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Air Compressor Troubleshooting, Solutions, Common Problems & Causes

Published Categorized as Air Compressor Troubleshooting 169 Comments on Air Compressor Troubleshooting, Solutions, Common Problems & Causes

Is your air compressor not working? Whether the problem is electrical, the motor, the regulators, or the valves, determine why your air compressor is not working with this simple air compressor troubleshooting chart.

Table of Contents

Air Compressor Troubleshooting Guide – How to Fix an Air Compressor

It’s actually not difficult to repair air compressors. They have few moving parts and are very reliable. Parts are readily available for most compressors, and with some basic air compressor motor troubleshooting, you should be able to nail down what’s wrong on your own.

Is your air compressor not functioning as expected? Don’t worry, here are the air compressor problems and solutions to get it back up and running in no time.

From air compressor troubleshooting, and finding spare parts to testing a compressor – we’ve got you covered!

Troubleshooting Your Compressor – Air Compressor Troubleshooting Chart

Air Compressor Problems and Solutions

Compressor Won’t Start Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Compressor won’t startBasic starting troubleshooting—start hereCompressor will not start
Cold weatherCompressor will not start cold
Compressor won't restart after filling the tankCompressor will not re-start
If there is air in the tank, the unloader valve may be badCompressor struggling to restart
Compressor won’t start with air in tank
Problem with the capacitorCompressor cuts off on refill
Compressor will not start unless tank empty
Centrifugal starter failingCompressor with HP motor will not start
Bad CompressorBrand new compressor won’t run

Compressor Running Issues Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Compressor running issuesBasic bogging down troubleshooting guide —start hereAir compressor bogs down
Compressor starts then stopsCompressor starts and stops
Thermal cutoff/rest button trippingCompressor reset keeps tripping
Compressor shuts down before reaching pressure
Compressor blows motor breaker
Motor failingMotor turns slow and trips the breaker
Wrong sized motorBogs down while running
Compressor hums but does not build up pressureCompressor hums and stops
Blows breaker after a few revolutions
Faulty reset buttonCompressor runs only when reset button is held
Compressor runs but never reaches stopping pressure

Compressor Won’t Stop Running

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Compressor won’t stop runningStopping issues overview — start hereCompressor slows and stops
Compressor will not cut off
Air leaks or bad sealsCompressor will not shut off
Bad Pressure Relief Valve (PRV)Compressor won’t shut off like it should
Converting motor from 220V to 120VChange compressor wall plug from 220 V

Electrical Issues Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Electrical issuesElectrical wiring troubleshooting — start hereElectric troubleshooting air compressors
Converting motor from 220V to 120VChange compressor wall plug from 220 V

Fuse or Breakers Popping Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Fuses or breakers poppingHome circuit breaker trippingCommon fix for tripping breaker
Compressor blows breaker or fuse
Air compressor blowing circuit
Compressor blows breaker or fuse while running
Motor overheating—thermal resetCompressor motor keeps popping the reset
Compressor blows motor breaker
Motor failingMotor turns slow and trips the breaker
Breaker pops when motor restartsCompressor runs five seconds then trips breaker
Bad wiringHeard a spark and compressor won’t start
ProblemCausePossible Solution
Low air flow and related issuesIncorrect compressor for tools selectedUnderstanding CFM Measurements
Increase air output by using two compressors togetherCombining two air compressors together
Insufficient air pressureWays to increase SCFM of a compressor
No air coming out at all? Start with this troubleshooting guideNo air out of hose
Air lines freezing in cold weatherCompressor air lines freeze up
Pressure dropping in tool supply linePressure drop in air lines
Average air tool SCFM

Capacitor Issues Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Capacitor issuesPossible bad capacitor, test with multimeterTesting compressor capacitors
Poor electrical connections or excessive vibrationCapacitor keeps blowing
Mechanical wear or failure of compressorPiston head heats up and capacitor blows
Incorrect wiringStart capacitor keeps blowing
Incorrect capacitor on motorWhat Capacitor Does My Compressor Need

Liquid Fuel Air Compressors Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Liquid fueled air compressors (Gas – Diesel-Propane)Engine stallsEngine shuts down when tank full instead of idling
Carburetor ProblemsEngine dies when throttling back up

