Have you ever wondered how all the parts of an air compressor work? 

Perhaps you’ve had a few breakdowns and would find it handy to identify where the maintenance issues are coming from!

In this guide, we’ll summarise all the most critical parts of an air compressor, so you can work out which elements might be the culprit and ensure they’re all kept working in tip-top condition. Find out more here about air compressor repairs here.

Let’s work through the components in alphabetical order, so you can scroll through and find any particular parts you’d like to learn more about.


Air Compressor Actuators

First up in the key parts of an air compressor, we’ll look at the actuator. 

This component forms a crucial role, as it sends the compressed air out to perform the processes or functions required.

Potential problems with the actuator can be:

  • Leaks or movement problems causing a drop in air pressure.
  • Particle contaminants in the air creating actuator blockages.

This air compressor part creates movement, either rotary or linear, to output the compressed air. 

Belts on Air Compressors

Next, your air compressor will have a belt, which drives the compressor. 

Poorly fitted or inferior quality belts can cause the compressor to work inefficiently and cause breakdowns.

To avoid problems with the parts of an air compressor related to belt movement, you should check the belt tension regularly or consider regular air compressor maintenance.


Professional quality bearings are another essential part of an air compressor, making sure the equipment lasts for years to come.

Air compressors work at high-pressure levels, with high revolution speeds, and so quality bearings are vital to ensure the compressor is lubricated correctly.

Air Compressor Bumpers

The next part is the bumpers, which perform a crucial job around the air compressor valves.

A value bumper is a shield that protects those valves from contact and subsequent damage. 

You should regularly replace worn bumpers, to avoid having to replace the valves, which can be significantly more costly.


Like a bumper, bushings are there to protect the moving parts of your air compressor. 

Bushings create space between the different elements and ensure you don’t experience breakdowns caused by contact or abrasion damage.

They do this by preventing components from moving side to side or accidentally making contact, resulting in fundamental performance issues.

Connecting Rods on Air Compressors

The piston produces one of the crucial functions of an air compressor. 

This component moves upwards and downwards in the crankcase and is one of the hardest-working parts of an air compressor.

Taking good care of your compressor means that connecting rods should last the lifetime of the equipment, and with good maintenance, may never need to be replaced.

Air Compressor Couplings

The couplings are the parts of an air compressor that prevent leakages.

With high-energy air compression processes, a leak from an internal component can cause pressure drops or a complete malfunction.

Desiccant Dryers

Water vapour is a considerable risk to the functionality of an air compressor. 

However, all ambient air has some water content, so your air compressor will have some filter or water separator to ensure vapour can’t damage your compressor or other tools.

Some key points about desiccant dryers:

  • They are made from formulas created to absorb water vapour.
  • It can be a form of the filter medium in a water separator.
  • Dryers remove water particles from the wet compressed air.

The best way to keep water separators and filters working well is to regularly drain the tank or replace filter mediums before they become less effective.

Gaskets and Seals

Reliable airflow is vital to the operations of all parts of an air compressor! The pressure must remain stable, and so air leakages are a significant issue.

Seals and gaskets remove this risk, making sure the compressor is airtight.

You’ll find gaskets and seals in various places of your compressor:

  • Oil seals
  • Valve plates to head gaskets
  • Intercooler gaskets
  • Shaft seals
  • Crankcase gaskets

These seals and gaskets are designed to retain all the pressurised air and prevent any contaminants from reaching it.

An O-ring is one type of seal used when a tight fixture is required.

Air Compressor Gauges

Gauges are vital since they provide an external indicator of the pressure in your air tank.

The gauge ensures you can work through maintenance checks, verify that the pressure is sustained at the right level, and identify potential issues if the pressure has dropped.

Motors on Air Compressor Equipment

As one of the core parts of an air compressor, you will have a motor of some kind, nearly always electric.

Those air compressor motors come in an array of sizes, which depends on the capacity and function of your air compressor equipment.

Piston Rings and Piston Rods

Depending on the air compressor you have, you may have pistons and connecting rods in reciprocating air compression machinery.

These rods and rings encounter tremendous pressure and should constantly be lubricated with a contaminant-free, good quality lubricant.

Some of the first parts of an air compressor that show wear are the piston rings and rods, which usually means replacing or servicing them.


Like a piston rod, you’ll find rotors on some air compressors, such as rotary screw compressors.

Within the equipment, two helical rotors interlock and compress incoming air as it arrives through the inlet valve.

Provided the rotors are well maintained, they are very durable.

Air Compressor Shims

Next up, the shims are spacers, which are sometimes installed to create supporting spacers. 

Shims are made from metal and are an optional component to ensure your air compression system remains reliable.

Springs on Air Compressors

The next parts of an air compressor are the springs, which are used in various functions within the equipment.

Springs can wear down and are in place throughout different parts of the mechanics. Regular air compressor servicing is the best way to identify when springs need replacing.

Air Compressor Valves

Finally, the valves on an air compressor are vital for:

  • Allowing air to flow in and out.
  • Draining away water moisture.
  • Regulating the flow of air.

All air compressors will have valves, which you should check and service regularly.