how to adjust an air compressor pressure regulator

How to adjust an air compressor pressure regulator in 9 easy steps

Proper adjustment of an air compressor pressure regulator is important for the smooth functioning of your air compressor and air tools. However, before we get on to the topic of how to adjust an air compressor pressure regulator, let us also understand some dynamics behind an air compressor and pressure regulator.

What is an air compressor and how does it work?

Technically, what an air compressor does is store potential energy in pressurized tanks by converting power through means like a gasoline engine, diesel, electric motor, etc. Through many methods, an air compressor can store as much air as possible in a tank which eventually results in high pressure.

This high air pressure inside the tank stops compressing air when it reaches an upper limit. It is this energy coming from the compressed air, i.e., kinetic energy, which we use for a multitude number of applications.

Once we start using the compressed air, the pressure inside the tanks also starts to decrease. When this decrease in air pressure reaches its lower limit, it activates the air compressor to turn on and begin pressurizing the tank again.

You can find all types of air compressors for all kinds of users ranging from consumer level to professional level to industrial scale. Depending on your air tools’ requirement for power, you can choose any air compressor of your like.

What is a pressure regulator?

As the name itself suggest, a pressure regulator is a device that regulates the pressure in the air compressor. What a pressure regulator essentially does is it allows you to control the flow of the air by decreasing or increasing it with the help of a control valve. There will be a monitor on the air compressor that indicates the amount of pressure inside your tank.

Some large compressors will have more than one pressure regulator. This allows you to use the compressor for various purposes by adjusting the individual regulators depending on the requirement.

Components of a pressure regulator

The pressure regulator comprises of three parts – pressure gauge, regulator body, and a regulator knob which can be either a simple knob or with a T-shaped handle. Once you activate the pressure regulator, the valve inside the body of the regulator will come into action. Through this mechanism, you can either increase or decrease the flow of air to the air tool.

How does a pressure regulator work and why is pressure adjustment important?

What controls the flow of air through the tank in the air compressor is a set screw. You can also picture this set screw as a large screw.

The set screw maintains the air pressure with the help of springs. These springs connect to the set screw with the help of shafts. These springs also produce enough force and strength to keep the valve open. At the opening of the valve is a small tube which transports the pressure inside the chamber.

Next item is the diaphragm which goes into motion as there is a change of pressure inside the regulator. The movement of the diaphragm in consonance with the air pressure enables the regulator to function correctly which ultimately helps in maintaining a steady level of the air pressure.

Now, if there is not enough pressure inside the regulator, there is only a movement of hot air through the air compressor. And, if the pressure in the regulator is beyond its upper limit, it will result in damaging the vital components of the air compressor.

Therefore, in order to prevent any damage to your air compressor or your air tools, it is crucial that the air flow through the air compressor hose should receive proper attention. Along with this, it is also essential to keep making pressure adjustments as you continue to work with your air tools.

Adjusting the pressure is also important because if you operate your air tools in accordance with the minimum pressure set by the manufacturer, it can prolong the longevity of your air tools. Pressure adjustment also reduces the usage of air which helps in bringing down the cost of energy in compressing the air. And finally, adjusting the pressure helps in reducing your air compressor’s cycle frequency which increases the life of the compressor.

PSI should correspond to the requirement of the tool

Each air tool will have a PSI (pounds per square inch) requirement for it to function efficiently. So, the PSI in the air compressor must regularly correspond to the specification of the tool. Any imbalance may result in damage to the tools or result in inefficient functioning of the tools.

For instance, if you are supplying only 70 PSI from the air compressor to a staple gun whose PSI requirement is 90, then that will result in the inefficient working of the staple gun. This means you will not be able to drive in the staple to the desired depth. On the other hand, if you supply extra PSI to the staple gun, it may result in causing damage to your air tool itself.

Even when you’re using multiple pressure regulators for different tools, each regulator must correspond to the specific air tool under usage. Not doing so can easily cause damage to your precious air tools.

There are some users who say that using air tool with lower PSI is not a problem. However, it is always advisable that you follow the recommendation of the tool’s PSI for high performance of your air tools. This can also ensure their longevity.

One cannot, therefore, overstate the importance of adjusting the PSI of the air compressor to match with that of the tool accurately.

Difference between pressure switch and pressure regulator

The purpose of the pressure switch is to safeguard your compressor from any undesirable over or under pressure that may cause damage to the components.

