Air Compressor Replacement: Repairing vs. Replacing Parts and the Viability of Buying Used

Like any machine, air compressors can fail over time because of various reasons and when that happens we’re faced with the choice to have it repaired or replaced. Then, if we do choose the latter, we’d have to assess if it’s worth buying used air compressors over a new one. Air compressors are understandably a big investment and we can imagine how this decision could be daunting for most. In these situations, information is a huge advantage.

To put things into perspective, we’ve listed everything you need to consider in regard to common air compressor complications for you to arrive at the most cost-effective solution. Of course, it would always be ideal to have a professional technician check your unit. Below are merely telltale signs that can help you discern if your broken air compressor is repairable or for replacement, as well as the pros and cons of buying used.

The life cycle of air compressors

The first thing you should probably ask yourself when you have a broken air compressor is “How long have you had it running?” Air compressors typically last around ten years, so if you’ve had it for quite a while then maybe you have to give more thought to replacing your unit. Conversely, if it is fairly new and not past five years then you should have it examined for repair.

In any case, you must be able to determine its current reliability and efficiency and weigh them against its history. For instance, the air compressor has needed repairs more than once or more frequently. If so, has it been the same or a different issue every time? And, finally, has the cost of repair exceeded the initial investment of buying the air compressor? While there’s a saying about old habits dying hard if you’ve answered “yes” to all these questions then the time has come for an upgrade.

Common problems for repair

Air compressors are suitable for repair due to certain conditions like it’s a relatively new model that is still under warranty with spare parts readily available. If the air compressor has not gone beyond its normal operating hours, is able to keep up with your required demand, and never failed previously, then it might just need a minor adjustment. Below are common air compressor problems that are worth fixing.

  • Oil/ Air Leakage
    One of the frequent issues that can happen in the tank valve, oil chamber, oil fill tube, air filter, or hood is leakage. Luckily, it can easily be fixed once you locate where the oil/ air is leaking, you can either have it patched or replace the component.
  • Overheating
    If your air compressor usually blows fuses or breakers, then overheating is possibly the cause. This may occur when they are plugged into extension cables, which deprive them of enough power or an issue in your unit’s cooling system. It might also be a sign of a worn-out motor that needs to be upgraded for safety reasons and to regain its efficiency.
  • Unusual Noise
    Improper installation/ maintenance of parts like bearings, flywheels, belts of belt-drive air compressors, or crankcases of direct-drive alternatives can cause unusual noises. Do make sure belts are always lubricated, in alignment, and are neither too loose nor too tight.
  • Faulty Gasket or Pump
    When you’ve noticed your air compressor slowly dying down or not operating to its maximum potential then it could be an indicator of a damaged gasket or pump that is obstructing the airflow or reducing the air pressure. Again, this could be addressed by installing new parts.
  • Power Malfunction
    This could be for a number of reasons such as there not being enough air pressure, or the compressor’s switch needing to be replaced. And in some occasions, it is simply overlooking a disconnected power cord. Check if there is something in between the power supply and the air compressor that may be causing the failure to start or stop the unit from running.

When a replacement is necessary

While replacing an air compressor would significantly cost more upfront than repairs, it is the more practical choice if your unit is no longer performing at its best and is breaking down despite several fixes. Your broken air compressor may have been exhausted because of extended use or merely that it has pushed past its life span.

The general rule is if the total cost of repair exceeds or has exceeded 50 to 60% of the price of a new air compressor, then procuring a replacement is the more sustainable course of action. Chances are if your air compressor has gotten broken due to a complicated issue once it will most likely happen again. Plus, the downtime from the repair may cost your business more if its use is vital in your operations.

If you have an outdated model, a replacement would also be more economical in the long run. The latest air compressors are made to be more energy efficient, so splurging for a new unit may actually be offset by the electricity you’ll save. Moreover, it could be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to source old parts.

It is also possible that your existing compressor is now inadequate for your company’s requirements, so upgrading it with a larger one or supplementing it with another unit could be a great way to secure your business.

