Signs of Compressor Valve Failure - Samco

Signs of Compressor Valve Failure

Compressor valve failure is common, so it’s ideal to know the signs to watch out for. Read more below.

Compressor valves are vital components that contribute immensely to the overall work cycle of reciprocating compressors. They are prone to failure from time to time, and this causes all operations involving the compressor to come to a halt.

However, compressor valves do not fail suddenly without giving warning signs or symptoms. Operators and engineers are expected to know what these signs are. Proper steps will need to be taken in order to ensure that the valves do not fail completely.

Compressor valve failure can endanger an entire system of production. It can lead to unexpected downtimes, wasted resources, and lost time in productivity. This is why it is essential to note every warning sign valves emit before total breakdown.

The Primary Role of a Compressor Valve

As mentioned earlier, compressor valves play crucial roles in this machine. The task of a compressor is to push fluid or gas in a machine in a particular direction. A piston within a chamber is the driving force behind this action.

A rapidly-turning crankshaft powers this piston, and as the piston moves, the pressure inside the chamber rises and drops rhythmically. These considerable shifts in pressure within the chamber as the crankshaft rotates rapidly force the compressor’s valves to open and shut repeatedly, always ready for the following work cycle.

A valve that performs remarkably well assists in the effective and even distribution of compressed air. The flow and regulation of pressurized air within a compressor enable the utilization of compressed air for several purposes. This is why these valves must have long lifespans.

This also helps minimize significant downtime that may affect productivity and waste employee resources.

Causes of Compressor Valve Failure

Environmental and mechanical factors are the primary causes of compressor valve failure.

  • Environmental factors

Most compressors are designed to operate optimally in facilitative environments. These machines should never be exposed constantly to dirt, debris, mist, or air-bound oil.

However, if a compressor is regularly exposed to these elements, it is bound to be defective sooner or later.

Some of the environmental factors that lead to compressor failure include:

      • Long-term exposure to corrosive contaminants results in the wearing off of some metallic parts of the compressor valve.
      • Inappropriate lubrication of sensitive sections within the compressor
      • Foreign materials such as debris or dirt adversely impact the compressor valve’s inner lining. These materials could block off airflow, which affects the smooth operation of the entire system

Avoiding or preventing these factors will go a long way in extending the compressor’s lifespan.

  • Mechanical factors

Mechanical factors – such as overheating, overloading, etc. – contribute to compressor valve failure and most of the machine’s problems.

It was mentioned earlier that most compressors are designed to function optimally within specific constraints, including environments, etc. If you force your compressor to operate outside the manufacturer’s instructions, it could result in the total breakdown of the valve. This could also void your warranty.

Here are some of the mechanical factors that bring about valve failure:

      • High-cycle fatigue, i.e., operating the compressor at high cycles for several hours beyond its regular or specified operating hours. This leads to severe stress that ultimately affects the compressor valve, forcing it to fail unceremoniously.
      • A spring is attached to the compressor valve, which may fail due to undue stress. When this happens, the valve starts functioning haphazardly, which can cause other problems to develop within the compressor.
      • Off-design operations – i.e., using a compressor beyond what it is specifically designed for – can also cause considerable valve failure.

Avoiding most of the mechanical factors that cause compressor valve failure is easier. But in many cases, industrial reciprocating compressors are subjected to hours of operations beyond what the manufacturer specifies or recommends.

Diagnosing Compressor Valve Failure

You don’t have to be a savvy mechanical expert or specialist to detect or diagnose compressor valve failure. Here are telltale signs you should watch out for:

  • Low Discharge Pressure

An inefficient and weak discharge from a compressor is another symptom that may indicate valve failure. When valve passages get blocked by debris, there is an inadequate pressure output.

It is also not uncommon for low-pressure discharge to be accompanied by extremely high suction pressure. These also indicate compressor valve failure.

  • Excessive High Suction Pressure

Excessive high suction pressure is one of the telltale signs of compressor valve failure. Lower-than-normal discharge pressures with surges in suction pressure are an excellent indication of the poor health of the system.

Something is wrong when these inter-related, valve-enabled functions perform contrary to normal system standards.

  • When The Compressor Operates Too Quietly

A compressor that runs quietly is the dream of most operators, making most people bring down their guards.

When a compressor operates too quietly, it could be an indication that it is unable to function at full capacity. Something could bring about this phenomenon and must be checked out as soon as possible.

  • Extremely High Discharge Temperature

An extremely high discharge temperature can be the result of compressor valve failure. Here’s how this situation comes about:

The air is discharged from the cylinder at every upstroke of the piston. This air is pressurized in seconds.

However, a discharge valve may be incapable of sealing properly due to prolonged use. Some pressurized air finds its way back into the cylinder via the unsecured valve seal.

Since air is subjected to this incredibly short cycle, it could bring about higher-than-normal or extremely high discharge temperature.

These are indicative signs that you may be experiencing compressor valve failure. If nothing is done, your compressor may shut down suddenly, costing you significant repairs, downtime, and losses in productivity and employee resources.


The importance of compressor valves to any industrial process cannot be overstated. But these valves are prone to fail from time to time, especially when the compressors are operated on a daily basis with almost no breaks.

Compressor valve failure is one of the major causes of industrial downtimes, wasted employee resources, and productivity losses. Environment and mechanical factors are the major culprits behind compressor valve failure.

Regular maintenance procedures are highly essential as this helps prolong the lifespan of compressor valves as well as the machine itself.