Detailed Guide to How does an Air Compressor Work?

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Air compressors have come a long way and one cannot even imagine the era without them. As the factories and workshops are in die hard need of air compressors, it seems ridiculously tough to overlook this innovation.

Few years ago, the workshops used to draw power from wheels, large components and belts etc. which was quite a challenging thing to do. Since this type of machinery is too heavy and costly for smaller operations, only the larger companies used it.

But now with the advent of time, air compressors have replaced this machinery. Air compressor is used in factories or places where cars are serviced like auto workshops and gas stations.

Since air compressor is lightweight and compact, it is used in contrast to centralized power sources utilizing large motors. Also, compressors are easy to move, less noisy and require less maintenance as compared to the old machinery.

How do Air Compressors Work?

Let us talk about the working of air compressors:

Air compression is a twofold process where the air pressure rises when the volume tumbles down. Since compression is accomplished with reciprocating piston technology, here are the parts that every compressor has:

  • Connecting rod
  • Crankshaft
  • Piston
  • Cylinder
  • Valve head

Gas or electric motor is used for air compressors and varies from model to model. One end of the cylinder has discharge valves and inlet while on the opposite side of the cylinder’s top end, two valves are there. To make the piston compress, the inlet sucks air in and then the compressed air is released through the discharge valve.

The pressure is produced with rotating impellers and usually the models used by construction workers and mechanics work on positive displacement. The air is compressed within compartments and some small air compressors contain a motor and pump but majority has air tanks. To make the air compressor work properly, the air tank stores amount of air within specified pressure range.

The pneumatic tools connected to the unit supply lines are powered with the help of compressed air and the motor starts and stops to maintain the pressure at desired consistency.

The purpose of piston is to create a vacuum with back and forth movements and as it pulls back, the front space gets filled with air. Next, the air is sucked from the outside through the inlets and the same air is compressed when the piston extends.

After the compression, it gives strength to push through the discharge valve whilst holding the inlet shut and into the tank. When more air is supplied in the tank, the air pressure gains power.

How Lubrication works in Air Compressors?

When it comes to air compressor maintenance, you need to know how lubrication works. As there are two types of pumps, the maintenance is different for both.

  • Oil free pumps

These pumps require less maintenance and the bearings are treated with lasting lubrication. Also, they put more pressure on the motor and can be noisier too.

  • Oil lubricated pumps

These pumps take oil on the walls and bearings within the cylinder. It is also called as oil flood lubrication. This type of pump is durable as compared to the oil free pump because a little amount of oil seeps into the tank even when the piston ring keeps the oil away from the compressed air.

Watch this video below to better understand Lubrication System FOR AIR COMPRESSOR.

Using power tools which need lubrication, it is good that the oil is present in the air stream. To distribute oil through such tools in even amount, inline sources can be added. There are few tools which need a little bit of oil to deliver good results. But in few cases, when paint or woodwork is involved, oil can weaken the process. It is because oil within spray paint will not make the paint coating to dry easily or finish evenly so in that case, oil is not suggested.

Now to prevent oil from entering the air tank, air-line filters and oil separators are used. Other than that, the best way to prevent the air from being corrupted with oil is to go for oil free compressor having permanent lubrication on the bearings.

Pumps vs Compressors

Pumps and compressors sound quite similar but they are different. Below is the major line of difference between both these terms:

  • Compressor takes gas, squeezes the volume and send it somewhere else whereas
  • The pump takes gas or liquid and moves them between places

However, as you can see a pump works with any fluid but compressor works with gas just because liquid is hard to compress. So you can say that compressor performs only with air and pump is capable of dealing with both liquid and gas. There are few pumps having pressure gauges which rise with each revolution. Tire pump is a perfect example of this technology.

How Air Compression works in Everyday Life?

Talking about the usage of compressors in everyday life, you will not be surprised knowing about it. To engage people on day to day basis, there are a lot of inventions being made such as AC units which follow this air compression method. Most importantly, compressors work from behind the scene and away from your eyes.

Air tools are used regularly to lend comfort, automation and complete efficiency and they are responsible to transform air into power. As you move your eyes around the surroundings, you will see the air tools been used to paint the walls, sand wood, put plaster boards into place and nail and hammer beams to get utmost performance.


To conclude, air compressor is the latest invention which has made things easy like anything. Mankind discovered this to take ambient air and then transform it into a way that feels comfortable. As the construction, automation and manufacturing companies need air compressors to fulfill their work purposes, it is an awesome way to transform air in a way that can power motor equipment as needed.

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