How to Fix Your Airbrush Compressor: Airbrush Troubleshooting

  • By: Richard
  • Date: August 6, 2022
  • Time to read: 8 min.

An airbrush compressor is an important piece of equipment for any airbrush artist. However, it can be frustrating when the compressor doesn’t work properly. In this blog post, we will discuss how to fix your airbrush compressor and how to troubleshoot common problems. We will also provide tips on keeping your compressor in good condition and extending its life.

Solving Problems and Troubleshooting

The following are some of the most prevalent difficulties, along with solutions:

Problem: Airbrush compressor not turning on

This problem can sometimes occur, usually at the worst possible moment.

Solutions:

  • Make sure it is plugged in correctly.
  • Try spraying; it might be full of air.
  • Remove the air tank and the moisture trap, then empty the water.
  • Remove the hose from the compressor after 30 minutes, turn it off, and unscrew it (it might be over-heated and switch on by itself).

Still not running? 

If the washing machine doesn’t spin, plug in another appliance to determine whether it’s an issue with the motor or electrical system. If not, contact the manufacturer and get your money back under warranty. The problem could be with the engine or electrical system.

Problem: Excessive noise from the compressor

This may be the case for various reasons, including faulty fasteners, misaligned components, defective crankcase sealing, and piston issues.

Solutions:

  • Examine the pulleys, flywheel, cooler, clamps, belt, and other components for tightness. Tighten it if you find it.
  • If the compressor is installed incorrectly, retighten the bolts and replace or install the vibration pads as needed.
  • If the engine’s crankshaft bearings or main components are severely worn, this might indicate a lack of lubrication in the crankcase. Check for any sign of oil or bearing wear and whether new oil or replacements are required.
  • Remove the valve cover, which will expose the valves. The piston may have struck the valve plate and generated noise, so take off the cylinder head to inspect for dirt on the piston. Then replace the gasket and reconnect the head.

Problem: Airbrush not spraying paint

The most common reason for this issue is a clogged nozzle, but it can also be paint that is too thick, a loose needle chucking nut, or low or insufficient air pressure.

Solutions:

  • Remove the blockage from the nozzle by washing and soaking it.
  • Use a suitable reducer to thin your paint, and then try spraying it.
  • Check to see if the needle-chucking nut is loose and tighten it.
  • If the problem is pressure, try raising it; it may be insufficient to atomize the paint.

Problem: Airbrush clog

You’ve received the airbrush, and you’re ready to go. You discover a blockage when you open up the machine. This issue has a simple fix.

Solutions:

  • Strain and thin the paint.
  • Deal with the tip dry.
  • Rinse out the airbrush by turning up the air pressure.
  • Deep clean the airbrush.

To avoid this, use airbrush-ready paint.

Problem: Trigger depression for air, but airbrush sprays paint

The needle not sitting flush in the nozzle might be the source of the problem.

Solution:

  • Remove the screw and needle from the ink cartridge. Push the needle partially into the nozzle after unscrewing the needle-locking nut. Tighten the needle-locking nut afterward.
  • When the user’s trigger is depressed, sometimes a small amount of paint comes out instead of a line.

Solution:

Air On – Air Off procedure:

  • Push the trigger down.
  • Pull the trigger back for paint flow.
  • Spray and then return the trigger forward before releasing it/airflow.
  • Shut the pain flow off before the airflow sprays any residue paint.
  • Check out my guide on how to thin airbrush acrylic paint.

Problem: Trigger released, but air pressure remains

A loose air valve closure, guide screw, or residue paint or solvents that enter the air valve and cause the air valve seals to be sticky or even bloated can all contribute to this.

Solutions:

  • In the first scenario, close the air valve closure/guide screw. Compressing the air valve spring will shut off airflow.
  • In the second scenario, internal air valve elements must be removed and lubricated with airbrush lubricant before being reassembled. If solvent usage damages the air valve seals, they should be replaced.

Problem: Off-center spray pattern

If your airbrush is producing an off-center spray pattern, the first thing you should check is the needle. Make sure that the needle is properly aligned with the nozzle. If it isn’t, unscrew the needle cap and adjust the needle until it is pointing straight down the center of the nozzle.

The cause is the bent needle tip.

Solutions:

  • To straighten the needle tip, use a flat sharpening stone.
  • If the needle is loose and does not appear to be fitting properly, replace it.

Problem: Spattering and poor spraying

Various factors cause excessive odor, ranging from poor paint quality to damaged needles, low air pressure, partially blocked nozzle, or tip dry.

