Why Air Compressors Have Multiple Filters?

If you own an air compressor that requires oil to operate, it probably utilizes several different filters and separation devices in order to keep things running smoothly. This is vital to avoid contaminating the compressed air it’s creating and to keep the engine in peak condition. Below we’ll dig into why compressors depend on filters so heavily, and why maintenance is key if you want your compressor to last.

An air compressor filter element

Air Compressors Get Messy Fast

There’s a whole lot going on inside an air compressor that’s lubricated with oil. Oil is continually moving around on the surfaces of the different metal parts used in many of the larger air compressors used today. The oil helps prevent rubbing and wear on key engine parts, so your compressor can last longer.

The trouble with that oil, is that it comes in contact with water and contaminants during the normal compression cycle. As the air compressor condenses the outside air, pressure levels rise and some water is released.

In the released water there are all sorts of nasty contaminants that can gum up the oil and form pollution in the water that’s later released from the compressor. That’s why there is a series of filters and separators built into most modern air compressors.

Separating Oil, Water and Contaminants

In order to keep your average air compressor running smoothly, thsese devices need special filters and separators to keep the air, water, oil and contaminants separate from one another. The combined materials are run through a series of special filters that capture the contaminants while separating the oil and water apart from one another.

The water is sent to a drain hold to be emptied out later on. The oil is redirected back toward the engine of the air compressor, and the contaminants are permanently trapped in the filters of the system until they eventually require replacement.

When to Replace the Air Compressor Filter

Most air compressors are equipped with a basic set of filters that are used to remove the contaminants brought in with the air from the system. These filters slowly become filled with dirt, pollen, minerals, and other contaminants. It’s a simple matter to check the air filter in your air compressor occasionally to see if it needs cleaning or changing. Remove the filter and inspect it to see just how clogged it is. If it looks more than 50% clogged up with junk, it’s a good time to look into getting a replacement for your air compressor.

When to Replace the Air and Oil Separator Filter

Along with filters for capturing contaminants, there are some compressors that feature filters designed to keep the oil from entering the compressed air. These filters slowly become saturated and ineffective. The main sign that these filters are failing is a larger amount of oil inside the oil separator or even oil in the air tank of the compressor itself. A quick way to verify that the oil filter is okay is to access it and inspect it to see how much oil is built up on its surface. If it appears very saturated with oil, it can’t do its job properly any longer and should be replaced.

Air compressors work hard and cycle through thousands of tanks of air during their lifetime. It’s important to replace the filters that keep things running smoothly regularly to avoid all sorts of complications. You’ll preserve the life of your compressor engine, and get more work done if you just spend an hour or two maintaining your unit annually.