How to Maintain Your Air Compressor

Introduction: How to Maintain Your Air Compressor

About: Hi! I'm the Compressor Guy! I love working with power tools and all types of machinery. I specialize in maintaining and repairing these items. Caring for your tools is the best way to get the longest lifespan …

Maintaining your air compressor is an easy and very necessary step to extending the lifespan of your machine. Always perform this routine maintenance at least once a year or per the manufacturer's guidelines.

Step 1: Changing Your Air Compressor Oil

Changing the oil in your air compressor is the most difficult (yet, still remarkably simple) undertaking in maintaining the efficiency of your compressor. Follow these steps for draining and replacing the oil in your machine:

  • Before you begin to drain your compressor, turn it on for a few minutes to warm and thin the viscosity of the oil so that it leaves the system with ease.
  • Also, remove the fill cap to allow air into the system.
  • Remove the drain plug from the compressor and drain the oil into a container.
  • Once all of the old oil has been removed, replace the drain plug using an adjustable wrench.
  • Now, slowly and carefully fill your machine with a high-quality air compressor oil or manufacturer recommended oil. Depending on your system's fill valve, you may need to add some oil, wait for it to level out, and add some more. Take your time and make sure the compressor receives the correct amount of oil. If your system is equipped with a dipstick, be sure to check it for the right level.
  • Finally, replace the fill cap. You have successfully changed you air compressor's oil!

Step 2: Removing and Installing the Air Filter

Changing your air filter is incredibly simple. Some machines have a screw on air filter and some, like the one pictured, simply pull out by hand.

  • Locate your machine's air filter.
  • Remove the air filter either by pinching it out with your fingers or by removing the screw(s) that attach it to your compressor
  • Installing the new filter should be as easy as performing the reverse of the removal process.

Step 3: Replacing a Worn Compressor Belt

Installing a new belt on your air compressor system should be almost as easy as replacing your air filter. Most compressor's nowadays have a plastic cage that surround the machine's pulleys. Older models have the pulleys exposed to changing those belts will be a "walk in the park".

  • First thing you'll do is determine where your belt system in located. In the compressor pictured above, it is behind a plastic cage like I mentioned before.
  • If your air compressor is equipped with a protective cage, find the screws or clips that hold the cover in place and remove them. This will grant you access to the pulleys and belt.
  • Now that you can see the belt, decide whether it needs to be replaced at all. Do this by looking for cracks and other signs of excess wear. If replacement is necessary, move onto the next step. Otherwise, cover it back up and you're done!
  • To remove the worn and damaged belt, grasp it firmly and while pulling it over the largest wheel of the pulley system, rotate the pulleys and the belt should turn right off the track.
  • Now, all you have to do is take your new belt, place it over the smallest pulley and work it onto the biggest wheel by turning it in a forward motion.

Congratulations! Your air compressor maintenance is complete!

Step 4: Ensuring Routine Maintenance

Now that you know how easy it is to maintain your air compressor and its inner workings, make sure you perform these quick and easy steps every year or according to the maintenance schedule provided by your system's manufacturer.

Taking a half hour of your time to perform these simple tasks can extend the lifespan of your tools for years. Don't be foolish or lazy and expect your machinery to run well without regular upkeep.

For more information on compressors and more, check out this other great resource:

Compressor Oil Uses

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    Question 3 years ago on Step 4

    I have an old CAMPBELL HOUSFELD COMPRESSOR VT610201AJ. It has 2 HP motor, 20 galon tank and produces 7.8 CFM @40 PSI or 6.3 CFM @90 PSI. I've bought it about 35 years ago, when it was used for painting for about a year. Since then it was used very rearly and for short periods. Now I am about to retire and decided to use it for driving a nail-sticking tool. It worked fine until I finished the project (building souna in my basement). Now, suddenly it faild. I have found that the unloader quit. The manufacturer does not remember this product and its website has no information on any part, even no user manual. I have found on EBAY one uploader that looks close to the failed one and fixed it in. The compressor works. It cuts off power at about 85 PSI and resumes pumping at 65 PSI. Now I want to do a basic maintenance. Here are my questions:

    1. Do I need to get the air out of tank to reduce the pressure to ambient before openning the water relief valve?

    2. I see how to draint the old oil out but do not know how much of the new compressor oil to put in. There is no window to look at oil level and I do not see any deepstick. What is your best guess for the replacemnt oil amount?

    I appresiate very much your advice.

    Vadim Laser.


    4 years ago

    Excellent topic, Welcome


    4 years ago

    One important step for maintaining your air compressor, that isn't mentioned in this tutorial, is to drain the tank for water. Humid air enters the tank via the intake and condensates on the cold inner wall. Draining the tank takes less than a minute and is the key to avoid (or at least minimize the risk for) corrosion in the tank. Optimally this should be done after each use.


    6 years ago

    How often should you do maintenance on a compressor?