Are you familiar with air compressor lubricant TAN, or Total Acid Number? TAN is a measure of the acids in your air compressor lubricants. When a lubricant’s TAN reaches 2.0, it’s time to change it, otherwise the sulfuric acid in your oil can do serious damage to your compressor. Acid corrosion can lead to premature air/oil separator and filter blockages, bearing failure and other major maintenance headaches.

The Three Best Ways to Avoid High TAN

Fortunately, avoiding damaging high TAN levels in your air compressor isn’t hard. In fact, there are three easy, cost-effective ways you can avoid high TAN:

1. Keep your compressor operating at normal temperatures.
For every 10° above 190°F that an air compressor operates, the life of the lubricant inside it is cut in HALF, along with its ability to resist acid formation. So, if a compressor is operating at 210° F (or 20° above 190°), the oil life is cut in half TWICE. That means that under those circumstances, even an 8,000 hour lubricant would reach dangerous TAN levels after just 2,000 hours. So, if your compressor is running hot and you’re not monitoring your TAN, you could be doing a lot of damage to your machinery. (Have a hot compressor and not sure why? Evaluate potential overheating causes, at Industrial Air Power’s Troubleshooting Guide.)

2. Perform regular oil analysis.
Not only is regular lubricant analysis the only way to be 100% sure that your compressor lubricants are at safe TAN levels, it’s a vital diagnostic tool that can help you anticipate and avoid high-cost maintenance and unnecessary lubricant changes. In fact, oil analysis that gives you information about additives, wear metals and TAN levels can save you big money in the long run. (Haven’t had your lubricant tested in awhile? Learn about Industrial Air Power’s Free Oil Analysis Program.)

3. Use a heat-activated cleaner to flush your system.
To maintain peak air compressor performance and prevent premature failure, high-TAN lubricants must be completely flushed from air compressors (not just drained and refilled). And, because oil can pool in the sump when drained, the best way to do this is to bathe the interior of the unit with a heat-activated cleaner that dissolves sludge and varnish contaminants while the compressor operates. Heat-activated compressor cleaners suspend and flush away harmful deposits so that no high-TAN lubricants are left in hard-to-reach areas. (Never used a cleaning additive before? Learn about Industrial Air Power’s high-performance, heat-activated cleaner, POWERSOLV.)

Monitor TAN for Fewer Air Compressor Maintenance Hassles

You might think that regularly changing your lubricant keeps your equipment safe from the damaging effects of high TAN but that’s not always the case. Even if you change your lubricant regularly and “on time,” your air compressor oil can still reach high TAN levels due to leftover oil from the lines, cooler and the bottom of the sump. Remember these three easy ways to keep your TAN manageable!