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Rotary vane air compressors are efficient, durable, and cost-effective machines, but like any machine, they can undergo wear and tear or failure to parts leading to the need for troubleshooting.

This article will provide you with all the most common operational issues with rotary vane air compressors and how to troubleshoot them.

Table of Contents

Troubleshooting Common Rotary Vane Air Compressor Problems

Here are some of the most common problems related to rotary vane air compressors:

  • Compressor Won’t Start
  • Compressor Keeps Shutting Down
  • Compressor Produces Loud Noises
  • Compressor Has Oil in Air
  • Compressor Overheating
  • Compressor Has Water in System
  • Compressor Has Pressure Drop

Rotary Vane Air Compressor Won’t Start

If your rotary vane air compressor won’t start then the first thing you should check is the power supply to be sure it is on and, then the rotary vane compressor display to see if there is an error code. You should also make sure the emergency stop function is not activated.

Next, check to see if the system pressure is above the cut-in point on the pressure switch and ensure that both oil volume and temperature are at appropriate levels by checking safety switches and oil levels. If you have an industrial rotary vane air compressor, you should check your thermal overload relay device.

Furthermore, if your rotary vane compressor won’t start, but seems as if it’s trying to do so, inspect your compressor unloader valve to ensure that it is operating accordingly.

Rotary Vane Air Compressor Keeps Shutting Down

More often than not, any unexpected shutdowns on rotary vane air compressors are due to overheating. You should first assess your temperature sensors, as the levels may be above normal.

Temperature sensors otherwise referred to as temperature switches, monitor coolants, air, and oil inlet heat, as well as discharge air temperature levels. They do this so that they can affect a number of heat-related problems. You should then check your thermostatic valve for any potential issues and evaluate your compressor cooler device to ensure it is functioning properly and doesn’t have any excess dust and dirt.

Another potential cause of this problem could be related to the oil being used. Check to affirm that you are using the right type of oil, that the oil levels are sufficiently high, and that your oil lines are not impeded by dirt or other contaminant blockages.

Rotary Vane Air Compressor Produces Large Noises

Look out for loose bolts, belts, pulleys, or damaged flexible coupling elements. If the sound is emanating from the machine itself, assess the oil level and the condition of the oil, and if the sound is changed in response to changing oil levels, check and confirm that the inlet and outlet valves are working as they should.

Rotary Vane Air Compressor Has Oil in Air

There are several causes for oil remaining in your airstream and reaching your final product, even with proper filtration systems in place. First, check to ensure that the oil return/scavenger lines on the rotary vane compressor are functioning properly. The most probable cause is undoubtedly oil-related, so be sure to always monitor the compressor’s oil levels.

If your oil level is too high in the compressor, it’s very likely that residual particles will remain in the air stream. It could even be that you’re using the wrong type of oil or oil with a viscosity that is too low. If your oil is of relatively low viscosity, high heat levels can lead to the problem being exacerbated.

Rotary Vane Air Compressor Overheating

Usually, the overheating of a rotary vane air compressor is a result of low oil levels, so begin by checking the oil level and refilling with the correct oil. If this does not solve the issue, check the system’s air, and water flow for any potential restrictions or blockages.

If the machine is air-cooled check that the ambient temperature is within the recommended range and that there is effective ventilation if the machine is in an equipment room. If the overheating of the rotary compressor is not sorted, you’ll likely cause the machine to start shutting down, as previously described.

Rotary Vane Air Compressor Has Water in System

Evaluate your all drain trap mechanisms for any potential blockages. Then, drain your air receiver by hand. If draining the air receiver tank does not fix the problem, have your air dryer professionally serviced, or replaced if it is necessary.

In addition to this, you can install a moisture separator in your airline to help to reduce potential water issues moving forward. Finally, it is worth considering installing automatic tank drains if you’re using manual ones at the moment, these can aid in fighting water drainage.

Rotary Vane Air Compressor Has Pressure Drop

Pressure fluctuations can be the result of several issues on a rotary vane compressor. I will first recommend checking all filter elements for signs of damage or clogging. Next, examine the piping, valves, and system lines for potential leaks.

Finally, you must ensure the diameters of your hose and the quick-disconnect bore are suitable for your airflow requirements, as either has the potential to cause pressure issues if they are undersized.

The most prudent measure you can take to guarantee that your compressor remains low-maintenance and reliable for the long term is to invest in an industry-leading rotary vane compressor. They are designed with high-performance output and durability at the forefront, allowing you to spend less time troubleshooting and more time achieving your goals and optimizing productivity.

For detailed information on maintenance and preventative maintenance tips, visit our Rotary Vane Air Compressor Maintenance Guide here!

Rotary Vane Air Compressor Troubleshooting Tips

The key tip to troubleshooting is knowing your normal operating parameters. Deviations from normal pressures and temperatures are a sign of process or machinery change. More specifically, these temperature or pressure deviations from normal are one of the first signs of malfunctioning machinery.

The exact locations of these deviations can also help to pinpoint the location of the problem arising. Normal operating temperatures are a function of the conditions of the application. To evaluate the normal operation and establish a baseline, it’s necessary to record:

  • Atmospheric pressure.
  • Gas composition entering the compressor inlet flange.
  • Gas flow rate entering the compressor inlet flange.
  • Gas pressure and temperature at the inlet flange of the compressor.
  • Gas pressure and temperature at the discharge flange of the compressor.
  • Cooling fluid inlet and discharge temperatures.

When measuring temperature and pressure, it’s important to gather the information as close to the rotary vane compressor flanges (inlet and outlet) as possible.

The actual inlet pressure and temperature are often affected by clogged filters/mist pads or potentially faulty process controls. Similarly, actual discharge pressure and temperature can be affected by clogged discharge check valves, aftercoolers, or separator vessels.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What are difficulties associated with rotary vane pump?

Some of the difficulties that are associated with rotary vane pumps are coupling failure, belt slipping, wrong connection with motor, motor damage, and power outages. These are all but a few difficulties that you may need to overcome.

How does a rotary vane compressor work?

Rotary vane compressors have multiple radial slots with spring-loaded vanes fitted in them, and the rotor is placed eccentrically in a way that the drum is closest to the housing at the outlet port and farthest from it at the inlet. Every two adjacent vanes form an enclosed space with the corresponding sections of the drum and housing so that the air trapped in this space from the inlet port undergoes compression due to the shrinking space (spring-loaded vanes compressing into the drum) as the rotor moves around its axis until it reaches the outlet port. Visit our Rotary Vane Compressors Explained for more detailed information!

Can rotary compressor be repaired?

Yes, depending on the extent of the damage, most rotary compressor problems can be fixed with the correct troubleshooting procedures.

Additional Troubleshooting Pages

Air Compressor Types Troubleshooting

Air Compressor Part Specific Troubleshooting


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