What Happens If My Portable Air Compressor Gets Wet?

Can An Air Compressor Get Wet

The last hurricane absolutely soaked your air compressor. And now, it won't start.

Maybe it's even starting, but it isn't giving you the air pressure that you need to get work done quickly and efficiently.

Relax, this isn't a major mechanical fault. It's a challenge you can easily manage by yourself, without having to take it to a technician, even if you have no prior technical knowledge about air compressors.

Understanding the Working Mechanism of Air Compressors.

By design, air compressors do not function under wet or cold conditions.

That's why they typically run smoother in the summertime and late spring than they do during the winter seasons.

There's a crucial link between cold weather conditions and the wet condensers. We'll explore that a little bit.

The Water and Ice Buildup Problem

Compressing air causes condensation to occur in the tank. Liquid water (or condensate) is formed from when the air is compressed, and the water vapor in the air is squeezed out.

These condensations are the biggest cause of wetness problems for an air compressor.

Condensation occurs even more rapidly when it is cooler outside, especially when the temperature falls below the freezing point. What's more, the condensate turns into ice when the ambient temperature remains low.

The immediate consequence of water build-up is a reduction in pressure of the airflow. But that isn't all.

If frozen, the expansion of ice would invariably cause a crack in the tank, weakening its structural integrity.

As ToolTally points out, if the air compressor is left unattended to, the water can also rust the tank, weakening it and creating a higher likelihood of it exploding.

Keep in mind that the cold weather systems also affect the state of the compressor oil, which impacts the operation of the air compressor.

Oil thickens and can seize the compressor piston when the ambient temperature gets too cold. As such, the motor won't roll, and the compressor won't start.

This is true for both oil-lubricated and non-lubed air compressors. (Oil-less compressors still has oil lubricating their moving parts.)

The only difference is you, the compressor owner, aren't required to add oil manually. Like the oil-lubricated type of compressors, if oilless compressors are exposed to a temperature lower than that specified by the manufacturer, the oil in it will thicken, freeze, and might not start.

What to Do If Your Air Compressor Won't Start In the Cold

Most compressors are designed for use in temperatures of over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. What do you do when your air compressor has cooled from winter has gotten wet over a prolonged use?

Drain out the Air Compressor

As was mentioned earlier, condensate builds up in air compressors over time. If your compressor system is wet or won't start, here is the first place you want to look. A good maintenance practice is to drain out the condensate frequently. The frequency of draining, of course, depends on the frequency of use. They always have a fitting on the bottom, which is supposed to have a drain valve in it.

Liquid or frozen condensate does much more than hinder airflow. Condensate left in the bottom of the tank for too long causes the tank's base to begin to rust. This slow process of degradation occurs from the inside out. By the time you notice rusting outside the tank, the damage is likely so far gone. At this point, the compressor is no longer safe for use, as it could explode, causing harm to persons and things in its proximity.

If you needed extra incentive to undertake the monotonous task of draining your compressor routinely, there you have it. Drain your compressor as frequently as necessary. The whole world will be better for it!

Transfer the Compressor into a Heated Environment.

Consider keeping your compressor indoor rather than outdoor. That way, the ambient temperature remains appropriate for the machine's effective operation, especially during the winter seasons when weather temperature drops low. If you inescapably have to keep your compressor in an uncontrolled temperature environment, bring it in to warm up a few hours before you intend to use it. The law of thermodynamics will take care of the rest.

Cold proof your Air Compressor

If you're unable to keep your compressor in a temperature-controlled room, this might be an option for you. As in the preceding point, the goal is to ensure that the compressor is at operational temperature. It involves;

  • Fitting your compressor with an internal sump to maintain a temperature above 40ᵒF- the benchmark operating temperature for most compressors.
  • Installing a low ambient air temperature limit switch.
  • Insulating pipes to reduce the probability of freezing.
  • Installing trace heating pipes to prevent freezing.

If Your Air Compressor Gets Wet:

It won't work! You need to drain it!

Get the water out of the tank and out of the pistons. Let it dry out and change the oil.

With any luck, your compressor will be good to go again in a matter of hours.

I couldn't find a way of making sure my assumption was accurate. You're the expert; please ensure that it's accurate. Otherwise, let's take it out.

An air compressor is a crucial component in many industries as it provides a source of pressurized air. However, it’s important to understand the impact of moisture on air compressors and what happens when an air compressor gets wet. The amount of water vapor in the air can affect the air supply, and when air is compressed, it can contain a small amount of water. This can cause issues such as corrosion and failure of your compressor. A refrigerated air dryer can help remove excess moisture from the air stream, but water can still get into the air tank and the compressor lines. In this blog post, we will delve into the reasons why your air compressor may have water in it, the effects of moisture on the compressed air system, and how to remove water from your compressed air.

