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Air Compressor Smells Like It’s Burning? Troubleshooting Compressor Burning Smell Help & Support

Published Categorized as Air Compressor Overheating, Air Compressor Smells 3 Comments on Air Compressor Smells Like It’s Burning? Troubleshooting Compressor Burning Smell Help & Support

This website receives hundreds of questions about troubleshooting air compressors. In an effort to make some sense of the many questions received and answered, I have tried to categorize some of the questions into similar postings on each page.

At the bottom of this page is a form on which you can ask a question of your own about compressor troubleshooting in particular if it applies to air compressors smoking, or getting far too hot.

Question about a compressor burning smell from?

I have a new IR SS-5 compressor with less than 15 hrs on it and I started getting a burning smell, especially in the air. It is in a 26 x 28 residential garage and wide open to the air. I drained the oil and replaced but still the same, I drained the tank, and the first little bit it almost seemed like oil, black milky water, and then came clear approximately about a 1/2 cup in total drained out. I left it open for a day then closed up and filled with air and right away the smell came back, any ideas?


Compressing air generates a lot of heat. Some of that heat comes off the motor as it’s running against load, and more comes off the compressor head and line to the tank since smashing air molecules together generates a lot of friction, and that generates heat. When you say the burning smell is in the air, do you mean around the air compressor, or coming out of the airline?

I suspect your compressor comes equipped with a thermal overload switch, which should shut it off if the motor overheats beyond the norm. I assume it’s under warranty? Though it may just be a new car smell type odor, as the compressor heats up, the paint may be off-gassing. If under warranty, and if the problem persists, get the vendor to diagnose it further.

If it was my compressor, I’d open the tank drain valve partway to let the air bleed, and I’d let it run continuously for a while. If it is not a continuous run mode, shut it off after 15 minutes and let it cool for at least that long. Keep us posted, using the forum linked below, OK?

Additional Troubleshooting Pages

Air Compressor Types Troubleshooting

Air Compressor Part Specific Troubleshooting

Question about air compressors smoking and getting hot?

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By Bill Wade

About Air Compressors has been helping folks with their Air Compressor Problems since 2002 online. We're a community of DIY and Compressed Air professionals who are keen to support everyone across the globe with their air compressor issues and troubleshooting. Whether you're trying to identify an old air compressor, or troubleshoot an error code on a sophisticated new industrial air compressor - the community at About-Air-Compressors.com is here to help you

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