Compressor Maintenance Tips

Proper maintenance is critical to the performance of any machine. Not only does routine maintenance affect functionality, it will help you cut down on cost of ownership over time. Both reciprocating and oilless air compressors require relatively minimal maintenance. Nevertheless, there are still important steps to take to ensure your compressor runs properly for its entire service life. Here are nine considerations to make in regards to compressor maintenance.

  1. Air Intake Filter: In order to compress air, the compressor must first be able to intake air. The intake filter protects the compressor from taking in contaminants that would cause damage. As the filter becomes more and more full of contaminants, the compressor loses its capacity. To prevent this, the filter should be checked every 3-6 months and replaced as needed.
  2. Vee Belts: The majority of reciprocating compressors use a vee belt drive. In these compressors, the vee belt makes up a large portion of the maintenance requirements. The tension of the belt should be checked every 3-6 months, as the belt will wear more quickly if improper tension is ignored.
  3. Noise & Vibration: Compressor operators should know what the normal noise and vibration levels are for a given unit. Changes in either level are cause for inspection. Excessive noise and vibration could be caused by a number of issues or worn out parts.
  4. Unloader Valve/Discharge Check Valve: It is critical that there be no pressure at the pump when a compressor starts up, as this will increase the power needed to bring the compressor up to speed. To prevent this, most compressors use an unloader valve and discharge check valve. The unloader valve releases air from the compressor discharge line to the atmosphere, and the check valve prevents additional air from returning into the pump. To ensure compressor unloading is taking place, a weekly visual/audible check should be done.
  5. Cleaning of Components: There are many parts of a compressor that rely on clean surfaces for sufficient heat dissipation. On reciprocating compressors, these include the flywheel, cylinder fins, heads, and air-cooled aftercooler. On rotary scroll compressors, the flow canal, compression chamber fins, and cooling fan all must be kept clean.
  6. Check for Loose Fasteners: A visual inspection of all fasteners should be done periodically. As compressors are subject to vibration, and some components are heated and cooled on a regular basis, fasteners can loosen over time.
  7. Condensate Drainage: Compression of air generates heat which, as it cools, reaches a saturation level where condensation forms. This condensation must be drained regularly, or the receiver will fill with water and take up space that should be used for compressed air storage.
  8. Bearing Greasing: Greasing of bearings should be done at major runtime intervals. It is important to have an hour meter on the equipment to track its runtime and know when maintenance is due. For most compressors, bearing greasing is required every 5,000 to 8,000 hours, though some can last up to 10,000 hours.
  9. Piston Ring/Tip Seal Replacement: Piston rings on reciprocating compressors should be replaced between 6,000 and 8,000 hours. Tip seals on rotary scroll compressors require replacement every 8,000 to 10,000 hours.

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