Can air compressors be repaired?

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A simple question, with a not so simple answer – can air compressors can be repaired?  Being able repair a compressor relies on a bunch of factors, the details of which are covered below in detail, and on many other pages on this site in brief bits and pieces.

Here’s the whole story.

Table of Contents

Is the compressor even worth repairing?

While to some $100 for a compressor is peanuts, valued only until it works and is chucked away, for others, the $100 is a big chunk of change. Folks who squeeze every nickle until it screeches may be more inclined to take the time to try and repair even the cheapest air compressor rather than forking over the dough to buy a new one.

A compressor is worth repairing if it’s worthwhile to the owner, and if sufficient parts can be acquired to effect a repair.

Make and model of air compressor.

Unfortunately, many compressors being sold today are not of high quality manufacture, and even though some components on them can be replaced or repaired, the absence of critical parts due to the compressors having been made – essentially – to be thrown away when they fail. While the cheapest of air compressors can be had for  as little as $20+ at the factory in the orient, if purchased in quantity, by the time that same compressor gets bought by a wholesaler in North America who marks it up, then is sold to a distributor that sells to the retail outlet and marks up the price, and then the retail head office buys a lot of these compressors for retail sale and marks it up a whole lot, that same compressor sells for $100 plus at the store.

There is no money for the retail outlet who lacks the skills and desire to build a parts supply business to invest dollars in acquiring parts for when that brand of compressors fail.

How do you know if a compressor that’s being considered has parts available? A simple browser search with the string “parts for a xxxxx compressor model yyyyy”, where the X’s are the brand name and the Y’s the model number of that brand, will quickly give you the answer. If there’s no parts, odds are pretty good if a major component fails that the compressor is now a lawn ornament or a boat anchor, if not just landfill.

Even cheap compressors have replacement parts!

All is not lost. Even cheap air compressors have replacement parts allowing simple and inexpensive repair. These parts just won’t be branded as supplied by the make of compressor owned. Here are a few of the items that can be sourced on the market for almost all compressors:

Pressure switch

Off-brand pressure switches are commonly available. Here you  will want to be a bit careful. Not all lower cost compressors have the same style of pressure switch, two of which types are shown below.

Pressure switches for compressors - 2 types
Pressure switches for compressors – 2 types. The one on the left is for a very small compressor / the switch on the right is for larger compressors

In order to select a replacement, you will need to know the configuration of the switch, if the voltage of the replacement is the same as the original, the pressure range of the new switch versus the old is very important – you want to be very close, and if the owner has the skill set to “monkey” with the compressor to replace the pressure switch if that is what has failed. A page about what fails on compressor switches can be found on this site as well as another that details just what air compressor pressure switches do.

Air pressure gauges

There are two air pressure gauges commonly found on all makes of air compressors. Replacement units are quite inexpensive, and can be found in any decent hardware or store that sells compressors. The factors that contribute to finding the right replacement air pressure gauge are: match the gauge face size as well as the the pressure range of the replacement gauge versus the older one, and how the gauge is mounted (a back thread or bottom thread) to be sure the same mount is acquired. What fails on gauges? That page is available on this site too.

Can compressors be repaired. Sure, as long as the fixer is prepared for the time, perhaps aggravation, and has the tools and skill to do so.

It’s up to you.

Got a question? Leave it as a comment below and we’ll see if we can help.

By Ashley Pearce

As a passionate manufacturing and mechanical engineer, I've had my fair share of run ins with air compressors and compressed air systems. With over a decade of experience in the industry, I have both a fresh perspective and time-served hands and mind to help you with your compressor problems (along with our able community!)

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