When it comes to an air compressor, maintenance in the standard form is never enough. To ensure the smooth running of operations and avoid interruptions and unexpected downtime, it is crucial to have a compressor maintenance program in place that prevents — rather than reacts to — problems with the air compressor and all attached tools and machinery.
The Difference Between Preventive and Standard Air Compressor Maintenance
In smaller businesses, maintenance is a standard procedure that amounts to toner refills and software and hardware upgrades. Essentially, standard maintenance is what you perform on equipment that works consistently until it expires or becomes outmoded by newer technology.
At facilities that employ high-tech machinery, you must perform more than just standard maintenance to ensure the operability and longevity of all the expensive equipment on hand. With air compressors, for example, you need to implement a preventive maintenance program where you get the compressor and its system peripherals inspected routinely to ensure everything is in optimal running condition.
The purpose of preventive maintenance is to catch mechanical problems before they spread and necessitate costly repairs and system downtime. As such, preventive maintenance consists of inspections of all consequential system components — some according to a daily schedule, others on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis — to ensure everything works as it should. If you detect problems early, you can take steps to rectify matters.
In some cases, preventive maintenance involves low-cost measures that help avoid costlier situations down the line. For example, when a maintenance staffer notices a compressor belt has a minor crack, replacing the belt then and there helps your company prevent a costlier scenario in which the belt snaps, the compressor stops working and productions grind to a halt as staff work to identify the problem and take the necessary steps to get the system back up and running.
The Benefits and Value of Preventive Maintenance for Industrial Air Compressor Systems
Regardless of the size or scope of your compressor operation, it is vital to have someone on staff, or work with a qualified service provider, to oversee preventive maintenance work on a timely and consistent schedule. Only with preventive maintenance can you ensure the machines will work hour by hour, day after day, and continue to operate to their full life expectancy.
- Avoiding Downtime
One of the foremost benefits of air compressor maintenance is that it makes the equipment run smoothly and more efficiently and decreases occurrences of system downtime. As anyone who runs an air compressor facility knows, downtime can be a very costly problem because when the machines fail to function, it halts production.
A company that fails to enact timely maintenance protocols runs the risk of encountering performance issues with greater frequency. Such occurrences are hard to predict, but can arise at the worst moments, such as when a high-cost production is underway with a set deadline. To be on the safe side, you need to perform maintenance as scheduled without skipping a date, even on days when everything seems to be running flawlessly with no conceivable problems in sight.
- Saving Money by Avoiding Costly Emergency Repairs
With reduced occurrences of downtime and parts failure in your air compressor system, you save money. As such, you profit both ways — through increased productivity and reduced overhead. The money you save through timely compressor maintenance allows you to invest more in better equipment as innovations reach the market.
Without maintenance, the costs involved in the repair of an air compressor and its peripheral parts can take a huge chunk from a company’s annual earnings. When you conduct timely maintenance, you’ll reap savings you can pass on to your company through higher wages and less expensive products.
- Lower Energy Costs
When you perform air compressor maintenance on a regular schedule, it allows you to catch instances where a function within the system is over-exerting or struggling to maintain an expected rate of production. When such issues do arise, it is often down to a part that needs cleaning, replacement or lubrication. By spotting these problems before they grow out of hand, the machine runs smoother and more efficiently, which translates to energy savings.
Of course, energy savings also amount to money saved in your overall production costs. With lower monthly energy costs, you can invest the money back into the infrastructure of your company.
- Increase Air Compressor Life and Efficiency
Of course, the greatest benefit of air compressor maintenance is that it increases the life and efficiency of the machine itself and the system as a whole. When you add up the initial cost of investment in an air compressor and all the attached pneumatic tools, you want to ensure a return on that investment through years of optimal performance. Ideally, the money you spend on your compressor system should reward you thousands and thousands of times over through productivity.
Without maintenance, an air compressor and its peripheral components will not last as long as it otherwise could with regular checkups, tune-ups and cleanups. When you compare the profits of companies that implement responsible system maintenance with those that do not, you are liable to see major differences in productivity.
Recommended Preventive Maintenance Checks for Your Compressor
On an industrial air compressor, preventive maintenance is crucial to ensure the functionality of the system and its various attachments. The key parts to check include the filters, vents, belts and bearings, all of which could become troublesome to the system if dirt and grime build up. Moreover, you must apply and reapply lubricant at timely intervals on all applicable parts of an air compressor.
