How To Break In An Air Compressor

Are you the proud owner of a brand new air compressor? It’s likely, then, that you’re keen to get started with it as soon as possible. However, in many cases, it makes sense to break in your compressor before you start putting it to work.

Breaking in an air compressor is important for oil-based systems as it helps to lubricate their parts. Some compressors might not need much breaking in at all, but it’s always a good process to follow.

The good news is, even if you are pushed for time, it shouldn’t take you too long to get your compressor up to speed. Whether you’re new to compression or are relearning the process, here’s a quick guide to help you on your way.

Why should I break in an air compressor?

It’s all to do with checking everything works properly. Consider breaking in an air compressor to be something like a ‘dry run’. You wouldn’t start cooking food in an oven until you know it can get up to temperature! The same applies to air compressors – most manufacturers recommend breaking them in before you give them any major work to do.

For oil-based compressors, it’s about making sure the pistons are lubricated, too. That said, even the best air compressors that don’t use oil will benefit from a short breaking-in.

If you’re really not sure about the process, or even how to get started, do as we always do – read the manual! However, before you start scratching at your head and start calling up tech support, read on for our quick, general guide to breaking in your air compressor.

Breaking in an air compressor: step by step guide

  1. Fill with oil.

If your air compressor is an oil-based system, then you should absolutely fill up your crankcase before you start. If lubrication’s not necessary, skip to step two.

It’s important here to check your manual to see how much oil you actually need. What’s more, your manufacturer will tell you which oil works best. This may vary, so don’t be so ready to pour any old solution into your crankcase.

2. Open up the drain valve.

No, there’s nothing to drain at this point, but opening up the drain valve is crucial to breaking in your air compressor. You’ll normally find it underneath your tank, but again, your manual comes in handy.

In fact, there are some cases where you might not have a tank at all. If that’s the case, then just dial down your pressure regulation – right down to zero – and head to step three.

3. Check the outlet and plug in.

Now, it’s time to find an outlet and to actually plug in your air compressor. 

However, before you do, make sure the outlet you’re about to use has the power requirements your compressor demands. Get the voltage or your amperage wrong, and you will be in a world of trouble. Yes, again – it’s likely to be all in the manual!

Once you’re confident you’ve got the right outlet, plug in.

4. Power on and monitor.

Power on your air compressor and, ideally, you should let it run for up to 20 minutes on its own.

Check you know where the power button is (you may just have an ‘off’ switch), and keep an eye on your compressor throughout the process.

Many people choose to leave their compressors to break in on their own, but we feel it’s best to keep a watchful eye. If anything goes wrong, you’ll want to be around for when it happens.

5. You’re done!

After the 20 minutes is up, barring any mishaps or concerns, you can close the drain valve again and power down. Remove from the outlet, and you’re good to go.

This process is just a general run-through of what you can expect from breaking in. As it’s a recommended process for most air compressors, it’s probably unwise to go ahead and start using your machine before the test’s complete.

 Your seals need to set, and in some cases, your pistons need to lubricate. 

When should I break in an air compressor?

You should always break in an air compressor when you’ve either bought a new model, or if you’ve taken your machine back from repair.

That’s because, as mentioned, you need to make sure all the parts inside are working as expected. If you’ve had your air compressor repaired, it may be that your specialist has broken things in for you. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to check.

Breaking in a new air compressor makes sense, too, in case you need to send your machine back to the manufacturer. Manufacturing faults may fall under your warranty, in which case, it’s never good to suffer in silence.

You won’t have to break in your air compressor every time you use it. It’s purely a first-time measure, whether new or repaired.

What you should do after starting up your air compressor, of course, is regularly change out the oil. You should be draining your compressor ideally a couple of times a week to ensure it’s running at speed.

Do I need to break in my air compressor?

If you’ve been running your air compressor for a while, then you probably won’t have anything to worry about. However, in our own personal experience, it makes sense to run your compressor for about 20 minutes first when you buy new.

Even the best air compressors – budget compressors or high-end models – need a little bit of encouragement to get started. Trust us on this!