How to Troubleshoot a Portable Air Compressor

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Things You'll Need

  • Portable air compressor

  • Notebook

  • Pen or pencil

  • Owner's manual

Portable air compressors can be used for a variety of home maintenance procedures.

Air compressors spend electrical energy to move a piston inside the compressor; the pressurized air that it creates is then used as kinetic energy to power a variety of tools and appliances, from tire inflators to staple guns. Portable air compressors are convenient both for large workshops and for onsite carpentry work. Air compressors need to operate at full capacity in order to provide the thrust necessary to drive nails through wood or increase tire pressure. If your portable air compressor seems to be malfunctioning, you need to properly identify the problem.


Step 1

Take note of any unusual malfunctioning symptoms coming from your portable air compressor. Some indicators include strange smells, unusual sounds or the appearance of smoke. If the air compressor was being supervised by another person, make sure to ask him for a description of the problem. Log any unusual observations in a notebook. This will make sure you don't miss any symptoms during troubleshooting procedures.

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Step 2

Reference the owner's manual for your specific model of portable air compressor. The basic technology that defines an air compressor can be found in a variety of shop or industrial applications. The owner's manual should inform you about both common operational problems and proper disassembly techniques. Do not attempt to repair or dismantle your portable air compressor without first reading the corresponding sections of your owner's manual.


Step 3

Turn on the power to your portable air compressor. Although it should not be left running for a long period while malfunctioning, a few startup observations can help you pinpoint the problem. First, check the engine's oil pressure gauge. If the oil pressure is rising more slowly than normal, the power source is the most likely problem. If the oil pressure is correct, but the air pressure doesn't rise quickly upon startup, the issue is most likely a stuck air intake valve. If the portable air compressor won't start, let it sit for an hour, as overheated oil may be keeping the engine from starting. If your owner's manual outlines the proper procedure for fixing your operational issue, prepare the portable air compressor and your tools accordingly. If the problem isn't found in the owner's manual, take the portable air compressor to a local mechanics shop for inspection.


You can purchase a portable air compressor tester to provide on-site diagnostic information pertaining to air pressure, air output and other important information.


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