Lubricators Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
LubricatorsAdjusting drips per minute on an air line lubricatorDrips per minute for an air line lubricator
Installing an air line lubricatorSetting up and operating an air line lubricator

Air Compressor Motor Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Air compressor motor troubleshootingMotor overviewCompressor motor problems
Motor makes a humming noiseHumming air compressor
Motor hums and compressor won’t start
Calculating correct capacitor sizeWhat capacitor does my compressor motor need
Motor surgesCompressor motor surging
Motor sparks and smokesCompressor motor sparking and smoking
Reset button Trips ContinuouslyCompressor runs only when reset button is held
Bad Thermal ResetHow to buy a replacement thermal cut out
Incorrect motor voltageChanging compressor motor voltages
ProblemCausePossible Solution
Oil related issuesOil issue troubleshooting — start hereOil related issues
Compressor has an oil issue
Changing the compressor oilHow to change the compressor oil
Air in oil or too much oilAir comes out of the oil fill cap
Why does oil come out of the oil fill tube
Too much oil damaged my air compressor
Burnt oil smell coming from compressor
ProblemCausePossible Solution
Parts related issuesReed ValvesMake your own compressor reed valves
Reed valve material
ManifoldMake your own compressor manifold
GasketsMake your own compressor gaskets
How to Test CapacitorsTesting capacitors
Cooling FansBroken compressor cooling fan
GaugesAbout air gauges

Pressure-Related Compressor Issues Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Pressure related compressor issuesNo pressure build upCompressor will not build pressure
Compressor — why  not build pressure
Regulator leaks airWhy a compressor regulator leaks
Air comes out of intakeAir comes out of the compressor intake filter or port
Reed valve failureReed valve failure
Pressure switch problemsRuns and pumps but builds little or no pressure
Compressor pressure problem
Compressor won't hold pressureCompressor loses pressure quickly
My compressor will not build pressure
Can’t get compressor to fill over 47 PSI
How long should a compressor hold air
Compressor won’t pump at 80-90 PSI

Pressure Switch-Related Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Pressure switch relatedReplacing your pressure switchHow to buy a new compressor pressure switch
Buying a compressor pressure switch
Has pressure switch issues
Broken compressor pressure switch
Find pressure switch E247030 
Repairing a pressure switchPut my pressure switch back together
Putting a pressure switch back together
Fenwai pressure switch rebuild
Replace spring in pressure switch
Pressure switch air leakAir leaking at the unloader valve on the pressure switch
Condor pressure switch leaking
Condor pressure switch manual
Lefoo LF10-4H pressure switch unloader
Pressure switch disconnect problemsLine comes off the pressure switch
Pressure switch contacts keep burning out
Compressor cut off not working
Broken compressor switch manifold
Plastic hose blows out of pressure switch

PRV (pressure relief valves) Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
PRV (pressure relief valves)All about pressure relief valves — start hereAbout the PRV
When PRV valve opens
PRV repairFix a PRV
PRV keeps cracking open

Unloader Valve Issues Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Unloader valve issuesUnloader valve issues
Air compressor not unloading
Air leaking at the unloader valve on the pressure switch
Adjusting the compressor unloader valve
Do I need an unloader valve on my switch
Unloader not functioning or not present

Pumps Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
PumpsAll about pumps — start hereAir compressor pumps page
Repair proceduresB5900 pump repair steps
Should intake valve be blowing air out
Pump pulley rotationPump pulley rotation – is it important

Regulators Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
RegulatorsAll about regulators — start hereAbout regulators
Fixing an air regulator
Regulator questions
Regulator hissing or leaking airRegulator hissing – leaking air
Regulator knob replacement on Sanborn

Tank Issues Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Tank issuesHow to drain a compressor tankHow to drain the compressor tank
Calculating tank sizeGallons to cubic feet (air tank size)
Cleaning tankCleaning inside of a compressor tank
How to add an air tankAdd an air tank
Can I put two tanks on one compressor
Add an additional air tank to the system
Tank recycling
Use propane tank for air compressor
Water in the compressor tankCompressor water in the tank
Condensate is a problem
Increasing tank pressure
Tank pressure margins
Tank check valve issuesTank check valve
How to buy a replacement compressor tank check valve
Compressor tank exploded

