Porter Cable air compressors are a great tool to have around the house or in your garage. They can be used for many different purposes and are relatively inexpensive to maintain! There are a few common problems experienced by Porter Cable air compressors- how should you go about troubleshooting them?

The most common reason your Porter Cable air compressor requires troubleshooting is due to air with high humidity. Other issues involve pressure not building in the air tank or the compressor not turning ON/OFF. Solutions include changing the air filter, replacing the pressure switch, and moving your machine to a less humid location.

We’ll dive into why your Porter Cable air compressor isn’t working and some helpful problem-solving techniques below!

Why Is My Porter Cable Air Compressor Not Working?

There’s nothing more frustrating than when your Porter Cable air compressor simply isn’t working properly. Fear not- time to identify the problem and move along to those house projects you’ve been dying to complete!

Four common issues with your Porter Cable air compressor include:

  • Pressure Won’t Build in the Tank
  • Air Compressor Won’t Turn On
  • Air Compressor Won’t Turn Off
  • Air Has a High Percentage of Humidity

These fairly typical air compressor problems often relate to one another, so we’ll discuss more on how they’re linked. Once you’ve identified the problem, then we can get a plan of action rolling.

Reason #1: Pressure Won’t Build in the Tank

Sometimes your Porter Cable air compressor just can’t manage to build the necessary pressure to power pneumatic tools. There are a few possible reasons why.

Common problems that create a lack of air pressure are:

  • Leaky air compressor hose
  • Clogged air intake filter
  • Leaky air compressor tank
  • Broken pressure relief valve 

The Solution(s)

Because of the different causes, this is a four-part fix.

1.Check For Leaky Air Compressor Hose

You may be able to patch the air hose using electrical tape, a plastic bag, a utility knife, and a hose repair kit; however, this can get tricky.

Due to the hardiness of the hose, patching doesn’t provide a long-term solution. Your best bet is to replace the leaky air compressor hose altogether for around $30.

2.The Clogged Air Intake Filter

A clogged air intake filter can easily be addressed by switching it out for a new one. You should aim to change out the filter every 1900 hours or so of use to be on the safe side.

3.The Leaky Air Compressor Tank

If you suspect a leaky tank, the solution depends on the situation.

A simple way to test this is to put soapy water in a spray bottle and to spray the outside of your air tank. Look for any bubbles that would indicate air is escaping.

For a punctured tank, you must replace it completely. Otherwise, you can try to identify where the leak is coming from and troubleshoot that area specifically.

4.The Broken Pressure Relief Valve

The previous solution ties into our last problem- the pressure relief valve is broken.

Pressure relief valves are designed to be released upon exceeding the air compressor’s maximum set pressure. A broken pressure relief valve can be triggered prematurely due to a broken spring or improper sealing.

You can easily purchase a new pressure relief valve. Be sure that the threads are properly primed with sealant tape.

If you’re still unable to build pressure after all of these steps, you can try resetting your Porter Cable air compressor back to its factory settings. That could be your perfect answer!

Reason #2: Air Compressor Won’t Turn On

Occasionally, your Porter Cable air compressor just won’t power up.

If your air compressor won’t turn on, it’s most likely the result of:

  • Fulfilling its duty cycle
  • A tripped outlet

In order to understand why each of these poses an issue, we must first get to the root of the problem.

The Solution(s)

This is a dual solution situation.

Fulfilling Its Duty Cycle

Remember that each air compressor has a certain ‘duty cycle.’ This is expressed as a percentage and is usually 25%, 30%, 50%, 75%, or 100%.

The higher the duty cycle percentage, the longer the compressor is able to run in relation to its rest time. The average duty cycle of a Porter Cable air compressor is 50%- meaning that the same amount of rest time is required for the time it’s used.

You may just be trying to use your compressor too quickly after each session. Check the duty cycle, and when in doubt, wait before attempting to turn it back on.

A Tripped Outlet

This one seems a little obvious, but can happen to the best of them.

Plugging too many machines into the same power source or even a thunderstorm can cause the most unsuspecting outlet trips. Test other appliances in that plug-in to ensure that your compressor isn’t to blame.

Move other tools to a different outlet to secure enough power for your Porter Cable air compressor to function. Lastly, reset the circuit breaker switch to get your machine back up and running.

Reason #3: Air Compressor Won’t Turn Off

You could also have the opposite problem- your Porter Cable air compressor won’t turn on.

The biggest source of this issue is a faulty air compressor pressure switch. The pressure switch functions as the lever/button to turn off the air compressor when it’s reached its maximum pressure level. Essentially, it’s the first line of defense against the over-pressurization of the tank. 

The Solution

Luckily, if your air compressor pressure switch isn’t working, you have the safety relief valve to pick up the slack.

In the worst-case-scenario, you’ll need to replace the pressure switch. To do so, follow these steps:

Step 1: Unplug your air compressor and drain the air.

Step 2: Cut the hose clamp.

Step 3: Remove the pressure switch hose.

Step 4: Take apart the motor and pump assembly.

Step 5: Remove the motor cover.

Step 6: Disconnect the yellow pressure switch wire, and pull the motor and pump from its case.

Step 7: Remove the pressure switch.

Step 8: Take the hose off the old pressure switch.

Step 9: Re-attach everything to the new pressure switch.

Plug your Porter Cable air compressor back in and allow for the pressure to build. Then you’re ready to go!

This video has a really great step-by-step technique.

Reason #4: Air Has a High Percentage of Humidity

Last but definitely not least, the most common problem associated with Porter Cable air compressors is a high percentage of air humidity.

Typically, the water separator filter is able to take care of 50% of humidity, but if you notice that your air compressor is spewing fluids, you may need to move your machine.

This can easily be identified by observing mist spraying out of your air hose instead of plain air. When your air compressor sucks in air, it compresses it to about ten times its normal atmospheric pressure. Air in that form is usually unable to hold water.

The Solution

The easiest way to fix this is to move your Porter Cable air compressor to a less-humid location.

A good rule of thumb is if the air is above 50% humidity, you can’t expect your air compressor to do its job properly. This may cause a build-up of water in your air receiver tank (something that can be drained if necessary).

The air receiver tank should be drained in between uses anyways, but if you notice an excessive amount of water- that’s your sign to move your compressor!

Take care of this ASAP; excessive amounts of moisture can disrupt the pressure-reading mechanisms and the system entirely.

How Do I Reset My Porter Cable Air Compressor?

The beauty of a Porter Cable air compressor is that there’s no fancy reset technique- just a button.

If all else fails when troubleshooting your compressor, try hitting ‘Reset.’ It’s a small black button located on the back of the motor casing. While the machine is on, hold down the button for 3 seconds. Wait for the magic to happen.

The system should take around a minute or so to reboot completely. If that doesn’t work, a local handyman shop may be able to perform maintenance on internal parts.

Related Guides

In Summary

If you’ve been having some issues powering your tools with compressed air, it may be time to identify the problem. Apply the Porter Cable air compressor troubleshooting techniques discussed above to get your machine back on its wheels!

The most common problem is caused by excessive humidity. When the air outside becomes too moist, condensation can form inside of your machine and cause all sorts of problems. Move your air compressor to a less humid area to combat this.

For issues with the pressure switch, replace if needed and change the air intake filter every 1900 hours of use.

If all else fails, perform a reset using the ‘Reset’ button on the back of the motor housing!