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Tips for a Successful Compressor Rebuild

What makes a successful compressor rebuild? To learn helpful tips and information, read all the details below.

Tips for a Successful Compressor Rebuild - KB Delta

Reciprocating compressors are well-known positive-displacement devices that work based on a reciprocating principle to deliver gas at incredibly high pressures. This is possible via the action of pistons within the device.

Reciprocating compressors are popular for their exceptional durability. They have low installation/maintenance costs and a small footprint. The mechanical device is engineered to work effectively and efficiently in a wide range of variations, including:


  • Auto body
  • Woodworking facilities
  • Industrial facilities
  • Tire shops
  • Construction sites
  • Amusement parks, etc.


If for any reason, you operate in conditions that are far less than ideal, you can depend heavily on a reciprocating compressor. This is because reciprocating compressors are mostly designed for intermittent duty applications in harsh conditions or environments.

However, just like any mechanical device, something could suddenly go wrong, and the compressor becomes faulty. You may end up getting forced to choose between getting a new compressor or rebuilding the defective one.

Getting a brand-new compressor has several benefits that no one would want to miss out on. However, many people don’t know that you can rebuild the malfunctioning compressor and make it look new.

In other words, if the major components of a compressor are no longer functioning as they should, or the compressor itself has failed, the mechanical device can be carefully inspected, repaired, or rebuilt to function optimally again.

This article covers a few tips for a highly successful compressor rebuild that will save you money and time.


What You Need to Know About Overhauling a Reciprocating Compressor

Overhauling a reciprocating compressor refers to the process of taking apart a reciprocating compressor – i.e., stripping off its components – in order to thoroughly examine the mechanical device and repair or rebuild it if need be.

Reciprocating compressors are pretty expensive and also costs a lot to maintain. These are the primary reasons why replacing a defective compressor with a brand-new one is not always ideal.

On the other hand, rebuilding a reciprocating compressor involves checking out all failed components of the device and replacing them with new ones. This restores the excellent working condition of the mechanical device.


The Different Reciprocating Compressor Parts You Should Know

Reciprocating compressors are a combination of multiple components or parts. Each of these parts is not there to enhance the compressor’s look but to carry out specific functions.

Here are some important compressor parts you should know:


  • Piston

This component – commonly crafted from aluminum alloys, aluminum, and other low-weight materials in order to minimize rod load and shaking – is commonly known as the heart of a reciprocating compressor.

It is primarily responsible for translating energy to gas within the cylinder right from the crankcase.

The piston is mostly equipped with sliding self-lubricating seals – known as piston rings – in order to avoid leakage. These rings are also known to help prevent premature wear and boost efficiencies via the reduction of friction force.


  • Cylinder

All reciprocating compressors come with cylinders, which can be separated from the main frame. The cylinder is home to the suction and discharge valve plates.

Large, low-pressure cylinders are crafted from cast iron, while small, high-pressure cylinders are constructed from steel. In a few cases, some cylinders are made from ductile iron. But for reciprocating compressors used in the hydrocarbon industry, the cylinders are mostly crafted from steel.

Most cylinders come equipped with replaceable liners in order to prevent excessive wear. The removable surface also helps minimize or eliminate the cost of replacing an entire cylinder when there are issues.


  • Rod packing

Rod packing is similar to the piston rod and is highly essential in preventing the leakage of gas as it passes through the cylinder as well as crank closure. Stuffing boxes are employed for jacketing liquid coolant where a cooling pack is required.


  • Bearing

This split-sleeved and steel-backed component connect main rod bearings. However, anti-friction bearings can only be found in compressor components rated less than 200 horsepower (150 kW).


  • Piston rod

This component, traditionally manufactured from alloy steel, is primarily responsible for efficiently transmitting the reciprocating crosshead into the piston.

The piston rod has a hardened and polished surface, especially where it passes through the cylinder packing.

This component requires regular maintenance as the compressor vendor sets some limits. This is to prevent minimized efficiency, premature wear, and higher leakage, all of which may skyrocket maintenance expenses.


  • Valve

The spring-located, gas-actuated valves in reciprocating compressors are highly essential. There are 3 major valve configurations used in compressors:


  1. Poppet type valve
  2. Plate type valve
  3. Ring-type valve
  4. Crosshead


This is a vital component within every industrial-grade reciprocating compressor that guides every piston into the cylinder bore. This action permits longer strength and greater capacity by allowing increased control of oil carryover right into the cylinder.



This component is forged out of steel and is present in every reciprocating compressor above 200 horsepower (150 kW). It helps compensate for rotary and reciprocating unbalance via its removable balance weight.

But when a reciprocating compressor is over 800 rpm, the crankshaft needs to be balanced dynamically.


  • The Lubrication System

Heavy-duty and medium reciprocating compressors require what is known as force type lubrication. The primary components of the lubrication system are:


  1. The lube oil tank
  2. Dual oil filter
  3. Lube oil cooler
  4. Main oil pump
  5. Pressure-regulating valve, and
  6. Associated accessories


Maintenance of Reciprocating Compressors

Regular maintenance of reciprocating compressors is key to its peak performance. The maintenance should best be handled by certified experts with years of experience under their belts.

This ensures the device keeps performing optimally and makes it easier to catch potential major problems and nip them in the bud before they blossom to become major failures.

Therefore, maintenance procedures should be carried out from time to time, i.e., weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or even quarterly, depending on how much the equipment housing the device is used.


Compressor Rebuild Conclusion

Rebuilding a compressor successfully helps restore the proper function of an existing machine. This occurs at a far lesser cost than purchasing a brand-new reciprocating compressor, thereby saving you a lot of money.

Rebuilding a reciprocating compressor is an exercise that should only be performed by a certified or professional mechanic who knows the ins and outs of the device and has lots of experience stripping down compressors.

This ensures that you get a fully functional reciprocating compressor within a short period so that you can get back to work. Asides from minimizing downtime, you get to catch every potential major problem right before a catastrophic failure.

Moreover, rebuilding a reciprocating compressor prolongs its lifespan as well as its related machine or equipment. Most mechanical failures can trigger domino effects in which other problems emerge and have to be fixed, or else, there will be a colossal loss.

Lastly, when all vital components of a reciprocating compressor function smoothly, your equipment performs at its peak.

This is why rebuilding a reciprocating compressor is far more beneficial than dumping it and getting a brand-new one.



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