Cannot Find The Compressor Intake Filter

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Some of the smaller air compressors on the market do not have an intake air filter. Most do, however. What can you do when you cannot find the compressor intake filter for your make and model of air compressor?

If you are not sure what this page is referring to, it addresses the issue of finding a replacement for the filter housing or the filter element of the compressor intake filter. The air intake, which is found somewhere on the pump of the air compressor is an opening, or openings, into which air is drawn to allow that compressor pump to drive air into the tank and in the process, increase air pressure in the tank.

While all industrial type air compressors have intake filters they also typically have identifiable supply chains. These are industrial distributors and stockists which provide maintenance parts and supplies, including the elements and housings of compressor intake filters. The manufacturer of the industrial air compressor will provide a list of distributors in your area to enable you to acquire parts, including intake filter elements.

There are now – I would surmise – millions of smaller air compressors in use around the world. The use of them has proliferated over the last decade to the point where almost anyone with a shop, and a huge percentage of homeowners own an air compressor. Many of these smaller air compressor have been purchased at big-box-store type operations, and specialty discount houses, all of which offer a broad range of air compressors for the small compressor purchaser.

air-intake-filter -
Outlined in blue, this sorry old compressor air intake filter needed a patch job. The compressor fell over and broke the intake filter housing.

The problem is, virtually none of these outlets offer replacement parts for the many different brands of compressors they sell. Those stores are in the business of selling a new compressor, and not in the business of maintaining those that are already purchased. Likewise, the store staff are often ill educated about the products they sell, and cannot help with the supply of maintenance items for the compressors they sell. And that brings us back to why you cannot find the compressor air intake filter or filter housing.

The intake filter in the photo above was damaged when the top heavy air compressor fell over when being transported in the back of a truck. I wrapped it in tape to keep it working, and went looking for a replacement. Since I kept the intake hole clear, this “repair” worked, as long as I was careful not to block the actual intake hole, as shown next image.

air-intake-hole -
Normally the air intake hole, surrounded by the blue box, would be oriented towards the floor, to reduce the possibility of debris falling into the filter.

To the left of the blue box, you can see the built-in air path for this compressor intake filter, that ducts the air to the center of the element inside, then, through the filter element to the actual intake port on the pump head.

Compressor air intake filters vary in size and shape

Don’t be concerned if the air intake filter on your compressor pump looks differently, or if there is more than one filter.


Yet the question remains, where do you get a replacement element for filter housing for your smaller air compressor, when the store that sold you the compressor does not stock or offer spare parts?

A replacement intake filter housing

If the housing of your compressor pump intake filter is in worse condition than the small ones depicted above, it may not even stay in the intake port of the compressor. Here’s how you get a replacement.

  1. Remove the remnants of the old filter housing from the compressor pump
  2. Measure the diameter of the hole in the pump head where the filter threads in to determine the port size
  3. Measure the thickness of the filter element
  4. Measure the diameter of the filter element / housing
  5. Google replacement compressor air intake filters

For the typical DIY or smaller air compressor, pretty much any compressor intake filter that fits these criteria will work on your compressor.

  • Fit the same port in the pump
  • Has the same or larger diameter than the old filter
  • Has a filter element that is as large (diameter and thickness) as the old
  • Has the same or larger diameter air intake hole into the air intake filter body

The vast majority of DIY and home air compressors are used periodically, not for production purposes. If the compressor was being used daily to generate an income, more care might be taken to ensure that the replacement filter housing was identical to the old. But then, a production compressor is an industrial compressor, and industrial compressors come with supply chains for all maintenance parts.

The replacement intake air filter you select for your compressor based on the above criteria will work fine in 99% of compressor air filter applications.

A replacement intake filter media – element is plugged!

Unless your air filter has been damaged, the only reason to change the intake air filter element is if the compressor is starved for air.

If it is taking much longer than normal for the air to build in the tank, or the compressor motor is overheating and the compressor is being shut down on thermal cut and stopping until it cools, those could be symptoms of a plugged air intake filter.

A quick check would be to simply remove the filter housing from the pump, and run the compressor briefly. If the issues noted disappear, then it’s a safe bet that the air intake element is plugged.

Open the intake filter, if you can – as some are not meant to be opened – and have a look at the filter inside.It may look at bit like the filter media used in an air conditioning intake filter, or it may look a bit like the air filter element in the car or truck.

Regardless, know that these elements are meant to be relatively high flow through, and limited filtering ability, in that they take out larger particulates. Small bits of dust that are determined not to cause a problem in the pump may pass right through the filter element.

Visit your auto parts shop or your big box store, and buy a car air filter element that comes close the the appearance of the existing media. If it looks more like an air conditioner filter, pick that style.

Cut the media so that it fits the air intake filter housing, both in diameter and thickness. Add a couple of layers if needs be. Place the new media in the intake filter housing ensuring that the flow path of the air through the intake filter element is the same orientation as the flow path through the filter media that you cut to fit.

Your compressor is back in business!

Don’t run the air compressor for too long without an intake air filter as it may then ingest something that will damage the pump.

If you cannot open the filter housing, then you’ll need to replace the whole filter. See the criteria above for how to do that.

Good luck and tanks for taking the time to read this. Hope it helps.

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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