Portable air compressors are designed to be very rugged, productive machines that work hard in various environments and climates. But for a longer life and optimal performance, they do require proper care and maintenance, especially now that colder weather is here. By following a good preventive maintenance program, you can better prepare your compressor for winter.
1. Follow the Operation and Maintenance Manual
The most important step is to check the operation and maintenance manual for recommended maintenance intervals. It details specific regular and seasonal maintenance items as well as oil and fluid recommendations to keep your air compressor running smoothly.
Here are some daily tasks:
- Complete a daily walk-around,checking for leaks.
- Check the engine oil dipstick and the compressor oil sight glass on the separator tank.
- Monitor the level of radiator coolant, making sure all gauges and lamps are in working order.
- Check the air cleaner service indicators and fuel/water separator drain.
- Drain any water that has collected from the fuel filters.
Each week, check the fan and alternator belts, battery connections and tires on wheel-mounted units. On a monthly basis, inspect your compressor to ensure that tire lug nuts are tight, hoses are not fraying and the automatic shutdown and air cleaner systems are in working order. Clean the exterior of the compressor oil cooler and engine radiator/oil cooler.
2. Switch to a Winter Blend Diesel Fuel
As cold weather takes hold, switch to the appropriate diesel fuel. Make sure you are using a winter blend diesel fuel from your fuel supplier instead of the standard No. 2 diesel typically used in spring and summer. Winter blend fuel should meet the engine manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid gelling or waxing issues. Keep fuel tanks full to prevent condensation when machines are not in use or are being stored for the season. Refer to your operation and maintenance manual for proper fuel procedures.
3. Use the Right Engine Oil and Lubricants
Colder temperatures can affect your air compressor’s ability to run efficiently, especially if you don’t have the right engine oil and lubricants. Different engine oil weights will likely be required for different climates and will vary based on ambient temperature exposure. Refer to the operation and maintenance manual to determine which weight of oil is recommended. Between oil changes, make sure to test your oil for the presence of metals, antifreeze and water. Contaminants could lead to engine failure if not properly flushed from the system. Air compressors should also have the correct airend lubrication oil to match the outside temperature as specified by the lubrication chart in the operation and maintenance manual.
“If you will be operating your air compressor in colder climates, you should check hoses and belts daily. Replace as necessary to prevent downtime or unnecessary repairs at the jobsite.”
4. Inspect the Battery
Check your battery before cold weather hits. There is always a draw on the battery, so it should be fully charged in cold weather. Older, weak batteries should be replaced. Make sure battery terminals are free of rust and corrosion and have a secure connection. Battery cables should also be inspected for any signs of wear or damage.
5. Test All Heater Elements
Before the temperature drops, test all heater elements. If applicable, all 24V DC heaters should be checked at each component while powered on. In addition, 120V AC heaters — such as block heaters, oil pan heaters and battery pad heaters — should be inspected by plugging them into a 120V AC supply to make sure they are operational. A heater for the crankcase breather tube may be required and should also be tested.
6. Look at Hoses, Belts and Tires
Cold weather is especially hard on rubber, so it’s vital to inspect all hoses and belts for wear and cracks. If you will be operating your air compressor in colder climates, you should check hoses and belts daily. Replace as necessary to prevent downtime or unnecessary repairs at the jobsite.
Winter can also be rough on tires. Check for proper inflation pressure. Rubber contracts in cold weather and air may escape without warning. Cracks resulting from cold temperatures will usually occur in the sidewalls.
7. Prep for Storage
If you decide not to use your air compressor this winter, make sure to start it and let it run until it reaches normal operating temperature at least once a month. This is especially important in areas where the ambient temperature will remain well below the freezing point for an extended period of time. Any maintenance items recommended by the manufacturer should be completed regardless of whether you are keeping the machine in storage or using it this winter.
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