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Maintenance of Compressors

Learning Objectives: When you complete this assignment your should be able call the inspection points for open-type compressors and repair procedures for common problems in open-type refrigeration compressors

Inspection points for open-type compressors and repair procedures for common problems in open-type refrigeration compressors are covered in this section

Open Types of Compressors

Figure 6-61 shows a vertical single-acting reciprocating compressor. Some of the duties you may perform in maintaining this and other open-type compressors are discussed in this lesson.

Figure 6-61.—Vertical single-acting reciprocating compressor

Shaft Bellows Seal

Refrigerant leakage often occurs at the shaft bellows seal with consequent loss of charge. Install a test gauge in the line leading from the drum to the compressor. Attach a refrigerant drum to the suction end of the shutoff valve outlet port. Apply the proper amount of pressure, as recommended in the manufacturer's instructions. Test for leaks with a halide leak detector around the compressor shaft, seal gasket, and seal nut. Slowly turn the shaft by hand. When a leak is located at the seal nut, replace the seal plate, gasket, and seal assembly; when the leak is at the gasket, replace the gasket only. Retest the seal after reassembly. (This procedure is typical for most shaft seals on reciprocating open-type compressors.)

Valve Obstructions

Obstructions, such as dirt or corrosion, may be formed under seats of suction or discharge valves. To locate the source of trouble, proceed as follows:

When the suction side is obstructed, the unit tends to run continuously or over long periods. Connect the gauge manifold and start the unit. This pressure gauge (HI) will not indicate an increase in pressure. The low-side gauge (LO) will fluctuate and will not indicate any decrease in pressure. Clean out any obstructions and recheck again by using the test gauge assembly

To determine if there is a discharge valve leak, connect the gauge manifold and start the unit. Run it until the low-side (LO) pressure gauge indicates normal pressure for the unit. Stop the unit. With an ear near the compressor housing, listen for a hissing sound. Also, watch the gauges. When leaking caused by an obstruction is present, the low-side pressure rises, and the high side decreases until the pressures are equalized. A quick equalization of pressures indicates a bad leak that should be repaired immediately or the compressor replaced

Compressor Lubrication

The oil level in the compressor crankcase should be checked by the procedure in the following manufacturer's manual. This procedure normally includes the following steps:

Attach the gauge manifold to the suction and discharge service valves

  1. Pump the system down
  2. Close the suction and discharge valves, isolating the compressor
  3. Remove the oil filter plug and measure the oil level as per the manufacturer’s manual
  4. Compressor Knocks

When the compressor knocks, you may have to disassemble the compressor to determine whether the cause is a loose connecting rod, piston pin, or crankshaft. Sometimes a loose piston can be detected without the complete disassembly. In cases requiring disassembly, you should take the following steps: First, remove the cylinder head and valve plate to expose the top of the piston. Start the motor and press down with your finger on top of the piston. Any looseness can be felt at each stroke. The loose part should be replaced

Check the oil level because oil levels that are too high often cause knocks. Always make sure that a low oil level is actually the result of a lack of oil, rather than a low charge

Stuck or Tight Compressor

A stuck or tight compressor often occurs as a result of poor reassembly after a breakdown repair. In such cases, determine where the binding occurs and reassemble the unit with correct tolerances; avoid uneven tightening of screws or seal covers

Inspection of Compressors

An inspection should be performed on a refrigeration unit from time to time for knocks, thumps, rattles, and so on, while the unit is in operation. When any of the external parts have excessive grease, dirt, or lint, they should be cleaned

Before cleaning, you should always ensure the power is off

A careful check of the entire system with instruments or tools is essential to determine if there has been any loss of refrigerant. NO LEAK IS TOO SMALL TO BE FIXED. Each leak must be stopped immediately

Some specific conditions to look for during the inspection of a refrigeration system are as follows: Inadequate lubrication of bearings and other moving parts

Rusty or corroded parts discovered during the inspection should be cleaned and painted

Hissing sounds at the expansion valve, low readings on the discharge pressure gauge, and bubbles in the receiver sight glass, all indicate a weak refrigerant charge

Loose connections and worn or pitted switch contacts result in inoperative equipment or reduced reliability. Thermostats with burned contacts may produce abnormal temperatures in the cooled compartment

Fans difficult to rotate by hand, with bent blades, or loose or worn belts are a source of trouble easy to locate and correct during inspection

Air filters clogged with dirt should be cleaned or replaced during the inspection

Hermetically sealed units should be inspected for signs of leaks and high temperatures and for too much noise or vibration

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015