Air Tool Issues Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Air tool issuesAir flow issues with toolsAverage air tool SCFM
Compressor can’t keep up with air tool
Compressor won’t run air tool
How long will this air tool run
Nail gunsWon’t shoot nails
When using my nail gun the compressor won’t shut off
Compressor to run 4 roofing nail guns
Air supply for flooring nail gun
Blow gunsBlow gun not working
Spray gunsSpray gun and compressor size
Pressure drop in HVLP paint sprayer
Can this compressor run my HVLP spry gun
Die grindersIs a higher CFM die grinder better than a low CFM one
Pressure required for die grinder
Air sandersWhat air sanders can I use
Impact wrenchesImpact wrench air consumption
Need impact wrench for lug nuts
Impact wrench has loss of pressure during use

Miscellaneous Compressor Troubleshooting

ProblemCausePossible Solution
Miscellaneous compressor troubleshootingCFM calculationsCFM – cubic feet per minute
CFM-SCFM issuesCFM – SCFM compressor flow issues
Compressor maintenanceBasic compressor maintenance guide
Flywheel direction of rotationDirection of compressor flywheel
Hot compressor linesWhy does my compressor line get hot
Basic Troubleshooting Guide 2Troubleshooting compressors three (smoking, too hot)
Laying compressor flatLay a vertical 5.5 HP compressor flat
Oil out of breather holePump blowing oil out the breather hole
Water in the linesDewpoint and water in the lines
Dealing with compressor generated water
Compressor air lines freeze up
Basic Troubleshooting Guide 1Troubleshooting compressors one
Underground pipe problemsUnderground air line
Repair issues to watch out forSome compressor repair issues
Spark then starting problemHeard a spark and now compressor won’t start
Setting up dual compressorsDual air compressor set up
PVC pipe problemsPVC pipe swelling and bursting

How to Fix an Air Compressor – Any Brand, Any Problem!

Do you have a specific air compressor problem?

Before you post a question here, visit this page with a list of all the top air compressor brands. If the page doesn’t have an answer for you, use the form on that brand page to ask a question about it. That makes it easier for folks with the same one to solve problems for their compressors. And you might find the answer to your question has already been asked and answered!

If your air compressor brand is not listed, please use the search box top left to find an answer to your specific air compressor troubleshooting question on this site.

If you still can’t find any information on your problem, please post your question at the end of this page. We, that’s me, and the many visitors to about-air-compressors.com will try to help you out with your air compressor problem.

If you can help another compressor user by commenting on their compressor problem, that would surely help all of us, and we all thank you for that.

Please leave your comments below, and let’s try to get your air compressor problem solved.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What are the 3 common issues and problems with a pneumatic air compressor?

Some of the most common issues with an air compressor are air leaks, insufficient lubrication, and the compressor overheating causing the circuit breaker to trip and halt operations.

What is the most common cause of air compressor failure?

No doubt the biggest cause of air compressor failure is overheating, which leads to the compressor burning out and failing. If air compressors are overworked, by exceeding their duty cycle it is very likely that excessive strain will be thrown onto the compressor, causing premature wear and tear.

What causes a compressor not to build up pressure?

A defective reed valve is a common reason why your compressor may not be able to build pressure. A defective reed valve will allow air to exhaust out from the air inlet. It could also be a leak somewhere else in the system blocking the compressor from getting past a certain point.

What to do if air compressor is not working?

If you air compressor is not working, you should first aim to diagnose what the issue is. Is there a problem with the power supply? Do you have blown circuit breakers? Do you have insufficient oil? Visit our air compressor troubleshooting guide for further checks.

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 air compressor troubleshooting, please leave a comment below, with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!

By Aidan Weeks

A passionate Mechanical Engineer with endless enthusiasm for fluid power - building off the back of over 18 years of high quality contribution and discussion stimulated by Bill Wade here at About Air Compressors. With both practical and theoretical experience in pneumatics and hydraulics, I'm putting my knowledge to work - and working my grey-matter through my research, assistance and publishing work here at About Air Compressors. Feel free to reach out any time! P.S. A HUGE shout out to Doug who really offers such great value to all visitors to About Air Compressors - once again, feeling like I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS by getting to work alongside such a great community

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