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Tips on Air Compressor Troubleshooting

Unfortunately in a compressed air system, as in any plant system, problems will occur during  routine operation. Most issues are minor, and can be resolved simply, with basic adjustments, cleaning or the replacement of a part, or eliminating an adverse condition.

A major problem is usually caused by improper cooling or lubrication, poor maintenance and operating practices or misapplying the system. 

ProblemLikely CauseAction Required
Low pressure at point of use
  • Leaks in distribution piping.
  • Check lines, connections and valves for leaks.
  • Clogged filter elements.
  • Clean or replace filter elements.
  • Fouled dryer heat exchanger.
  • Clean heat exchanger.
  • Low pressure at compressor discharge
  • See below.
Low pressure at compressor discharge
  • For systems with modulating load controls, improper adjustments of air capacity control.
  • Follow manufacturer’s recommendation for adjustment of control.
  • Worn or broken valves.
  • Check valves and repair or replace as required.
  • Improper air pressure switch setting.
  • Follow manufacturer’s recommendation for adjustment of control
Water in lines
  • Faulty air/oil separation
  • Check air/ oil separation system; change separator element.
  • Failed or undersized compressed air dryer.
  • Follow manufacturer’s recommendation for proper oil level.
Dirt, Rust or scale in air lines
  • In the absence of liquid water, normal aging of the air lines.
  • Install filters at the point of use.
Excessive service to load/hour ratio
  • System idling too much.
  • For multiple compressor system, consider sequencing controls to minimise compressor idle time; adjust idle time according manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Improper pressure switch setting.
  • Readjust according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
Elevated compressor temperature
  • Restricted air flow.
  • Clean cooler exterior and check inlet filter mats.
  • Restricted water flow.
  • Check water flow, pressure and quality; clean heat exchanger as needed.
  • Restricted fluid flow.
  • Check compressor fluid level, add fluid as required.
  • Low fluid level.
  • Remove restriction, replace parts as required.
  • Excessive ambient temperatures.
  • Improper ventilation of compressor; check with manufacturer to determine maximum operating temperature.