Clicking Air Compressor

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Maybe you haven’t used it for a while, you turn on or plug your air compressor in, and all you get is a clicking air compressor. What’s gone wrong?

Difficult as it may seem, it is first necessary to determine where the clicking is coming from on your air compressor.

Typically, the sources and the solutions of a clicking air compressor are the compressor pressure switch, or the motor itself.

Clicking Pressure Switch On Compressor

If you have an air compressor that contains a pressure switch with contacts inside it, perhaps one similar to the photo below, in order for the pressure switch to transmit power to the motor circuit, the points have to touch firmly.

compressor pressure switch with unloader

The point movement inside the base of the pressure switch is controlled by springs and, typically, a diaphragm placed in such a way as it reacts to the pressure inside the compressor tank. The tank air pressure pushes on the diaphragm and that pushes or releases the springs to which are connected the electrical points.

If the pressure switch diaphragm has a split or tear that will prevent it from cycling properly, and the ensuing depressing and releasing of the springs as air escapes through the diaphragm tear can open and close the points and that may be audible as a clicking sound.

If the compressor is working properly however (other than a failing pressure switch) most likely the compressor would react to this cycling of the pressure switch by turning on and off frequently, and not at the normal cut in or cut out pressure levels.

Worn Pressure Switch Points Click

The points inside the pressure switch can become contaminated or corroded over time. If that has happened in your pressure switch, the points may click as they try to meet, and if badly corroded then power cannot cross the points, even though they may be chattering. Your compressor will not start, and your pressure switch will be emanating the clicking sound you hear.

If either of the two scenarios above are happening it’s time to replace the pressure switch.

Compressor Motor Has A Centrifugal Switch

This next image is an example of a typical electric motor centrifugal switch. You can see how the switch would mount on the motor shaft through the center opening. The two counterweights – top left and bottom right – would slowly open outwards as the shaft speed increased  to the point where the centrifugal switch would trip.

air compressor motor centrifugal switch - fix-my-compressor.com

The air compressor motor centrifugal switch is found on split-phase (single phase) motors which make up a significant number of compressor motors. Odds are good that your compressor motor is a split-phase and has a centrifugal switch.

The split phase motor has two windings, a start winding and a run winding. The start winding is used very briefly on compressor motor startup and they are disconnected and the motor shifts to the run windings as the motor comes up to speed.

How can you tell if your motor has a centrifugal switch? When your air compressor was starting and working properly, then when you have turned your compressor off, or when it shut down on normal high pressure cut out, the motor would slow, and when the shaft speed became slow enough, would hear the click as the centrifugal switch disengages.

If it is the centrifugal switch that has failed, your motor start windings may not be energized properly, or, in time if the centrifugal switch stays energized the run windings may overheat and burn.

If that has happened, then the air compressor will not start, but then, you shouldn’t hear a clicking sound when the compressor is trying to start.

Clicking Air Compressor

Back to the beginning, then.

If, when the compressor tries to start, all you are hearing is a clicking sound, closely monitor the air compressor to try to determine where the sound is coming from.

Please use the comment box below to advise from where, on your air compressor, you are hearing the clicking noise when your air compressor tries to start. Also note any other sounds or conditions from the compressor as the start sequence fails. We will attempt to help further when we know the source of the sound and the other air compressor conditions.

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Jim
Jim
May 5, 2022 4:30 am

Click comes from a circuit breaker on the compressor

Christopher Tigro
Christopher Tigro
January 19, 2022 2:50 pm

Hello. Someone gave me a Panther silent air compressor which looks like a great little machine but I can’t get it to work. When I turn it on all I hear is a buzz…click…silence & repeats over and over. I changed the oil, bought a new compressor switch and replaced it thinking that may be it but nothing new. The click seems to be coming from the motor but I’m lost from here. Any help would be much appreciated

Nick
Nick
December 16, 2020 4:51 pm

Hello. I have a Husky VH6314 60 Gallon 3.2 HP made in 11/06. Same as a Campbell Hausfeld VT-6314.

I haven’t used it for 5 years, but recently kicked it on to use and the unit would come to a dead stop at 30 psi. The electric motor would lunge or surge like it was trying hard up to that point.

It also had a click or snap noise coming from the electric motor.

I checked the connections on the pressure switch and all seemed good. The noise definitely is coming from the electric motor, but only under load. When I removed the belt, the electric motor sounds and performs well. The pump also makes a kind of squeeking noise but has normal resistance when I turn it over by hand. I also tested the start and run capacitors with a cheapo multimeter and they seems to take a charge and then charge down when a swap the test leads. They did not appear defective so I think they are good. If anyone could point me in the right direction, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Nick
December 18, 2020 2:17 pm

Nick, good day. That you haven’t used the compressor in years may be the clue. What may have happened is that the motor bearings have taken a “set”, maybe dried out, and that is often the cause for a clicking electric motor. That the motor essentially seizes when the tank pressure reaches 30 PSI is likely the result of the increasing load on the motor due to back pressure.

That the motor works without load may support this, or, it could be too that the valves in the pump are not working properly.

Whichever is easiest for you, then; disassemble the pump to check for damages or word piston seals, seized flapper valves or if this were my compressor I’d be getting the motor checked out, and possibly having the bearings replaced.

