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post #1 of 19 Old 04-24-2019, 05:09 PM Thread Starter
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Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

Rule #1 of air compressors is to turn them off and dump the air when finished. Unfortunately, I forgot to do that the other day and now have to deal with it.

My compressor turned on in the middle of the night. For whatever reason, it didn't shut off. At some point the noise woke my wife, who sent me to the garage. It was full of smoke.

When I turned the compressor back on the next day, it would build to about 20 pounds and not go higher. It's also shooting air out the vent holes on the oil fill. I took the head off, and it did have one broken valve. I replaced that, but it's still not building pressure and shooting air out the vent.

My guess at this point is the rings are shot, and as luck would have it they are also NLA. Is there any hope in getting them unstuck? I could do a MMO soak or something. Or is this a lost cause?

It's a Harbor Freight 21 gallon compressor. So not high end, but I'd rather not spend the money to buy a new one if I can fix what I have.

I'd take any suggestions or ideas!
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post #2 of 19 Old 04-24-2019, 05:16 PM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

At HF prices just replace the whole compressor. You could also just buy one of their pumps the smaller being less than $200.
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post #3 of 19 Old 04-24-2019, 05:21 PM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

I looked it up and it's $175. If parts aren't available I'm guessing you're out of luck...but with coupon or on sale it would be less.
If tank is good it would work as a portable air tank.
My compressor I only turn on when using it. I put a ball valve in line and it holds pressure for weeks.
I put a check list sign on walk out door , air compressor off, thermostat low, etc.

Sent from my Bell Rotary
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post #4 of 19 Old 04-24-2019, 05:25 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

Yup, the plan was to go out and buy another one. But if there is something I could try, I'm all for saving the money.

I think its usually on sale for $160, IIRC.
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post #5 of 19 Old 04-25-2019, 10:45 AM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

You can plumb both tanks together for more CFM ,it'll let you run tools longer before it has to come back on again..

That sucks the compressor ran long enough to kill itself..I guess the thermal overload on the motor failed to work ?..

My friend has had his compressor at his auto repair shop run all night more than once--he forgot to shut off the breaker when he closed up,and the compressor came back on after he left ,when enough air bled out of a leaky quick coupler to kick it back on...

The hose failed once after it had run awhile,and let it run constantly over 12 hours !..when he arrived at work the next morning he heard it still running,and said the work bay was full of smoke,and the pump was hot enough to turn some of it blue !..he is lucky it still works,now it takes longer to build up full pressure..it's an old Craftsman 5 HP single cylinder ,single stage pump...

The motor died on it about a year later..his electric bill went up $30 that month too!..


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post #6 of 19 Old 04-25-2019, 11:06 AM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

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Originally Posted by TWG1572 View Post
Rule #1 of air compressors is to turn them off and dump the air when finished.
Tell any machine shop that and they'll tell you you're crazy. No-one would pay to air up a compressor every time they use it. I leave them on all the time.

Rule #1 is no air leaks
Rule #2 is no water in air (and thus the tank, lines, etc.)

I have a crappy compressor (old costco campell hausfeld) that I rarely even drain and runs year over year (has to be over 20 years old now). I also have a good compressor (IR T-30) that I only fire up as needed for bigger jobs. Neither have dehydrators on them, but they probably should. And yes, I should put an auto water drain on both.
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post #7 of 19 Old 04-25-2019, 12:10 PM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

I shut the compressor down and drained it daily, only takes a few minutes to refill it in the morning while making coffee and getting ready to start the day. It is a critical piece of shop equipment and well worth maintaining properly.
Yours likely has an offshore pump which usually means no parts are available. Replacement pumps are not expensive but in your case probably too close to the price of a new unit to make one worthwhile.
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post #8 of 19 Old 04-25-2019, 02:32 PM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

You REALLY need to drain the tank regularly. If you are lucky, the tank only gets pinholes in the bottom, and hopefully you stop using it then. If you are not lucky, the tank will literally blow up.

Most people put in the cheapest little T-valve, screwed directly into the tank, so it's a hassle to drain it (have to get down on your knee's, or on your side, open the valve and get a blast of dirt & water in your face).

For a few bucks more, you can get a toggle-style valve with a cable, so you can walk up to the tank and pull on the cable briefly to drain the tank. Works great, and costs less than $10...
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post #9 of 19 Old 04-25-2019, 10:19 PM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

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You REALLY need to drain the tank regularly. If you are lucky, the tank only gets pinholes in the bottom, and hopefully you stop using it then. If you are not lucky, the tank will literally blow up.

