Air Compressor Troubleshooting - Samco

Air Compressor Troubleshooting

How much do you know about air compressor troubleshooting? It’s good to know the basic problems and how to solve them. Read below.

There has never been a good time for a commercial compressor to fail unceremoniously, irrespective of the industry. Such equipment downtime can incur a huge cost to any plant or company. For instance, in the auto industry alone, the failure of an air compressor can cost up to $22,000 per minute! This is why your air compressor must undergo troubleshooting.

This is what this compressor troubleshooting guide is all about: troubleshooting your air compressor!

The 4 Categories of Air Compressor Problems

When an air-powered commercial compressor starts acting up, the problems it may be having can be categorized into four:

  1. Lubrication
  2. Electrical
  3. Noise
  4. Air pressure

The first step you should take is to find out why your air compressor is not working. The issue with your air compressor will fall into any of the categories highlighted earlier. Let’s check them out one after the other:

  • Lubrication

When the oil supply in your compressor lubrication system runs out too quickly, you may be having some serious issues with the equipment’s lubrication. A milky crankcase oil indicates that the intake air contains lots of moisture, which is the case when operating the machine in a humid environment.

Your goal should be to look for a much drier air source in order to prevent further damage. Reduced air intake, which a dirty air filter can cause, worn piston rings, and leakage may cause the machine to use up the oil too quickly.

You could experience these issues if you use oil with the wrong viscosity or if your compressor is installed on an uneven floor.

Oil in discharged air or air lines also indicates that you are using oil with the wrong viscosity. Oil may also be escaping from the compressor pump, or you may have to drain off the excess oil from the machine if it’s overfilled.

Clean the air filter if you notice that the air intake is blocked. Check the seals and other components for wear and replace all worn piston rings. Free up the crankcase breather if it is plugged up, and then replace or clean it.

  • Electrical Issues

The first sign that you have electrical issues is when the air compressor refuses to start. Start with the simplest remedies, i.e., check the power cable. This ensures that the power cable is connected directly to the main supply in the right way. Check all switches to see if they are in the ideal operational position.

You may need to reset breakers, check and replace fuses if necessary, as well as check the pressure switch. Activating a reset switch may get the equipment into power mode again.

Do not connect the power cable for your compressor to a power strip or extension cable. These accessories are primarily designed for domestic use and cannot supply sufficient power to the compressor motor.

Check the start capacitor for burnout signs and confirm it’s still in excellent working condition. You should also consider replacing the electric motor if you continually experience blown fuses and breakers. This is because aging motors may have worn windings, loose wiring, as well as general wear, which can cause the compressor motor to overheat and short out circuits.

Ensure you are using suitable fuses. Using fuses with the wrong amp rating will blow them. Adjust the reset mechanism properly to prevent it from tripping continuously. The compressor motor must also have sufficient ventilation and not be subject to overloading.

  • Noise

Air compressors make a lot of noise during operation. But loose components – such as belts, flywheels, clamps, pulleys, accessories, belt guards, etc. – can heighten the machine’s noise.

Tighten every component that has worked itself loose. Check the bearings to ensure they are not worn. Realign floor mounting and tighten them up. You may have to add oil to the crankcase if it is dry.

A defective crankcase can also cause an air compressor to make noise. If the piston knocks against the valve plate, take off the cylinder head. Clean up the piston and replace the head gasket before reassembling the cylinder.

Check the connecting rod as well as its bearings for wear. If they are worn, you should replace them immediately.

If you notice knocking sounds when the machine is loading, tightening the set screw on the flywheel or tightening/replacing the connecting rod and its bearings may stop the noise. Replace wrist pins and their bearings if they are completely worn, or replace the entire piston assembly.

Misaligned or loose components can also cause the compressor to start vibrating. Therefore, tighten all loose bolts, mounting bolts, pulleys, and flywheels. Make the necessary adjustments.

If the crankshaft is bent out of line, replace it immediately. Make sure you mount the compressor appropriately, with the 4 legs flat and firm on the floor.

  • Air Pressure

Your compressor will not start at times because enough air pressure is not available. When it comes to air pressure, two things are involved: your compressor may have too much pressure or insufficient pressure.

Too much pressure is far less likely, but if your air compressor does not stop as soon as you switch it off, releasing the pressure within the system may be the problem. This is mostly due to a faulty check or pressure release valve, which must be replaced immediately.

But insufficient air pressure is one of the most common issues that prevent a compressor from starting up or running properly. One major reason for this problem is that the cut in pressure required to load the air tank sufficiently is not directly proportional to the pressure stored in the tank.

This applies to excess cut-in pressure; therefore, check the pressure switch to ensure it is still functioning properly. If not, adjust it to the correct level. If the problem persists, you may have to replace the pressure switch with one that requires a lower cut-in pressure.


Air compressors are just like any other equipment: they are prone to failing and requiring troubleshooting in order to start working efficiently again.

Air compressors generally have issues in the 4 categories highlighted earlier. This includes noise, electrical, air pressure, and lubrication. Each category needs to be handled in a unique way so that the equipment can be up and running in no time.

Knowing how to troubleshoot your air or commerical compressor will save you time and money. Identify simple fixes as soon as possible and schedule a regular maintenance program. This will prolong the lifespan of the equipment and minimize downtime down the road.

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