The air compressor in your car’s active suspension system is one of its most essential components. Unfortunately, it’s also one of its components that’s most likely to fail.
In this article, we explore what air compressors are, what problems are common to them, and how to look for and fix those problems. Keep reading to learn more.
What is an Air Suspension Compressor?
The compressor in your air suspension is much like the air compressor you see in a shop. You may even have one in your garage. It also serves basically the same purpose: generating pressurized air.
However, there is a little more to your air suspension’s compressor than that. Unlike the one at home, it can process electronic signals. The compressor in your vehicle uses signals from the suspension control module to know just how much air to generate.
Most Common Air Compressor Problems
As we mentioned earlier, the compressor is a common source of air suspension issues. That is, in part, because it is a machine with moving parts that is in constant use. As a result, there are lots of things that can go wrong with them.
Moisture in the Air Compressor
Your car’s air compressor has a dryer on it as part of the assembly. This is basically a small fan that keeps its internal components dry.
When the dryer starts to malfunction, however, moisture can settle into the compressor. This can corrode the compressor from the inside, leading to early failure. The compressor itself could also push that moisture into other parts of the system along with the air it’s supposed to.
Worn Out Compressor
The air compressor in your vehicle is constantly in use while you’re driving. Just like any machine with moving parts, it will eventually start to wear down.
When your compressor starts to wear down, it can snowball very quickly. It may start to work harder to make up for lost efficiency. This can, in turn, cause it to wear out even quicker.
Bad Seals and Gaskets
Your compressor has seals and gaskets that help keep the system closed. These little rubber parts do the important job of keeping the system sealed — keeping air in and everything else out.
Due to their nature, they will eventually start to wear out and become cracked or brittle. This can lead to leaks in the gaskets that can put more demand on the compressor and the rest of the system.
In most modern vehicles, you’ll almost never hear the compressor running if it’s working properly. If you do hear your compressor running, it could indicate that there’s a problem.
That is especially true if it sounds like it’s straining to do its job. This usually sounds like a loud grinding or groaning noise.
Air Compressor Running Too Long
Your air compressor running too loud is one sign of a problem. If it runs for longer than normal during a cycle, that’s another sign.
Most suspension compressors have a duty cycle between 30 seconds and a minute. It should also rest for at least a minute between those cycles. If your car is outside of those normal cycle times, you could have a problem.
How to Check for Air Compressor Problems
The sooner you spot and fix air compressor problems, the better. Fixing an issue when it’s small is almost always cheaper than waiting until it’s a big problem. In addition, ignoring suspension issues can put an additional or unnatural strain on other parts of your vehicle, leading to even more problems.
There are a few ways you can spot air compressor problems early. These include:
- Checking for warning lights: Your air suspension has a monitoring system that can alert you when there is a problem. This comes in the form of a warning light on your car’s instrument panel. However, it may only detect a problem after it has become severe.
- Looking for sagging: A car with a worn out compressor will have trouble maintaining its ride height. If you notice your car sagging to any side while it’s running, the compressor could be to blame.
- Listening for problems: As we mentioned before, if you can hear your suspension compressor running, there is likely to be a problem.
- Performing the bounce test: You can actively look for issues with your air suspension by using the bounce test. This involves pushing down hard on each corner of your vehicle. If the corner takes a long time to get back into place or bounces around before settling, the suspension has a problem somewhere, perhaps with the compressor.
Solutions for Air Compressor Problems
So you’ve found a problem with your air compressor. Now it’s time to fix it. How you go about fixing it depends largely on what’s wrong with it. But in general, you have a few options.
Clean the Air Compressor
It’s always a good idea to see if your compressor is just dirty before going any further. Over time, dirt, grease, and other general “gunk” can build up in and around the compressor.
This can result in poor performance, but it’s also an easy fix. Giving your compressor a thorough clean may be all you need to do.
Replace Air Compressor Seals and Gaskets
Worn-out seals and gaskets are one of the more common sources of leaks in air suspension. It is entirely possible that your air compressor is actually fine but the gaskets are worn out and need replacing.
This is also an easy, inexpensive fix. That means it should be one of the first things you check for.
Repair the Air Compressor
Depending on the issues you’re having, a mechanic may suggest repairing the air compressor. This could mean replacing specific parts of the compressor or making some adjustments.
While this is probably cheaper than getting a new compressor, it’s not very advisable. If your compressor is on its way out, any fixes are only going to be temporary. You’ll likely need to replace it at some point, so consider the additional labor costs as part of your calculations.
Replace the Air Compressor
If you can’t clean or fix your air suspension compressor, it’s time to replace it. For most vehicles, you’ll have a few options.
OEM Air Compressors
You can always replace your air compressor with the exact same part. Known as OEM components, these are what you would get at the dealership and are either made or approved by your car’s manufacturer.
These will be the exact same fit and performance as the parts they’re replacing, meaning you can depend on them working. However, they are also the most expensive option.
Aftermarket Air Compressors
Third-party manufacturers also produce aftermarket air compressors for a wide range of vehicles. These are almost always much less expensive than OEM parts. Many of them are made to the same standards as the originals or even better.
However, not all air compressor manufacturers make quality replacements. A poorly made compressor may not fit perfectly or offer the same level of performance. Always be sure to vet a third-party manufacturer before buying such an important component.
Air Compressor Replacement: What to Look For
Your car’s air compressor is a critical part of its suspension system. And its suspension system is an essential part of its overall safety and comfort systems. You want to know that any replacement you buy is up to the job.
As one of the country’s leading providers of air suspension components and systems, we understand that better than anyone. Your car’s suspension is as important to us as it is to you. That’s why we are proud to offer the following in every air compressor and other product we sell:
- Precise engineering: When it comes to your compressor, “close enough” doesn’t cut it. Every component we sell has been designed and tested for optimal fit to each specific vehicle it’s sold for.
- Robust materials: Some companies cut costs by using cheaper materials that might look the same in photos as better ones. To ensure maximum longevity, we sell only air compressors made from the best materials for the job.
- Accountable manufacturing: How your compressor is made is every bit as important as what it’s made of. That’s why we only carry products made by companies that make them in reputable factories with regular QA checks.
- Customer support: You aren’t likely to need our help after you get your replacement compressor. However, if you do, we are here for you. You can reach us by phone or chat during business hours or via chat outside them.
Replacing your air compressor isn’t always the cheapest solution for your problems, but it’s almost always the best one. Get a compressor you know you can count on.
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