How to Use an Air Compressor

Yellow Piston Air Compressor

Have you had troubles using your compressor? Does the tool look complex to use? Then this article on how to use an air compressor is definitely for you. The steps to follow when utilizing these devices are clear and straightforward. They can be used by beginners and people with little or no technical skill. I have included a step-by-step method that would make the whole process easy as pie.

I love mechanical devices and get frequent emails requesting instructions to follow when working with a compressor. I decided to put out the process that anyone can keep to when making use of this power tool.

The basic steps to follow are divided into three sections:

Setting up your compressor

Setting up your compressor correctly is essential. The steps to carry out are:

Step 1: Check the oil level if your compressor is not oil-free

Before using your compressor, make sure that there is enough oil in the pump. However, checking the oil level only applies to piston-type compressors. Piston-type compressors have dipsticks that you can use to carry out this check. Make sure that the oil is at least two-thirds of the container. If the oil in the pump is not enough, refill it before using your compressor. Consult the manual that comes with the device to know the type of refill oil to use. Tiny compressors are usually oil free.

The oil level gauge on air compressor pump.

Step 2: Put the hose in the Valve

The regulator valve should be close to the pressure gauge of the compressor. Push the end of the hose into the valve, and make sure it keys-in properly. If there is air in your compressor, it will be released when the hose is firmly locked inside the valve. This step should be carried out when the compressor is placed on a surface. Wrap the air hose with two or three layers of Teflon tape before fitting it in the tool. If your compressor has hose fittings, then you don’t need to use this tape.

air compressor in working position at snow

Step 3: Plug the compressor into your hose

The other end of the hose should be connected to the compressor. To make things easier, you can put the hose in one hand, and the power tool in the other. Slide the plug into the free end of the hose and gently twist the two until they lock. Ensure that the compressor is firmly gripping the hose at all times. Also, make sure that the device is switched off while you plug the power cord in the outlet.

Step 4: Plug your compressor in a power outlet

Make sure that the power switch is turned on before the cord is connected to the outlet. Don’t use an extension cord if the outlet is located far away, and the hose is not long enough. They can make your compressor overheat. Use a longer hose or two hoses instead. Slide the end of one hose inside the other to connect them.

Air compressor with battery charger for car

Step 5: Test your safety valve

Most compressors have a safety valve very close to the hose line. Gently pull the valve when you locate it. If you don’t hear a quiet hissing after pulling this valve, then something is not right. Also, if you can’t put it back, then your compressor is not yet ready to be used. You should go back and check the previous steps on setting up your compressor if you experience this problem.

Using the compressor

After setting up your compressor, continue with the following steps:

Step 1: Use safety boots, goggles, and gloves

Always protect yourself from injury by using safety boots and goggles when operating a compressor. If you have an old compressor, chances are it would make a lot of noise, so use earmuffs as well. Safety boots will prevent your feet in case you drop any tools. If your compressor uses diesel and not electricity as its fuel source, wear hand gloves and use a nose mask.

Step 2: Switch the compressor on

Close the drain valve before turning on the compressor by pressing the power-on button. The air compressor will supply air to the item you want air to be filled in. When the needle of the pressure gauge stops moving, then the air inside the tank is at its peak. The pressure of the hose wouldn’t move during this step. Don’t use the compressor until the pressure has reached the maximum point. The motor should kick on and off automatically as the pressure of the air fluctuates.

man turns on an electric car compressor to pump up a car wheel.

Step 3: Adjust the air control knob

This regulatory knob will be on the compressor’s hose. Twist the knob counterclockwise to increase the flowing air gradually. Watch the pressure gauge until it shows the level you need. The compressor’s manufacturer will provide the air pressure you will need. Every device has a different pressure rating.

Garage Air Compressor. Adjusting Pressure in a Car Tires.

Step 4: Use the tool while air is in the item’s tank

You can use your tool immediately once the air inside the hose reaches a particular pressure level. With every use of the device, the pressure drops and refills automatically. You don’t need to make any adjustments until you switch tools. If you experience any problem when using your compressor, then check the gauge. You may have to wait for a longer period for smaller compressors to refill than larger ones.

Air compressor with a nail gun and hard hat


Step 5: Always work with the compressor’s duty cycle rating

A duty cycle rating is the work rate of the compressor. This rating is expressed in percentages from 0 to 100%. A 100% duty cycle rating means that the compressor can be used all day long. On the other hand, a 50% duty cycle means the tool needs a 10-minute break for every 10 minutes that it has been used for. Always stick to the duty cycle rating of how often the compressor should be used.

Maintaining and shutting off the compressor

After using the compressor, it should be turned off and maintained following these steps:

Step 1: Open the air drain

The air-drain valve is usually on the other side of the tank. You should drain moisture from the tank periodically. Do this by twisting the valve counter-clockwise. The pressured air helps to drain out the moisture. You should hear a hissing when this valve is opened. Don’t forget to replace it when all the air is drained from the tank. Not all compressors have valves that you can twist with your hand. Use a wrench or plier if it is difficult to open.

Step 2: Turn off your compressor

The air in the tool has increased pressure after every use. Do not remove the hose before you turn off the compressor. First, turn off the air supply. Then, switch off your compressor. Wait for a couple of minutes for the pressure to leave the tank. Finally, pull the relief valve to hasten the pressure draining process.

A mechanic is adjusting a valve and preparing to release air pressure

Step 3: Check the oil level and the air filter

2 gauges on an air compressorOld Pressure Gauge Air Compressor

Have the habit of keeping an eye on your filters. If there is too much dirt in it, the compressor can malfunction. Replace the oil and filter regularly. Use a socket wrench to open the oil tank’s plugs, and keep a container close by to catch the bad oil. Finally, use a funnel to pour the new oil into the tank.

Step 4: Remove your hose and store the compressor

Don’t forget to unplug the air compressor after using it. It should be straightforward to remove since no pressure is in the tank at the moment. Store your compressor in a temperature-controlled room like your closet.

Types of Air Compressors and tips when using them

There are three types of air compressors. Each type has a unique function and condition to be used in. They are:

Reciprocating air compressors

Triple Cylinder Reciprocating Air Compressors on Industry

These machines increase the air pressure by reducing its volume. They are either water-cooled or air-cooled and may use oil or be oil-free. They are tiny and portable. When using reciprocating air compressors, be watchful of the pressure gauge. With them, pressure can build up quickly.

Rotary screw compressors

These devices also increase the pressure by reducing the volume. They make use of oil, but do not have valves. Instead, the compressor transfers air continuously and has a high duty cycle rating. Only use them periodically.

Cross section detail inside screw vacuum pump for industrial isolate on white background

Centrifugal compressors

Centrifugal compressors increase the pressure of the air by transferring energy to it. It has a high duty cycle capacity so you can use it throughout the day.

A compressor makes pumping DIY work more manageable. Still, it is not enough to have an air compressor; you must also know how to use it correctly. There a lot of issues you may face while inflating tires or operating a nail gun at home or in a workshop.

Now you are well-equipped with the information you need to avoid them. If you follow all the instructions I have provided in this article, using your compressor should not take more than ten minutes. Moreover, following these steps will make your compressor last long.

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