The pressure switch performs two reciprocal functions. When the pressure in the air compressor reaches its maximum or upper limit, the pressure switch will automatically turn off the compressor pump to avoid over accumulation of air. In a similar fashion, when the pressure in the air compressor drops to its minimum point, the pressure switch will automatically start the compressor pump to start generating air. The pressure switch can perform these functions with the help of preset settings.

Thus, you can see how the pressure switch functionally differs from the pressure regulator.

Are pressure regulators available in all air compressors?

Though the majority of the air compressors will have a pressure regulator on them, there are some that don’t. However, that does not mean such devices are inferior or weaker than those with a pressure regulator. It merely means those devices have a working design which can efficiently function without a pressureregulator. They may also have some other kind of regulating system instead of a pressure regulator.

Reading a pressure regulator

The only thing that you need to look out for on a pressure regulator is the arrow sign. When you turn on the compressor, this arrow will start moving which indicate that the pressure is increasing. After setting the compressor, you will have to inspect the PSI requirement on the air tool you intend to use with the air compressor. The tool’s PSI and the pressure should correspond with one another. This, as stated above, is extremely important to safeguard your air tool from damage and also to ensure optimal performance of the air compressor. After checking the PSI, you can start adjusting the pressure regulator in the air compressor.

How to adjust an air compressor pressure regulator?

Follow these 9 simple steps to adjust the pressure regulator

Time needed: 30 minutes.

How to adjust an air compressor pressure regulator?

Let us go through, in detail, the various steps you need to perform to accurately adjust the pressure regulator in your air compressor for optimum performance of your air tools.

  1. Turn the compressor on

    The first thing to do is to connect your air compressor and turn it on.

  2. Let the tank fill with air

    After turning on the air compressor, just wait a bit for the compressed air to fill the tank of your air compressor fully.

  3. Make sure the tank is full

    You can easily ascertain whether the air is filling up from the noise your air compressor makes after you turn it on.

  4. Check the PSI and make sure your air tools is compatible with the compressor

    When the pressure reaches the upper limit, it is time to take out your air tool and check its PSI.
    If the PSI on your air tool is higher than that of your air compressor you obviously don’t want to use that tool with the compressor. For that, you’ll have to get a new compressor with a higher PSI.

    However, if the pressure in your compressor is more than that of the PSI requirement of your tool, you can proceed with the next step.

  5. Connect your tool and hose with the air compressor

    Now that the PSI of your air tool is compatible with your air compressor, you should connect the air tool with the air hose.
    After that, connect the air hose with the compressor.
    For connecting the air hose with your tool, you’ll distinctly see the port. However, if you are not able to find the port, you can read the manual and find out the location.

  6. Adjust the pressure regulator

    After the completion of the above connection, you can begin to start adjusting the pressure regulator.

  7. Locate your knob

    Usually, there is a knob towards the right side of the regulator. However, this will vary from one model to another.
    It is also a common feature in most knobs to come with a locking feature: pull out the knob to unlock and push in the knob to lock.

  8. Turn the knob clockwise and raise the pressure

    To raise the pressure in the compressor, all you have to do is turn the knob clockwise, and you will see the pressure starting to increase.

    Do remember to pull out the knob to unlock it if your compressor has this feature.

  9. Find the correct ammount of pressure and lock the knob in.

    Similarly, to bring down or decrease the pressure, turn the knob in an anti-clockwise direction and you will notice the pressure dropping. Don’t forget to push in the knob and lock it.

Importance of maintaining pressure regulator

As important as it is to continually keep your air compressor in good condition through proper upkeep, it is also extremely vital to do proper maintenance check of the pressure regulator. Over the course of time, pressure regulators tend to give rise to certain problems due to lack of maintenance.

The most common problem is the development of cracks in the regulator. Cracks develop due to the continuous downstream movement of pressure through the regulator. Once the cracks form, the air will start leaking out of the air compressor, thereby significantly reducing its potentiality. This, in turn, affects the performance of your air tools.

If you’re someone who occasionally uses the air compressor, then chances are you expose the pressure regulator to the risk of drying out. Thus, an occasional runtime should go a long way in prolonging the life of the pressure regulator.

The relieving factor, however, is that replacing a pressure regulator in case of damage isn’t expensive and should cost no more than fifty dollars.


While the pressure regulator in an air compressor is one of the essential features, what is more critical is that you properly know how to adjust an air compressor pressure regulator.

Majority of the air compressors will feature a pressure regulator as one of the components. As you work with your air tools, keep adjusting the quantity of air pressure that the tank produces. This will go a long way in improving the efficiency of your air compressor unit as well as properly maintain it. More importantly, your air tools get the most benefit when you know how to adjust an air compressor pressure regulator.