Let us know if it works out for you. Thanks. Good luck.

Ron
Ron
October 22, 2020 4:38 pm

I have a 1997 Campbell Hausfeld 20 gal., 4.5 HP horizontal Series VS 623.that was given to me and had not been started for 1-2 yrs. When it’s running, there is a PINGING SOUND coming from inside the tank,when it’s running. Sounds like a very small piece of metal bouncing around inside. Any ideas on what it could be and is it safe to continue using?. Everything else seems normal on startup and when it’s running.

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Ron
October 23, 2020 10:05 am

Ron, not hearing the noise makes this difficult to diagnose. An easy first check is to shut it down, dump all the air with the tank drain open all the way to try and remove any debris if there, then remove and clean the tank check valve. Replace, fire it up, and see what’s what, will you?

Ron
Ron
Reply to  Fix My Compressor Moderator
October 23, 2020 3:39 pm

Will do. Thanks for your help.
Ron

Ron
Ron
Reply to  Ron
October 24, 2020 4:36 pm

Pulled the tank check valve and it was toast. Part of the spring fell out in my hand and maybe the rest of the spring is what’s creating the ping in the tank. Just to be sure , I’m borrowing a camera scope to scan inside the tank.
BTW, the inside of the tank was moist on the bottom. and my magnet brought up some filings. Should I do anything to the tank while I have the hole on top open? Thanks again for your help.
Ron

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Ron
October 25, 2020 11:12 am

Filings are probably from when the compressor was assembled. Moist is common, as all compressors generate water when they run, and the tank drain typically only voids liquid water. As to remediation, if you are scoping it, that will give you your answer. The tanks are supposed to be coated at the factory to prevent moisture from getting to the metal, but over time, that will wear off. A pressure test will tell you if your tank has weak spots (also destroy it in the process) but that test is expensive, and may not be worth your investment. See what the scope reveals, as let us know.

Ron
Ron
Reply to  Fix My Compressor Moderator
October 29, 2020 3:19 pm

Scoped the inside of the tank and saw some rust spots scattered along the bottom. Wonder if I should spray with some rust remover since the new check valve hasn’t been installed yet, or just not worry about it? Also, is Teflon tape the best product to use on these connections. and is there a torque spec for the check valve?

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Ron
October 29, 2020 5:38 pm

Don’t know about the rust remover. It were me, I’d be inclined to spray with some rust preventative. I prefer Teflon tape over paste or stick. Roll it on against the thread. No, no torque specs that I know of. Air tite would be the level I’d install it at. Good luck.

Ron
Ron
Reply to  Fix My Compressor Moderator
October 30, 2020 9:25 am

Thanks again for your help for someone who’s never owned an air compressor.
Best to you,
Ron

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Ron
October 30, 2020 7:09 pm

You are welcome.

Nathan Poole
Nathan Poole
March 22, 2020 3:07 pm

It sounds as though it’s coming from the fan, as though something is loose while the fan is turning. It’s making a rattling,clicking noise. And the compressor attemped twice to start up , but couldn’t. There were a couple of times when the gauge would show attempt to show pressure and I would hear the sound of the compressor for a short period of time. The motor continues to run either way. I just turns it off because of the rattling and clicking. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Sincerely, Nathan Poole

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Nathan Poole
March 22, 2020 3:30 pm

Make and model of compressor and how long have you had/used it?

Can you remove the cover to see the motor and fan?

Kasey
Kasey
January 31, 2020 8:42 pm

Hello, I have a craftsman air compressor model number 919167380. I just rebuild it by putting a new piston, cylinder wall, belt, intake and exhaust reeds with new gaskets and a new fan. The first couple times starting it it ran fine ( really loud but it’s 14ish years old) and it built and held pressure fine. I went to start it for the third time after rebuilding and it built pressure then it auto turned off like normal. It then immediately started again and started clicking or skipping. I pulled it and when I spin the piston it sounds like the shaft is skipping teeth from inside and it looks like it also.I just put $100+ dollars into repairing this motor any advice?

Kasey
Kasey
Reply to  Kasey
January 31, 2020 9:06 pm

Upon further diagnosis, the shaft is in deed snapped in half.

dave
dave
June 1, 2015 4:51 pm

Hi, i have an fiac single phase compressor, with a 2.2kw 3hp 2800 motor, the motor start fine but as soon as its under load it starts to slow and struggle, i have pulled the motor and the winmdings look fine, i can see no centrifugal switch. It has 2 capacitors that i can only assume are start and run, one is a slightly smaller diameter 55uf, and the other a fatter 65uf, could one of these be the problem and how do i tell which is the start and run?
thanks

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  dave
June 1, 2015 5:39 pm

Tough one. If this were our compressor we would test both caps to see which has failed. We would also email Fiac directly, and, when providing the model number of the Fiac air compressor we had, ask which cap is which.

FIAC Air Compressors S.p.A.
Via Vizzano, 23 – 40037 Pontecchio Marconi – Bologna (Italy)
Tel: +39 051 6786811 – Fax: +39 051 845261 e-mail: fiac@fiac.it