Understanding The Impact Of Moisture On Air Compressors

Moisture in the air can have a significant impact on the performance and longevity of an air compressor. The amount of water vapor in the air can affect the air supply and when air is compressed, it can contain a small amount of water. This can cause issues such as corrosion and failure of the compressor, as well as affect the quality of the compressed air. The air filter, air leaks, and air hose can all allow water to get into the air compressor and cause wetness. The water in the compressed air can also condense inside the system and cause damage to the air tools and compressor components.

To mitigate the impact of moisture on air compressors, it’s important to use a desiccant air dryer, refrigerated air dryer, or a separation system. These systems help to remove water from the compressed air and keep the air dry. It’s also crucial to drain the water from the compressor wet tank after every use and keep the air hose coiled to prevent water from getting into the compressed air. By understanding the impact of moisture on air compressors and taking steps to remove water from the compressed air, you can ensure the longevity and performance of your air compressor system.

What Happens When An Air Compressor Gets Wet

An air compressor is a device that compresses air and stores it in a tank for later use. Air compressors are widely used in various industries and applications, from powering air tools to providing pressurized air for manufacturing processes. However, when an air compressor gets wet, it can lead to significant problems and cause damage to the system.

Moisture in the air, ambient air temperature, and humidity levels can all contribute to the presence of water in an air compressor. This can occur when air is drawn into the intake, compressed, and stored in the air chamber. As air is compressed, it heats up and the moisture in the air condenses into water. This water can cause corrosion and damage to the compressor, air lines, and tools attached to the system.

To prevent the wetness issues, it’s essential to have a water trap or a separation system in place. Also, using a refrigerated air dryer or desiccant air dryer can help remove moisture from the compressed air before it enters the air tank. Regular maintenance, such as checking the air filter and air lines for leaks, can also help prevent moisture buildup in the air compressor.

How to Remove Water from Your Compressed Air System

There are several ways to remove water from your compressed air system, including:

  1. Using a Water Trap: A water trap is a device that is installed at the end of the air line to trap any condensate water that may be present in the air.

  2. Installing an Air Dryer: An air dryer, either internal or external to the air compressor, can be used to remove moisture from the air. Desiccant air dryers, for example, absorb moisture from the air, leaving it dry.

  3. Regular Maintenance: Regularly maintaining the air compressor and its components, including the air filter and air lines, can help reduce the amount of moisture in the system.

  4. Using a Refrigerated Air Dryer: A refrigerated air dryer cools the air as it enters the system, causing moisture to condense into a water trap. The dry air is then separated from the condensate, reducing the amount of moisture in the system.

  5. Proper Storage: Proper storage of the air compressor and its components, especially during periods of inactivity, can help prevent moisture buildup.

  6. Separation System: A separation system can be installed between the air compressor and the air lines to remove water from the air.

  7. Checking for Air Leaks: Regularly checking for air leaks in the air lines can help prevent moisture from entering the system.

By removing moisture from your compressed air system, you can improve the efficiency and performance of your air tools, reduce corrosion, and extend the life of your air compressor and its components.

The Importance Of An Air Dryer In Preventing Moisture Build-Up

Water in the air can contain compressor oil, so when wet air is compressed, it gets much more water. This causes moisture in the intake air and reasons why your air compressor can get wet. Water will come out of the hose if there is water in the compressed air, as when the air cools, moisture condenses inside the system. Much water vapor will collect in the compressor pipes and this can cause your compressor to become wet. To avoid this, you should keep your compressed air system dry. You can do this by either having an external or internal air dryer attached to your compressor or a separation system to remove water from your compressed air. Doing so will help prevent corrosion and keep the moisture content in compressed air low. Keeping your compressor outdoors is another way to prevent it from getting wet, as when warm humid air cools down and enters into a coiled hose, water condenses inside the system.

Reasons Why Your Air Compressor Has Water In The Lines

There are several reasons why your air compressor may have water in the lines:

  1. Humidity in the Intake Air: The intake air for your compressor can contain high levels of humidity, especially if the compressor is used outdoors. This can cause moisture to condense in the air lines and lead to the buildup of water in the system.

  2. Cooling of Compressed Air: As compressed air is cooled, moisture in the air will condense and collect in the air lines, resulting in water in the system. This can occur when the compressed air is cooled as it travels through the air hose, or if the air compressor has a cooling system.

