Air compressor maintenance 101

Wondering what tasks belong to your air-compressor maintenance? We give you a quick rundown of what’s involved.

Estimated time to read: 4 mins

January 17, 2024

An introduction to air-compressor maintenance

We understand that preventative maintenance may feel like a chore. But with a little attention, you’ll keep your air compressor performing at its best for longer. And you’ll save both time and money in the long term. Which is why we’re giving you this guide to the most important air-compressor maintenance tasks.

Different Tasks for Different Compressors

Before you dive into your air-compressor maintenance rounds, it’s important to realise that not all of the tasks listed are necessarily relevant for you. You most likely use oil in your compressor, but it’s not always the case. Your compressor may be driven by belts or gears. And there are different types of filters, air dryers and configurations ... There are plenty of differences from one compressor to the next and it’s only natural that maintenance differs from one model to the next.

However, there are a few universal tasks that make an easy starting point. You’ll want to check your compressor is set up on a sturdy, level floor. There should be minimal rattling or shaking and plenty of space for airflow and with cables managed properly. Keep this area clean. Double check ventilation points to the room are clear and free from obstructions. If you live in an area with extreme temperature fluctuations, you may also need to check you’re within the ideal temperature range for your specific compressor. 

Next? Time to clean your equipment. This will help to stop any dust, dirt or other nasties from making their way into your system while you’re working on it. 

Before you start, remove any cables, hoses and screws that are not needed for the maintenance tasks you’ll be performing. While you’re doing this, keep an eye out for worn, warped or otherwise damaged tubing and hoses. Make sure your fluid drains and drainage points are flowing smoothly and free from clogging. Always keep an eye out for rust. You might also see other signs that something is wrong. For example, a blown fuse, or maybe part of the housing for your compressor is warped or out of shape. Give your cables a quick once-over too. Damaged, worn-out insulation around wires is a big problem. You might also see signs that mice, rats or—most disturbingly—employees have been chewing on the cables. One of the benefits of maintenance is spotting issues like this before they cause major trouble and damage.

Oil

Attending to oil is a big part of air-compressor maintenance … Well, it is if you have an oil-injected compressor. Are there any oil leaks? If so, try to work out where they are. You’ll also want to check your oil. You’ll want to check it for quality and viscosity. You might find it looks a bit milky … A sign that water is mixing in with it. (And a good reason to check your oil-water separator is operating correctly.) You might see dust or dirt in there. This may indicate that your various filters aren’t working as they’re supposed to. But it also means you’ll want to replace your oil.

Checking the oil level is an obvious. Is it low? Does this indicate a possible leak? Does your oil need a top up? This is where we remind you to use the correct type of oil for your compressor. It changes from manufacturer to manufacturer and model to model. Get in touch if you’re not sure what you should be using.

Filters

In the world of air-compressor maintenance, the rule of thumb states that filters need to be changed twice a year. Look at this as a minimum if your compressor is being used regularly. Because, if you’re in an environment where there’s a lot of dust, dirt, pollen and other particles being blown around, you’ll quite possibly have to replace them more frequently. A good sign of this is the exterior side of a filter. How dirty it is and how quickly it’s become dirty are good indicators of problems. You may also be experiencing a drop in pressure, or of course, oil, moisture or dust in your compressed air output. 

Air filters include your inlet filter, as well as any number of process filters. Take a look at your oil filters, as well as checking for potential blockages in your oil-water separator and drainage points. Clean your air dryer and replace air-drying material as necessary.

Check for Other Leaks

Leaks of any type are bad when it comes to an air compressor. Maintenance tasks already covered have discussed oil leaks, but a check for air and water leaks also belongs on your To Do list. 

The biggest indication of an air leak is a drop in pressure. If you suspect you have an air leak, start by checking the different joints and connections on your system. You may be able to feel the air escaping or even hear a hissing sound. Air leaks are also possible where hoses connect; hoses become warped and do wear out, especially if there are excessive machine vibrations. Replace hoses and pipes as necessary and make sure your air compressor is on a flat, sturdy foundation.

If this still doesn’t work? The next step is to call in a professional with an ultrasonic acoustic detector. The claim to fame for this machine is its ability to detect those hissing sounds. 

How do you know if you have a water leak? A puddle of water on the floor is the most common indication. Don’t clean it up straight away. The size and location of the puddle is often helpful in tracing your leak. And this isn’t always easy. With luck, the leak is at a hose connection or where two parts of the casing are supposed to seal. You’ll be able to see the water dripping and dribbling near there. But the leak may be internal. Bad news. Begin by checking all your drainage points are free from muck and able to flow freely, as well as making sure your filters and air dryer are clean. Replace your air dryer material as required. And if you still haven’t found the leak? Yep, it’s time to chase down a helpful professional. 

Check the Belt and Gears

Wear and tear is inevitable on pretty much every moving part on an air compressor. Maintenance is particularly important for this reason. If a belt slips or breaks, you risk all kinds of problems—and the downtime that comes with them. Visually check for splits, fraying or other signs of damage on a belt. You may also suspect the belt is slipping. A loss in efficiency may indicate this. You might also hear high-pitched squealing sounds in some cases.

What if you have gears instead of a belt? If you’re having trouble with the motor, have noticed a drop in efficiency, checked your filters and ruled out the possibility of leaks, we would probably recommend asking a professional to take a look.

Expert advice

Air-compressor maintenance is not just about keeping your machine running. It’s also about spotting potential problems before they result in downtime. It might be a nightmare chasing down and fixing an air leak. But it’s also a nightmare watching the efficiency of your air compressor drop while your energy bill skyrockets. 

And suppose you see your oil level is low: it takes fifteen seconds to top up the oil keeps your compressor lubricated. The alternative may give you an awesome story about the parts of your air compressor fusing together … But it’s probably not the outcome you want. 

 

If you have any questions about air-compressor maintenance, replacement parts or even servicing, feel free to contact. We are always happy to help.

Scroll Up ↰

See also

FInd more must-read articles on our compressed air blog!