How To Maintain An Air Compressor [Complete Guide]

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Not to mention, a poorly maintained air compressor is the last resort to have long-standing performance issues that later converts into downtime and a costly repair. To get the quality of air and maximum productivity there is no alternative to air compressor maintenance.

And this begins with knowing how to maintain an air compressor which I’m about to share today in this article. Before jumping into the details though, here is a handy air compressor maintenance checklist for you:

Portable Single Stage Air Compressor

How to Maintain an Air Compressor?

Air compressors are a complicated piece of machinery and a simple checklist isn’t enough. You need the nitty-gritty of the maintenance to understand the whole thing properly. Without further delay, let’s jump into the main discussion!

User Manual

First and foremost, you have to know that the user manual is packed with a ton of advice, and remedial tips to help you get through the most common problems. Many owners don’t seem to understand this and ignore reading the book entirely. Once an issue arises they try to fix it themselves and eventually run the risk of invalidating the manufacturer’s warranty.

Of course, flipping through the pages, and finding the specific solutions requires patience. However, in any case, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions first and secure a decent life for your air compressor.

Nuts & Bolts

The air compressor with its engine is a vibrating unit, has to go through months of continuous use, and sometimes tackle air hungry (heavy-duty) tools. As a result, the parts and the screws that make up the system are bound to get loose.

However, loose fasteners don’t always imply that the machine is going to be unscrewed or break apart soon. Rather it’s a good reason that indicates the time has come you put your wrench into good use.

It’s advisable to run a periodic check whether loosen nuts and bolts is the issue at hand. If you find any that is unstable, tighten it. Also remember not to twist any fastener too tight, this may cause it to strip or dismantle.

Intake Valve

Dust and other airborne components can suck into the vent as you bring the compressor into weeks of continuous use. Issues like clogged intake vents are likely when air compressors are being used for tools that produce heavy dust. For instance, woodcutters and sanders yield harsh particles which can lead to quick accumulation inside the vent.

Additionally, intake valves also get dirty in construction sites with dirt tossed into the air by different pneumatic tools. And for an air compressor to operate properly, clean intake vents must be provided irrespective of the workplace environment. Otherwise, the quality of on-going air and the tool itself will degrade gradually.   

That’s why cleaning the vents periodically is an essential part of air compressor maintenance. To be specific, it’s recommended to clean the intake vents every three months and keep them as clean as possible afterward. 


Hoses carry a crucial responsibility to transfer compressed air from your machine to a certain pneumatic tool. During this application, they may experience inconsistent air pressure. Additionally, hoses are bent and moved around frequently. To encounter all of these, hoses need to be strong yet flexible to some extent.

In order to make sure that the compressor doesn’t leg down on worn hoses, they should be regularly inspected. In particular, you should take note of the symptoms of wear and consider replacing them.

Air Filter

Air filters have to sustain a lot of junk on a daily basis. Due to the nature of the job, they are considered the most vulnerable part of an air compressor. That’s why you should always keep the air filter in check.

Without the filter working properly, the quality of compressed air (aka the end-point operations) is bound to degrade. Think about pneumatic painting as an example. If the air filter stops collecting dust, a sandy, blotched painted surface is just minutes away.

You should change the air filters bi-annually before a heavy buildup of dust occurs. 

Moisture Tank

The moisture tank is designed to draw out water from compressed air (in the form of condensate) before it reaches the endpoint. If the tank gets too full it will fail to suck the moisture out and prevent water damage at the endpoint.

One classic example is the pneumatic paint application. If the compressed air isn’t dry, the coating on the line will end up being weak and spotty.

If too much water is accumulated the excess material may also enter the machine parts and re-infect the system. They can rot, and send awful odors through the endpoint as well. In order to prevent these from happening, regular tank inspection and draining is necessary. 

Shutoff System

Modern air compressors come with an automatic shutoff valve that adds an extra layer of safety to the unit. This enables the machine to shut it down itself when the oil pressure gets too low or the machine is overheating. This way, it protects the air compressor from getting fried internally.

If this mechanism becomes dull, and the machine is pushed to work the entire unit will ultimately fail. In humid working conditions, the problem could be further intensified. To avoid the consequences, you should test the system periodically. Again, the user manual is the best place to find specific instructions on how to do it safely.

Fuel Tank

This is a maintenance task that any fuel-powered engine will need. Over time, contaminants will build up within the tank and, if it is not cleared the fuel particles will eventually become poisonous.   

Therefore, to keep your compressor in optimum condition, you must check the fuel tank periodically. Be sure to drain the remaining fuel and then vacuum clean (wet-dry) the tank interior.

Oil Changes

If your version of air compressor uses oil, timely oil changes are an important check. Topping off oil on a regular basis especially during humid conditions is crucial for the engine to operate properly and increase its lifespan.

If the oil stays fresh and full, the moving parts of the engine will have enough lubrication. Hence metal friction, and wearing down will be less of an issue.

Depending on your type of air compressor, service hours oil should be replaced periodically (check your user manual for a specific number). This will help preserve the oil viscosity and prevent residue build-up.

Air-Oil Separator

Since the oil-operated air compressors work internally with the presence of oil mist, a proper air-oil separator must be maintained. Otherwise, the air at the endpoint is likely to get oil-corrupted. In order to keep the compressed air pure and dry, experts suggest that the separator should be replaced every 1000 hours of use.

Final Words

Coming to the end, I believe the shared information is beneficial to you to learn everything regarding how to maintain an air compressor. A properly maintained air compressor secures years of additional service life and helps you get the best out of your pneumatic tools. Hope you’ve understood the importance clearly and will act accordingly.


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