Air Compressor Maintenance

why air compressor maintenance is importantAir compressor maintenance involves a set of practices that need to be performed to varying degrees on compressors of all makes and models. Whether you operate one compressor or several, you should routinely inspect key components of the machine and service them,  if necessary. Failure to do so could result in premature failure and costly repairs.

At factories and pressing plants, industrial air compressor maintenance is one of the crucial areas of system management. With so many machines, tools and functions relying on compressed air, it is crucial to ensure every compressor within an industrial setting is capable of performing as needed when needed. The failure of an industrial compressor can result in costly downtime.

Due to the high stakes at play, commercial air compressor maintenance has become an industry unto itself. Companies that serve all sorts of industries across the private sector rely on compressed air. However, many of these same companies lack the on-site talent to service air compressors as needed. Consequently, calls to service specialists are a common occurrence.

Rotary screw air compressor maintenance is especially important because of the high-powered tools that rely on such machines. The powering of pneumatic jackhammers, for instance, relies on rotary screw compressors, which are common at construction sites. If one of these compressors breaks down on the job, a construction crew could fall drastically behind schedule.

When you think about the way minor problems can easily grow into major problems when not remedied in time, air compressor preventive maintenance can save both money and time. After all, certain preventive steps are easy to learn and only take a few minutes to complete. Neglecting such steps, however, could result in costly repair bills down the line.

air compressor maintenance schedule

Given the cumulative nature of performance issues, all companies need to implement an air compressor maintenance schedule. This way, you can easily keep track of which maintenance steps you need to perform during a given day, week, month, season or year. Without this sort of schedule, a company could easily lose track of which machines and parts have not yet undergone maintenance.

For obvious reasons, the stakes are especially high when it comes to rotary screw air compressor maintenance. Just consider all the money that is on the line with major construction projects, where city governments and investment firms commission new buildings, monuments, stadiums and recreational facilities. These projects get funded according to strict timetables that can only be fulfilled with functioning tools and machinery.

As such, no construction crew can properly manage itself without a rotary screw air compressor maintenance checklist. Of course, the same could be said for any company that works with air compressors, regardless of whether the machines are used for light or heavy-duty productions.

With timely, proper maintenance, you can avoid the setbacks and financial pitfalls that often accompany air compressor failure. Use the following air compressor maintenance guide to ensure your machines function at full capacity.

Air Compressor Maintenance Tips

An air compressor employs a series of processes that turn incoming ambient air into a power source for tools and machinery. As such, an air compressor consists of various parts, each of which must be maintained to ensure their proper function. Basically, a compressor needs to have its oil changed, its filters cleaned and its after cooler inspected every three months, and have its filters replaced and connections tightened at least once every year.

1. Read the User Manual

read your air compressor manual

Some of the most common problems with an air compressor are easy to solve with the help of the user manual. While this might sound like a no-brainer, many owners of air compressors forget entirely about the manual and instead resort to distress calls, even for some of the most easily remedied issues.

For instance, there might be an issue with one of the connections or inlets that won’t initially make sense. A none-too-uncommon mistake in cases like these is for the operator to tinker with things manually in the hope of fixing the problem.

However, you should never try to fix anything on your air compressor without first reading through the user manual. Failure to follow this step could cost you down the line. If you purchased the compressor fairly recently, an improper adjustment could render the warranty null and void.

Granted, you need to have the patience to read the manual, as it might take several minutes before you find a solution to the problem at hand. In any case, an air compressor user manual can help you fix some of the more common, everyday problems the proper way and avoid the types of mistakes that could otherwise void your warranty.

2. Tighten the Nuts and Bolts

As an air compressor goes through month after month of daily use, some of the nuts and bolts are bound to become loose. After all, as the machine vibrates, the parts that comprise the machine move. Loose screws and fasteners are not a sign that the machine is falling apart, just an indicator that it is time to pull out a wrench.

When you think about how easily various household items can become unscrewed, the loosening of nuts on a compressor should come as no surprise. This looseness is typically the result of vibrations, which intensify when an air compressor is used to power heavy-duty tools.

To determine whether loose nuts or bolts are indeed the issue at hand, manually test each fastener to see if there is any give. With a firm grip of the wrench, twist on the loose fastener until you can feel the bolt tighten. Only turn the nut to the point where it no longer moves. If you attempt to over-tighten, you might strip the bolt.

