Air compressor is an indispensable tool with a wide variety of applications, be it in home, workshop, or industry. It is a significant part of the daily operations of different levels performed in different sectors. So, it essential to ensure proper maintenance of such useful equipment in your everyday work.

For your air compressor maintenance, you need to perform a set of routine checkups at varying levels depending on the types and models of your compressing device.

air compressor tank

Maintenance of the industrial air compressor/compressors is an essential part of system management at plants and factories. A substantial amount of tools and their functions depend on compressed air. So, it is critical to ensure that every compressor within a workstation and industrial setting is ready to perform as and when required. The failure of an industrial air compressor will damage the workflow and result in substantial additional costs. And, this is the reason why commercial air compressor maintenance has nowadays become an industry of its own.

So, if you are searching for answers to questions like, how do I maintain my air compressor tank? Please read this article, follow the air compressor maintenance checklist and tips to maintain your machine’s optimal efficiency and improve its life expectancy.

Moisture in air compressor

Moisture and rust cause various severe problems like corrosion and flying rust scraps. These are the most obvious reasons for your air compressing machine getting damaged and sabotaging your compressing system.

Air contains water vapor in varying amounts depending on the temperature and pressure. The summer season with high temperatures tends to have a higher level of humidity than winter. Air is able to hold a higher amount of water vapor at a higher temperature. But, more or less, there is water vapor in the air. An air compressor operates by inhaling air from the atmosphere and then compressing it using high pressure. So, moisture is an inevitable byproduct of the air compressing process.

After implementing the pressure (approximately 12 times more than the atmospheric pressure), the air can’t hold the same level of moisture it did before. The excess moisture converts to liquid condensed water and kind of residues in the compressing system.

This condensate from the excess moisture can form in the air tank, also in the pipes and other components, and can even mix with the compressed air flow.

Condensation is an ever-occurring problem for air compressing systems. Hot and humid weather can produce large volumes of accumulated water. On the other hand, cold weather in the winter with low temperatures can result in a low level of evaporation, allowing the accumulation of moisture.

Problems caused by moisture

The presence of uncontrolled excess moisture in the system can cause several severe problems for your machine and its components.


Corrosion is basically a chemical reaction that occurs between metal, water, and oxygen in the air. You are using a device that has a lot of metal for an application that involves air, so the only missing thing is water, and if you let the condensed moisture accumulate, then that’s also not missing anymore. This is the reason metal rusts when it comes in contact with water. It causes various problems. The corrosion damages your machine and its components. The rust flakes can damage your air tools and sabotage your work by flowing with the air stream.

Water Hammer events

Water hammer event is a high-pressure shockwave or pressure surge that happens when the fluid motion in a pipe is stopped or forced to change direction abruptly. It can cause serious damage to the equipment and piping, like leaks, ruptures, and can even cause accidents. Generally, a knocking sound in the air compressor pipes gives it away.


If there is water in the system, then in cold weather, there’s a possibility that ice may form. This ice may cause clogged filters and blocked drain valves and intake valves, which may result in a severe negative impact on the performance of your machine. Moreover, the water expansion phenomenon due to freezing may also result in cracks in pipes and other components.

The accumulated liquid water in the system also prevents the device from properly reading and actuating by blocking the control lines.

Damage tools

If the flowing compressed air stream has liquid water, then it may interfere with proper lubrication and may also cause corrosion of air tools. And, as we’ve mentioned earlier, scraps from rust developed in the tank and the air supply lines can mix with the air stream, damage pneumatic tools, and sabotage the production processes. For instance, sand and other material blasting, CNC machining centers, robotics, air cylinders, and valve operation, these type of works face serious problems due to the presence of water in the air stream. While spray painting can cause negative visual and texture effects in the finish.

Tips on air compressor maintenance and cleaning

For maintaining the maximum efficiency and improving the life expectancy of your device you need to conduct regular checkup and act according to the need of your machine health. So, to make this easier for you, we’ve prepared this compressor maintenance checklist that you can follow to maintain your DIY home compressor or commercial air compressor.

Go through the user manual

Yes, we understand that this is too obvious to be considered a tip. But, many of us don’t actually realize the actual worth of the user manual that comes with the machine. So, it’s worth mentioning.

The user manual is written specifically targeting your machine model. So, you’ll find some useful information for the maintenance of your compressor. Also, you’ll find solutions for common everyday problems. Most importantly, there’s a possibility that not following the proper instructions for your machine may make the air compressor inefficient and damage the components.

Clean the Intake Valves

The air intake valve of the air compressor may get clogged because of the rust flakes formed due to the excessive moisture, as we’ve mentioned earlier, or other air-borne contaminants. Clogged intake vent will cause inefficient performance, damage the tools and components, and also sabotage your operations. So, you should consider cleaning the intake valves at least once every 2-3 months.

Check the Air filter

The air filters job is to prevent the dust and debris from contaminating the system and sabotaging the end point operations. But, while doing its job the filter itself gets contaminated by the debris it stops from getting in. So, you should check and clean the filter at regular intervals and change the filter if necessary.

Drain the air receiver tank

You can use a drain valve to clean out the water from your tank. If you are using a manual drain valve, then you should keep in mind to drain the water out at least once everyday. But, nowadays there are auto drain valves available. They can drain the water automatically from the tank following a regular schedule or by using a sensor.

Use water separator filter

Using a water separator filter may have a significant positive impact on your machine’s performance. This is able to remove a substantial amount of moisture (40-60%) from the system. It uses centrifugal force to remove moisture from the system.

water separator filter for air compressor

Use refrigerated air dryers

These dryers work by reducing the temperature of the air. With the reduction of temperature (33-40°F), the excess water vapor converts into liquid. This water is then collected in a water trap and removed from the system by the help of a drain valve. After that the dry air is then reheated.

refrigerated air dryers for compressed air

Use desiccant Air Dryers

If you need a supply of very dry compressed air then you can use these dryers. In this method, the excess water vapor is remove by using chemical processes (using activated alumina or molecular sieve desiccants), or reducing the temperature to a very low point (down to -40 to-100°F). However, this method will consume 5-18% of the compressed air supply, so, consider this in your calculation.

Use oil seperator

As you know, sometimes you need to use oil-lubrication on your system. But, the oil mist may get into the machine and mix with the air supply. You can use an oil seperator to prevent this. However, you should keep in mind that the oil seperator needs to be replaced every 2000 hours or less.

oil seperator for air compressor

How do I get rust out of my air compressor tank?

Let’s consider the possibility that you’ve already found an ongoing rust formation and corrosion in your tank. You’ve figured this out by the amount of rust flakes in the drained water from your air compressor tank.

some of the air compressor operators attempt using phosphoric acid to remove the rust, others may consider cleaning the tank manually using different methods. Yes, these are some possible ways. But, you should also consider that using these approaches may weaken the tank structure, which can cause serious accidents. If you think that this might be a possibility in your case, then we would recommend you not to take such risk and to replace the tank.

Final Words

Air compressor is an essential machine our everyday lives with applications in a wide variety of field. Also, this is a device that is used regularly for an extensive period almost every time. This makes the maintenance of this machine vital for the machine to have a longer life-expectancy and your work to have an efficient flow. And this article will help you do that.

Good luck!

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Hi, and welcome to Toolented. My name is Michael D. Sanders. I am a Mechanical Engineer by degree, who is a blogger by passion, and this combination of knowledge and passion is what brought Toolented to life. On my blog website, you will find necessary information about your needed automotive tools, reviews of your potential choices, and comparisons between different types of tools. To learn more click here.

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