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What Is a Compressor Head?

K'Lee Banks
K'Lee Banks

Air compressors, like those found at most repair shops, are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and configurations. Regardless of the size or capacity of air compressors, however, they all have certain parts in common. One such common part is the compressor head, in which the primary function of an air compressor — converting one type of energy to another — takes place. Designed very similarly to the internal combustion engine in a car, with a crankshaft and pistons, the air compressor converts electrical energy into kinetic energy. Commonly driven by an electric motor, the crankshaft inside the compressor head spins or rotates, forcing the pistons up and down, and compressing air in the process.

Another part of a compressor is the storage tank, where compressed air is stored for immediate use, typically through an air-powered or pneumatic tool. Most compressors store the compressed air in a storage tank, which provides a constant supply of air pressure as needed. Using a compressor can be as easy as turning on a light, since most compressors have a simple on/off switch. Flipping the switch powers the electric motor, which in turn spins the crankshaft, causing the pistons within the compressor head to compress a small amount of air. This air is then plumbed into a holding tank, or in some cases, directly through an air line to the user.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

As with most machines and parts, however, an air compressor head can break down. There are many reasons this can happen. For example, the belt between the motor and crankshaft can wear out or break. Additionally, because there are moving parts within the head, lack of proper lubrication can cause excessive wear, reducing the amount of compressed air per cycle. Too many worn parts within the compressor head typically reduce its efficiency.

Repairing an inefficient compressor head may involve replacing integral parts within the head, or replacing the entire head assembly. As the compressor head is such a vital component, any individual who encounters a problem with this machine would be wise to contact a qualified technician to help determine the best remedy. Whether it is a portable air compressor that plugs into a vehicle’s cigarette lighter when a tire needs filling, or a stationary compressor that is much larger and generally found in the back corner of a local garage or machine shop, each type of compressor requires a compressor head to operate properly.

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