How to Use an Air Compressor | Beginner’s Guide

| Last Updated: January 21, 2021

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Air Compressors can be hard to figure out at first but you’ll soon get the hang of it. Below you’ll find information on how to use your air compressor properly.

Is it Hard to Use an Air Compressor? 

There is a small learning curve when you first start operating an air compressor. Here are a few tips and pieces of advice to get a hang of it quicker: 

  • Always wear safety glasses
  • If your air compressor is louder than 80db you should have ear protection
  • If you’re using your compressor regularly; change the oil every three months
  • Each tool will operate at different PSI levels, remember to check each time a tool is changed
  • Don’t put your compressor on a slope as the oil won’t make it to the piston and can potentially damage the machine

Air Compressors can be hard to figure out at first but you’ll soon get the hang of it. Below you’ll find information on how to use your air compressor properly. 

How to Use an Air Compressor 

Below, you’ll find a step by step guide on how to use your air compressor properly. Always remember your safety glasses, ear protection, and ensure a suitable power source. 

  1. Check the safety release valve - This valve is a vital feature to maintain safety at all times. The valve will pop open, releasing air if the pressure builds to more than what the compressor can handle. 
  1. Check Oil - If your compressor is an oiled model, always ensure that there’s enough to operate the compressor. If it’s below the required amount, fill it to a sufficient level. 
  1. Start the compressor and wait while it fills with pressurized air - Turn on the compressor and close off the drain valve to allow pressure to build. You’ll hear a buzzing noise; if you watch the larger gauge, the needle will slowly move until it stops, this will signal that the tank is full. The smaller gauge shows you the pressure currently in the hose
  1. Check Tool PSI requirements - Before connecting the hose to your air tool, ensure that the compressor can operate at the tool’s PSI requirements. You can do this by checking the tool’s manual. For safety, if your device operates at 90 PSI, experts recommend setting the compressor to apply 5 PSI less through the hose. 
  1. Connect the tool and adjust - Connect the device to the hose and then adjust the pressure to suit the device; you’ll need to change the pressure with every new tool as they all operate at different PSI levels. 
  1. Safe Operation - While operating your compressor, ensure you’re wearing safety glasses, and if you’re running the machine and it creates over 80 decibels, you should be wearing ear protection. 
  1. Packing the compressor away - Once you’re done, turn the compressor off and unplug from the power source. Disconnect any tools attached, then the hose. You should then open the drain valve to release any water. 
  1. Storage - To safely store your compressor, you should make sure that it’s placed inside and away from any water. If you’re using the compressor frequently, you should be replacing oil every three months. 

Be sure to watch the YouTube video below if you require a more visual demonstration of the step-by-step guide described. 

How to Use an Air Compressor by Brand

We have included the below section to understand how to use air compressors from the most popular brands. We have also included a guide on how to use different types of air compressor. 

  1. The standard Porter-Cable is an easy device to operate; you’ve got a simple on/off switch, two gauges below, along with a dual coupler. 

  2. The drainage valve is at the bottom of the compressor; ensure that this has been tightened before switching on the device. 

  3. Once switched on, you’ll instantly hear the loud buzzing noise, it’ll slowly fill the tank with pressurized air, you’ll see the needles increasing on the gauges. 

  4. You’ll notice that the max PSI and CFM rating specifications are smack bang in the middle of the compressor; make sure you follow these recommended specifications when operating tools. 

How to Use Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor

  1. Open the tank drain valve, turn the regulator knob fully clockwise, and turn the pressure switch off. 

  2. Plug the power cord into the mains; you can now turn the pressure switch to auto and run the compressor for roughly 30 minutes to break the compressor in. 

  3. After the first hour of run time, you should drain and replace the oil. This hour can be over several days, weeks, months; it depends on how often you use it. 

How to Use Husky Air Compressor 

  1. Husky air compressors are recommended to use synthetic non-detergent oil to operate the compressor pump. Ensure the level of oil is satisfactory.

