How to Find a Leak in Your Industrial Air Compressor & What to Do About It

At factories, industrial air compressor issues are among the costliest problems that can affect a given production. Trouble is, an industrial air compressor leak can be difficult to pinpoint unless you know which parts to inspect on the unit and peripheral devices. In order to run a profitable facility, you must be able to identify and rectify problems like air leaks when they emerge within your compressed air system.

If you are wondering why your air compressor is leaking air, read on to learn the reasons why this happens and the steps you can take to rectify the problem.

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How to Know If Your Air Compressor Has a Leak

Air leaks are a major cause of energy waste and lost pressure in compressed air systems. Leaks can occur in many different areas, making it difficult to pinpoint and diagnose such a problem. The keys are identifying the signs of an air compressor leak and knowing how to rectify the issue. If you know where to look, you could learn how to fix an air leak in an industrial air compressor.

What Types of Leaks Can Happen With Industrial Air Compressors?

Air leaks occur in the parts of a compressed air system where pressurized air or fluids are contained or transferred from one compartment to another. The two basic leaks can be generalized as follows:

  • Air leaks: These can occur along the hoses and pipes or at one of the connecting points between the compressor and one of the pneumatic tools.
  • Oil leaks: These occur within the air compressor in or around the compartments where oil is stored and distributed.

Both types of leaks can rapidly cause an air compressor to lose efficiency and power.

What Causes Air Compressor Leaking?

The various parts of a compressor are all susceptible to wear and tear, meaning that your leaking air compressor may be suffering from a variety of different issues. If your compressor is leaking air or oil, it could be due to problems with the tank itself or with faulty or leaky components.

Worn Tank

Holes from heavy-duty use or old age can lead to a leaking air compressor. Air leaks can also result from corrosion and rust. When compressed air sits in the tank, water will accumulate. Moisture not properly drained will slowly wear away at the tank, forming pinholes that allow air and water to escape.

Badly rusted or damaged air compressor tanks need to be replaced, as any patching or welding will increase the risk of explosion. Small pinholes can sometimes be repaired, but you must do so quickly — delaying repair will only let them get bigger and prevent your tank from holding air.

Broken Pressure Switch

The pressure switch measures the pressure inside your tank so it can turn off the compressor once the tank reaches capacity. Over time, the diaphragm inside the pressure switch will crack and form holes, letting air leak out of the tank.

If you notice leaks coming from odd places like mounting elements, you will want to check the pressure switch. Air leaks around an exterior unloader valve may also signal a pressure switch issue.

Loose Unloader Valve

If your pressure switch is fine, the air leak may be caused by the unloader valve itself. The unloader valve is attached to the pressure switch and serves to close the valve and seal the air in once the pressure reaches its required setting. The rings on this valve can loosen over time, letting air leak out.

You can tell if air is leaking from the unloader valve if you can feel a steady stream of air at the bottom. You may also hear a hissing noise that lasts for more than a few seconds after you turn off your air compressor.

Leaking Tubes or Hoses

Tubes and hoses are among an air compressor’s more delicate components, so they are prone to wear and tear. If you notice an air leak while your air compressor is running, it may be due to a crack or hole in one of your lines. You can often identify problem areas by feeling the tubes for leaks.

Damaged Piston Chambers

If you have an air compressor oil leak, it might be due to holes within the piston chamber. Oil leaks may also be due to excessive oil in the compressor chamber or the oil filter leaking through the head or the air filter.

What Are the Signs of an Air Compressor Leak?

When compressor leaks occur, the consequences could either be immediate and obvious or slow and subtle, depending on the source of the problem and the extent of its development. The two most obvious signs of air leaks and oil leaks are, respectively, as follows:

  • Reduced Air Pressure: If your compressor has an air leak, you will gradually lose air pressure at your end-point applications. If your compressor has gradually become less efficient, the problem could easily be down to a leak in one of the hoses or connecting points.
  • Lost Compressor Power: If the compressor seems to burn oil more rapidly, yet the usage cycles have not changed, chances are good the unit is no longer holding oil properly. If you recently gave the machine an oil refill and already the compressor is showing symptoms of insufficient oil supply, you probably have an oil leak in the unit.

