A Complete Guide On How to Use an Air Compressor

Compressed air is used to power pneumatic tools. Pneumatic tools are valued because they have fewer moving parts, lowering their cost and minimizing maintenance. Tools that run on compressed air are lightweight and relatively safe because you can use them without having a heat source or electricity on site. However, they require a source of compressed air. This could be a tank full of compressed air or an air compressor that delivers a steady stream of compressed air. The same air compressor could be used to recharge compressed air tanks. The issue is how to use an air compressor correctly.

 Guide On How to Use an Air Compressor

01.Safety First

Wear safety goggles, a helmet, and protective gloves before you do anything with the air compressor. If you’ll be using the unit for long or using it in an enclosed space, wear hearing protection like earplugs or hearing muffs. Exposure to the loud motor noise can damage your hearing over time.

Treat the air compressor like a generator. For example, you want to check the oil level and air filters on the air compressor before you turn it on. This is especially true if it is a piston-type air compressor.

Some air compressors have an oil gauge next to the motor. If you add oil, make sure the drain valve is closed so the oil doesn’t spill onto the ground. Change the oil if necessary. (There are oil-free air compressors that don’t need this type of maintenance performed.) This maintenance will extend the operating life of the air compressor.

The air compressor should be located on a flat, stable surface. This could be the ground or a table. However, the air compressor shouldn’t sit on an angled roof or somewhere else where it could fall down. The air compressor should be close to your work surface, though you may not want it on the work surface where it could be knocked off.

Know where the safety valve is located before you operate the air compressor. This safety valve is generally copper-colored. If you pull the valve, it will release a valve and allow air to escape.

02.Prep Your Air Tank

If you’re going to use the air compressor to top off tires, this step isn’t necessary. This step is necessary if you’re going to refill compressed air tanks. Make sure that you know the tank’s recommended pressure capacity. If the air pressure is within that range, you don’t need to add air. If the air is low, secure the tank.

03.Turn It On

Plug in the compressed air machine to a grounded electrical outlet. If you’re plugging it into a generator, ensure that the generator can handle the initial power surge when the air compressor is turned on.

Let the air compressor run for a few moments. Ideally, you should let it recharge the air tank connected to the compressor before you connect the tools.

04.Check the Air Control Valve

The air control valve controls how fast the air flows through the pneumatic line to the attached tool. Verify the maximum air pressure allowed with that tool, and then adjust the air control valve. If too much air passes through the tool, you are creating unsafe working conditions. If the air pressure is too low, it won’t work as well as it should.

05.Connect the Air Hose

The air hose is what carries air from the compressor to the tool. Verify that the air hose can comfortably reach the designated work area. Tighten the connection with a wrench, unless it has a quick connect fitting.

You should wrap the threaded end of the air hose with Teflon tape to minimize air leaks and keep everything securely in place. The air compressor may have a gauge on the air hose that tells you when air pressure is building upon the line. Wait until it stops moving before you connect the tool to the end.

06.Connect the Pneumatic Tool

Once the air hose is secure, you can connect the hose to the tool. The tool generally has a quick-connect fitting. The spring-loaded collar on the hose should be pulled back, and then you can push the tool into place. Release the collar on the hose to secure the connection. When you’re done with the tool, you’d pull back on the collar so you can pull the tool off the air hose.

What should you do if you only want to inflate things? You’ll want to connect a standard coupler to the air hose if there isn’t already one connected to the air compressor. If you’re going to use the air compressor to fill up tires or something like an air mattress, the airspeed doesn’t really matter. Just push the coupler into the tire valve or inflatable item’s valve and let it go.

Then monitor how fast it inflates, and remove the coupler before it literally blows up. Insert the plug or screw the cap back on the item you inflated. Then you can either move on to adding the air hose so you can add tools.

07.Check the Shut-Off Mechanisms

The air compressor motor should kick in when the compressed air tank attached to the air compressor is low, but it should turn off when air pressure is high. Make certain that the motor is turning off every time the tank hits its pressure limit. Turn everything off if you have any concerns. Never leave the air compressor running unsupervised.

We’d recommend against running an air compressor using an extension cord. This increases the odds the system will overheat.

08.Shut It Down

When you’re done using the pneumatic tools, turn off the air compressor. Never trust the air compressor’s automatic on and off features. Turning it off allows the unit to cool off and minimizes unnecessary wear and tear. Unplugging it eliminates a shock hazard, too. This is a good time to check the oil and add more if necessary.

If the air compressor is seemingly shutting down at random, the unit may be over-heating. Let the motor cool before you restart it. And check for things like low oil indicators that could cause it to shut down to prevent serious damage to the motor or create a safety risk for the operator.

If the tool itself is shutting down, there may be kinks in the air hose or a problem with the tool. Turn things off, inspect the air hose, replace the hose or tool as necessary. Then start things back up.

09.Maintain the Air Compressor

If you want to know how to use an air compressor with minimal downtime, invest in maintenance every time you use it. We’ve already mentioned checking the oil and changing air filters. Don’t forget to drain moisture from the air tank, once the air tank pressure gauge says the air pressure is less than ten pounds per square inch.

You can typically do this by removing the drain valve on the bottom of the tank. This will let the moisture in the air that gets trapped in the tank to drain away. This reduces the odds that the air compressor will rust. Just make sure you replace the drain valve and secure it unless you want compressed air escaping through it.


Pneumatic tools are cheap, lightweight, and versatile. They’re the default choice for many do-it-yourselfers. However, you need to know how to properly use the air compressor that powers them if you’re going to avoid mishaps.

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