The following components are the most important to inspect and clean and/or lubricate according to schedule:
- Air Filter
The purpose of an air compressor is to produce clean, pure, compressed air that will ultimately power numerous functions. To ensure the quality of air that comes out at the end, the ambient air that goes into the compressor must be filtered of impurities before it leaves the machines. None of that could be possible without a clean air filter.
If the air filter is dirty, impurities and particulates could corrupt the compressed air and degrade the quality of end-point applications. Therefore, clean the air filter regularly. Change it out at regular intervals, which vary based on the environment.
- Oil Filter
Oil can degrade the quality of compressed air if it passes through the system and gets carried to the end of an application. Some of the worst-affected processes would include pneumatic spray painters, air cleaners and anything else where oil could corrupt the surface in question. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure oil, when present in the system, is removed from the compressed air before the air leaves the machine.
Check oil filters weekly, regardless of whether the compressor is lubricated or non-lubricated. Moreover, replace the oil filter entirely at recommended intervals, which can range from 4,000 to 8,000 hours of use depending on your unit. If the oil filter gets heavily covered in oily residue before that time, replace it sooner.
Lubricant is one of the most vital elements in the function of an air compressor. On all the internal metal parts and joints, lubricant allows for smooth, non-corrosive movement. Without lubrication, tension occurs between the touching metal surfaces, which leads to the corrosion of parts and joints. Once corrosion takes hold, rust is liable to spread and eat through certain mechanical parts.
However, even when lubricant is present, it can lose its viscosity and become corrosive if it gets too old. Check the lubricant level daily to ensure the health of your air compressor. Every three to six months, wipe off old lubricant and reapply a fresh coat. Each time you replace the lubricant, be sure you also change out the separator element.
- Motor Bearings
For a motor to run, the bearings must have proper lubrication. The tiny metal balls are constantly rolling against each other, as well as against the interior walls of the round encasement. Consequently, rust could form on the bearings without proper lubrication. If rust forms, the bearings will gradually slow and ultimately become stuck in place. When this happens, the motor fails.
To protect the health and performance of the air compressor motor, grease the bearings every 4,000 hours. Be sure to inspect the bearings at quarterly intervals between each greasing to ensure they remain sufficiently lubricated.
For an air compressor to go about its internal motions, it is crucial for the belts to have proper tension. The rubber of each belt must also remain firm, yet flexible, to ensure balanced movement between the pulleys of connected parts. Over time, however, the rubber on a belt will inevitably wear down and crack in certain places. Therefore, it is crucial to replace the belts before they lose their tension or, even worse, snap in the middle of an operation.
Inspect each belt once per week to verify they are free of wear. Adjust the tension if necessary and replace each belt once wear takes hold.
- Intake Vents
An air compressor performs the magic feat of transforming ambient air into something that can power heavy-duty machinery and effectively serve as a replacement for electrical power. That said, the compressor itself can only do so much to turn mundane air into something powerful. While internal components do their job to purify the air for end-point use, that job is harder for the machine to perform if the intake vents become lined with dirt and grime.
To ensure the incoming air remains as clean as possible and to prevent dirt from getting sucked into the system, inspect the intake vents weekly and clean them when necessary.
- Other Parts and Things to Check
In addition to the periodic cleaning, lubrication and replacement of parts, check various points along the air compressor and its attachments at regular intervals. Inspect the following on a weekly basis:
- Air dryer performance
- Oil level
Inspect the air compressor for signs of oil or air leaks. Also check the pneumatic hoses for air leaks, as leakage severely reduces the efficiency of an air compressor. Furthermore, make sure the coolers are free of dirt.
How to Create and Follow a Preventive Maintenance Check Schedule
When you make an air compressor preventive maintenance checklist, you need to first take into account the type of compressor in question. Most compressors need preventive maintenance on various system parts at intervals that range from daily to annually.
1. Air-Cooled Reciprocating Compressor
Daily: Perform the following steps every day, or after every eight hours of use.
- Check the lubricant level to verify it never drops below the mid-range of the bayonet gauge. If the lubricant becomes discolored, empty and refill it.
- Empty water out of the receiver tank.
- Visually inspect the compressor and verify the safeguards are in place.
- Check for leaks and vibrations.
Weekly: Perform the following steps every week, or after every 40 hours of use.
- Check the pressure relief valves.
- Clean the surfaces of the compressor and intercooler.
- Inspect the compressor and hoses for air leaks.
- Clean out the air intake filter.
When the weather is humid or the environment is dusty, perform the preceding steps twice weekly, or every 20 hours.
