Common Causes of Air Compressor Failure

EnviroAire Oil-Less Air CompressorAir compressors are powerful pieces of machinery that perform essential tasks in industrial settings. These heavy-duty devices simplify jobs that would otherwise require significant time and resources.

Like most machinery used for intensive jobs, air compressors require regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure they are operating efficiently. These machines undergo heavy usage, making them subject to wear and tear.

When a breakdown occurs, it can lead to extensive downtime for troubleshooting and repair. Fortunately, you can often address problems with air compressors quickly. Even better, regular maintenance can prevent breakdowns completely. Here are some of the most common causes of air compressor failure and potential solutions. 

1. Compressor Won’t Start or Won’t Stop

If your air compressor won’t start or fails to stop, that’s a big deal. Here is how you can address these bothersome issues

Compressor Fails to Start

When you don’t get any response while trying to start your air compressor, this is usually a power supply issue. The first thing you should do is check the switch, power button, and power cord. If those seem to be in good shape, there may be a tripped breaker preventing power from reaching your machinery. 

A compressor might also fail to start if there isn’t enough air pressure or oil. First, check your cut-in pressure settings on the compressor. Next, check your fluid levels. 

Compressor Fails to Stop

Once your tank reaches its cut-off point, the compressor should stop operating. If this doesn’t happen, there might be a problem with the power switch or the pressure release valve. If the pressure isn’t released properly, the compressor will be too pressurized and might become damaged. Cutting power and replacing the valve would be a good option.

2. Air Leaks

You may have an air leak if the compressor’s gauge still indicates low pressure after deactivating the air compressor with a full tank. The good news is that air leaks can be sealed. To locate the source of the leak, run your fingers around the edge of the component to feel for escaping air and listen for a hissing noise. 

If you are unable to locate the leak by feeling and listening, try putting some soapy water around the connection. Wherever bubbles appear, you have air escaping and will want to tighten the fittings. 

Air can also escape around the check valve when it doesn’t close completely. If the device is turned off and you continue to experience a drop in pressure, inspect the valve and repair or replace it as necessary. 

3. Electrical Motor and Power Issues

Aside from not starting or stopping, you might experience other power issues with your air compressor. If the compressor is plugging in and working but continually blows breakers or fuses, there are several things you can check. First, you may not be getting sufficient power if you are using a power bar or weak extension cord. Air compressors should only be powered through direct connections whenever possible.

Second, there could be a problem with the motor. If the motor is old, parts might need replacing due to wear and tear. 

It’s also a good idea to inspect the motor capacitor to make sure it’s operating properly. This is especially important if your compressor consumes a ton of power at startup. 

Finally, when you are tripping breakers at startup, there may be trapped air over the compressor’s pistons. You can relieve this air by shutting down the compressor and draining the tank. If the problem persists, you might have a bad unloader valve that needs attention. 

4. Pressure and Flow Problems

Some of the most common issues with air compressors involve pressure and flow. For example, if you aren’t getting any air from your hose, it could mean that:

  • The regulator pressure isn’t set correctly
  • There isn’t any air in your tank
  • The wrong type of hose connector is fitted to the discharge coupler

Some intake filters can become damaged or corroded, requiring replacement. Common signs it’s time to do this include an overheating motor and longer waits for the compressor tank to build desired air pressure. 

5. Compressor Noise and Vibrations

When your compressor makes an unusually loud noise or vibrates more than normal, these are signs of potential trouble. Noise and vibrations from an air compressor can be caused by:

  • Loose parts — Adjust or tighten misaligned or loose belts, bolts, or pulleys. 
  • Bad pistons — Pistons striking the valve plate can make a lot of noise. 
  • Problem crankcase — Inspect the crankcase for sufficient oil levels and any defects. 
  • Faulty mounting — A compressor that isn’t mounted securely will be noisy when in operation.

Fortunately, you can make adjustments or replace damaged parts to fix these issues. 

6. Extremely Hot Emissions

When a compressor releases emissions that are hotter than normal, it can create hazardous conditions and put the internal machinery at risk. Some of the common causes of extremely hot air coming from a compressor include:

  • Limited air intake
  • Worn valves and head gasket
  • Poorly ventilated space
  • Dirt accumulation inside the machine

7. Oil Issues

Compressors require oil to keep parts lubricated and avoid overheating, but oil isn’t supposed to get into the air lines. If it does, it can cause seals to swell, crack, and eventually fail. Piston rings and intake filters should be replaced periodically to prevent this problem. Other ways to prevent oil issues are making sure you are using the right oil viscosity and never overfilling your oil tank. 

Get Qualified Help With Your Industrial Air Compressor

Whether you are dealing with air compressor issues currently or want to prevent air compressor failure through proper maintenance, C&B Equipment can help. We are an established and experienced industrial equipment distributor and service provider for air compressors, pumps, blowers, and related equipment. 

C&B Equipment serves clients throughout Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, the southern half of Illinois, and the Texas Panhandle. Our goal is to maximize your uptime by improving the efficiency of your equipment. Contact us today for more information about our products and services.


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