Using an air compressor is easy—once you know what to do! We’ll talk about the basic steps required to operate almost any air compressor, including gas driven, diesel driven and portable electrical air compressors.
While this post serves as a general guide, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific air compressor you will be using. You should always locate and read your air compressor’s operating manual before you use any air compressor.
1. Put On Your Safety Gear
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is incredibly important when working with compressed air. Always use hearing protection and safety glasses when using compressed air for any projects.
You may also want to wear a face shield, steel-toed boots, and leather or rubber gloves. Keep in mind that many lightweight materials, such as cotton, are not effective as a barrier between your skin and compressed air. Therefore, some operators also wear protective aprons.
2. Inspect The Air Compressor
Most air compressors on the market today contain oil or are oil-injected, using oil to lubricate the parts and seal components. If your air compressor uses oil, check the oil level before you turn on the system, to prevent accidental wear or damage.
If your air compressor has a fuel tank, also ensure that enough fuel is in the tank.
Many air compressors have additional checks that should be performed before each use. For example, VMAC’s G30 air compressor has the following inspection checklist in its manual:
- Check the compressor oil level and condition (Note: If crank case is filled with fuel, check to see if fuel shutoff was left open after last shutdown as this is the most common cause)
- Inspect the blowdown muffler
- Inspect the Pressure Relief Valve
- Inspect the compressor air filter
- Inspect the engine air filter
- Check the engine oil level and condition
- Check the fuel level
- Do a final inspection to ensure that all fasteners and connections are tight
- Check that all hoses and wiring is secure and adequately protected
- Check for any fluid leaks around the unit.
3. Close The Drain Valve
If your air compressor uses an air receiver tank, confirm that the drain valve on the tank is closed. It is a best practice to drain any water that accumulates in the tank after use, which means the drain valve may still be open from previous use.
4. Connect The Air Hose & Air Tools
Connect the air hose, if it isn’t already connected. Follow the instructions in your operator’s manual if you are unsure of how to do this, as proper attachment can vary. Many hoses have quick connect or other fittings, and in rare cases will require the use of PTFE tape.
You should also connect the air tool or inflation tip you intend to use, while the air compressor is still shut off. Simply pull back the collar on the hose, attach it to the tool’s intake valve, and then release the collar. Confirm that the connection is secure and the discharge ball valve is closed.
5. Turn On The Air Compressor
When you’re ready to use the air compressor, hold the tool so it faces away from your body, and then turn on the air compressor. You may need to use an on/off switch, key, pull cord, or remote control to turn on the compressor.
If your air compressor has an air receiver tank, you will need to wait several seconds or minutes while air builds up in the tank. Once the tank is full, you can engage the tool and get to work!
After-Use Reminders For Air Compressors
When you are done using the air compressor, there are two important steps you should remember:
- Turn off the air compressor and ensure the engine is fully stopped
- Open the drain valve in the air receiver tank, if applicable
- Shut off the fuel supply to the engine, if applicable
After these steps are complete, you can store the air compressor in a secure place until the next time you need to use it.