How to Extend the Life of Your Air Cooled Reciprocating Air Compressor

By In Tips On December 22, 2015

Your business depends heavily on your air compressor. Whether you work in manufacturing or auto repair, you need this versatile tool to work hard day in and day out.

Though your air compressor has a sturdy design and relies on durable materials, it requires regular care and upkeep to perform at its best. If you want to extend the life of your air compressor, closely follow this maintenance schedule.

Daily Maintenance

Every time you use your air compressor, don’t forget to do these three things.

  1. Check Oil Levels

Your air compressor runs much like the engine of your car. Like the oil in your car, your air compressor’s oil reduces carbon buildup in the valves and lubricates its moving parts.

To check your unit’s oil levels, look for the oil level sight glass. Ideally, you want to keep the oil near the center marking or red dot.

If your air compressor has an older oil cap rather than a sight glass, clean off the provided dipstick. Screw the dipstick all the way in, and then remove it again to check the levels.

  1. Drain the Tank

Your air compressor has to pull in outside air, and as it does so, it collects moisture from the air. This moisture builds up in the receiver tank, and the liquid often leads to rust and premature wear.

Before every use, release any air pressure from the tanks, and then turn the valve to drain the tank. Wipe excess water from the tank with a cloth or rag. Automatic drain valves are available to simplify this task.

  1. Inspect Belts

Although many smaller air compressors do not use a belt, the larger ones depend on the belt to spin the motor and control your unit’s horsepower. Over time, the friction and use typically cause the belt to loosen or shift out of place. When loose, a belt may cause your entire compressor to vibrate, lose pressure, or make excessive noise.

Periodically check your belts to ensure they stay in their appropriate position and tighten them as needed.

Weekly Maintenance

After a week of hard work and steady projects, your air compressor will require the following maintenance.

  1. Clean or Replace Air Filters

As your air compressor pulls in air and moisture, it also pulls in dust, debris, and other contaminants floating in the air. The air filter collects the dust from your workshop, preventing the debris from damaging the compressor.

Over time, the dust builds up to the point that the air can no longer move freely through your unit. Soon your machine has to work harder to do its job. When you clean or replace your air filter regularly, you improve your compressor’s efficiency.

To check the air filter, unscrew the filter top from its base. Remove the filter element, blow dust out of the filter. If filter remains filthy, replace it with a new one, and then reconnect the top to the base.

  1. Check or Replace Oil Filters

If you have a larger, oil-injected air compressor, your unit may have an oil filter to keep dirt, sand, and rust out of the compressor. And like your air filter, the oil filter eventually clogs with the debris. If left untended, the filter will allow larger pieces of contaminants to pass, resulting in premature wear and damage.

As oil filter replacement varies depending on the unit, don’t forget to read and re-read the user’s manual before performing this necessary task.

However, you can typically replace the filter by turning it counterclockwise and gently pulling it from its place. Then apply a thin coat of compressor oil to the new filter’s sealing gasket. Spin the filter onto the threaded nipple until the gasket connects with the sealing surface. Then tighten the filter to create a firm seal.

Monthly Maintenance

Every month or so, you should examine your machine from top to bottom. As you look for damage, remember to follow these steps.

  1. Check the Safety Relief Valve

Also known as the pressure relief valve, the safety valve allows air to escape if the pressure in the tank reaches dangerous levels. The relief valve generally has a ring on one end that you can pull to safely release the compressed air.

Although you likely won’t need to use the pressure relief valve on a typical work day, you’ll want to inspect the valve and ensure that it works, just in case.

  1. Tighten Loose Bolts

Whenever your air compressor runs, the entire unit vibrates. This vibration causes bolts and screws to loosen over time. Every month, tighten any fasteners that may have jiggled loose.

  1. Look for Leaks

The hoses act as the veins of your air compressor, pumping oxygen through your unit. With regular use, the hoses crack and corrode, resulting in leaks and decreased air pressure.

Inspect your hoses for any holes or cracks, and replace them as needed.

Annual Maintenance

When you perform daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance, you can ensure that your air compressor stays in great shape. However, some problems aren’t easy to spot or diagnose, and other problems require professional repairs to fix.

If you want your air compressor to last as long as possible, bring it into a professional every year. A skilled technician can correct any problems that you may have missed and retrofit or rebuild your unit so it meets safety standards.

About the Author

Leave a comment