Catastrophic Compressor Failure
There are many modes for catastrophic compressor failure.
Some of these include, running a compressor backwards at startup or after a
power failure. Rotary screw air compressors are not equipped to take
reverse thrust, and will fail almost immediately. Catastrophic drive
failures can occur in a variable speed drive compressor due to voltage spikes.
Other failures can occur due to routine wear that will eventually cause motor or
element bearing failure. The vast majority of air compressor failure
though can be attributed to compressor oil that is in poor condition.
Oil Varnish Can Wreck A Compressor
If you fail to change the oil in your compressor for an extended
period of time, you may have to call the fire department. Air compressors
operate at extremely high temperatures, while ingesting air that is an oxidating
agent. These factors over time break down compressor oil until it can form
sludge and varnish on the inside of your compressor. This varnish coats
the inside of your compressor and inhibits your oil cooler from properly cooling
your oil. As this happens, the oil will breakdown even faster, forming
more varnish in an exponential manner. There is a point where the oil can
become so hot, and the the oil filter and separator become so clogged with this
varnish, that the compressor can actually catch on fire. It can and does
happen to compressors that are not properly maintained.
Oil is the lifeblood of your compressor. Whether you are
using a petroleum based oil or a synthetic oil, it is imperative that you
perform oil analysis as a part of you preventative maintenance program.
Don't wait until you experience a catastrophic failure before you begin to
properly monitor your air compressor oil. You will save a lot of money in
the long run by taking proper care of your oil.