An air compressor is a common and convenient tool in automotive or woodworking shops. As with any machine, an air compressor requires some basic maintenance for years of efficient, trouble-free use. Air compressor maintenance is similar to maintaining a car engine. Oil level, air filter and other compressor parts need to be checked and regularly changed for maximum performance. The tank must be emptied of condensation daily.
The machine works by taking in air at normal pressure, compressing the air with a motor driven by pistons or shafts, and storing the compressed air in a tank. Air is released in great force in small bursts, providing power to tools or rapidly filling tires with air. Internal parts need no maintenance unless the compressor is broken. Understanding how the machine works helps to realize the need and frequency of air compressor maintenance tasks. For example, if the intake is frequently sooty or dusty, the air filter becomes clogged more quickly and therefore needs changing more often.
Most manufacturers recommend that the tank of the compressor be emptied daily. As the machine takes in air, it also takes in moisture from the air. The moisture builds up in the tank and forms condensation. Condensation buildup can corrode the tank, leading to all sorts of problems and eventual failure of the machine. Most compressors have a small plug at the base of the tank that is easily removed for draining water.
The level of the oil should be checked daily with regular use or before and after each operation with infrequent use. Oil lubricates the gears, without which the pistons and moving parts in the motor would bind and overheat. The oil reservoir should be filled only with oil specifically recommended for the particular air compressor brand. Also, the oil tank should be inspected daily for leaks daily.
Oil and the air filter should be replaced at least once a year or for every 200 to 500 hours of operation time. Air compressor maintenance kits are available at most automotive stores. Some types of compressors use a reusable air filter. The filter can be rinsed off thoroughly but should not be placed back into the compressor until the filter is thoroughly dry.
If the air compressor utilizes a belt, this should be inspected periodically for tears, rips or cracking. The belt should be replaced when it becomes dry or brittle, or when it shows small hairline cracks. To prolong the life of the belt, the air compressor should be stored in a clean, dry environment indoors and away from chemicals.
Another important part of air compressor maintenance includes appropriate use and cleaning. Using the machine properly helps reduce wear and damage to its parts. To avoid damaging the motor, plug the compressor directly into an electrical receptacle or into an approved, appropriately rated electrical extension cord. An underrated extension cord cannot provide enough electrical current to supply the compressor motor, and the motor may overheat or burn out. The machine should be regularly cleaned of soil, soot and grease.