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A guide to helping prevent catastrophic compressor failure
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Home :: Catastrophic Compressor Failure:

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.

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