  3. Use of an Outdoor Air Compressor: Operating an air compressor outdoors can expose it to high humidity levels, which can lead to moisture buildup in the air lines.

  4. Coiling of the Air Hose: Coiling the air hose can cause the compressed air to cool and condense, leading to water buildup in the system.

  5. Lack of a Separation System: If your air compressor lacks a separation system, such as a desiccant air dryer or water trap, moisture in the compressed air will not be removed, leading to water in the lines.

  6. Corrosion in the Air Compressor: Corrosion in the air compressor or its components can cause leaks in the air lines, allowing moisture from the atmosphere to enter the system and cause water buildup.

Tips For Keeping Your Air Compressor System Safe From Excess Moisture

Here are some tips for keeping your air compressor system safe from excess moisture:

  1. Use an air dryer: Installing an air dryer, either internal or external, can help remove moisture from the air before it enters the air compressor.

  2. Install a water trap: A water trap is a device that removes water from the compressed air before it reaches the end-use equipment.

  3. Store the air compressor indoors: If possible, store the air compressor in a dry and cool place. This will prevent the air from being exposed to excess moisture and prevent water from entering the air compressor.

  4. Use a moisture separator: A moisture separator is a device that separates the water from the compressed air and removes it from the air system.

  5. Regular maintenance: Regular maintenance of the air compressor and its components, including the air filter, oil and hoses, can help prevent the buildup of moisture and potential corrosion.

  6. Avoid over-compression: Over-compressing the air can cause the air temperature to increase, leading to an increase in the moisture content of the air.

  7. Use proper hoses: Ensure that the air hose is not coiled, which can cause the air to cool and increase the chance of water condensation.

  8. Monitor the air compressor: Regularly check the air compressor and its components for any signs of moisture buildup or corrosion. If any issues are found, take the necessary steps to remove the water and prevent future problems.


In conclusion, it is important to keep the moisture levels in your air compressor system under control as it can have several negative impacts. Moisture can cause corrosion and rust, which can damage the air compressor and its components attached. The air compressor can also get wet and cause water to get into the compressed air, which can cause harm to the equipment being operated with it. Keeping the compressed air dry is essential for its proper functioning, and one can achieve this by using a separation system, an air dryer, or regularly removing water from the compressed air. It is also essential to keep the air hose coiled and avoid exposing the air compressor to the atmosphere. Regular monitoring of the moisture levels in your air compressor can help prevent any issues related to excess moisture and keep your air compressor system safe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you’ve still got questions about Can an air compressor get wet, then these may help:

Can An Air Compressor Be Left In The Rain?

When an air compressor is left in the rain, air contains water molecules that can get trapped in the air compression process. This can be one of the reasons why your air compressor could be suffering from water in your air. Moisture in my air compressor is caused by water getting into the compressed air and then moving through the system, including into the air hose. If you leave your wet air compressor out in the rain, it will become even more saturated with water, which can interfere with how it cools and compresses air.

Can I Leave My Air Compressor Outdoors?

Leaving an air compressor outdoors is possible but it is not recommended, as it can lead to various problems and cause damage to the equipment. Outdoor conditions such as rain, humidity, and temperature changes can cause moisture to collect in the air compressor, leading to corrosion and other issues.

If you must keep your air compressor outdoors, it is recommended to protect it from the elements by covering it with a waterproof cover or placing it under a shelter. Regularly checking for moisture and drain water from the air hose can also help prevent damage.

What Can Damage An Air Compressor?

There are several factors that can damage an air compressor, including:

  1. Moisture in the air: High levels of moisture in the air can cause corrosion and rust inside the air compressor, leading to damage and reduced efficiency.

  2. Water in the hose: Water can collect in the air hose, leading to damage to the hose and the internal components of the air compressor.

  3. Exposure to the elements: Air compressors are not designed to be waterproof and can easily become damaged if exposed to rain, snow, or other harsh weather conditions.

  4. Overloading: Running an air compressor at too high a pressure or for too long a period can lead to damage to the internal components.

  5. Poor maintenance: Neglecting regular maintenance, such as oil changes and cleaning, can lead to damage and reduced efficiency.

Corrosion: The presence of moisture in the air can cause corrosion, which can damage the internal components and reduce the lifespan of the air compressor.

Krystal Morrison

I create this blog to share my daily tips about home improvement, children, pets, food, health, and ways to be frugal while maintaining a natural lifestyle. Interested to be a Guest Blogger on my website? Please email me at: [email protected]

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