Top Tips For Air Compressor Maintenance: A Basic Guide To Get Started

A compressed air system is a system for storing energy (in this case, compressed air) to perform a task or work in multiple applications. An air compressor is a device that converts power through an electric motor, diesel engine, or gas engine to compressed air. That energy is stored in a tank for later use and then used with tools like conveyors, actuated valves, hammers, blowing dirt or debris off equipment or machined parts, etc. 

At Complete Engineered Solutions, we design, build and maintain compressed air systems for various purposes. Because these tend to be complex devices, our designers specialize in utilizing a wide range of products, including single or multiple compressors, dryers, storage tanks, filtration, and automation. 

Maintenance is a key aspect of ensuring that the air compressor is functional. Here, we’ll review the basic steps to maintain an air compressor.

Tips for Air Compressor Maintenance

Before starting to maintain your air compressor, you’ll need to research the specific requirements of the air compressor you own. Each piece of equipment has a model and serial number and typically comes with a manual that details the service parts required and how often they need to be changed. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations is the best first step. Although their recommendations don’t take into account all operating conditions, talking to a professional service company is important to make sure no details are missed to keep your air compressor working as reliably as possible. Complete Engineered Solutions exists to serve its customers by providing the parts and services that they need to keep their air compressors running reliably so they don’t have to worry about them. There are many types of air compressors but we will focus on the most common, the oil-lubricated rotary screw air compressor.

An oil lubricated rotary screw uses oil as a lubricant to remove the heat of compressing the air. Keeping the oil clean and cool is important to have a reliable air compressor. Ambient air is pulled into the air inlet by the air end and is compressed and sent to the air oil separator. From there, the air is sent to the aftercooler and out to the compressed air system or point of use. Keeping the inlet air clean helps keep the oil clean.  Keeping the discharge compressed air cool helps increase the reliability of all downstream equipment.

To get started, jot down any relevant notes about the air compressor you’ll be working on. Refer to the operator’s manual to get the correct parts, filters, oil, etc. Then, gather the necessary tools or supplies for yourself, such as filter wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, cleaning products, and protective gear. Some parts will need to be replaced, some inspected and cleaned. Here, we’ll review some advice for air compressor maintenance and replacement.

Before you begin, always make sure the compressor is turned off, and the power is disconnected. Make sure it is isolated from the pressure in the compressed air system (closing a valve on the discharge of the compressor), and the air compressor itself is depressurized. (Check the owner’s manual on how to do that if needed). Use appropriate personal protective equipment while servicing the air compressor.

Check/Change the Inlet Air Filter

Depending on the product, an air filter can last a few months to several years. An air compressor filter is often changed every few months. A dirty filter will become clogged with dirt and debris and can affect the air compressor’s performance.

Change the Oil Filter

Changing the oil filter helps the oil to stay cleaner longer and helps the reliability of the air compressor.

Change the Air/Oil Separator

Changing the air/oil filter helps to minimize the amount of oil that gets passed down the compressed air system to the equipment. This keeps the equipment cleaner and the compressor running reliably. Separators become saturated with oil over time.

Check Compressed Air Drains 

Air drains work to drain excess moisture from the air compression process, using the best pipe for compressed air, which reduces the chances of rust forming in the piping and causing problems in the downstream equipment. 

Ensure the Oil Cooler is Working Properly

Oil functions to lubricate an internal system, providing for a smoother work process and removing heat from the compressor. The oil cooler of an air compressor can become clogged with dirt and debris from the surrounding environment leading to an overheating compressor. If the oil gets too hot, it starts to break down and can damage the air compressor. Blow out the cooler if necessary with compressed air or remove, the cooler and pressure wash it with water. 

Clean the Air Compressor Aftercoolers

The aftercooler is the apparatus that works to cool down hot air after it’s discharged. Like the oil coolers, the aftercoolers can be cleaned with compressed air or pressure washed. 

Monitor the Pressure

The main aspect of an air compressor is its pressure production. To control the device’s pressure, you’ll need to become familiar with the pressure switches, air tank, airlines, and pressure gauges. Some compressors use a microprocessor to control pressure.

Regularly Test the Compressor’s Oil

Oil is at risk of contamination, degradation, or leakage. To prevent the seizing of the moving parts of your compressor, it’s recommended that you perform regular oil analysis and tests to see whether the fluid is functioning optimally.

First, check to see if there’s enough oil in the system. Look up the compressor’s specifications to tell how much oil is needed to fill the tank. Visually inspect the oil’s color and consistency. If these areas have a problem, it’s time to replace the oil or flush out the system.

Basic Inspection

  • Check all gauges (or control panel display) are normal
  •  Check lubricant level and top off if needed
  • Check for lubricant leaks
  • Check for unusual noise or vibration
  • Drain control line filter

Minor Service

  • Typically every 2,000 hours (depending on oil type and installation conditions)
  • Replace oil filter
  • Replace air filter
  • Check all electrical connections
  • Check minimum pressure valve for correct operation
  • Check scavenge line filter to make sure it’s clear
  • Check oil cooler and blow out using compressed air if it is dirty
  • Check air after cooler and blow out using compressed air if it is dirty

Major Service

  • Typically every 6,000 hours (depending on oil type and installation conditions)
  • Replace oil filter
  • Replace air filter
  • Replace air/oil separator
  • Drain used oil
  • Refill with fresh oil
  • Check all electrical connections
  • Check minimum pressure valve for correct operation/replace if needed
  • Check scavenge line filter to make sure it’s clear
  • Check oil cooler and blow out using compressed air if it is dirty
  • Check air after cooler and blow out using compressed air if it is dirty

Schedule Your Air Compression Maintenance in Stockton, CA to have your air compressor maintained, repaired, or replaced by experienced professionals, contact Complete Engineered Solutions at 800-701-3196 to book an appointment. Our team specializes in air compressors, nitrogen generators, and vacuum systems.