3. Clean the Intake Valves

For an air compressor to function at full capacity, it must have clean intake vents. As you put the compressor through weeks of ongoing use, dust particles and other air-bound elements are bound to get sucked into the vents. Therefore, it is important to clean the vents regularly.

clean air compressor intake

Problems due to clogged intake vents can be especially frequent if you use an air compressor for tools that generate dusty elements. For example, pneumatic woodcutters and sanders will inevitably produce hard dust particles that can accumulate within an air vent pretty quickly.

Intake valves can also become dirty in working environments with various air-bound particles. As the ground is broken at a construction site, dirt particulates get tossed into the air by the pneumatic tools used in the process. The same holds true in factories where cooking products like flour, salt and sugar are packaged in bags, boxes and containers.

Regardless of the working environment, clean the intake valves at least once every three months to ensure the purity of the outgoing air.

4. Inspect the Hoses

Of all the parts to an air-compressor assembly, hoses are among the more vulnerable. As the component that transfers compressed air between the machine and a given endpoint, hoses are supposed to be strong and tight yet loose and flexible. As such, the hoses bear a lot of responsibility and can easily show strain as time passes on.

Inconsistencies in air pressure can exacerbate the problem. If the pressure is too intense, the hoses are bound to get stretched while transferring air from the machine to a given pneumatic tool. If periods of overpressure are followed by cycles of insufficient pressure, the hoses contract ever so slightly. As hoses are moved around, bends and folds are liable to take their toll.

To ensure the compressor never lags due to worn hoses, inspect the hoses on a regular basis. If you see signs of creases or wear, change out the hose for a new one. If overlooked, a worn hose could render your air compressor inefficient.

5. Change the Air Filter

Throughout the course of a daily usage cycle, the filter inside your air compressor will trap lots of junk. The filter is designed to bear a heavy load. Without the filter, dust and other impurities could easily put a drag on the air compressor and degrade the performance of pneumatic tools.

change your air compressor air filter

When it comes to applications where pneumatic painting and drying tools are in use, the purity of air is most crucial. Just think what these applications would be like without this air-filtering process. A painted surface, for instance, could end up blotched, sandy or inconsistent in some other way.

At an assembly plant, the quality of the air filter can make or break an entire line of products. Even if the line in question is salvageable, the pneumatic application that caused the problem would have to be redone.

However, even the filter itself can reach its limits. While the job of the filter is to collect all the dust that would otherwise infect the compressed air and degrade the quality of end-point operations, the filter becomes less and less capable as it fills. Therefore, it is crucial to change out the air filter annually.

6. Drain Condensate From the Tanks

An inevitable byproduct of compressed air is moisture, which accumulates inside the machine in the form of condensate. The moisture tank inside an air compressor is designed to suck the water out of the outgoing air. This way, the air itself remains dry and pure as it reaches the endpoint.

drain your air compressors condensate tank

The presence of moisture in compressed air is most problematic in applications where the endpoint could easily incur water damage. Moisture can also degrade the quality of pneumatic paint applications. At an auto-assembly plant, for example, the paint coat and finish on a line of automobiles could end up weak and spotty if excess moisture is watering down the paint. When you consider the high cost of auto assembly, an undrained condensate tank could result in some expensive and time-consuming do-overs.

As with the filters, the moisture tank eventually fills up. If the tank becomes too full, the water can move to other parts of the machine and re-infect the air. Even worse, the water can rot and send rank smells and impurities through the compressed air system. Therefore, it is crucial to drain the moisture tank on a regular basis.

7. Clean the Compressor Fuel Tank

Fuel-powered air compressors require an extra bit of annual maintenance. The issue here concerns fuel particulates, which can accumulate inside the tank and become toxic as time passes. As such, the fluid that serves as the lifeblood of the machine can ultimately become poisonous if the tank itself is not cleaned once per year.

To clean the fuel tank, drain it of lingering gas and then wet-dry vacuum the tank on the inside. Depending on the design of the tank, it might be necessary to swap out the filter to clean out lingering debris.

8. Inspect the Air Compressor Shutoff System

There are times when an air compressor will need to shut itself down to protect its well-being. A typical example would be when the machine gets too hot to perform adequately. If pushed to work in such conditions, the machine could overheat internally and parts could ultimately fail. The larger the machine, the greater and more costly the loss could be in a situation where overheating occurs.

air compressor shutoff system

For internal protection, most of today’s compressors are equipped with safety shutoff mechanisms. The mechanism is designed to activate when a compressor becomes either too hot or pressure-deprived to perform properly. In much the same way an overheated computer will lock up and reboot, the shutoff system of an air compressor protects the machine’s internal components from getting fried.

