Industrial Air Compressor Spring Cleaning Tips

With a proper maintenance schedule, your air compressor can last for years and provide you thousands of hours of operation. So we’ve created this industrial air compressor maintenance checklist and a full set of tips to keep your air compressor running smoothly.


1. Check Incoming Voltage—Make sure that the incoming voltage on your air compressor isn’t too high. Check the amps on the machine, as well. If you’re giving it too much juice, you could have a major failure that can cost your company a lot of money.

2. Test for Air and Fluid Leaks—Oil leaks can be simple to detect based on the area where your compressor normally runs. Air leaks can be a little more difficult, so listen for them and also try applying soapy water to certain leak areas (hoses, disconnects, shut-off values, condensate traps, etc.) and looking for bubbles that form.

3. Look at Your Differentials—Examine the differentials across your filter. The PSI you put in should be very similar to the PSI that it puts out. If you find a significant gap, it’s time to perform a thorough check on the parts of your equipment. Filters are a major area to test.

4. Monitor the Temperature—One of the top problems that air compressor operators face is a unit that overheats. This leads to reduced efficiency, increased maintenance costs and may cause you to replace the system earlier than its expected life. Temperature should be logged consistently to make sure the equipment is not overheating.

Check the cooler for proper function and ensure that it’s not becoming covered in dust. If it is, you’ll need to give the cooler a little more physical space.

Also, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes and ensure that your compressor has enough space to properly vent — this is exceedingly important during those hot summer months. Your compressor should have space to exhaust and not trap that hot air against its frame.

5. Check Vibration Levels—Check the vibration levels on the motor and the airend or pump to ensure that your unit is not exceeding standard vibration levels. This is smart to check on a consistent basis, but your team should also be on the lookout for warning signs throughout the year.

Vibration pads sit under a stationary air compressor and minimize its vibration to stop some shaking and minimize the potential for damage. Excessive noise often means you’ll need to check these, because worn pads can lead to the floor mounting becoming loose, your compressor starting to tilt and the casing or mounting bolts become loose.

6. Take Oil Samples—It’s always good to take an oil sample each year — preferably each quarter — to look for problems. You can check the oil to see if it needs to be replaced, (more on that below) but also for the presence of other items. Excessive sludge, grime or the presence of metal flakes can be a significant warning sign.

You may need a professional to test your oil samples, but the ounce of prevention is much cheaper than the pound of cure when it comes to replacing a system due to oil and coolant failures.

7. Examine Hoses and Intake Vents—A couple common places where problems crop up are the intake vents and the hoses of your air compressor. Dirty or clogged intake vents will damage your compressor. Give them a good scrubbing and blast them with a can of compressed air to keep dust away.

After that, take a peek at your hoses. If there are cracks or signs of corrosion, you could soon see a leak that will cause a lot of stress on your compressor. Replace them at the first sign of cracks, cuts or other damage.

8. Examine Hoses and Intake Vents—A couple common places where problems crop up are the intake vents and the hoses of your air compressor. Dirty or clogged intake vents will damage your compressor. Give them a good scrubbing and blast them with a can of compressed air to keep dust away.

9. Change Your Pump Oil—If your air compressor uses oil, a full replacement of that oil should be part of your spring maintenance. If you use your air compressor consistently, you’ll want to change the oil at least every 1,000 hours of use.

Keep your compressor running smoothly and efficiently with a new batch of oil, completely removing and replacing the oil in your unit. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  1. Turn your air compressor off and unplug it, or otherwise remove it from the power source.
  2. Consult the owner’s manual for recommended fluid type and required amount.
  3. Let it rest for quite a while — the pump head and surrounding metal can become extremely hot during use.
  4. Check that the surface you’re working on is flat and level.
  5. Remove your fill cap and/or plug.
  6. Place a container underneath the oil drain cap, and make sure it’s large enough to hold more oil than your unit holds.
  7. Remove the oil drain cap — if you have to twist, it’ll be counter-clockwise — and let the oil drain out of your unit.
  8. Replace the oil drain cap and tighten it as securely as you can. We recommend you use plumbers’ tape to help create a proper seal.
  9. Fill your crankcase with the right amount of oil, which is usually denoted on the unit. Typically, you won’t want to exceed the halfway point of the sight glass, because oil expands with heat and you’re working with cool, dense oil right now.

This can also be a good time to check and change your separator element. This element prevents excessive oil from getting into the system, and it should be replaced roughly every 1,000 work hours.

9. Drain the Compessor Tank—As pressure builds up and compresses the air into your tank, water vapor gets compressed too and will slowly cut against the volume of air your compressor can compress.

Solve this by cleaning out the drain valve, usually located at the lowest point of your air compressor. Leave your compressor in its normal, upright position — turning it on its side can mean that you won’t clean out all the water.

  1. Place your air compressor in the normal position.
  2. Grip the ring on the compressor tank’s drain and turn it counter-clockwise.
  3. Make sure to open the drain valve all the way.
  4. Void the entire tank of the water, sludge, oil or even rust.
  5. Leave the valve open for a little help drying it out.
  6. Close the drain completely and ensure that its very tightly sealed.

Cleanup can vary. You can drain the tank into a can and find a place to get rid of all the sludge, or you can drain it onto the shop floor if you’ve got enough room to safely work around it. The water will slowly evaporate and you’ll be left with elements that you can sweep up.

Another option is to install an automated tank drain.

We hope you’ve found these spring cleaning tips to be helpful. If you have questions or need assistance, contact us. We’re here to help.