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Rotary vane air compressor technology offers high reliability, efficiency, and the quality that compressed air users look for in machinery, but only if they are serviced and maintained suitably. All air compressors need regular maintenance schedules in order to last

If you would like to learn more about rotary vane compressors, visit our Rotary Vane Compressors Explained guide! This article will provide you with a number of useful preventative maintenance tips for rotary vane compressors along with an example of a preventative checklist, to help you keep on top of things!

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Rotary Vane Air Compressor Maintenance Tips

There’s obviously no substitute for a professional service engineer but there are a few steps you can take to help keep your rotary vane compressor running at its optimum. The maintenance requirement for rotary vane air compressors mainly come from cleaning out the oil filters and air filters, replacing the oil, and replacing both filters sometime after continuous use of the rotary vane compressor. Well, none of these components are expensive and are almost always available.

The rotary vane air compressor has a long lifespan if the upkeep schedule is properly observed. The main moving component of this type of compressor is the vanes (part of the cylindrical rotor) so you’d think they’d face the most wear. But this isn’t really the case.

Vane compressors have protective oil films so they don’t come in direct contact with either the inside of the cylindrical rotor inside of the grooves. So really, timely maintenance is all that is needed for this compressor.

Here are some maintenance tips for your rotary vane air compressor that we will discuss:

  • Checking oil
  • Checking filters
  • Checking efficiency
  • Checking blade wear
  • Checking condensate

Checking Oil

If your compressor is lubricated with oil, you want to be sure that the oil level remains consistent to avoid any problems. You should always check the oil level when the machine is cold and before you switch it on.

You must only use suitable oils, that are purposely designed for your compressor. While a non-specified, off-the-shelf engine oil might be cheaper, it’s not suitable for your compressor and may cause damage to the internal mechanisms of the machine. Visit our Air Compressor Oil Capacity Guide – Air Compressor Oil Levels and Air Compressor Oil Types GUIDE – What Oil To Use In Air Compressor for more information!

Checking Filters

Compressors often have to work in dusty environments, and this means that the air they take in needs to be carefully filtered to avoid dirt entering the machine. It’s very important to regularly check the pre-filter element on the air intake and if the filter is starting to deteriorate or clog up, contact your manufacturer and request a replacement.

Some inlet filters may have a blockage indicator that is designed to show/gold the maximum inlet blockage encountered. It is set to show 100% blockage when the inlet depression reaches 50mbar. If the indicator valve has entered the red portion of the scale (when the compressor is operating), the filter must be cleaned or replaced by employing one or both of the following processes:

Remove accumulated filter debris (machine not running)

  1. Pull back the clips retaining the air inlet filter end cap and remove the end cap.
  2. Empty out any dust or dirt and clean out the main filter cavity. Replace the end cap the correct way up and re-clip in position.

Clean the filter element – To clean the filter element (machine not running):

  1. Remove the air filter end cap (as described in the previous section).
  2. Withdraw the filter from the filter body.
  3. Clean the filter by blowing compressed air through the inside of theelement.
  4. Element replacement is a direct reversal of the above.

Filter elements should be replaced every 12 months or sooner if cleaning does not return the blockage indicator to the unblocked condition.

Checking Efficiency

One of the biggest costs of owning a rotary vane compressor is the energy used to power it, so you will want to ensure that your rotary vane pump is running as efficiently as it can. Luckily there are a lot of things you can do to ensure that your compressor is running to its optimum efficiency.

Many rotary vane air compressors will have an automatic stop/start function, if it doesn’t then you should contact your manufacturer. It should also be using a fixed-speed motor which will run at a constant speed regardless of the load on the machine. Contact your manufacturer and request them to help you to set the parameters so that the compressor is running as economically as possible.

Be sure to check your ventilation, the compressor be undoubtedly working hard and so, the surrounding area will get hot as the hot air is exhausted from the compressor is vented into the atmosphere. Try to make sure your compressor is situated in a well-ventilated area to avoid extreme temperatures.

