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Filter bowls are essential elements inside air compressor filters as they store the water and debris that has been removed from the air flow, allowing it to be drained out either automatically or manually.

This page will provide you with all the relevant information on the two filter bowl materials, metal and polycarbonate.

Table of Contents

Filter Bowls

Metal filter bowls, or metal shrouded air filter bowls are available – sometimes only as an accessory for their compressed air filters – from a host of compressed air component distributors.

Many manufacturers offer metal clad or metal bowls as options only, with their main filter or lubricator lines having only a poly-carbonate type filter bowl without any metal guarding or over-bowl-shroud.

The poly-carbonate bowl offers an advantage in that you can see through the sides to the inside of the bowl. This is quite important if your filter bowl has a manual drain. Your maintenance operator needs to make sure that the level of contaminant in the bowl, the water and sludge that the filter will remove from the air stream, stays below the bowl separator and in the quiet-zone at the bottom of the bowl. Being able to see the level allows the operator to manually drain the bowl as and when needed.

In the photo, the metal filter bowl has been removed from the filter housing, exposing the polycarbonate filter bowl underneath.

Metal filter bowls for compressed air filter
Metal bowl cover is on the left for this compressed air filter that has a polycarbonate filter bowl

Filter Bowl & Air Pressure

Pressure is a big consideration in filter or lubricator bowl material selection. Most polycarbonate bowls are rated up to 150 PSI, else they would not be released for industrial use.

However, do check the specs on your filter unit. You have to be absolutely sure that the filter is rated for the pressure it will see in your application, particularly if your compressed air discharge pressure is over 100 PSI.

If you are running an air system where the pressure may exceed the level that a polycarbonate bowl is rated for, you will want to select an air filter brand with metal filter bowls, even if it means going to a different manufacturer than the one you presently use.

If the air pressure in your system is close to the upper limit of the polycarbonate filter bowl capacity, or if you just want the security that metal gives you, consider a bowl with a metal shroud.

Often the metal filter bowl cover has slots in it, allowing an operator to see through to the clear bowl beneath, to check the debris level. The metal shroud provides a shield in the event the polycarbonate bowl shatters.

Oil Carryover

You may have read elsewhere on this site that compressor oil carryover into the air lines creates problems for Buna seals in valves and cylinders?

That same oil has a reputation for being detrimental to some polycarbonate filter bowls, hazing the interiors and ultimately degrading them to the point of cracking and creating the potential for a catastrophic bowl failure.

If you have oil carryover into your compressed air, and do not have a coalescent filter to remove the compressor oil, that oil may damage the polycarbonate of the filter bowl. At this point, an all-metal filter bowl would be best.

If it were up to me, and there were no over-riding reasons why I should not, I would always select a metal bowl for my air filters. Unfortunately, some mini-air filters may not be available with a metal bowl option at all.

Advantages vs. Disadvantages of Metal and Polycarbonate Filter Bowls

Below is a comparison table of the advantages and disadvantages of both metal and polycarbonate filter bowls.

MaterialAdvantagesDisadvantages
Metal- Resist the action of most solvents
- Recommended for all applications
- Suitable for high temperatures
- Suitable for use with lubricated compressors
- Not transparent
Polycarbonate- Transparent (allows you to monitor inside)
- Tough
- Ideal for use with filters
- Not suited to direct sunlight, impact blow or high temperatures
- Not suitable for use with lubricated compressors (will crack)

Filter Bowls Available on Amazon

A polycarbonate replacement filter bowl is readily available on amazon and is suited to pressure ranges between 15 and 250 psi.

There is also a metal-air filter bowl replacement which is suited to maximum pressures of 220 psi.


If you have any questions regarding metal or polycarbonate filter bowls, please leave a comment below, with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!