Air Compressor Failure

Have you ever had to deal with air compressor failure in a factory? It can be one of the most disturbing periods, especially if it occurs in the middle of an operation.  

One of the most crucial components used extensively in the production process within the industrial sector is compressed air. Air compressors power several applications in assembly lines, including newspaper pressing plants, auto-assembly factories, etc. This shows the heavy use many rotary screw air compressors are subjected to daily. 

This also indicates how essential air compressors are to undergo consistent maintenance processes. But then, regardless of how well maintained an air compressor is, some issues can rear their ugly heads at the most unexpected periods. This could develop into a large-scale problem that will call for massive downtime, expenditure, and loss of revenue to the company. 

Warning Signs

Every machine that is about to fail gives warning signs in one way or another. In other words, air compressor failure doesn’t just happen out of the blue or without warning. But, it is quite unfortunate that many air compressor operators either don’t notice the warning signs of imminent compressor failure or choose to ignore them entirely. 

Many experts argue that some of these operators are not familiar with the telltale signs that indicate a compressor will fail. This is why every organization or factory must own and use extensive air compressor troubleshooting guides. Compressor operators should have access to these troubleshooting guides and familiarize themselves with the components of an air compressor. 

This is the ideal way to learn how to spot symptoms of an air compressor is not performing as it should. The troubleshooting guide also addresses specific symptoms and combat problems when they arise unexpectedly.  

How a Rotary Screw Air Compressor Works 

It is crucial to understand how air compressors work to have a layman’s knowledge of how they operate, which is relatively straightforward. A rotary screw air compressor employs a pair of turning screws that suck air into a chamber. This leads to the tightening of the chamber, which, in turn, causes air pressure to rise inversely to the volume. 

Control features on the compressors set the pressure range within limits and according to the current needs of a specific application. 

Visual Cues

The functions of air compressors are simple and easy to understand. But the machine is designed with several complex components that can cause trouble when they fail suddenly. If these problems are not addressed as soon as possible or even immediately, they can metastasize into a colossal and costly system failure. 

When this occurs, the air compressor must be shut down, and all necessary repairs or replacement of parts must be done. Time is money, and the more time is spent on fixing the faulty rotary screw air compressor, the more money the organization loses to its competitors. 

This is why it is highly essential to know and be able to identify visual cues and sounds of an imminent failing air compressor. 

The Top 10 Reasons Behind Compressor Failure 

Many issues can cause an air compressor to fail all of a sudden, especially if it has not yet fulfilled its life expectancy. 

Here are the top 10 most common reasons behind rotary screw air compressor failures: 

1. Clogged Up Air Filters 

Air filters are some of the most vital components that make compressors work seamlessly. Without them, the compressed air within the compressor will be corrupted with dirt and dust as it moves towards the endpoint application.  

But then, in performing the duty of filtering air, the air filters themselves become dirty as dust and dirt collect on them. Dirty air filters can severely impede overall system performance, forcing the system to exert extra energy in order to carry out essential functions. 

If this issue persists, it may bring about excess energy consumption, high-end or costly maintenance, and downtime. 

2. Dirty Air/Oil Separator 

Compressed air must be pure and clean when it reaches the endpoint. But before then, oil within the system must be filtered out just before air leaves and travels through the hoses. Oily compressed air degrades the overall quality of all pneumatic operations such as air drying, spray painting, sanding, etc. 

The air/oil separator is the component that efficiently prevents compressed air from becoming flooded with oil mist. This component effectively extracts oil from the air before it leaves the compressor. As might be expected, the air/oil separator builds up a lot of oily residue over time. 

The oily buildup may spread to neighboring areas or components, bringing about a damaging effect on the entire system. This is why the air/oil separator needs to be changed from time to time. Experts recommend changing the component after every 800 hours of continuous usage. 

3. Exceeded Pressure Limits 

Excess pressure can cause air compressors to fail, especially when they run beyond recommended limits. This puts a lot of strain on the entire system’s components. 

