Is The Compressor Start Capacitor Working?

Published Categorized as Uncategorized 23 Comments on Is The Compressor Start Capacitor Working?
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This is page three about troubleshooting a Craftsman air compressor that will not start and this page focuses on – is the compressor start capacitor working?

If you want to review the steps from the beginning, here is page one on figuring out why your Craftsman air compressor will not start.

What in heck is a start capacitor?

It’s a device (or sometimes two) normally found on the exterior of a compressor motor, often covered in a metal shroud, near the shaft end of the motor. The purpose of the start capacitor is to help the compressor get going. If your compressor motor also has a run capacitor, that one helps to keep the motor running.

Start capacitor cover installed on electric motor

The start capacitor cover on your compressor motor may look the same as the one shown in the photo, or might differ slightly.

As we have been trying to find out why our Craftsman air compressor will not start, in previous pages we’ve traced the power supply successfully to the motor circuit.

If the compressor motor start capacitor has failed, the power supply to the motor stops there, and the motor will not start.

If you are comfortable with doing so, remove the cover of the start capacitor. Your capacitor may look something like the one in the next photo.

compressor motor start capacitor

When you get the cover off, examine the capacitor. We are expecting that you have pulled the compressor power cord at this point. Please be careful not to touch the capacitor terminals as a capacitor is a high discharge device, and you could get quite a jolt from the power that’s stored in it.

Look for discoloring, blisters on the outside of the capacitor body, connected terminals that don’t have a lot of corrosion on them, anything that would give you the impression that all is not right with the capacitor.

Even if the motor capacitor looks good, you will still want to check it to make sure that it’s working properly. Please see the embedded video about “How to Check Motor Start and Motor Run Capacitors

Replacement compressor motor capacitor

You will, unless the label is worn off, be able to see writing on the side of the capacitor. It will show a rating in MFD (mircro-farads) and a voltage range.

As long as you acquire a replacement motor capacitor that has the same MFD rating as the old, and the same voltage range, and you can connect the terminals, then you can use that capacitor, regardless of the shape or size. It’s best to get one that fits inside the existing capacitor cover, of course.

If you cannot see the writing on the side of the capacitor, then it’s time to check out the motor specs to find what capacitor is needed, and you can use your search browser to query what the capacitor is for such and such a motor HP, with xxx voltage etc.

Now what?

If you’ve checked the capacitor and it’s good, then possibly the electric motor itself has failed, particularly if, when you power up the air compressor with the tank empty, and power flowing to the tested start capacitor, your compressor motor makes no sound at all.

How to test a compressor motor is a fairly complex subject and beyond the scope of many DIY among us.

This link will take you to a page off site which will give you some idea about the steps in testing an electric motor.

What we would do at this point is take the electric motor off the air compressor and take it to a local repair shop for testing and, if necessary, for repair.

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Tom
Tom
March 13, 2021 7:46 am

Hi, hoping you can help with this issue. When I start up my compressor 200L 3hp the belt runs and two sparks come off the centrifugal switch. The compressor fan then disengages and it blows the fuse in the plug. Would this be a sign of both capacitors failing? Thanks for any help, Tom

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Tom
March 13, 2021 10:07 am

Based on what you wrote, two things come to mind. The centrifugal switch is letting go before the motor gets up to full speed and it shifts to run winding, or the start capacitor has failed and the motor is pulling more current than usual, to trip the fuse. First check… the start capacitor.

Ronald Yoong
Ronald Yoong
August 8, 2020 3:41 am

How do I determine which is Run and Start capacitors? Bought a used air compressor and it was working for awhile and its started to hum and tripped the breaker. I guess it was the START capacitor gone bad, but just can’t tell which is which, since there is no label on the motor itself. The pics I attached are the 2 capacitors it had. They are on a 2HP 20 gallon air compressor.
I just wondering why both of them have such high UF rating 600 and 110? Which is which? I ordered a 600UF capacitor that assumed is the START cap, maybe I was wrong as I thought higher UF for starting the motor. Please help and thank you in advance.

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Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Ronald Yoong
August 8, 2020 8:33 am

Ronald, I can’t tell the difference, but it really doesn’t matter. It makes no sense to change one that isn’t working, so test them to see and replace any that are failing.

Ronald Yoong
Ronald Yoong
Reply to  Fix My Compressor Moderator
August 8, 2020 3:46 pm

thanks, checked both capacitors they both seems ok. So I pulled the centrifugal switch and clean it with some fine sandpaper ( the motor is like brand new and clean) and it works. Cant understand the air compressor is like in mint condition will very little hours as I can see. But anyway I seems to find the problem and again thank you for all the help. Love this web site.

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Ronald Yoong
August 8, 2020 5:49 pm

You are very welcome. Thanks for your kind comments. Glad the issue was resolved and the compressor running well. Cheers.

