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Air compressor troubleshooting

In a compressed air system, as in any plant system, problems occur during routine operation. Most of these problems are minor and can be corrected by simple adjustments, cleaning or replacing a part, or eliminating an adverse condition. Any major problem that may develop is generally related to improper cooling or lubrication, poor maintenance and operating practices, or misapplying the system.

The troubleshooting table below is not comprehensive, but indicates some common problems that can develop in a compressed air system using positive displacement compressors.

Troubleshooting compressed air systems
Problem Probable cause Remedial action
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 f 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 setting air pressure switch
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 systems, consider sequencing controls to minimize compressor idle time; adjust idle time according to manufacturer's recommendation
Improper pressure switch setting Readjust according to manufacturer's recommendation
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 temperature Improper ventilation of compressor; check with manufacturer to determine maximum operating temperature