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Intelligent Lubrication Solutions™

Intelligent Lubrication Solutions™

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Air Compressor Maintenance Hinges on Fluid Selection & PM Scheduling

Posted by Matt Mohelnitzky on Feb 2, 2016 8:30:00 AM

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When it comes to maximizing the life and performance of your plant’s air compressors, preventative maintenance and proper fluid selection are the two most important practices to follow. We’re sure you understand the value of preventing a problem before it can happen, but you can’t overlook the importance of diligently selecting your equipment’s fluids.

There are many different types of compressor oils that can be used (i.e., mineral, PAO synthetic, ester-based, polyol-ester, and PAG). They all have their own benefits and ideal applications, so it’s important that you’re thorough when researching which would be best for your own applications. The best place to start is often with the fluid recommended by the OEM, since many OEMs understand the requirements of the fluid based on the type of air compressor. Aside from OEM recommendations, or if you’re troubleshooting an air compressor and are looking for new fluids, the most important factors for determining which oils to use are heat load, gas compression vs. air compression, and selecting the most compatible lubrication products dependent on these specifications.

To help you make the right decisions when it comes to ensuring your air compressors operate at their best, here are seven tips for fluid selection and preventative maintenance:

  • Ensure that both the type of oil you choose and the specific formulation are compatible with your machinery. Not all compressor oils are suitable for your compressor, nor are they necessarily compatible with fluids already in your system. Barring a complete flush, any fluids you add will need to be compatible with those already in your compressor and other system components (reservoir, any lines where the oils run, filters, etc.). They’ll also need to be compatible with OEM specs—specifically, making sure that the base oils align with the operational needs of your compressor. For instance, in CNG applications, compressors require a PAG compressor oil because these fluids do not readily absorb the hydrocarbon that’s being compressed, which pulls moisture from the compressed gas. This allows for more efficient operation and a clean, dry product to sell to the end customer.
  • Determine the proper oil sampling intervals. Given the importance of air compressors to your operation, compressors should have oil samples analyzed at PM frequency. Depending on your machine, PMs are based either on time elapsed or number of hours the machine has been running—just check your OEM specs. Samples provide key insights about the oil’s health, and can help you spot problems with oxidation, wear, and more before they do too much damage. Especially if your shop only has one air compressor, it’s crucial that you keep close tabs on its oil health, as any down time could put a serious lag in your production.
  • Check air hoses often. Leaky hoses lead to faulty compressors due to the extra strain they put on your machine. Regularly check your compressors’ hoses for leaks, cracking, and creasing, and replace any faulty hoses on the spot.
  • Clean the fuel tank at least once per year. If you use a gas-powered compressor, it’s important that you dry and wet vacuum out the fuel tank at least once a year to remove any debris and residue build-up from the fuel.
  • Clean your intake vents and change air filters every 6 months. Especially if your machine is operating in a dusty, dirty environment, you’ll want to make sure your air vents and filter are clean so your compressor doesn’t strain itself working so hard to take in air.
  • Keep heat exchangers clean. In addition to selecting an oil that aligns with the heat loads of your compressor, you also have to make sure that you keep the heat exchangers clean so they can do their job effectively. If they’re dirty, you lose heat transfer efficiencies, which ultimately costs you more money.
  • Drain moisture from the receiver tanks. Your compressor should have a receiver tank that collects the accumulated moisture from the air it’s compressing. Make sure that these are drained regularly, especially if you live in a humid environment. This will help release the air pressure from your tanks.

Need help determining the proper fluids and preventative maintenance plan for your plant’s air compressors? U.S. Lubricants is here to help! We offer a wide selection of air compressor oils and different formulations, and our experienced team will work directly with you to help you choose the perfect fluids for your equipment. We can even help you tailor a custom preventative maintenance schedule that covers all your plant’s lubrication maintenance needs.

To learn more about U.S. Lubricants can help you maximize the life and performance of your air compressors, contact Tony Springer at TSpringer@uslube.com or by phone at (800) 490-4900 ext. 8823.

Machine Shop Lubrication Cheat Sheet

Topics: Lubrication Maintenance