Once you identify a problem, you can then decide whether to fix the leak or contact a service professional.

How to Find an Air Compressor Leak

Learning how to know if an air compressor is leaking is one of the most important aspects of operating an industrial facility. The easiest way to determine the presence of an air leak is to shut off the unit with the compressor on full charge. If this causes the gauge to plummet, that would indicate an air leak. If the compressor self-reactivates as a counter-mechanism, that too would indicate an air leak in the system.

The challenge at that point is to find the source of the leak, which could lie in one of the following areas:

How to Find an Air Compressor Leak

  • Air hoses: Some of the easiest spots for air leaks to develop are along the hoses that connect an air compressor to various pneumatic tools. One way to search for leaks is to power-off the compressor and unplug its cables, then lather the hoses with hand soap and reactivate the machine. If bubbles form at any spot along one of the hoses, you have found your air leak.
  • Tubes: Air leaks can also develop along the metal tubes that serve as connecting links in certain compressed air systems. Leaks can form on tubes if the connections are loose on either end, or if rust develops and dulls or cracks the metal. Inspect your air tubes for any such weaknesses.
  • Connectors: The connecting parts along a compressed air system should always be inspected whenever you suspect an air leak. If one of the connectors is loose, ajar or not properly fitted to a corresponding part, faint drafts could form and hamper the pressurization and air power. Loose connectors often make wheezing noises as air passes through.
  • O-rings: The rubber ring that serves as a buffer and barrier along the internal circumference of a connecting tool could be the source of an air leak. The problem could be located at either end and possibly in several places if your compressor attaches to multiple tools.
  • Condensate traps: In an air compressor, loose components adjacent to the pressurization chamber could all be sources of air leaks. The parts where moisture is trapped and separated could easily be sources of leaks, especially if the parts are poorly maintained and failing within the system.
  • Shut-off valves: The first places to check on an air compressor are the valves, which could easily leak air if they are not fastened tightly with seals and connectors in all the necessary places.
  • Drains: Any parts from which water is drained should be inspected on a periodic basis. If gunk or corrosion forms around these areas, this would indicate that the health of your compressor is declining, possibly due to poor upkeep.
  • Pneumatic tools: The connecting points on your air tools could easily leak air if they are not fastened properly. Each pneumatic tool should be tightly fitted with snug and secure connectors.

If you have an oil leak, the likeliest sources are the pistons and the oil gasket. Check these parts on a periodic basis, including each time you refill the oil in your air compressor.

How to Fix an Air Compressor Leak

Provided the leak has not extended too far or covered too many points in the system, tightening connections and replacing parts are the most straightforward ways to fix an air compressor leak. Tightening connections and internal fasteners can provide short-term solutions, while replacing and repairing parts can be a wise investment to ensure you benefit from the full service life of your equipment.

The following remedies are among the easier DIY preventative maintenance steps that you can apply, if applicable, to your situation:

  • Replace hoses and tubes: If you isolate a leak along one of your tubes or hoses, remove the affected part and trade it for a newer, stronger, properly fitted replacement. To improve your system’s performance from here, try to shorten the distance between the compressor and any pneumatic tools attached to the unit.
  • Tighten the connectors: All connecting points across your compressed air system should be inspected for leaks on a regular basis and tightened if necessary. If a connection is ill-fitted or improperly fastened, refasten the parts or replace the connectors if needed. If possible, reduce the number of connecting points between the compressor and your end-point tools.
  • Replace the valve seals: Valves are vulnerable spots for air leaks on an air compressor. Inspect the outlet valves on your machine to ensure all outgoing pressurized air is contained along streams that lead to pneumatic tools and machines. Replace any seals that appear worn or defective.
  • Replace the O-rings: The parts that enforce various connecting points along your air system could weaken as time goes on. Rubber O-rings become vulnerable as pressure and temperatures take effect. If the O-rings in your system are old, trade them out for fresh replacements.
  • Replace the condensate drain: In an air compressor, the water tray is there to hold the very thing you do not want passing through the system. However, the draining component can only do its job as long as it remains in good shape, free of mold or wear. Replace this part if it no longer performs as intended.
  • Tighten lose internal fasteners: The parts inside the motor of your air compressor could destabilize your system if the screws become loose and unhinged. Inspect the fasteners inside your air compressor and tighten any parts that appear shaky, loose, unstable or rusted.

