Air Compressor Keeps Shutting off – Reasons and How to Fix it

Air Compressor Keeps Shutting off

The Major reason your Air Compressor keeps shutting off is because of overheating and using the wrong type of oil. Most modern industrial compressors have a programmed thermal cutoff system that turns off the compressor motor if the unit gets too hot, which prevents damage due to overheating.

An air compressor shuts down when the ambient temperature of the air compressor is hot, but if it keeps shutting down frequently you should contact the manufacturer.

However, overheating and the wrong type of oil is not the only reason your air compressor could be tripping off frequently.

In this article, you will get to know other factors that make your air compressor misbehave. Adhering to this article will help to minimize the rate at which your air compressor keeps shutting off.

READ ALSO: Is It Bad To Leave An Air Compressor Full

Why Does My Air Compressor keep shutting off 

Air Compressor Keeps Shutting off

As said earlier, An Air Compressor goes off when the heat is too much In the system. Frequent and constant tripping off of your air compressor is an indication that it is faulty. Moreover, overheating is the major reason but not the only reason why your air compressor keeps shutting down.

Below is the list of some of the common issues why your air compressor keeps shutting off:

  1. The very high temperature of your air compressor
  2. Oil levels are too low
  3. Using the wrong type of oil
  4. Your oil cooler is dirty
  5. The thermostatic valve isn’t working properly
  6. There’s dirt or an obstruction in the oil lines
  7. The oil filter is clogged
  8. There’s restricted airflow over the air to the liquid cooler
  9. A faulty temperature switch can turn off your air compressor
  10. Too high an engine liquid coolant supply temperature in a liquid-to-liquid cooler

What Causes an Air Compressor to Overheat?

Air compression generates a lot of excess heat about 80% of the energy that is put into the compressor is lost to heat which is known as the heat of compression.

If this excess heat is not properly dissipated, it raises the operating temperature of the compressor to unsafe levels. Air compressor motors and air ends, like all mechanical systems, are also subject to overheating due to friction when parts rub together.

Here are some of the most common causes of overheating in an air compressor.

1. Low Oil Levels

In an oil-flooded rotary screw or reciprocating compressor, circulating oil is used to lower internal temperatures in the air end. Lubrication also reduces friction between moving parts (such as bearings). If oil levels get too low, the oil can no longer do its job of dissipating heat. At very low oil levels, your system will experience excessive friction between moving parts, which generates more heat and puts excessive wear on parts. If oil is not changed frequently enough, it starts to harden and lose its lubricating powers.

2. Poor Ventilation

Poor ventilation in the compressor room is another common cause of air compressor overheating. Air compressors require lots of airflow around them to carry away all the heat they generate. Without proper ventilation in the compressor room, temperatures will quickly rise, causing the system to overheat. You may also experience overheating if the area immediately around the compressor is not kept clear.

3. High Ambient Temperatures

What is the ideal operating temperature for an air compressor? Most industrial air compressors are designed to work in ambient temperatures between 50-85°F. When operating the compressor at temperatures above 85°F, internal temperatures can rise above 180°F. In addition to putting pressure on after-coolers, high internal temperatures cause the oil to degrade much more quickly.

4. Clogged Filters or Hoses

Loaded filters or clogs in your air distribution system cause the system to work harder to overcome the pressure drop around the clog — and the harder your system works, the more heat it generates. Inline filters and intake filters become loaded over time as they collect particulates and contaminants. Contaminants can also clog hoses and other elements. These blockages in your system raise the risk of overheating.

5. Thermal Valve or Oil Pump Malfunction

The oil circulating system keeps oil flowing through the air end and cooling system. When oil gets too hot, the thermal valve opens to allow it to flow through the oil cooling system. The oil pump returns oil to the air end. If either of these parts fails, the oil will not circulate properly, and the compressor will eventually overheat.

6. Air Compressor Type and Capacity

If you are experiencing frequent air compressor overheating, it may be that you simply do not have the right air compressor for your demand. For example, I used a piston compressor for continual demand applications which is very wrong. The piston compressor is designed for intermittent use only. If your compressor does not have adequate CFM to keep up with your air demand, your system will experience excessive strain and be prone to overheating and failure.

How to Reset an Air Compressor when it is overheated or shutting off 

When in use and you discover your air compressor is overheated or probably trips off, here are tips on how to reset it

  • The first thing to do is to turn the power off
  • Unplug it from the power source
  • Leave it for 20-30 minutes for the unit to reset itself. Once the unit resets itself it works perfectly.

Signs to know that your air compressor is overheated 

Air Compressor gets heated when in use but gets overheated when it is hotter than usual. In such cases, your air compressor will start developing a fault, and if not taken for immediate reset, would shut down your compressor. Other signs include:

  • The air compressor begins to have difficulty getting turned on
  • The circuit breaker behaves irregularly at random moments.
  • The smell of burnt oil indicates a serious problem that must be addressed immediately.
  •  Overheating can also warp metal parts or increase friction and wear between moving parts.
  • Overheating will cause parts in the compressor air end and motor to wear more quickly.


Air compressor maintenance is essential as it will help prevent it from shutting down. In this article, I have given information based on research and personal experience on eliminating, dictating, and reducing overheating. The more your air compressor is overheated, the more damage it causes.

Always be intentional to use the right air compressor for your demand. If your compressor does not have adequate CFM to keep up with your air demand, your system will experience excessive strain and be prone to overheating and failure. This particular mistake made me lose my air compressor due to overheating.