Pressure limits can easily get exceeded when one air compressor performs several high-powered operations simultaneously. But when this happens, it results in shortened service intervals, wasteful energy usage as well as increased cases of downtime. In the end, you shorten the lifespan of the machine. 

This is why experts recommend investing in a second or even third air compressor in order to even out the workloads if you need to perform multiple high-powered tasks. 

4. Air Leaks 

It is not uncommon for air leaks in a system to occur, leading to compressor failure. These leaks are more common when some components wear down with age. This causes cracks to appear along with one of the hoses or pipes, leading to a gradual air loss. 

If left unattended, the crack widens, letting more air leak out and minimizing the efficiency of your system. 

Locating the site of a leak on an air compressor is not rocket science, as the noise of leaking air gives away the spot. But in some cases, it takes ultrasonic equipment to locate, isolate, and identify the source of air leaks. 

5. Unsuitable Greased Motor Bearings 

What makes the system operate efficiently are the bearings within the compressor motors. These bearings require sufficient application of grease from time to time so that the bearings can move smoothly during operation. 

Insufficient amounts of grease cause friction between the bearings, which degrades the motor’s overall performance. 

Therefore, ensure the bearings get sufficient grease using recommended lubricants of the proper viscosity and grade. 

6. Faulty Airend 

The airend or pump is the central piece of the entire system’s functionality. However, the airend – also known as the screw component – can wear down. It requires adequate maintenance long before reaching the end of the lifespan of the components. Troubleshooting the airend is therefore crucial and necessary. 

7. Drive Train Issues 

Belt-driven models of air compressors should undergo inspection after every 500 hours of intense usage, especially the sheaves and belts. The airend and motor are sometimes improperly aligned. If this happens, the airend and motor bearings wear down, eventually causing the compressor to fail. 

Air compressor service professionals are the only ones qualified to help you properly align the bearings. 

8. Inadequate Lubrication 

Every machine needs sufficient lubrication and oiling for optimum performance. Irregular lubrication intervals and negligent oil changes can cause air compressors to fail. This is because of the friction between the components within the air compressor. 

When lubrication ages, viscosity is lost as a result of continued exposure to cooling and heating cycles. Grease also liquefies in excessively humid working environments, losing the ability to lubricate all moving parts properly. Frigid temperatures can also make lubricants ineffective as they become icy. 

Therefore, never allow lubricants to age beyond their usefulness as their properties tend to become acidic over time.  

When replacing the lubrication and oil within an air compressor, endeavor to remove old oil, too. Never allow new and old oils to mix, as the latter can degrade the former’s quality and viscosity. 

9. Improper Retrofit Compressor Conversion 

At times, there will be a need for a replacement compressor. But if one is not readily available, some technicians may decide to upgrade to a different or newer model. This is referred to as ‘retrofit conversion’ and can cause compressor failure. This can occur via multiple possibilities, including nonconformity of the new compressor to the existing system. 

This is why technicians should always ensure the geometry of a new or upgraded air compressor is equivalent to the initial or original one before installation. This ensures the new air compressor fits right into the system and operates seamlessly with zero issues. 

10. Inconsistent Maintenance 

Consistent maintenance of an air compressor eliminates issues that become severe problems if ignored. Routine checkups make it easier to detect problems that can be fixed immediately. For instance, technicians can remedy the gradual wear-down of every system resource and the buildup of dirt in some areas of the machine. 

Inspect Air filters and change them if necessary. Grease bearings generously and check for inconsistencies while compressor valves are 

This is why it is crucial to establish a dedicated maintenance schedule for your rotary screw air compressor. 

Conclusion 

Rotary screw air compressors are one of the most beneficial mechanical devices in the industrial sector. Using them every day, and almost every hour makes them highly susceptible to failure. This is true, especially if the air compressor does not undergo consistent maintenance. 

The post reveals the top 10 air compressor failures that operators should pay close attention to and take the necessary steps to remediate. If ignored for a long time, minor symptoms may develop into costly repairs, leading to severe downtime and lost revenue. 

If you are in need of repair or maintenance contact Samco today!