Getting the Most Out of Your Air Compressor

An air compressor operates by supplying pressurized air from a tank to a series of tools such as sanding machines, cutting tools or spray guns. It's important to know how to take care of your air compressor and how to maintain it. It’s also important to know what capacities your air compressor has to help prevent the motor from overheating and causing irreparable damage.

Proper Operation

Knowing how to operate your air compressor properly means you’ll not only get the best performance from it, but your appliance will also have a longer life. Before you start the air compressor, always take the time to ensure it’s properly lubricated by looking at the oil level. You should never set the compressor at a level higher than that recommended for either the job or the tool. The tank drain valve needs to be closed and the pressure switch should be on before you start.

When you’ve finished a job, make sure that you shut down the motor. Unplug the air compressor before you turn the regulator valve to the 'off' position. Once you’ve done that, you can take the hose and bleed out the air before you remove the tool you’ve been using. Only when you’ve done this should you bleed the air from the air compressor tank by opening the regulator.

If your air compressor uses a quick connect system, bleed the air out of the tank by removing the hose or opening the drain cocks. Always leave the drain cock open when you’re not using the air compressor to prevent moisture accumulating in your air compressor.


It’s important that you have an air compressor that’s the right size for the job. For most work around the home, a 2 horsepower unit will be adequate and it should have a tank capacity of anywhere between 7½ gallons and 20 gallons.

You need to make sure your air compressor has been certified by the American Society of  Mechanical Engineers (ASME) whose mark should appear on the tank. The safety relief valve should always be ASME certified. This valve means that air can escape automatically if the tank pressure ever goes over the limit.

There should be a pull ring on the valve. As part of your maintenance, you should check regularly to ensure it’s free of corrosion or clogs.


Keep all the gauges clean and easy to read because you’ll rely on them to know you’re at the right pressure requirement for each individual job. A regular wipe down with a dry cloth is usually adequate to keep gauges in a good operating condition.


To ensure a long life for your air compressor, make sure that the filtration system for the air intake is enclosed. This way, the foam that’s used for filtering receives more protection and the air compressor stays cleaner.

You need to have a belt guard on your air compressor and you should always make sure its in place before you turn the unit on. Keep your hose protected by using the hose rack whenever you’re not using the air compressor.