Learn how to identify red flags in your air compressor — and how to determine when it’s best to upgrade to a new machine.

shutterstock_1007331688In a perfect world, your industrial air compressor would run at peak performance without any hiccups for as long as you need it. Thanks to advanced technologies like those found in Mattei’s rotary vane compressors, it can come pretty close. For peak performance and reliability, every compressed air system requires regular skilled service. Use these guidelines to determine whether your compressor is at the end of its life cycle.

Signs Your Compressor May Be Dying

During your routine maintenance checks, pay attention for signs that may indicate your compressor is diminishing in performance ability, which may include:

  • External signs of wear, such as rusted exterior sheet metal or broken reflector lights
  • Excessive vibration or noise emitting from your compressor, which may signify technical problems
  • Worn or rusted bearings, rings, piping, and seals, which can inhibit your air compressor from producing the desired pressure and airflow
  • Extreme airend operating temperatures, which could indicate issues with your cooling system or lubrication levels
  • Milky-looking oil or metal deposits in oil analysis, which may be the result of metal corrosion from rings, pipes, bearings, or other metal parts, or may indicate restricted air ventilation
  • Insufficient end-use pressure, which could be a sign of leaks or ill-fitted piping

Preventative Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Conducting regular comprehensive maintenance on your air compressor is crucial to extending the machine’s lifespan and ensuring it continues to run effectively. While traditional maintenance intervals are based on hours of usage, it’s best to adhere to manufacturer guidelines for service intervals and conduct routine checkups of appropriate thoroughness on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

All checkups should include a visual overview of fluid levels, hose connections and wiring, belts, air inlets, and parts regularly disposed to wear. Further, proper maintenance should always involve using OEM parts, lubricants, and filtration systems.

If your are experiencing operational issues or your air compressor exhibits symptoms of failure, this may not indicate irreversible damage or necessitate immediate replacement. In fact, there are a number of steps you can take to repair the machine and curb further wear. Conduct thorough troubleshooting by examining your:

  • Power source: determine if your outlets are functioning correctly and if there is anything inhibiting your compressor from effectively receiving electricity
  • Lubricant levels: ensure you are actively monitoring your compressor’s oil levels and adjust if you are experiencing operational or overheating problems
  • Parts: if your compressor is emitting loud or unusual noises or consuming excessive lubricant, make sure your bolts, piston rings, bearings, flywheels, belts, crankcases and other parts are properly lubricated, secure, and free from excessive corrosion
  • Belts: if belts are too tight, too loose, or misaligned, they can wreak havoc on your machine’s effective operation, so confirm they are properly situated
  • Fuses: ensure your machine is outfitted with fuses that are of adequate size for your compressor’s electrical load — if they are not, your machine may blow fuses regularly
  • Cooling system: monitor your system for cooling capacity and functionality to ensure your machine is not producing overheated discharge air

Professional Analysis and Auditing

In some cases, you may be either unable to identify the critical issue(s) hindering your machine’s performance or ill-equipped in the knowledge or tools necessary for making repairs.

In either case, a professional technician will likely be able to detect issues and make requisite repairs quickly and efficiently, saving you on time and costs that may be lost due to attempting your own repairs. Technicians can also estimate the remaining life of your air compressor and frame the value of different repair or replacement options. Ultimately, professional servicing can provide you with more technical knowledge and the insight necessary to make the most cost-effective decision for your compressor.

Repair or Replacement?

Depending on the condition of your compressed air system, it may be more cost-effective to repair your machine’s failing parts or to replace your machine altogether.

Consider repairing your air compressor if:

  • It has completed less than 50,000 hours of service or has been operating for less than 10 years
  • Its technical problems are relatively harmless and not indicative of enduring, unavoidable problems
  • Its OEM parts are readily available for purchase

Consider replacing your air compressor if:

  • It is experiencing continual breakdowns, even after professional servicing
  • A professional repair technician has recommended replacement
  • New compressor models are significantly more energy efficient than your machine
  • OEM parts are expensive and not readily available
  • Your machine is too small to meet the current application demands of your business
  • It is more cost-effective to replace your machine than to make continual repairs

It’s important to keep in mind that the initial investment made when purchasing a machine accounts for a mere 12% of the total costs of operating an industrial air compressor. In fact, over 75% of expenditure will go to electricity consumption.

If your compressor is nearing the end of its life, additional costs spent on maintenance and repairs may add up and render repair a less cost-effective option than replacement. Comprehensive cost analysis should involve mapping out and comparing cost estimates of both repair and replacement options — accounting for high energy costs, taxes, and unanticipated problems you may encounter down the road. Speak with your distributor if you have additional questions about air compressor repair or replacement.

Topics: best practices, Compressor 101, Air Compressor

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Additional Resources

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