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4 Things You Probably Do Not Know About Compressor Burnout

Compressor Burnout | KB Delta

Your compressor valve is the life force of your machine. When your valve fails due to compressor burnout, your entire operation must come to a screeching halt. Furthermore, compressor failure and burnouts are incredibly expensive to fix and can cost you and your company hundreds if not thousands of dollars to repair.


What Leads to Compressor Burnout?

Such burnouts are the result of a variety of factors and causes that eventually lead to the complete failure of the compressor valve. While it is impossible to anticipate each and every occurrence of failure, there are signs that you can watch for and measures that you can take to avoid compressor burnout and elongate the life of your machine.

By understanding what leads to compressor burnout, you will be able to avoid simple yet common oversights and mistakes that can lead to machine failure and the eventual disruption of your business.


1. Compressors Must be Well Lubricated

Your compressor valves work non-stop. Even compressors that are operating at modest levels will open and shut their valves over one million times each day.

This constant hum of activity requires sufficient lubrication in order to run smoothly. When your compressor lacks the required amount of lubricant, the friction caused by the constant back and forth of the internal machinery will create an undue amount of heat that will raise the internal temperature of your compressor.

This rise in heat can in turn lead to the degradation of your motor insulation, cause your oil to deteriorate or turn acidic and can even make your pistons and bearings freeze up.

How to Ensure Your Compressor is Lubricated

In order to ensure that your compressor is well lubricated, read your compressor’s manual to determine how much oil and what grade of oil your compressor requires.

Do not just assume that the oil levels and types that you use for one compressor can be applied to another. In addition to checking the oil levels in your compressor, you will want to check the acidity level of your oil on a yearly basis.

As mentioned above, high temperatures can chemically alter your oil and turn it sour. High levels of acidity in your oil will not only be counter productive, it can actively eat away at the metal parts inside of your compressor and lead to compressor burnout.

If you do determine that your oil has turned acidic, you will need to drain, flush and completely replace the acrid oil. Be sure to use a flushing solution that is compatible with your compressor. Do not, under any circumstances, try to neutralize acidic oil.


2. High Temperatures Work Against You

Even if your compressor is well lubricated, do not assume that your compressor cannot overheat.

This misconception can cause you to ignore other heat-inducing factors that can lead to compressor burnout.

Common factors that can cause a spike in your compressor’s core temperatures include:


  • The degradation of motor insulation
  • The insufficient flow of coolant
  • The failure of a condenser fan
  • High condensing pressure


If you notice that your compressor is running hot, you may want to check to ensure that none of the above issues is causing the rise in heat.

If you suspect that the increased temperature is a result of high condensing pressure, you will want to verify that your condensers are not dirty and that your condenser fan is correctly set. These are common issues that can cause the condensing pressure to rise and create burnout-causing heat.

Once you have identified the cause and source of the heat, be sure to replace the damaged or broken part as soon as possible.


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3. Moisture Leads to Corrosion

Today’s compressors do not use chlorinated refrigerants or mineral oils like the compressors of yesteryear. However, owners must avoid the mistake of assuming that acid is no longer an issue.

Acid is a byproduct of moisture; therefore, owners must be cognizant of the humidity levels in their machinery since moisture can lead to the creation of sour oil and acid.

What to Do if Humidity is High

If you suspect that high levels of humidity in your compressor are leading to the acidification of your oil or causing your metal parts to corrode, you should replace your filter-drier immediately in order to prevent the further deterioration of your compressor and oil.

If you have already experienced a compressor burnout and believe that is was likely the cause of humidity, you will want to add a suction line filter-drier in order to ensure that any acid lingering in the compressor lines does not enter the compressor itself.


4. Design Matters

When faced with an expensive compressor blowout, it may be easier and faster to search for the most affordable option on the market to replace a damaged part.

What many people do not realize, however, is that the cheapest option is not necessarily the best option. The quality, material and design of the parts in your compressor directly impact its output.

Just like in the example above, the failure of a filter-drier can lead to severe consequences if not dealt with quickly and appropriately. When looking to replace parts, you may want to consider the design and material of your replacement units in order to prevent further burnouts and extend the overall life of your compressor.

For example, plate valves that use non-metal materials are more resistant to acid and acidic oils than their metallic counterparts. Similarly, cone-shaped pressure valves create less friction and are less likely to allow build-up to grow than their flat-shaped counter parts.



Taking design, quality and material into mind when replacing and maintaining your compressor’s various parts can help you avoid future burnouts and failures. Now, you can continue doing business as usual. Taking the time to do your research, vet your replacement materials and invest in high-quality products will payoff in the long run.

By being aware of the prevailing causes of compressor burnout, you can avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes that some owners make when maintaining and replacing their compressor’s parts.

The time, attention and quality of the parts that you invest into your machinery will result in the prolonged life and increased output of your compressor. This will undoubtedly pay out in your favor in the long run.

You, your business and your stakeholders will be glad that you took the time to properly maintain your compressor and avoid the common mistakes that lead to blowouts.

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