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3 Signs of a Bad Air Compressor Valve Plate

Air compressors
Air compressors contain numerous valves, all of which play a key role in regulating internal pressure levels. Without these valves, an air compressor would not be able to fulfill its purpose.

A valve contains several different internal components, with the valve plate being perhaps the most important. The flat, round valve plate forms a seal when the valve closes.

Constant exposure to high pressure means that valve plates take quite a beating as time goes on. Eventually, a valve plate will succumb to some form of damage that prevents it from doing its job properly. This article takes a closer look at three common signs of damaged or faulty valve plates in an air compressor.

1. Unusual Noises

Under normal circumstances, most air compressors produce a lot of noise — enough that you’ll generally want to wear earplugs while you run your compressor. Yet that doesn't mean that you should consider all noises acceptable. If your compressor has begun to emit new or unusual noises, chances are that something is wrong.

A faulty discharge valve often gives rise to a loud or high-pitched noise. This sound corresponds to the air leaking out past the valve while it should be closed. In other words, your discharge valve may no longer be controlling the exit timing of compressed air. This problem often goes hand in hand with a compressor that fails to generate its usual pressure levels.

2. High Discharge Temperatures

A clear relationship exists between pressure and heat. As pressure increases, so does temperature. Therefore, an air compressor's discharge temperature always exceeds that of its intake temperature. However, discharge temperatures that are higher than your compressor’s limit may trigger the compressor to automatically shut down.

Discharge temperature stands in direct relation to what is known as the compression ratio. Compression ratio quantifies the difference between the intake pressure and the discharge pressure. Under normal conditions, the intake pressure should correspond to atmospheric pressure, making discharge pressure the key variable in determining discharge temperature.

Yet intake pressure may change as the result of a bad valve plate. This can occur if the plate reduces the amount of air that can enter the cylinder during each stroke. A lower intake pressure increases the amount of work that the machine has to do to achieve a given compression level. This increase in work creates heat, which in turn causes discharge temperatures to rise.

3. Slow Buildup Times

Provided that you keep your compressor in good working condition, it should be able to maintain a consistent rate of compression, as measured in the time it takes to pressurize a full tank of air. One of the most basic signs of valve trouble involves an increase in the compressor's buildup time. Such an increase may stem from problems with either the intake or the discharge valve plates.

As noted above, a faulty discharge valve may allow a steady stream of air to escape from the compression tank. As the problem grows worse, the buildup time will grow longer and longer. A faulty inlet valve plate may also increase buildup time by restricting the flow of air into the compressor. Test your compressor periodically to see how long it takes to charge a full tank.

Air compressors play vital roles in the service, repair, construction, and manufacturing industries. Regular troubleshooting and maintenance efforts should be mandatory for businesses that rely on air compressors. Otherwise, problems such as bad valve plates may render your equipment ineffectual.

For more information about keeping your air compressor in the best possible shape, please contact the construction industry equipment pros at West Equipment Company Inc.