However, the mechanism itself can sometimes fail to activate. Shutoffs can be even more problematic in humid working conditions, where the high intensity of a given operation and the pressure this puts on a compressor is compounded by the temperature of the ambient air. Check your user’s manual for instructions on how to inspect the safety system and ensure it operates as needed.

9. Change Out the Oil

Not all air compressors use oil, but those that do need oil changes just like a car does. The oil itself needs to remain fresh and full to allow various engine parts to move smoothly.

In humid working environments, oil can lose its viscosity and ultimately fail to provide proper lubrication to the various internal components of an air compressor. This lack of lubrication can result in metal friction and stress along the moving metal parts, which could possibly wear down and fail long before their time. Likewise, colder working environments can cause oil to become sludgy, especially if moisture gets into the mix.

At the start of each usage cycle, top off your oil supply. On a quarterly basis — or after roughly 8,000 hours whichever comes first — change out the oil. If you leave the machine dormant for months on end, replace the oil with a fresh supply. Oil must have proper viscosity and be free of impurities in order to circulate properly.

10. Change the Air/Oil Separator

Oil-lubricated air compressors function internally with oil mist. In other words, the compressors disperse oil within the machine in tandem with the air. However, the oil gets extracted from the air with an oil separator before the air leaves the machine. This way, the machine stays lubricated while the air remains dry at the endpoint.

Consequently, the air can get oil-corrupted if the oil separator ceases to work properly. On various pneumatic functions, the presence of oily mist could be disastrous. In applications that involve the use of pneumatic spray-painting tools, oil mist could infect the paint and lead to blotchy, non-drying coats on a given surface. Therefore, it is important to replace the oil filter after every 2,000 hours of use or fewer to ensure the compressed air remains pure and free of oil.

The Benefits of Maintaining Your Compressor

Numerous benefits come with air compressor maintenance. When properly maintained, an air compressor will usually function as intended, and performance issues will generally be few and far between. With so much to gain, the appropriate personnel at your company should memorize the steps in this air compressor maintenance guide and follow them according to a set schedule.

maintained air compressors save you money

Money savings: At factories and assembly plants, industrial air compressor maintenance can save manufacturers huge amounts of money. Whereas unmaintained compressors are bound to have performance issues and lead to costly repairs and downtime, properly maintained compressors will typically function as intended for thousands of hours longer. Manufacturers, in turn, can ultimately pass these savings onto consumers.

Maximum efficiency: Along the production line, commercial air compressor maintenance helps ensure productivity continues at a set pace. This is crucial for any company that manufactures products according to a strict timetable. When the air compressors perform at full capacity without fail, all the tools along the assembly can perform at maximum speed and keep the productivity flowing day in, day out.

Productivity: As employees at any company that relies on high-tech tools and machinery would know, air compressors allow workers to perform functions at speeds and capacities that would otherwise be impossible. For productivity of this magnitude to remain on schedule, rotary screw air compressor maintenance must be implemented with routine inspections of the fluids, hoses, filters and fasteners.

Superior products: The quality of air that comes from an air compressor can make or break an operation at the endpoint of an attached machine or pneumatic tool. For example, any assembly that relies on compressed air to paint, sand or dry a line of products must be free of moisture, oil or other impurities. To ensure this quality throughout each usage cycle, air compressor preventive maintenance must take place on a weekly, and in some cases, daily, schedule.

maintained air compressors have a longer service life

Longer service life: The main benefit to an air compressor maintenance schedule is the reduced need for parts replacement and system repairs. Companies that fail to implement a rotary screw air compressor maintenance checklist often get surprised by unexpected service costs that eat into their budgets. On the other hand, companies that do follow an air compressor maintenance guide can easily get years of additional use from each air compressor and pneumatic tool.

Air compressor maintenance is not always easy. Depending on the size and complexity of a given make or model, certain types of maintenance might be difficult for the in-house staff of a company to perform. While a company can certainly benefit from having staff members who are fully trained and knowledgeable about the ins and outs of compressor maintenance, such skill sets are not always easy to find among prospective employees in various parts of the country.

At Kaishan Compressor, we specialize in a vast range of industrial and mechanical air compressors. Contact us today with any concerns you have regarding air compressor maintenance.

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