Solutions:

  • For thick paint, use a reducer and reduce the paint to a milky consistency.
  • If the needle is damaged, remove it and clean it with a dampened cloth.
  • If the paint is too thick, reduce the pressure until it atomizes.
  • Remove the needle, and then the tip dry. If residue pain is accumulated in the needle cap, nozzle, or air cap, clean it or replace it if necessary.
  • Check out my article on how to mix airbrush paints.

Problem: Spidering spray pattern

The needle is not seated correctly if you’re getting a spidering spray pattern from your airbrush. To fix this, check to ensure the needle is screwed in all the way. If it is, then unscrew it slightly and try again.

Solutions:

Another possible cause of a spidering spray pattern is if the nozzle is blocked. To clean the nozzle, remove it and soak it in some cleaner for a few minutes. Once it’s been soaked, use a toothpick or other small object to clear any debris blocking the nozzle.

If you’re still having trouble after trying these two things, then your compressor might have an issue. Try cleaning the air filter and ensuring the air pressure is set correctly. If neither of these things fixes the problem, you might need to take your compressor to a professional for servicing.

Problem: Bubbles appear in the gravity cup or suction bottle when the airbrush trigger is depressed.

This problem is caused by two things: either the compressor isn’t delivering enough air to atomize the paint properly, or there’s something wrong with the airbrush itself. If you’re using a gravity feed airbrush, check to make sure that the cup isn’t full of paint – if it is, thin it out with some reducer or thinner until it’s about half full. If that doesn’t fix the problem, try cleaning the needle and tip with compressed air and a cotton swab.

Solutions:

  • Loose air cap/head – tighten it.
  • Tip dry/ blocked nozzle – clean it or replace it if needed.
  • Nozzle seal is worn/damaged – replacement needed.
  • Split nozzle – replacement needed.
  • Check out my post on choosing the best airbrush.

Problem: Won’t turn on/ suddenly shuts off – Compressor is too hot

If your airbrush compressor won’t turn on or shuts off suddenly, it may be because the unit is too hot.

Solutions:

Compressors can get quite hot, up to 150°. Before the compressor overheats, it is switched off using the thermal overload switch. Allow for adequate time for the equipment to cool down. If the problem persists after attempting this, use a small personal fan to cool down the device.

Problem: Won’t turn on/ suddenly shuts off – If the unit has a tank, it may already be full of air

Solutions:

  • Check the pressure release valve to see if it’s open. If not, the compressor may be over-pressurized and must be bled before use.
  • The airbrush may be blocked. Clean it with compressed air and a soft brush (toothpicks work well).
  • Check that the needle is screwed in and that nothing obstructs it.
  • Make sure all connections are tight.
  • Sprinkle a little oil on the line, and see if the compressor turns on.
  • Check out my post on choosing the best airbrush compressor.

Problem: Won’t turn on/ suddenly shuts off – Compressor is not receiving power, or there is a loose connection.

Check that the power cord is properly plugged in and that there are no loose connections. If the problem persists, try resetting the circuit breaker.

Solutions:

Check to see if the device is connected to a working outlet (test with a lamp)

Problem: Turns off and on while the airbrush is not moving air – The compressor has an air leak

Check for leaks at the compressor’s intake valve and ensure it’s tightened.- If there is a leak, use Teflon tape or epoxy to seal it.

Solutions:

  • All connections should be washed with a soapy water solution. Bubbles are an indication of air leaks.
  • Tighten connections
  • If the bubble continues to grow, try wrapping threads with thread sealant tape (no more than three wraps) or using Medea Thread Sealer on them.
  • It must be replaced if the air leak is amid an air hose.

Problem: Voltage/ Traveling questions – You are traveling to a country with a different voltage than your compressor is rated for, or you have questions about what voltage your compressor is rated for.

A Power Converter is a device that will convert the voltage from 230V to 110V.

Solutions:

First, check the manual that came with your airbrush compressor. It will have the specific voltage requirements for your model. If you don’t have the manual, you can usually find this information online by searching for your model number and “voltage.”

If you’re still not sure, the safest bet is to get a travel converter or transformer specifically designed for use with electrical devices. These can be found at most electronics stores or online.

Once you’ve sorted out the right power source, ensure all other connections on your airbrush are secure before plugging it in and turning it on. A loose connection can cause all sorts of problems, from not enough power getting to your airbrush to an electrical shock.

Conclusion

So, if your compressor is giving you trouble, take a deep breath and try some of these tips. It might be time to call the professionals if they don’t work. But hopefully, armed with this knowledge, you can breathe new life into your airbrush compressor and return to creating beautiful works of art.

Hi! I'm Richard Baker, a miniature painter who has been painting for about ten years. My website is packed with great advice that I've learned from both books and personal experience on building and painting miniatures.

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