Monthly: Every month, or after every 160 hours of use, inspect the belt tension inside the air compressor.
Quarterly: Every three months, or after every 500 hours of use, perform the following steps.
- Change out the lubricant.
- Inspect the lubricant filter, and change the oil filter if applicable.
- Inspect the torque on the pulley nuts and screws.
Biannually: Every six months, or after every 1,000 hours of use, perform the following steps:
- Change out lubricant — this step also applies if the lubricant is synthetic, which lasts twice as long as regular.
- Check valves for signs of leaks or carbon prints.
- Clean the crankcase.
- Clean the strainer screen of the crankcase.
- Examine the motor-area contact points and pressure switch diaphragm.
2. Lubricant-Injected Rotary Compressor
Daily: Each day, or after every eight hours of use, do the following tasks.
- Monitor all gauges and indicators for normal operation.
- Check fluid level.
- Observe for fluid leaks.
- Observe for unusual noise or vibration.
- Drain water from air/fluid reservoir.
Monthly: Every four weeks, perform the following.
- Service air filter as needed. This should be a daily or weekly task if extremely dirty conditions exist.
- Clean aftercooler and fluid cooler fins, for air-cooled units only.
- Wipe entire unit down to maintain appearance.
Biannually: Every six months, or after every 1,000 hours of use, perform these tasks.
- Take fluid sample.
- Change fluid filter.
- Check pressure relief valve.
Periodically/Yearly: Complete these tasks each year.
- Go over unit and check all bolts for tightness.
- Change air/fluid separator.
- Change air filter.
- Lubricate motors.
- Test pressure relief valve for proper operation.
- Check safety (HAT) shutdown system.
3. Lubricant-Free Rotary Screw Compressor
Daily: Each day, or after every eight hours of use, do the following tasks.
- Check readings on display.
- Check if condensate is discharged during operation.
- Drain condensate manually (when applicable).
- On compressors with integrated dryer, check the dew point
Every Three Months: Every three months, or after 500 hours of running use, do the following.
- Check the pressure drop over the (optional) filters.
- Inspect the air inlet filters: check for cleanness and damage. Replace a dirty or damaged filter with a new one.
- Check the coolers. Clean by air jet if necessary.
Biannually: Every six months, or after every 1,000 hours of use, perform these tasks.
- Operate the safety valve.
- Clean the compressor.
- On compressors with an integrated dryer, brush or blow of the finned surface of the condenser. Inspect and clean the electronic drain.
Periodically/Yearly: Perform these tasks every year.
- Replace the air inlet filters.
- Test the safety valves.
- Have temperature protection and motor overload tested.
- Check tension and condition of the V-belts.
Every Two Years: Every two years, complete the following tasks:
- Replace V-belt(s).
- Replace the check valves.
Which Maintenance Checks Should a Technician Perform?
Company staff at a given facility or plant can generally perform air compressor preventive maintenance in-house. However, it’s better to let professional compressor service people perform some maintenance tasks — even more so if the unit is large or complicated. Unless your company is staffed with highly skilled personnel to handle maintenance tasks with air compressors, it is best to contact a professional for the following:
- System safety-shutdown inspections
- Motor replacement
- Relocation of large, heavy air compressors
- When you don’t have qualified staff to work on your compressed air systems.
- When mechanical breakdowns occur.
When you hire a professional for these and other time-consuming and possibly dangerous tasks, it can help you save time and money and also ensure that the job is done properly. Moreover, professional maintenance ensures utmost safety for the more difficult aspects of the job.
Make a Compressor Preventive Maintenance Plan
To ensure maximum efficiency and an absolute minimum of downtime and repair costs with your air compressor, complete preventive maintenance checklist tasks according to a set schedule. Depending on the needs of a given component, perform maintenance daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.
When you perform preventive maintenance according to a checklist, your air compressor and its attachments will last longer and perform with greater efficiency. Preventive maintenance makes it possible to detect problems at an early stage before they do serious system damage and lead to costly repairs and downtime. You can invest the money you save with preventive maintenance back into your company’s infrastructure and staff.
For nearly a century, Quincy Compressor has been America’s leading supplier of air compressors and pneumatic tools. Since the 1920s, we have been at the forefront of innovation in air compressor technology. Today, our machines are in office buildings, repair shops, assembly plants and factories throughout the U.S. and abroad.
At Quincy, we sell air compressors in a range of sizes to suit a vast variety of industrial applications. Find a nearby Quincy Sales and Service representative for more information or assistance with preventive maintenance.