Your compressor is failing and you don’t even know it

This article will answer the following questions:

  • Why do compressors fail or not work?

  • Is my oil or coolant contaminated with water?

  • Why is my compressor running hot?

  • When should I change my compressor oil?

  • When does my desiccant need changing?

Industrial air compressors are used all over the world for many different uses ranging from filling up tyres and gas cylinders to powering pneumatic tools to large industrial manufacturing processes to delivering air required in manufacturing processes.

Air compressors have one problem in common and that is the air itself. This in turn causes two problems in:

1) compressing gases increases temperature meaning compressors oils have to undergo very high temperatures and many can oxidise and varnish as a result. Oil selection reduces the effects of this and compressor designs by having multiple stages of compression allow for cooling in between compression stages to reduce the effects. Temperature and pressure monitoring is used in many high end industrial compressors meaning the engineers servicing the machine have a good idea if the compressor is getting too hot or not. Oil analysis is still used though as the earliest signs of oxidation can be found through sampling.

2) water vapour in the air collects in the oil as it is concentrated under high pressure and condenses. There are no obvious signs of how much water the compressor is taking oboard and usually the first signs are corrosion and rusting of components and eventual failure.

Lube analysis is the only way to determine if the oil (often referred to as coolant by some compressor manufactures if using a synthetic lubricant) is getting too wet and if the machinery is starting to corrode. Yes you can look for changes in desiccant breathers visually such as condensation or colour changes, but by the time these are visible the damage is often already happened. The lubricant has already taken on significant levels of water and has perhaps been above OEM recommended limits for some time.

Hence if you use or maintain a compressor regularly and don’t know what the water content is currently your compressor may be about to fail and you don’t even know it.

Hopefully you realise oil analysis is not me spouting a load of hot air (pardon the pun) and will want to find out more how you can protect your compressor to gain longer component life and less downtime.

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