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A Guide to Air Compressor Parts

Air compressors are vital power sources for many businesses, and they have a variety of applications for use. From start-and-stop use in an auto repair shop to twenty-four-hour daily operation in a factory or other industrial setting, the process of pressurizing air is a common business operation, and it needs to be efficient.


Air compressors can work long and hard depending on your environment, so it’s important to keep the internal workings of your air supply system well maintained to benefit your business production and profits. Every part has a specific function. If those parts aren’t maintained properly, it can affect air supply, energy consumption, and the frequency of service.


Depending on your application, you can select a Quincy compressor in either the reciprocating piston design or the more common large industrial solution known as the rotary screw design. They each have a different method of achieving the same result: create compressed air.


Understand How the Reciprocating Piston Air Compressor Works

The reciprocating piston air compressor is available in a one-stage and two-stage design with the main difference being a second compression in a two-stage to compress the air to a higher psi. This type of compressor is common in garages, shops, and for portable needs like a truck-mount compressor.


The process of compressing air is similar to the operation of an internal combustion engine and is powered with electricity. Air compressor parts are also similar to a small gas engine. They consist of a piston, connecting rod, crankshaft, cylinder, and valve head.


The air is compressed in the following manner:


The valve head at the top of the compressor tank draws air in by the downward movement of the piston in the cylinder.

As the piston moves up, the air is compressed.

The increased pressure forces the discharge valve to open, so then the air moves into the tank.

With every stroke, more pressure is built up in the tank until it reaches capacity and the pressure switch shuts off the motor.

Two-stage compressors have the same operation with the addition of a second cylinder, which air is pumped into to create greater pressure.

Learn How the Rotary Screw Air Compressor Works


The rotary screw air compressor is the ideal solution for most industrial settings where there is a constant and high demand for pressurized air. They are considered energy efficient, quieter, and can withstand demanding environments for many years when serviced and repaired properly.


The workhorse of air compressors, rotary screw machines are designed to run constantly and produce large amounts of pressurized air.


The name of this compressor comes from the two counter-rotating screws that are the source of the compression. Following is the process of operation of the rotary screw air compressor:


Outside air is drawn in and travels through the inlet air filter to catch particles and debris in the air that would cause damage to the internal components of the compressor.

The air then goes through an inlet valve and into the small spaces between the interlocking screws, which turn and move the air through the compression chamber.

In oil-injected models, oil is also injected into the rotors and moves along with the air to the air/oil separator tank where the separation occurs through a filter; the oil leaves the tank to be reused in the process. The air travels through a cooler to bring the temperature down to 12 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit above the ambient temperature before leaving the compressor to be used to perform work.

This process produces a steady stream of compressed air and is beneficial for many applications that require a high supply of air.


Know the Parts of Your Air Compressor

This alphabetized air compressor parts list consists of parts from our reciprocating piston models and rotary screw models to help you become more familiar with the functions of your air compressor:


Actuators: The actuator creates rotary or linear movement and is what outputs the compressed air to the tools or processes that use pressurized air for power. Any leaks or other deficiencies in the air movement coming into the actuator will result in a decrease of the air force coming out. Small particles that have found their way into the air will cause blockages in the actuator, as well as many other parts of your air compressor.

Bearings: Industrial-class bearings ensure a long operating life for the most demanding of operations. Quality bearings will give you peace of mind as your air compressor operates at high revolutions with high pressure. Bearings are highly dependent on the proper lubrication at the right viscosity.

Belts: Belt tension should be checked every 40 hours for wear and operation. Working to drive the operation of your compressor, the belts need to be of the highest quality and fit properly.

Bumpers: Valve bumpers surround the valves for added protection from accidental contact. Replace this small shielding part when needed to prevent the more expensive replacement of valves.

Bushings: Bushings create some space between moving parts. Used in the internal components of the air compressor, your bushings offer protection from serious breakdowns, minimizing side-to-side play.

Connecting Rods: Used to move the piston up and down in the crankcase, the connecting rods take a heavy workload. They are a highly durable part of your air compressor. You may never need to replace connecting rods, unless proper maintenance is not performed regularly on your system.

Couplings: Used on internal components to prevent leaking from the high-pressure system.

Desiccant Dryers/Q-Sorb: Our air dryers purify your compressed air by absorbing water vapor. A flow of ‘wet’ compressed air is passed through two pressurized tanks that contain our highly absorbent desiccant. Q-Sorb is an advanced formula of activated alumina that significantly reduces operating costs. Keep your air dryer operating efficiently with regular checks of desiccant and filters.

Gaskets & Seals: For reliable air flow and to maintain intended pressure, your air compressor should be air tight with quality seals and gaskets. There are various sections of your air compressor that have gaskets and seals: valve plate to head gasket, crankcase gasket, intercooler gasket, oil seal, and the shaft seal, to name a few. These small parts keep contaminates out and the pressurized air inside.

Gauges: The gauge on your air compressor measures the pressure of the air in your tank. Your gauge is informative in a number of ways, specifically for daily checks to ensure your pressure is at the intended level, so you can attend to any deficiencies as soon as possible.

Motors: In general, your air compressor has an electric motor to run the operation of compressing air. Different compressors require different sizes of motors (hp). If you’re replacing a worn-out motor, be sure to have the recommended replacement motor installed.

O-Rings: Used for a tight seal, O-rings help keep your system running at peak performance.

Piston Rings and Rods: Our reciprocating piston models create air pressure with the movement of the piston and connecting rods. These parts are under great pressure when in motion and require a lubricant free of contaminates and of the highest quality. Fluid analysis of your QuinSyn fluid in a rotary screw compressor is important for the overall function of your air compressor and to detect possible issues early. It’s also especially important to use Quincy oil to prevent premature wearing of your piston rings that prevent excessive oil carryover.

Rotors: In our rotary screw air compressors, assembly consists of two interlocking helical rotors that compress the air coming in through the inlet valve. With proper operation, these rotors have an extremely long life.

Shims: Adding supporting spacers in the installation of your air compressor may be necessary. These metal shims will provide you with the needed support for a reliable system.

Springs: Various components of your compressor use springs for the mechanics of the system. Determine when to replace springs with regular service checks.

Valves: Allowing air in and out, draining water, and regulating air flow, valves are an essential component that require regular inspection during your interval checks and regular servicing. Our quality engineered valves are designed for resilience and a long life. They operate with the highest efficiency, using Buna-N or Viton seats and seals.

Familiarize Yourself With Regular Replacement Parts

Air/Oil Separator: Regular checks of these elements and the regular replacement of filters should be part of your maintenance schedule before they become clogged, resulting in a loss of performance.

Inlet Air Filter: As another preventative measure to keep foreign particulate matter from entering the air compressor system, the inlet air filter should be replaced at regularly scheduled intervals or if an inspection indicates the need to replace the element.

Oil Filter: Maintain the necessary quality of your lubricant with appropriately scheduled fluid changes and oil filter replacements that are geared to the activity of your system and working environment. Our fluid sampling program for rotary screw compressors will provide you with the necessary information to define the appropriate schedule for your air compressor.


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