Checking Blade Wear

Under normal working conditions, the rotor blades should last for a reasonably long time

Check the blade wear as follows:

  1. Remove the pipework from the most convenient port (upper is usually the easier option).
  2. Turn the rotor until one of the blade slots lies perpendicularly opposite the port (it will not be central).
  3. Push the blade down to the bottom of the slot and measure thedistance from blade to the top of the slot.
  4. The performance of the machine will begin to deteriorate when this measurement reaches around 16 mm (i.e. blade width is 36mm). Replace the blades before this happens!

Of course, this method will vary depending on the make and model of your rotary van air compressor. Your owner’s manual should provide you with clearer and more precise instructions for checking the blades, and if they don’t, I recommend contacting your manufacturer directly for advice.

Checking Condensate

When air is compressed, an inevitable byproduct is moisture condensate, and this must be removed in a controlled way. This condensate needs to be able to drain away properly to make sure that you are getting the right air quality for the job at hand.

Regularly check that the condensate drain is working properly and that the collection container is not overfilling.

Rotary Vane Air Compressor Maintenance Checklist Example

I have picked out this example of maintenance guidelines, or a checklist, provided by Gardner Denver in their rotary vane air compressor manual!

Scheduled preventative maintenance and inspection are essential for continuous optimum system performance of an air compressor, and a greater life span. The following are a general requirement and schedule checklist for routine maintenance on a rotary vane compressor.

Daily Maintenance

  1. Monitor the inlet filter blockage indicator

Weekly Maintenance

  1. Clean the fans, fan covers and body ribs
  2. Check air filter and pipe work for leaks

Monthly Maintenance

  1. Check function of pressure relief valve and check (non-return) valve. Visually check the pressure relief valve for signs of obvious defects. The check (non-return) valve should be removed and visually checked forsigns of wear. If in any doubt, replace the entire valve.
  2. Check inlet and discharge pipe work for air leaks

3 Monthly Maintenance

  1. Clean filter carcass and element – air filter element and carcass – replace if necessary
  2. Check security of compressor feet fixing bolts to both machine and chassis

6 Monthly Maintenance

  1. Check blade wear

Annually Maintenance

  1. Examine the internals of the check valve
  2. Examine pipes, silencers and pipework fixings for corrosion and replace as required. Silencers (if fitted) and pipework should be inspected for signs of damage or corrosion. When paintwork is damaged, clean off any corrosion and treat with rust inhibitor before repainting. Use paints that can withstandtemperatures of 180°C

If you come across an issue with your rotary vane air compressor too late, visit our Rotary Vane Air Compressor Troubleshooting guide here!

The Importance of Proper Preventative Maintenance Checks

Carrying out regular preventive maintenance can help your rotary vane air compressor and all the inline equipment to run at their optimum performance and efficiency. If you were to let your rotary vane air compressor wear down, and eventually shut down, then so would your projects.

Regular preventative maintenance can also help you to discover any issues before they’re able to propagate into more serious long-term damage. Each compressor manufacturer will provide specific maintenance schedules and maintenance kits that are recommended for your model’s proper service; like in the checklist example provided above.

Following a regular maintenance schedule will not only reduce service calls but will also ensure that you have an efficient rotary vane air compressor performance, along with extending the life of your rotary vane air compressor. Read our article on Air Compressor Maintenance – How to Guide – Preventative & Ongoing here to learn more!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What oil do you use in a hydrovane compressor?

It is generally recommended that hydrovane type air compressors should use compressor oil grade 150 / SAE 40. All grades can be used as hydraulic oil where the application calls for non-zinc type oil where there are pumps with silver-plated surfaces.

What maintenance does an air compressor need?

A compressor needs to regularly have its oil changed, filters cleaned, joints and piping system inspected for leaks, equipment cleaned, moisture drained, amongst many other things. It is generally advised to follow a checklist, and conduct regular maintenance to prevent serious damage from occurring. Some of the most common problems with an air compressor are very easy to solve with the help and guidance of the provided user’s manual.


If you have any questions about rotary vane air compressor maintenance, please leave a comment below, with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!