Derek Wang
Derek Wang
April 18, 2017 10:52 am

When I turn on my compressor, it sounds like an engine that just wont turn over. It sort of tries to turn, then slows down, then tries again. After a few tries, it trips its own fuse. This just happened when I tried to start it just after winter. Thanks for any help.

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Derek Wang
April 19, 2017 9:34 am

Well, assuming the power supply is good, and you are NOT using an extension cord, this compressor issue could be a failing start capacitor. See the page on this site about how to test them, and let us know your findings if you would. Thanks.

Derek W
Derek W
Reply to  Fix My Compressor Moderator
April 19, 2017 1:10 pm

Dumb follow up question, but how are the capacitors labeled? Will I know which one is the starter and which one is the run capacitor? I have a 26 gal 1.5hp
model # 921.164710 compressor.

Thanks again for the help

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Derek W
April 19, 2017 9:57 pm

I couldn’t explain it better than these folks do: http://www.capacitorformotor.com/starting_capacitor.html

Derek W
Derek W
Reply to  Fix My Compressor Moderator
May 1, 2017 9:38 am

Final follow up, replaced the start capacitor and compressor works like it should.

Thanks for the help.

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Derek W
May 1, 2017 10:05 am

Glad it’s working now, Derek. You are welcome.

Jim
Jim
January 21, 2017 12:10 pm

Just a question. I have a mastercraft multi meter and just can not figure out which is best setting to test a capacitor. See image attached.

Tony
Tony
Reply to  Jim
January 28, 2017 7:51 pm

Your meter won’t read capacitance so you need to use a different meter. You have AC/DC voltage, DC current, and resistance. Capacitance is measured in Farads so you will usually see uF for microFarads, etc.

Some capacitors are labeled MFD for microFarads.

As an example, the starting capacitor on my air compressor is 120 uF.

Tom
Tom
December 1, 2016 8:30 am

Hi there,

My compressor (condor cosmos 2.4 – 240v european) motor wont run properly.

I have disconnected air supply to tank, and removed cylinder head, so it should be running free with no load. However when I flick the switch on it chugs a few times, before overloading the power (2.6kw generator). It’s like it is trying to swim through mud…

Any ideas? Anything more I can test?

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Tom
December 3, 2016 11:47 am

You have checked the caps, yes??

Patrick
Patrick
November 15, 2016 3:25 pm

When I turn on my compresser on it is making a humming sound and not turning on. Do you have any ideas?

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Patrick
November 17, 2016 1:40 pm

If you are using an extension cord, don’t. Try it plugged directly into a wall socket. Does that help? If not, empty all the air from the tank and turn it on again. Did that help? If not, see the page on how to check the capacitor as that would be the next likely thing that is causing this humming air compressor.

marty
marty
June 3, 2016 10:09 am

i have the same problem as greg. i disconnected the drive belt and the compressor alone turns freely.i then started the compressor without the compressor drive belt attached and the motor came up to speed with out any problem and i could hear the centrifigual switch kicking out. when i reattached the belt the motor and compressor ran for a few seconds and the circuit breaker popped.it should be noted that i am using an extension cord to provide power to the compressor????

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  marty
June 3, 2016 12:25 pm

As per our suggestion to Greg, try plugging the compressor directly into a wall socket, no extension cord, and see if that helps.

Greg
Greg
May 31, 2016 6:36 pm

Hi, My father in law has a HF 2hp 8 gal compressor that is having problems. The motor/compressor runs for about 8 seconds then shuts off. Regardless or how much air is in tank. After reset trips, a few seconds, I can press it and motor starts up again. Then it shuts off after 8 seconds or so. i tried to run it with empty tank and drain valve open. No difference. I realize it is a cheap compressor, but I would like to figure it out. Not many hours on unit. Any ideas? Thanks

Fix My Compressor Moderator
Fix My Compressor Moderator
Reply to  Greg
June 1, 2016 7:41 am

We suggest it’s an electrical problem. Whether that problem is due to a too long and too small extension cord, a pressure switch not working, or a failing start capacitor, we don’t know. Make sure the compressor is plugged directly into a wall socket, no extension cords of any kind. If the problem persists, the next time the compressor stops use a multi-meter to determine if, even with the compressor off, power is still passing the pressure switch. If the switch is working and the air pressure is not above cut out, then power should be passing the switch. If it is not, the switch may be faulty. If power is passing the switch, it’s time to check the functioning of the capacitor… make sure you ensure that all wires are connected. The vibration on smaller air compressors does, from time to time, dislodge a capacitor line.

Greg
Greg
Reply to  Fix My Compressor Moderator
June 1, 2016 5:54 pm

Thanks for the advice, I will check those and get back with results.