Craftsman Air Compressor Will Not Start

Do you own a Craftsman air compressor. What do you do when the Craftsman air compressor will not start? We hope the following helps.

First Step When a Craftsman Air Compressor Will Not Start

The first step is always to check and make sure the socket into which your compressor is plugged actually has power there. We are talking about compressors that are typically plugged into a 120 VAC circuit here, but the same principle applies regardless of the power source. Is there power to your compressor?

Craftsman air compressor will not start - typical fuse and breaker for electrical supply

Always check the fuse or breaker first to ensure that you have power to the outlet for the air compressor.

Sometimes, when compressors are hard to start, the starting process may have popped the breaker or blown the fuse in the power supply to that outlet.

Simply grab another electrical device that you know is working and plug it into the same outlet the your air compressor is commonly plugged into. If the device works, then you have power there. If it doesn’t – your circuit fuse or breaker may have popped. Check that out and if there isn’t power to the outlet, either use another outlet with power, or reset the breaker or replace the fuse to get power to the compressor outlet.

It’s always useful too to have your air compressor plugged into an outlet that is protected by at least a 15 amp, and preferably a 20 amp breaker or fuse.

If there was power at the outlet and the compressor won’t start, move to step two. If you turn the compressor on again, it may start, it may not – and it may blow the fuse or breaker again. If that happens, replace the fuse / breaker with the compressor unplugged from that circuit, and move to step two.

Second Step When a Craftsman Air Compressor Will Not Start

The following information is applicable to pretty much all brands of air compressors that come equipped with an air tank.

We always suggest this as the first step when trying to find out what is wrong with an air compressor when it won’t start.

Unplug the air compressor, open the tank drain valve, and drain all the air out of the compressor tank. At the same time, you will be voiding the tank of any water accumulation, something you should do on a regular basis anyway.

Sometimes the crud that comes out of the tank with any water is pretty dirty. You may want to open the tank drain with it sitting on some old newspapers or cardboard to catch the water sludge mixture. If you have not drained your tank in a long time, there may be quite a bit of water. So, be aware.

Why drain the compressor tank?

By draining the compressor tank fully you ensure that the effect of the air pressure on the pressure switch has been removed. As a result, the compressor pressure switch should have tripped to “passing”, meaning that power should now be flowing across the pressure switch to the motor circuit.

Tank drains are typically located on the bottom of the lowest part of the tank. One such can be seen in the following image of a small Campbell Hausfeld air compressor. The red arrow points to the tank drain.

Drain the compressor tank - tank drain location on a Campbell Hausfeld air compressor

Another reason to drain the compressor tank is that your typical home air compressor usually has some sort of unload device that voids any air trapped over the piston when the air compressor stops. Trapped air will make it very hard for the air compressor to restart. Emptying the tank will emulate the function of the unloader valve, ensuring that no air is trapped over the piston, and eliminating this as a reason why your Craftsman air compressor will not start.

Close the tank drain, and plug the air compressor back in. Assuming that the ON/OFF switch is flipped to on (if your Craftsman air compressor has a switch) the compressor should start.

No joy?

It would be useful to know if there were any sounds from the air compressor at all, when you tried to start it. Continue diagnosing the problem by following the link to the next page. You will be able to add comments there if you wish to ask a question about your Craftsman air compressor and it’s not starting problems.

Your Craftsman compressor still will not start? More things to be checked can be found right here.



  1. I have a 60 gallon craftsman and the motor will only run when you cover the air intake. If left uncovered the motor only hums. Any thoughts?

    • Now that is bizarre. You can see the page on this site that talks about why air compressors hum when they are trying to start for information about that. Covering the intake (essentially increasing the load on the motor) allows the motor to run, but uncovering the intake (essentially reducing the motor load at start up) makes the motor hum. Still, if it turns out that it’s not the start capacitor – you need to check it – then our next best guess is a valve failure.

  2. I have a Craftsman 5.5hp (supposedly). Starts easily on 20 amp circuit when tank is empty. When using air tool and it gets to cut in pressure it trips the breaker. I tested the start capacitor to 412mf. It should be between 400 and 480. I replaced the pressure switch and unloader valve. After initial fill, and at cut off, I do hear the unloaded valve releasing the pressure to the pump head. Still trips breaker at cut in.

    Is it possible the check valve has failed and is slowly building pressure back onto the pump head causing a load on the motor on cut in? Or would it be better to get a new start capacitor since its testing on the low end of the rating?

    • Has the check valve failed? Possibly. With an empty tank and the compressor off, you can remove and examine, clean it, and replace the tank check valve to be sure. If the compressor cord is right in the wall socket, and there isn’t too much other load on the circuit feeding the compressor, yeah, a new start cap is a good diagnostic, and if it turns out to be the motor instead, then you’ll at least have a spare. Let us know how it turns out, please?

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