Refer to this table for the advantages and disadvantages of having your air compressor repaired or replaced

  • More affordable with minimum payments
  • No additional training is needed for staff already using the air compressor
  • Current reticulation system can be retained.
  • Assurance of a trouble-free use
  • More modern machines have updated technology that is more energy efficient, thus reducing the major operational cost of owning an air compressor.
  • Old air compressors may encounter further failures if it has put in a lot of operating hours, or if their servicing and maintenance are not up to date.
  • May eventually cost more to repair
  • Price of new air compressors and installation can be expensive upfront.
  • Spare parts and pneumatic tools can  be incompatible with the new air compressors and may either need to

Buying used versus new

The cost of new or modern air compressors is notably one of the primary reasons why most of us think about purchasing used or refurbished units. However, there are many reasons why second-hand machines are in fact just temporary solutions due to compromised reliability and safety. We’ve listed the factors you need to consider when buying used air compressors as well as their pros and cons.

Factors to consider:

  • Maintenance History
    Be sure to get the air compressor’s manufacturing details and maintenance history from a certified seller or the owner. Doing so will give you a better idea of its current condition.
    – Ask about how long the air compressor has been in their possession and if it underwent any prior malfunctions or repairs.
    – Inspect each part or component for wear and tear, corrosion, exposed circuitry, or if there are any missing.
    – Check for any leakages especially around the valves as it could be a safety hazard and if the oil in its chamber seems clean and periodically explained.
    – Test the second-hand unit for yourself. See if it meets your desired airflow, pressure, and quality. Listen in for unusual noises and be on the lookout for any sludge build-up and overheating. Also, observe the compressor’s current energy requirement by using a power meter — your electric bill might spike and there may be underlying issues if it operates on the high end.
  • Limited Warranty
    Ask if the air compressor still has a valid warranty as this will determine the potential cost of future repairs or maintenance. Sadly, most second-hand units have either outlived their warranty or have already been availed.
  • Shortened Life Cycle
    New air compressors come with the promise of being operational for about 10 to 15 years whereas secondhand units do not have any guarantee. It will greatly depend on how long the owner has used it and their maintenance routine.


  • More budget-friendly upfront. Plus, there are instances, wherein used or refurbished air compressors from credible dealers, can still be reliable. You might even get more used air compressors for the price of one new unit.
  • Spares you from dealing with the initial cost of depreciation. Once purchased, any machinery decreases in value, so buying used air compressors allows you to reap its functions at a lower cost.
  • Knowledge of wear pre-purchase. If provided with a comprehensive maintenance history, you can have a better understanding of how to care for the air compressor.
  • Excellent backup solution. Again, a used air compressor is not the most sustainable option but it is ideal for quick fixes. It is better than nothing if its use is vital in your business operations. It could also be a source of quality refurbished parts if you’re having difficulty procuring components to repair your old compressor.


  • Outdated technology may mean that it consumes more energy and has a slower turnaround time.
  • Uncertain life span. You can’t know for sure how long a used air compressor will last or be assured of a hassle-free operation. You can only sustain its life span through periodical maintenance and audits.
  • Lack of warranty and choices. When buying used, you have a significantly limited range of air compressor types to choose from. Moreover, the chances of second-hand units having an extended warranty are quite slim so you’ll most likely incur the cost of future repairs and maintenance.

Truthfully, the price of new air compressors can be overwhelmingly expensive. Although, it would appear to be the more economical choice after factoring in potential savings on electricity and sustainable reliability. You will also have more peace of mind as you can trust yourself to properly maintain your equipment and not worry about your air compressor shutting down anytime soon. Furthermore, you stand to gain a higher return on investment with new air compressors. Repairs are only advisable for minor issues like a few parts needing to be replaced while buying used is only a short-term solution.

When you have a broken air compressor, it is recommended to calculate the life cycle cost in order to evaluate the overall investment as it can help you define crucial installation requirements and quality specifications. Buying from reputable distributors and having your air compressor examined by technicians like Lian Beng Machinery Co. will save you the headache of defective machines that amount to exorbitant repairs. They also have an extensive selection of air compressors that are oil-free among others and much more equipment is used in construction, gardening, cleaning, and food processes.