Centrifugal air compressors are powerful machines that involve a lot of individual parts/components that make up their system. Of course, from time to time, something is going to hinder the centrifugal compressor’s performance. Therefore, it is important to understand the troubleshooting steps you can take when you encounter such issues.
This article will provide examples of troubleshooting tips for a centrifugal air compressor from a popular manufacturer’s owner’s manual.
Though these troubleshooting tips are specifically provided by Ingersoll Rand for one of their models of rotary screw compressors, it is likely that you will be able to transfer this information and apply it to your rotary screw air compressor.
I will recommend reviewing your centrifugal air compressor’s owner’s manual to find the troubleshooting guidance provided by your manufacturer. If you do not have the manual, then search for it online or contact the manufacturer directly.
We will take a look at the possible causes, and the correct action to take for the following symptoms:
Fail to start
Ineffective prelube pump
High oil temperature
Low oil pressure
High air temperature
Low seal air pressure
Low instrument or valve operating pressure
Fail to load
Low system air
Excessive power consumption
High drive motor amperage
Centrifugal Compressor Fail to Start
Failure to clear shutdown or interlock devices
Correct shutdown or interlock condition that is indicated by control panel light.
No primary power to the starter
Check voltage to the starter. Check fuses.
No control panel power to the compressor control panel or starter
Check voltage to panel/starter. Check control transformer.
Loose or corroded connection or defective power cables
Check connections. Clean, tighten and replace as necessary.
Defective motor starter or starting circuit
Troubleshoot starter per manufacturer’s recommendation.
Centrifugal Compressor Fail to Start Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table
Centrifugal Compressor Ineffective Prelube Pump
Improper adjustment of pre-lube pump relief valve
Adjust relief valve for correct pressure.
Pump not running
Troubleshoot pump starter. Check for proper voltage.
Repair or replace the motor.
Repair or replace the pump.
No seal air
Establish seal air.
Centrifugal Compressor Ineffective Prelube Pump Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table
Centrifugal Compressor High Oil Temperature
Low or no water flow to oil cooler
Establish correct water flow.
Higher water temperature than realized
Take necessary steps to lower the water supply temperature.
Improper temperature device setting
Dirty or plugged oil cooler on the waterside
Clean cooler tubes. Provide water strainers as necessary.
Centrifugal Compressor High Oil Temperature Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table
Centrifugal Compressor Low Oil Pressure
Improper adjustment of system pressure relief valve
Centrifugal Compressor Excessive Power Consumption Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table
Centrifugal Compressor High Drive Motor Amperage
Low primary voltage
Restore voltage to specification
Centrifugal Compressor High Drive Motor Amperage Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What causes an air compressor to stop working?
An air compressor could stop working for one of many issues, such as an air leak, an oil leak or a worn down part. In some cases, it may be that you have insufficient pressurization or air flow. In other cases, the compressor might fail to start up or stop running as prompted due to issues with the motor or capacitors. A lack of adherence to a well formed maintenance schedule for your air compressor is one of the top causes of air compressor failure. See my centrifugal air compressor maintenance guide for instruction on keeping your air compressor in safe, efficient and effective working order.
A surge is caused to occur in a centrifugal compressor when there is no forward flow of gas through the compressor and a reversal of flow occurs. The gas that is being compressed gets pushed backward through the centrifugal compressor. Controlling surge is a critical component for centrifugal compressors.
If you have any questions regarding centrifugal air compressor troubleshooting, please leave a comment below, with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!
By Aidan Weeks
A passionate Mechanical Engineer with endless enthusiasm for fluid power - building off the back of over 18 years of high quality contribution and discussion stimulated by Bill Wade here at About Air Compressors.
With both practical and theoretical experience in pneumatics and hydraulics, I'm putting my knowledge to work - and working my grey-matter through my research, assistance and publishing work here at About Air Compressors.
Feel free to reach out any time!
P.S. A HUGE shout out to Doug who really offers such great value to all visitors to About Air Compressors - once again, feeling like I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS by getting to work alongside such a great community