If you are dealing with an oil leak, you might need to take one of the following steps to remedy the situation:

  • Replace the piston seals: If you are dealing with an oil leak in the pistons, replace the seals. Oil can get into pistons and rotors and corrupt the quality of incoming air.
  • Replace the oil gasket: If the gasket gets worn or damaged, replace it with a new gasket that matches the measurements required for your air compressor.

The preceding steps should be relatively easy to perform, especially if you have done maintenance on your compressor in the past and know the various internal and external parts. If none of these measures do the trick, it probably means you have a more serious matter on your hands that can only be fixed by a service professional.

Benefits of Preventative Maintenance for Air Compressors

When you reduce air compressor downtime, you gain a whole host of benefits that can extend the service life of your air system and make your factory more profitable on multiple fronts.

Benefits of Preventative Maintenance

The benefits of a leak-free system can be summarized as follows:

  • Reduced downtime: By eliminating air compressor leaks, you could prevent larger problems that could lead to system downtime. This can be a boon for your productivity and profits, as downtime is one of the most time-consuming and costly problems that can occur in a factory. Otherwise, downtime incidents could result in thousands of dollars in losses, even if the problem only lasts for a few hours.
  • Consistent operations: If your air compressor behaves reliably with no air leaks, you can generally count on consistent performance from the machines. In an industrial setup, one of the most important things to have is a system that performs consistently, without fail, on a nonstop basis, allowing you to focus on other facility operations.
  • Maximized efficiency: One you eliminate leaks from your air compressor, your pneumatic applications will benefit from maximized efficiency. Applications that once took minutes could now take seconds, thanks to the improved air pressure and power. You could end up producing more in the span of a day with less consumption of energy.
  • Boosted productivity: Once you have all leaks sealed in your system, you can focus more on other aspects of your factory operations, boost your productivity and profitability, and attract a wider pool of business partners.
  • Predictable processes: A consistent, leak-free air system can help make work processes more predictable, which is an asset if you run a daily operation that relies on continuous quality.
  • Money saved: The boosted productivity and efficiency of a leak-free air system will translate to money savings at your facility. Without leaks, your equipment will be less prone to the kind of problems that could lead to costly repairs. As you produce more products, your factory will make more money. Overall, a leak-free compressor is more profitable on both ends.
  • Energy efficiency: After you eliminate leaks in your air compressor and tools, your factory will need less energy to operate because your air system will not strain itself while performing basic functions. As such, your factory could save significant sums of money on electricity costs.
  • Improved reputation: With boosted efficiency and lowered energy consumption, your factory will reduce its carbon footprint. This could help improve your factory’s image in the minds of partnered entities and the general public, since consumers prefer to support companies that engage in eco-friendly practices.

If none of these steps solve the problem, it’s time to get professional help from a name you can trust.

Air Compressors and Repair Services From Fluid Aire Dynamics

In order to run a productive and profitable industrial facility, you must keep your air compressors working efficiently at all times. To that end, any air leaks that occur must be identified and fixed before such problems spiral out of hand. In certain cases, a leak can be patched with some DIY work. In other cases, you must get professional help to save your equipment from developing even costlier issues down the line.

At Fluid Aire Dynamics, our team specializes in air compressor repairs for industrial companies. Contact us today to learn more about our air compressors or to request information about our air compressor repair services.

Air Compressors and Repair Services From Fluid Aire Dynamics