  2. Switch the power to off and release any air built up inside by pulling on the air valve for around 20-30 seconds. 

  3. Close off the regulator knob, attach the hose and close off the drain valve, located at the very bottom of the tank.

  4. Plug the compressor into the power source and switch from OFF to AUTO; it’ll run for over 8 minutes before filling the tank to 155 PSI.

How to Use Craftsman Air Compressor 

  1. Once you have all the parts laid out, go ahead and make sure it’s switched OFF, and all regulators and valves are closed, all gauges should say 0 PSI. 

  2. Connect the compressor to the power source, the hose to the connection point, and any accessory you plan to use. 

  3. Once you turn the compressor on, it’ll buzz and start to fill the tank. You’ll notice no pressure through the hose, go ahead and adjust the hose gauge to suit the individual air tool. 

  4. When you’re finished, turn the compressor off by the switch, turn the regulator knob to the left and pull the safety valve to release any excess air.

How to Use a Dewalt Air Compressor

  1. The Dewalt air compressors roughly take around 3 minutes to fill to 165 PSI. Make sure you have all the parts set out and ready. 

  2. Connect your power, hose, and make sure the compressor is switched off along with any valves and regulators being locked.

  3. Turn the compressor on, and it’ll quickly fill the tank. You’ll need to adjust the PSI with the regulator once the tank is full. 

  4. When all the air has been used, it’ll quickly refill in around 40 - 50 seconds. When packing away, you’ll need to pull the safety release valve to get rid of any air, unscrew the drain valve for any water build-up, and store in a secure, dry place.
  1. Check the oil level, and ensure its satisfactory before attaching the hose with the power tool, make sure both are fastened tightly. 

  2. Plug the compressor into the power outlet; if you don’t have enough cord length, buy a larger hose, never buy an extension as this risks overheating. 

  3. When using power tools, you should always wear safety glasses, and anything over 80 decibels requires ear protection. 

  4. If you’re operating in a dusty environment, ensure a mask is worn as a compressor, and any small particles can cause respiratory problems when using power tools. 

Hold up, are you interested in other topics related to air compressors? If so, these might be something to check out: 


There are a few small learning curves when you first start operating your air compressor. Once you get the hang of the first one, you’ll be fine with any others as they’re all somewhat similar. However, an essential piece of advice we could give you is that safety should always be your number one priority. 

People Also Ask

Here are some frequently asked questions: 

How to Use a 12v Air Compressor

  1. Conduct a short inspection of the device, such as oil levels, valves working correctly, and ensure there aren’t any foreign objects stuck anywhere. 

  2. Ensure all valves are closed, insert the plug into the power socket and then switch the compressor ON. 

  3. If this is your first time, break the compressor by letting it run for around 10 minutes with the air valves fully open.

  4. Once complete, close the valves and let the air fill the tank; it’ll stop automatically when finished. 

  5. Switch it off by simply pushing the off switch. Don’t ever pull the plug out to turn it off; you will damage the machine.

How to Use a Portable Air Compressor 

  1. Find a steady place to operate your compressor and inspect oil levels, and ensure valves are all shut off. 

  2. Make sure your hose is connected to the regulator, and you’ve got enough length. If the power cable isn’t long enough, get yourself a longer hose. 

  3. Plug the power in, and you’re ready to start it up. Make sure that the tools you’re using can be used with the compressor, do this by checking the CFM and PSI ratings. 

  4. Once you’ve completed your tasks, release any excess air by pulling the air valve for around 20 - 30 seconds, drain any water that’s built up to reduce any chances of rusting. Store the compressor somewhere dry and away from the elements.

How to Use an Air Compressor To Fill A Tire

  1. If you’re on the road and want to top your tires up, pull up and let your tires cool down for about 10 minutes. 

  2. Check the pressure of your tires as tires all vary in pressure requirements. Average car tires sit at around 35 PSI. You can find this out from the car manual. 

  3. You’ll most likely be using a 12V compressor, connect it to the power source, and attach your hose.

  4. Take off the tire cap and store it somewhere safe, attach the hose onto the valve and begin the inflation process. Apply pressure on to the hose while keeping an eye on the pressure gauge until the tires have been filled. 

  5. Detach the hose and reattach the tire cap firmly; you’re now finished.