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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.

Table of Contents

Centrifugal Air Compressor Troubleshooting Examples

I have picked out this manual for an Ingersoll Rand centrifugal air compressor which provides tips on how to take action on various troubleshooting issues.

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
  • High vibration
  • Fail to load
  • Low system air
  • Continual surge
  • Excessive power consumption
  • High drive motor amperage

Centrifugal Compressor Fail to Start

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Failure to clear shutdown or interlock devicesCorrect shutdown or interlock condition that is indicated by control panel light.
No primary power to the starterCheck voltage to the starter. Check fuses.
No control panel power to the compressor control panel or starterCheck voltage to panel/starter. Check control transformer.
Loose or corroded connection or defective power cablesCheck connections. Clean, tighten and replace as necessary.
Defective motor starter or starting circuitTroubleshoot starter per manufacturer’s recommendation.
Centrifugal Compressor Fail to Start Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor Ineffective Prelube Pump

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Improper adjustment of pre-lube pump relief valveAdjust relief valve for correct pressure.
Pump not runningTroubleshoot pump starter. Check for proper voltage.
Defective motorRepair or replace the motor.
Defective pumpRepair or replace the pump.
No seal airEstablish seal air.
Centrifugal Compressor Ineffective Prelube Pump Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor High Oil Temperature

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Low or no water flow to oil coolerEstablish correct water flow.
Higher water temperature than realizedTake necessary steps to lower the water supply temperature.
Improper temperature device settingCalibrate instrument.
Dirty or plugged oil cooler on the watersideClean cooler tubes. Provide water strainers as necessary.
Centrifugal Compressor High Oil Temperature Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor Low Oil Pressure

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Improper adjustment of system pressure relief valveAdjust system pressure relief valve for correct oil pressure.
Leaking or pinched oil lineRepair or replace the oil line.
Dirty oil filterReplace with a clean filter.
Defective main oil pumpRepair or replace the main oil pump.
Centrifugal Compressor Low Oil Pressure Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor High Air Temperature

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Low or no water flow to air coolerEstablish correct water flow.
Higher water temperature than realizedTake necessary steps to lower the water supply temperature.
Improper temperature device settingCalibrate device.
Dirty or plugged air cooler on water sideClean water passages in cooler. Provide water strainers as necessary.
Centrifugal Compressor High Air Temperature Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor Low Seal Air Pressure

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Low instrument air pressureSeek low instrument air advice below.
Improper adjustment of seal air pressure regulatorAdjust regulator to obtain correct seal air pressure.
Excessive bleed off valve adjustmentReduce seal air flowing bleed off.
Worn sealsReplace seals.
Centrifugal Compressor Low Seal Air Pressure Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor Low Instrument or Valve Operating Pressure

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
No supply pressure, pinched or leaking air linesEstablish instrument air supply pressure. Repair or replace air lines
Improper adjustment of air regulatorAdjust regulator to obtain correct instrument air pressure
Centrifugal Compressor Low Instrument or Valve Operating Pressure Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor High Vibration

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Low oil temperature Allow warm-up period for oil.
Driver to compressor misalignmentCheck and correct alignment.
Worn coupling or spacerLubricate. Replace coupling and/or spacer.
Rotor assembly unbalance due to foreign matter build upContact manufacturer directly for repair or replacement.
Rotor assembly unbalance due to damaged aero partsContact manufacturer directly for repair or replacement.
Induced vibration from driverBalance motor rotor.
Centrifugal Compressor High Vibration Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor Fail to Load

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Mode selector switch in unload positionTurn selector switch to modulate or auto-dual operating mode.
Low set point on pressure controllerAdjust controller to desired operating pressure.
Bypass valve not closed or inlet valve not openCorrect improper operation of the inlet or bypass valve.
Centrifugal Compressor Fail to Load Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor Low System Air Flow

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Compressor not loadedSeek failed to load advice above
Dirty inlet filterChange filter elements.
Low surgeSeek continual surge advice below.
Greater demand than realizedRepair all air leaks. Turn off unnecessary demands.
Centrifugal Compressor Low System Air Flow Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor Continual Surge

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Discharge air block valve closedOpen block valve.
Improper calibration of surge sensorCalibrate instrument. Insure surge sensor switch is not stuck.
Dirty inlet filterChange filter elements.
Improper adjustment of throttle limitAdjust throttle limit.
High inter stage air temperatureEstablish correct water flow to air coolers.
Higher water temperature than realizedReduce the cooling water temperature.
Worn or fouled aerodynamics partsContact manufacturer directly
Centrifugal Compressor Continual Surge Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor Excessive Power Consumption

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Lower ambient temperature than realizedReduce compressor load.
Low primary voltageConsult power company. Check power source.
Reduction in motor efficiency Consult motor manufacturer
Excessive loadReduce load
Centrifugal Compressor Excessive Power Consumption Possible Causes and Correct Actions Table

Centrifugal Compressor High Drive Motor Amperage

Possible CausesCorrect Actions
Low primary voltageRestore voltage to specification
High loadReduce load
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.

How do you troubleshoot an air compressor?

Troubleshooting an air compressor first of all involves finding the cause to your problem. Once you have pinned the problem down to a specific reason, you will be able to seek a solution. Visit our Air Compressor Troubleshooting, Solutions, Common Problems & Causes guide for more information!

What causes surge in a centrifugal compressor?

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.

Additional Troubleshooting Pages

Air Compressor Types Troubleshooting

Air Compressor Brand Specific Troubleshooting

Air Compressor Brand/Problem Specific Troubleshooting

Air Compressor Part Specific Troubleshooting


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!