Your browser is not supported

You are using a browser we do not support any longer. To continue visiting our website, please choose one of the following supported browsers.

Our global presence

Please select a business area and your country and language.


What are some preventable causes of air compressor failure?

Listen to the experts, we have you covered!

Air compressors can fail for an assortment of different reasons: Normal wear and tear, lifespan and age of the unit, poor maintenance, power surge, install issues are just a few the come to mind. When talking to our local distributors and technicians, we asked what are the common preventable air compressor failures they commonly see out in the field. The list below are those preventable causes that can help save you the headache down the line.

1. Preventative Maintenance

The lack of preventative maintenance will create a whirlwind of issues leading to pre-mature failure of your air compressor. Using wrong parts and filters can damage the internals of your air compressor. Using the wrong oil can create varnish on the inside of your air compressor and start a very costly repair venture. Missing important inspections can lead to very costly repairs and even complete failure.

2. Oil Changes

Failure to perform regular oil changes and oil samples will cause your machine to pre-maturely fail due to overheating, varnishing, pre-mature bearing failure, High TAN Levels, and corrosion.

3. Overheating

Air compressors, like most other machinery, have an optimal operating temperature that the manufacturer has designed and engineered into the machine for many operational reasons. When the machine starts to operate outside of those designed temperature ranges bearing failure and oil breakdown start to happen.

4. Air Contamination

Rotary screw air compressors are among the most reliable, yet temperamental, machines that need clean air to start the compression process. As air enters the air compressor, immediately, the air and oil join together. This air and oil joining process is critical to the longevity and operation of the compressor. Any contaminates in the ambient air can mix with the oil and create additional chemical changes to the oil along with physical changes to the oil that can drastically reduce the life of your compressor if not corrected sooner than later.

5. Coupling Alignment

Whether you own a piston air compressor, rotary screw air compressor, or a centrifugal air compressor, all these machines have some type of coupling associated with them. Coupling alignments are one, if not the most important checks to prevent your air compressor from failing. A misaligned coupling between your electric/ fuel powered motor and your compressing unit, will wear bearings prematurely, create vibration issues and those vibrations will go throughout the machine creating many more issues. All of these issues because of a small vibration… or is it because of the 0.09mm misalignment?

6. Electrical Issues

Electrical equipment is designed with very tight tolerances to be the most efficient. All electrical equipment has variances specified that the equipment will work at, not the most efficiently, but they will work. When your air compressor is ran in the variance range, you start to see issues arise. The air compressor can fail from the electric motor running low or high voltages, if the start contractors are not fully seating you will see arcing which can lead to very hazardous failures in the compressor and possibly to you personnel and operations. Electric motors are not cost friendly, no matter the size. Having a qualified air compressor service company and qualified electricians perform routine electrical maintenance is well worth the investment.

7. Proper Installation

Placement of your air compressor is crucial to the livelihood of your entire compressed air system. It all starts from the Installation of your air compressor. During the install a poor location choice that would introduce contaminated ambient air to be ingested into the air compressor could start a ticking time bomb to the failure of your air compressor. Not verifying the proper coupling alignment after shipping and receiving could create the sudden failure due to the bearings for both the electric motor and the compressing unit. Failing to properly mount the air compressor to its permanent home can create damaging vibrations to go through the machine and create premature failure of important components, cracks, and warping of components. Improper ventilation for the air compressor can cause overheating. Not verifying the electrical specs and infrastructure are correct can cause critical failures that most likely will not be covered under warranty.

Jim Phillis

You ask, we answer. Visit our Expert Corner for every #CPTechThursday to find answers to common industry questions and highlights of CP's high-quality compressors. We love providing our customers with answers to their technical questions.

Jim Phillis , Lead Technical Support Chicago Pneumatic

Do you have an idea for a #cptechthursday article? Let us know!

Experts' articles

Why a Chicago Pneumatic VSD Expert Corner

Why Is My Compressor Vibrating?

Regardless of the type of compressor you have, vibration issues can be troubling for any business. The root of the vibration can stem from multiple sources, some internally and others externally. Understanding the cause of the vibration and how to resolve them will be critical in keeping your compressor in proper working order.

Can my compressor be outside

How Do I Winterize My Air Compressor?

Regardless of whether or not it actually freezes where you live, most winterization service recommendations are also basic, solid maintenance procedures that will help extend the life and operational efficiencies of air compressors regardless of whether you live in northern Maine or South Florida.

Expert Corner Dryer

Where Should I Install my Air Dryer?

Your company purchased an air dryer for your compressor. One of the most common things we see in the industry are air dryers being stored on top of the compressors. Seems like a wasted space not being used on top of the compressor, right? Wrong.