Tips and Tricks

Compressor Tank Maintenance

Did we even know that there is a drain on a compressor tank, and why the compressor tank drain is needed?
Every air compressor will generate water when it’s running. The issues that affect the amount of water that the compressor pump deposits into your compressor tank include;
  • the humidity and temperature of the air that’s being taken into the compressor pump
  • how hot the pump has become and, by extension, how hot the tank has become
  • the amount of time the air sits in the tank and cools.

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Direct drive or belts, which is better?

Volumes have been written on which is better; direct drive a pump, or belt drive it. Proponents of direct claim you eliminate belt slippage and wear with direct drive. Belt drive people say the pumps last longer, by running them slower than at full motor speeds. Who is right? The answer is, it depends. In the self-serve car wash market, we tend to use more robust pumps than those used in the pressure washer market aimed at homeowners. For us, the question is: how does either affect pump life and routine maintenance?

Starting with pump life. If your wash is using a direct drive pump rated for the kind of use we typically see in the wash industry, it has a back end, the crankcase end, large enough to handle the increased heat and stress demanded by faster speeds. Oil condition is critical to ensure the least amount of wear. The belt drive pumps run slower, but also need the oil to be changed regularly to prevent wear. Belts will wear after a time and will need to be changed. Selecting the proper belt style, length and type with allow your belts to run for many years without the need to change.

Direct drive pumps also need maintenance, as the "spiders" will wear down and need to be replaced. These are the plastic pieces which connect the two metal parts on the pump and the motor. So the answer is, either one will perform nicely for you as long as proper steps have been taken when engineering the systems.

Worn Nozzle

A worn nozzle results in lower pressure because there is less resistance to the water flow. A pump generates flow, not pressure. The orifice size of the nozzle determines the resistance to flow and therefore the pressure created. As the nozzle wears the orifice size increases, which produces less resistance. Often, pressure-related problems are not due to the pump, but due to downstream components.
Replace nozzle with properly sized nozzle.

Faulty Regulator

A regulator is a pressure control valve that sets and maintains system pressure. An internal piston shifts based on downstream pressure to allow flow to either travel to the system or back to the source through the by-pass port. A worn or “stuck” piston can cause excess bypass flow and low system pressure.
Take regulator apart and inspect the piston valve assembly. Look for evidence of wear of lack of movement. Repair and clean as indicated or replace internal piston.

Worn Seals

Over the course of operation, seal wear occurs due to the reciprocating movement of the plunger. Worn seals allow fluid to migrate to the low-pressure side, which can result in a lower flow and thus lower system pressure.
Inspect and replace seals. Follow service and preventive maintenance recommendations.

Pressure Gauge

The pressure gauge displays the system pressure. Gauges can fail due to over-pressurization of pressure spikes. A faulty gauge reading can lead to misinterpreting system conditions and therefore taking inappropriate actions. Always verify system pressure before attempting system maintenance or repairs.
Replace pressure gauge. In some systems, a pressure diagnostics sensing port can be used to verify system pressure. Use high-quality glycerin-filled gauges with built-in pressure snubbers.

Belt Slippage (Belt drive units)

Belt-drives are used to set and control the pump speed, measured in “revolutions-per-minute” or “rpm.” Belt slippage causes the pump to run at a lower speed, which affects pump output flow. Lower flow means resistance to the flow decreases, which translates into lower system pressure. Pressure is the resistance to flow.
Inspect the belt-drive assembly and belts. Tighten or replace belts as indicated.

Undersized or Clogged Inlet Filter

An inlet filter removes contamination, preventing it from entering the pump. An improperly sized filter or one that is clogged reduces the amount of liquid to the pump inlet, which can cause cavitation and even severe pump damage. Reduced inlet flow also contributes to reduced flow to the system, which works to reduce system pressure as there is less resistance to the lower flow being produced.
Inspect filter and filter screen or mesh. Clean per instructions. If filter is damaged, replace. Also, verify filter sizing. A good rule-of-thumb is to match the inlet port size of the pump; do not reduce the filter port size.

Inadequate Water Supply

Adequate water supply is essential for the operation of the pump. Incoming water lubricates and cools the pump. Water is also required to fill the pump chambers. An inadequate water supply will result in a lower flow being discharged from the pump and therefore lower system pressure. Severely restricting water supply can cause catastrophic pump failure, resulting in system shutdown and the need for a complete pump re-build or total replacement.
Inspect the incoming line for obstructions or any flow restrictions. Follow pump guidelines for inlet port and line sizing. Increase line size if necessary. Verify supply line pressure and increase if indicated.

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