Most people put in the cheapest little T-valve, screwed directly into the tank, so it's a hassle to drain it (have to get down on your knee's, or on your side, open the valve and get a blast of dirt & water in your face).

For a few bucks more, you can get a toggle-style valve with a cable, so you can walk up to the tank and pull on the cable briefly to drain the tank. Works great, and costs less than $10...

THIS is all you need to do to a compressor. Letting air out daily is not proper care of a compressor. You are actually adding lots of hours of use to the pump and motor to air it back up each day.
You should turn off the valve and or switch or breaker so IF it blows a hose or a pressure pop off gets weak and vents it will not run all night.

You should blow water off everyday though most do not. Your tank bottom will last longer if you do and the drain won't get clogged up with rust chunks, but you will get no longer life letting all air out everyday and having it air up each morning. It will probably last longer if you leave it up to pressure and turn off power to it because in 10 years it will have a lot fewer hours on it.
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post #10 of 19 Old 04-25-2019, 11:51 PM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

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Originally Posted by dave_r View Post
You REALLY need to drain the tank regularly. If you are lucky, the tank only gets pinholes in the bottom, and hopefully you stop using it then. If you are not lucky, the tank will literally blow up.

Most people put in the cheapest little T-valve, screwed directly into the tank, so it's a hassle to drain it (have to get down on your knee's, or on your side, open the valve and get a blast of dirt & water in your face).

For a few bucks more, you can get a toggle-style valve with a cable, so you can walk up to the tank and pull on the cable briefly to drain the tank. Works great, and costs less than $10...
Just as clarification, my use of "drain" is w.r.t. draining water from the tank, not releasing all the air from the tank.

Personally, I drain the water from my tank maybe once a week if I'm not using it, and generally multiple times a day when I am (since it's easy, I just pull on the cord a moment as I'm walking around in my garage).
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post #11 of 19 Old 04-26-2019, 10:46 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

Quick update on this - I remembered I had an old Menards compressor in the shed that had a bad tank. As luck would have it, these import compressors must come from the same factory because the engine and piston assembly bolted right up to the Harbor Freight one. It has all the same dimensions, and was pretty much plug and play.

The only issue I have is that I need to rotate the head so air comes out the opposite side from where it comes today. I need to tackle that tonight, but assume it means rotating the valve assembly as well.
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post #12 of 19 Old 04-26-2019, 11:57 AM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

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Originally Posted by TobyU View Post
THIS is all you need to do to a compressor. Letting air out daily is not proper care of a compressor. You are actually adding lots of hours of use to the pump and motor to air it back up each day.
You should turn off the valve and or switch or breaker so IF it blows a hose or a pressure pop off gets weak and vents it will not run all night.

You should blow water off everyday though most do not. Your tank bottom will last longer if you do and the drain won't get clogged up with rust chunks, but you will get no longer life letting all air out everyday and having it air up each morning. It will probably last longer if you leave it up to pressure and turn off power to it because in 10 years it will have a lot fewer hours on it.
With the average shop compressor we are talking a few minutes per day. Hardly worth worrying about.
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post #13 of 19 Old 04-29-2019, 03:36 AM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

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With the average shop compressor we are talking a few minutes per day. Hardly worth worrying about.
Have you looked up the hour expectancy of some of these and you must figure they are very optimistic on many.

You could easily ad 20-25 hrs a year if you were using this daily in a shop at only 5 days a week.
I would say that could be noticeable in the replacement cycle.
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post #14 of 19 Old 04-29-2019, 05:10 AM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

It all depends on your usage. We're mostly home shop people here, different than a 5 or 6 day a week pro shop.
Some shops have nice tight systems; others leak here and there.
Every shop I know turns it off at night.
A shipyard where I do my work from time to time, has a big 20HP unit; water is drained at the end of every day. If I work late [with air], I do it. There's significant water from a day's use in that environment.

At my home shop[s], I've installed air lines around the 3 sheds and put a timer on it.
When activated [there's a button in each shed], the compressor is energized for an hour [easily adjustable].
This has been great for me, and solved my dyslexic memory problem at least as far as the compressor is concerned. The remote starting button is cool too.

I think pro shops should wire their compressors to a timer, or the shop lighting master switch.
How hard is that?

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post #15 of 19 Old 04-29-2019, 07:47 AM
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Re: Compressor Burnt Up - Rings

^^^ I put one of these in the wall. Made sure the one I got could handle my small compressor. Twist it and let it air up, no remembering to turn it off later.

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