Do Air Compressor Tanks Explode?

If you’re new to the wonderful world of air compressor ownership, one of the first questions you might have about these machines is related to safety. Do air compressor tanks explode? If so, why?

Yes, air compressor tanks can explode. However, the good news is that it’s highly unlikely to happen to you, providing you look after your air compressor correctly. It’s all about draining your tank, keeping your compressor well-oiled, and keeping it cool.

That’s why it is always important to follow a careful air compressor care schedule. You should drain your air compressor tank at least once a week, for example, and make sure to follow advice in your manufacturer’s manual.

Keep reading, and we’ll share with you how and why air compressor tanks can explode – and what you need to do to avoid this situation.

Why do air compressors explode?

As mentioned, air compressors exploding at all is very uncommon. However, explosions can occur, and it’s normally down to one of two scenarios.

There’s corrosion in the tank

Air compressor tank corrosion is, unfortunately, a leading cause of explosion. Many people may not know there is a problem until they actually look deeper into their tanks and inner workings.

Water in your air compressor tank is likely to cause condensation, and therefore metal corrosion over time. That’s why it’s always important to keep checking your tank and to service it frequently. Even draining your compressor tank more regularly can cut the risk of an explosion occurring in your garage or workshop.

A corroded tank is a weak tank. When the inside of your air compressor tank starts to break down and corrode, the air inside is at risk of breaking out – hence an explosion!

There’s a manufacturing fault

This scenario is hardly your fault, and it’s also likely to be less common – leading air compressors are built with incredible quality and precision, meaning you can hardly expect them to explode on you!

Manufacturing faults can lead to air compressor explosions if valves and seals, for example, are improperly designed or fabricated. Any poorly-designed fitting that leads to over-pressurization will, by and large, lead to an extreme build-up of air.

There may also be problems with the safety and/or shut-off switches on your machine. If your tank or its valves aren’t installed properly at all, it’s another recipe for a fairly explosive disaster.

The only way you can avoid this situation is to make sure you only buy new air compressors straight off the assembly line (with no previous owners), and that you shop with a reputable brand. This is not a machine you should save money on by going with a cheaper brand – trust us!

Are there other reasons why air compressor tanks explode?

While the two scenarios above are likely to be the main causes of tank explosions, there are a handful of other reasons why an explosion might occur.

Believe it or not, other machinery or tools in your work space may set off a chain reaction. It’s rare, but any tools connected to your air compressor that explode or combust may cause your tank to follow likewise. Therefore, don’t just care for your air compressor – care for all your tools and machinery!

What’s more, if your compressor overheats, there’s also a risk of explosion. Your air compressor will need to cool down to keep running safely and adequately. So, always make sure to keep following your maintenance schedule, and again – that golden rule – follow the advice of your manufacturer!

Do also make sure that you have cooling systems set up that are adequate for larger air compressors. This isn’t likely to be a problem for a smaller air compressor, but it still pays to be vigilant.

The final reason why your tank is likely to explode is that you’re not lubricating the parts of your tank enough. If there’s friction in the inner workings, you’re at risk of forcing oil down into your valves. That’s going to compact and, eventually, ignite – boom!

Don’t worry, as we’ll take you through what to do to avoid these scenarios further down. Stick with us!

Are air compressors dangerous?

Air compressors are hardly as deadly as explosive gas or even cans of compressed air. They can pose safety risks if you are present should your tank explode, however, it’s more of a concern in terms of damage.

An air compressor explosion could not only leave you without a compressor, but you could end up doing serious damage to your work space and other tools in use. If you have power tools or motors connected to your compressor when it explodes, for example, that could result in an expensive replacements bill.

In any case, it’s never a good idea to push them to their limit – even laying air compressors on their sides can cause problems if they are meant to be stood upright!

Therefore, whether or not air compressors are dangerous shouldn’t come into the equation – air compressor tank explosions are bad news! While they are rare, and are extremely unlikely to occur on their own with a reputable manufacturer, there are still things you can and should do to reduce the risk of such a catastrophe. Keep reading, and we’ll show you how!

How to prevent air compressor explosion

Let’s consider a few things you can do right away, and regularly, to ensure your air compressor tank doesn’t explode.

Avoid corrosion

As the number one cause of air compressor tank explosion, you should be primed and ready to prevent corrosion in your tank at all costs. The best way to do this is – of course – to keep draining your tank.

Draining your air compressor tank at least once or twice a week is likely to reduce the risk of it weakening. After each use, in fact, is the best course of action. We’d especially recommend this if, for example, you’re likely to be using your air compressor a lot over a short period of time. Corrosion problems are most likely to arise if you leave water standing in the unit for an extended period, so be careful.

Do also make sure to ‘test’ your tank for corrosion. A swift hammer to the sides of your powered-down and unplugged tank – providing you’re not giving it brute force – should allow you to spot any metal weaknesses (if doing so leaves any dings).

Another easy way to spot corrosion that’s likely safer is if the water that drains is rust-colored – a clear sign there’s weakness in the tank!

Keep well-ventilated

Ventilation and cooldown are important for all air compressors, particularly for larger machines. The bigger the air compressor, the hotter the space is going to get – and that’s going to risk explosion.

Be sure to always run air compressors in spaces where air flow is clear and, where possible, use a separate cooling unit for heavy-duty machines.

Keep your air compressor oiled

It’s always a good idea to keep lubricating your air compressor’s various pistons and parts, and your manufacturer’s manual will show you how. Doing so doesn’t have to be a difficult job, and it doesn’t even have to be frequent.

If you run an oil-based air compressor, of course, you should keep your oil levels topped up, too, for the same reasons.

Check everything is secure and fastened correctly

Over time, inner components and parts can wear down and/or loosen. That means having to run regular maintenance checks of your air compressor to make sure air isn’t escaping – one of the main reasons behind explosions.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the manufacturer has created faults within the machine itself. There may be hidden damage or erosion within your air compressor that could lead to explosions, or simply poor performance!


Do air compressor tanks explode? Yes. However, you’re unlikely to experience this providing you are taking good care of your machine. Even the quietest air compressors can explode if you don’t maintain them properly.

That means regularly draining your air compressor tank, ensuring everything is well-oiled, and following your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.

While air compressor explosions are unlikely to be as dangerous as gas canister explosions, they can still cause a lot of damage, as well as cost you a lot of money in replacements and/or repairs.

Therefore, for the longest life possible for your air compressor, keep it drained, keep it clean, and keep it well oiled!