Updated:
By: Brad Taylor

Air Compressor Preventative Maintenance Without the Hassle

Air compressor preventative maintenance (PM) is essential for the safe and efficient operation of your compressed air system. But most facility maintenance technicians don’t know all the ins and outs of proper air compressor equipment maintenance. Here’s what building managers and maintenance staff should know—and how you can reduce the burden of compressed air system PMs.

Why Air Compressor Maintenance Matters

A poorly maintained air compressor will end up costing your company money, both directly and indirectly. Some of these costs include:

  • Higher energy costs due to overloaded filters, blockages, inadequate lubrication, and other problems that cause your air compressor to work harder than it should have to.
  • Shorter equipment life caused by increased wear and tear on the system.
  • More frequent emergency repairs, which will almost always be much more expensive than the preventative maintenance would have been.
  • Increased risk of unexpected downtime, which can lead to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in losses for companies who depend on compressed air to keep production lines running.

Preventative maintenance increases the life of your air compressor and ensures its safe, reliable and efficient operation. A regular PM regimen will help you catch little problems, such as a worn belt or an oil leak, before they become expensive emergencies. The time and costs associated with regular PMs are negligible when compared to the costs of an emergency repair that shuts your system down at a critical moment in your production processes.

Regular PMs can help you avoid other problems with your compressed air system as well. Proper maintenance of filters, air lines, and other compressor components will prevent buildup of fluids and particulates that can make their way into the airstream. Airstream contamination from corrosion or fluids in the compressed air system can cause problems for many production processes. These problems can be avoided with consistent monitoring and mitigation at the first sign of a problem.

Air compressor PMs are also essential for safety. Air compressor accidents are not common, but poor maintenance or misuse can lead to a fire or explosion. Short-cycling of the air compressor motor may cause a spark that creates a risk of a fire. Over-pressurization or failure of relief valves or other parts can lead to a dangerous rupture of the air receiver tank. These risks can be all but eliminated with regular inspection and maintenance of system components combined with proper operation.

What Kind of Preventative Maintenance Does an Air Compressor Need?

Compressed air system owners should follow all recommended preventative maintenance procedures in their owner’s manual. A PM (preventative maintenance) for a compressed air system includes:

  • Drain excess fluids daily from the air compressor and air receiver tank (if not using an automatic drain valve).
  • Change the air filter on a regular basis (will vary depending on air compressor usage and the environment in which it is running).
  • Change the oil and replace the oil filter at recommended intervals, typically ranging from 4,000 to 8,000 hours of use. The oil filter should be checked frequently and changed earlier if it shows signs of excessive loading.
  • Check lubrication of joints, bearings and moving parts and reapply as needed to prevent corrosion and wear.
  • Check motor bearings frequently for signs of wear and corrosion and ensure that they are properly lubricated.
  • Check belts for wear and ensure that they have proper tension levels.
  • Inspect and clean intake vents to prevent dirt from getting sucked into the system.
  • Inspect the air compressor for signs of oil leaks or air leaks.
  • Check pressure relief valves to ensure that they are operating correctly.

While these will cover the basics, there are other things to check as well, including pressure drop, temperatures, vibration, voltage levels, air dryer performance and the integrity of pipes, hoses and air receiver tanks. The exact checklist and recommended intervals will be specific to the type and model of your air compressor and your usage patterns.

Who Should Perform Preventative Maintenance on a Compressed Air System?

While many daily and weekly maintenance activities can and should be performed by facility maintenance staff (such as draining fluids and checking motor oil and lubricants), it is often advisable to call in the experts for a full PM checkup. Facility staff are generally not experts in compressed air system maintenance. While draining the air receiver tank and changing an air filter are fairly straightforward tasks, there are many issues that non-experts are likely to miss when inspecting and maintaining your air compressor, air dryer and other system components.

Some of these may include:

  • Diagnosing pressure drop: Pressure drop refers to the loss of pressure between the compressor and the endpoint where the air is utilized. While some loss of pressure is inevitable, excessive pressure drop may indicate a leak or blockage somewhere in the system. Ignoring the signs of pressure drop or increasing operating pressures to compensate will drive up energy costs and put added strain on the system. A certified compressed air system technician can find and fix compressed air leaks, clogged filters or other issues causing excessive pressure drop.
  • Safety inspections: Periodically, your system should be shut down for a complete safety inspection. The inspector will thoroughly examine all parts of the system to look for wear, corrosion, faulty gauges and valves, electrical problems and other issues that could present a safety concern. This should be done by a certified technician who understands what to look for.
  • Repairs: While in-house maintenance staff can probably replace an air filter or belt, more complicated repairs should be handled by a trained compressed air system specialist. A qualified technician can identify and mitigate emerging issues—such as frozen motor bearings or moisture in the air lines—before they become a serious problem. Taking care of these potentially minor repairs as they emerge, will help you avoid a more serious mechanical breakdown.

Reducing the Burden of Maintenance

If you don’t have someone with specific expertise in compressed air systems on staff, it makes sense to reach out to the experts for help. Fluid-Aire Dynamics has three levels of PM service to meet your needs.

Reminder Service/On-Demand

Once we establish a service account for your operation, we simply send you a reminder when normal maintenance is due. You can then decide to call us in for troubleshooting, repairs, parts and supplies. If there is a major issue or emergency down situation, a call to our emergency response hotline will have a qualified and knowledgeable service technician onsite within four hours. This option is best for companies who have a knowledgeable person on staff who can perform standard PM on the air compressor and system components. There is no charge for the reminders, and on-demand service calls are charged at the standard rate.

Standard Maintenance Agreement

Our standard maintenance agreement establishes a fixed cost for the normal PM on your compressed air system. Your Fluid-Aire Dynamics service technician will visit your facility at regular intervals, with a pre-arranged appointment, and perform all recommended system checks and preventative maintenance. This keeps your system clean and operating at top efficiency with no burden on your maintenance staff. All standard PM activities are included for one fixed cost, so you won’t have any surprises. Repairs are charged at the standard rate. This is a great option for companies who do not have qualified maintenance technicians or who simply want the peace of mind of knowing that PM is always done right.

Monthly Service Subscription

For maximum peace of mind, consider a monthly service subscription. This plan includes not only regular PM but also repair coverage so you don’t have to worry about unexpected costs and surprises. It’s like an extended warranty on your entire system, including compressors, dryers and filtration. The Fluid-Aire Dynamics Monthly Service Subscription Package offers ‘bumper to bumper’ coverage for a predictable monthly rate, 50% discounts on equipment rentals, and fair market value on equipment trade-ins. It’s the hassle-free way to guarantee clean, dry, reliable compressed air for your operation.

Want to take the hassle out of compressed air preventative maintenance? Ask us about our service agreements!

©2020 Fluid-Aire Dynamics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.