Features

Have you ever used a compressor with a motor that takes oil? If yes,  you are aware of how inconvenient they can be and you understand how much I appreciate this compressor (I think it is becoming standard). Because this compressor runs on an oil-free motor, it runs and starts well in all weather and requires little maintenance. Too often I am responsible for maintaining Larry’s machines, so I am glad he bought this compressor!

The main thing for me is value. I don’t mind paying a lot for a machine, but I have to see that every penny was worth it. The California Air Tools (CAT) 5510SE is extreme value. It is the same or better in all of the categories that count. I am not sure Larry appreciates this, but I am happy with what he picked up here. It cost him about $180, he says, and that is about $100 LESS than the Dewalt 6 gallon portable air compressor in the same class.

California Air Tools 5510SE Review

The CAT 5510SE is the quietest air compressor on the market. Hands down, quieter than all other compressors, big or small. I have a Bostitch and Dewalt 6 gal at my work and they aren’t deafening or anything, but they do make more noise than I enjoy. I like to hear myself think AND talk, and when I am using Larry’s CAT, I can do both. The CAT is also very portable. Like with the Dewalt, it is put together logically, in a way that maximizes how easily it can be maneuvered. Often, people say the pancake compressors are less awkward, but I have to disagree. While working, I never find this compressor awkward as I move around.

The stats for this rig are pretty typical for compressors in its class. The company website lists the stats like this:

* Two pressure control gauges

* One  universal 1/4″ quick connector

* Thermal Overload Protector

* 120 PSI  Maximum Pressure

* 220v / 50 hz

* Low Amp Draw – 4.5 Amps

* Time to fill tank from empty to full – 120 Seconds

* Recovery time from 90 PSI to 120 PSI – 40 Seconds

* Less heat which dissipates more efficiently

* 5.5 Gal. Steel Air Tank With Wheel Kit

 Only  50 pounds and easy to move around.

* L (25.5″) x W (11.5″) x H (21.0″)

* 50.0 lbs

* 1 Year Limited Warranty

* Assembled in USA

I bolded the key stats you should be interested in if you want to recommend a good compressor to your neighbor.

First, the power. 120 PSI and 2.2 CFM is an expected and acceptable amount of power for a portable compressor to deliver. Small compressors are not for big jobs. If you’re painting a car, sandblasting or even blowing leaves, you need a big compressor with a big tank and a big price. But, for smaller or medium sized jobs, 120 PSI will be sufficient to run an air tool and get the job done right.

The “time to fill” and “recovery times” are excellent. Compared to the portable compressors at work, Dewalt included, the CAT 5510SE fills and recovers quickly. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like waiting the two minutes it takes for the microwave to heat your Hot Pockets, you’ll need to get this compressor! 2 min. fill time, and 40 sec. recovery will give you more time to get work done, and less time twiddling your fingers.

The 5.5 gallon tank is good for the duration of the air you’re blowing. The bigger the tank, the longer lasting the flow of compressed air. There are 6.0 gallon tanks on the market and they do last a bit longer. I have not noticed any difference, but it’s probably there.

It’s manufactured in China, mostly and assembled in the USA. I’d rather it was made in the USA, but that’s just my opinion.


  • Ultra quiet!
  • Value for your dollar (not cheap)
  • Manoeurvable
  • long-lasting


  • Manufactured in China, mostly
  • Less power than a few other compressors in its class

California Air Tools 5510SE Review Conclusion

Listen, the California Air Tools 5510SE portable air compressor is the machine I would buy if my neighbor Larry didn’t already have one. Larry’s a good guy who, despite not having researched enough beforehand, got lucky and scored this excellent machine. The 5510SE is great value and it’s perfect for small jobs at home. It runs more quietly than any other compressor. It’s worth buying over its competitors and worth writing a review for if your neighbor asks nicely.

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