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Reciprocating Compressor Repair and Maintenance: An Overview

Reciprocating compressor repair and maintenance involves regularly checking and replacing parts such as seals, valves, and gaskets to ensure proper function and extend the life of the machine. Continue reading.

Reciprocating compressors are lauded for their durability and are the workhorse of several industries. Otherwise known as piston compressors, these models make use of pistons within a chamber to drastically increase pressure and decrease volume. The reciprocating motion of the machine has to do with the back-and-forth movement of the piston.

This article covers reciprocating compressor repair and maintenance. But let’s start with the basics.


Reciprocating Compressor Repair and Maintenance

Reciprocating compressors serve in various capacities globally in the chemical, petrochemical, and gas industries. Implementing a maintenance plan is critical to ensuring these machines keep functioning optimally or at their best and prevent breakdowns that may result in costly downtimes.

There are several ways or approaches to the maintenance of reciprocating compressors. This includes the standard maintenance procedures to the hands-off approach of run-to-failure some companies prefer to deploy.

Some organizations go with the most advanced predictive maintenance programs driven by the continuous monitoring of the reciprocating compressor components. This advanced approach helps predict the failures of compressor components long before they occur.

However, having a well-thought-out maintenance procedure or program has lots of benefits for your reciprocating compressor. Some of these benefits include improved efficiency, reliability, and safety. It also adds considerable value to the product being produced by significantly minimizing the overall operating cost of the reciprocating compressor

Irrespective of any company’s approach to compressor maintenance, a time will come when the machine will require servicing. Here are some of the compressor maintenance procedures to follow:


Filter Changes

Regularly changing your reciprocating compressor’s filters is one of the most straightforward maintenance procedures. This includes inlet and discharge filters, separators, etc.

Check and replace these filters every 2,000 hours. This prevents the oil from getting contaminated and damaging the compressor mechanisms.

If the reciprocating compressor is operated in dirtier environments, the filters may require more regular checking and replacements.


Checking Motor Bearings

A motor within the machine powers the crankshaft of the reciprocating compressor. Therefore, it is highly crucial to always check and lubricate the bearings inside this motor from time to time.

Lubricating the bearings with motor grease help increase their lifespan while keeping them cool, which helps prevent them from breaking down unceremoniously.

However, always use the recommended or correct motor grease when lubricating the motor bearings. Refrain from mixing grease types for any reason, and avoid over-greasing the bearings, as this could cause other complications you’d rather do without.

When checking the compressor’s motor bearings, ensure you replace them before they become worn out. Leaving them operating for too long and wearing them out over time can hinder the significant performance of the reciprocating compressor.


Lubricant Checks

Since the reciprocating compressor has several moving components, remember to check your lubricant. Please note how clean the lubricant is to know whether or not to change it.

Lubrication of the machine must always be at an optimal level and high quality. This is because regular lubrication helps protect the moving components of the compressor from excessive wear and tear. It also helps keep the reciprocating compressor while getting rid of contaminants.

Therefore, check it by regular sampling and stick to the manufacturer’s guidelines, especially when replacing it.


Temperature Control

Reciprocating compressors have several moving components that make them function optimally. This is why it is always wise to consider the space around your machine to prevent overheating, as it can reach as high as 200 degrees Celsius when operating.

Therefore, ensure there is more than enough clearance for air to flow in and around the machine. This will help cool it down. Moreover, it gives the operator the space to move swiftly in case something goes wrong with the machine, and they need to get out of there.

An overheating reciprocating compressor can cause severe damage to the machine’s mechanisms.


Use Enhanced Seals

Reciprocating compressors can run for several years in between service intervals. Check the seals to see which ones require replacement. Ensure you only use enhanced seals whose durability cannot be questioned. They must be capable of holding pressure for extended periods and degrade slowly over time.


Other Important Reciprocating Compressor Repair and Maintenance Tips

You can perform these daily or before every operation:


  • Check for oil leaks
  • Ensure all covers and belt guards are securely in place
  • Lubricant level check and fill up as required
  • Check the system oil pressure on pressure-lubricated compressor models, especially while the machine is still hot.
  • Detect unusual vibration and noise from the reciprocating compressor.
  • Check the relief/safety valves while the machine is still functioning. Replace the relief/safety valves that are no longer operating freely
  • Ensure the area around the reciprocating compressor is free from debris, rags, tools, and explosive or flammable materials.


Reciprocating Compressor Repair

At times, no matter how much you implement maintenance procedures, your reciprocating compressor may get spoilt. You may not have the appropriate tools or maintenance personnel ready to tackle the compressor repair job efficiently or effectively. Refrain from attempting to handle repairs yourself because you may worsen the problem, resulting in costlier repairs.

When faced with this situation, you should hire professionals who know how to carry out power-end and complete repair services for every significant reciprocating compressor.

Working with companies that can carry out routine component repairs, complicated overhauls, and field and compressor re-rates services is essential. In addition, they should be capable of performing complete teardown and inspection to final repair and assembly of a reciprocating compressor.

It won’t make sense to work with a compressor repair company that needs to source aftermarket materials instead of OEM components. The repair company should have highly experienced technicians capable of using specialized equipment while providing extensive engineering support.



A reciprocating compressor is a powerful machine used across several industries. In many cases, these machines work almost round the clock, like perpetual motion machines. This is why they require maintenance procedures that must be implemented from time to time.

These maintenance procedures help prolong the life of the reciprocating compressor while boosting its efficiency and operability.


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