How To Adjust Air Compressor Pressure Regulator

This article explains how to adjust an air compressor pressure regulator.  This can be a necessary step when trying to get the best performance out of your machine. When adjusting the regulator, make sure to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

This is an important step in maintaining your compressor and ensuring that it is functioning properly. By adjusting the pressure regulator, you can ensure that the air coming out of the compressor is at the optimal pressure for your application.

Disclaimer: Air compressors can be lethal if damaged, used incorrectly or if not maintained properly. Unless you are a professional or very experienced, we advise you get your compressor serviced and adjusted by a professional instead.

What is a pressure regulator?

A pressure regulator is a device that helps maintain the pressure of the air being delivered to your compressor. This is important because it keeps the blades from getting too hot and prevents damage to the compressor. When the pressure regulator is not adjusted properly, the air coming out of the compressor will be too high or low in pressure.

The regulator is a monitor that indicates the precise available pressure.

This is especially critical since your air tool has a certain PSI value that must be calibrated with that of a compressor; failing to do so will cause the tool to malfunction.

With a few exceptions, almost every compressor has a pressure regulator. This in no way limits their ability to operate; in fact, they may have been built to work without one.

For more information on air compressors, see our comprehensive guide What is an air compressor?

What is the purpose of an air compressor regulator?

The primary purpose of a pressure regulator is to maintain the pressure of the air being delivered to your compressor.

Different amounts of pressure are required for various kinds of pneumatic tools, hence air pressure regulators are essential. If you attempt to power a slow-moving instrument with the same amount of force required for a fast-moving task, you will almost certainly overwhelm it. If you conducted the contrary, the latter procedure would most certainly provide poor outcomes and malfunctioning air tools.

You may lower the amount of energy needed to operate your air-powered activities by regulating your air compressor. Without the capabilities of a pressure regulator, you may wind up wasting large amounts of energy throughout the day only to satisfy peak demands, even though only a tiny percentage of your applications need this much energy. Essentially, there are three reasons to control your air compressor: to appropriately service your air tools, to simplify applications, and to conserve energy.

Pro’s and con’s of adjusting the air pressure regulator

Most air compressors have the ability to tune pressure based on your needs. Furthermore, by appropriately employing this function, you may increase your efficiency.

Many times, you’ll find yourself in circumstances where you need less air pressure than your air compressor can provide. The ability to reduce the flow of air here is a must-have function. When the pressure is reduced to an appropriate level, the maintenance cost decreases over time.

The dangers of increasing power do not stop with harming your air compressor and air equipment. It can be deadly. If you boost the power over the safety threshold, there is a chance that your air compressor may explode.

Even though the compressor’s tank is designed to sustain high pressure, using your compressor for a long time and not maintaining it properly is always unsafe. Your air compressor tank becomes increasingly prone to harmful pressure limitations as it ages.

How does a pressure regulator work?

A pressure regulator is a device that helps control air pressure in an air compressor. It uses a spring or other type of pressure-sensitive mechanism to adjust the air pressure automatically. This allows the compressor to operate at a consistent and correct pressure, which can help avoid damage to the machine and improved efficiency. It’s a simple piece of equipment, just a valve that you turn to adjust the pressure.

When you first start up your compressor, the pressure regulator is set to its lowest setting (known as “low pressure”). As the compressor starts to work, it builds up air pressure. The pressure regulator helps hold on to this high air pressure until you turn it down again, let off the trigger, or switch to another task.

What does the release valve do?

When the pressure in the compressor tank reaches the maximum level, a safety release valve is included in the unit to prevent such unwanted and possibly hazardous circumstances.

As previously indicated, this valve is activated when the air pressure reaches a harmful level.

The pressure overwhelms a small spring in the system, causing it to leap into action, releasing the extra air and lowering the level to a safe level.

The pressure at which the safety valve is activated is around 140-150 psi. There’s no need to be concerned since the majority of your job takes place below this pressure range.

Do not (and I repeat, do not) tamper with the safety valve unless you need to replace it with a suitable one.

Is the regulator the same thing as the pressure switch?

No. Based on preset PSI specifications, the pressure switch is configured to maintain the air tank within an acceptable range of pressurisation. The pressure regulator is a component that you monitor and change to ensure that the appropriate air tool gets the correct PSI. Though you may never need to modify an air compressor pressure switch, you will almost certainly need to adjust the pressure regulator if you utilise a variety of pneumatic tools.

What is Cut-in and Cut-out pressure?

A compressor has two pressure set-points: the cut-in and the cut-out.

These are just the two pressures at which the compressor begins and ends its operation. When the compressor hits the cut-out pressure, it will stop and restart when the pressure returns to the cut-in pressure.

As a result, the cut-in pressure is never greater than the cut-out pressure. The pressure band or pressure differential is the difference between the cut-in and cut-out pressures.

As a general rule, a pressure difference of at least 14 PSI is required (1 bar).

If the difference between the cut-in and cut-out pressures is too narrow, the compressor will continuously start and stop, which will ruin the pressure switch, burn the compressor motor and generally wear out the compressor components faster.

For example, if you need a minimum of 6 bar air pressure in your system; if the pressure drops below this level, your equipment will begin to fail.

You set the pressure switch’s minimum pressure to 5 bar and the maximum pressure to 6 bar. Now your system always has a high enough pressure, and you’ve ensured that the compressor remains in good condition by not having it start and stop all the time.

5 bar is the cut-in pressure. The pressure difference is one bar, so this results in a cut-out pressure of 6 bar.

It may be better for certain machines to increase the pressure differential (say 2 or 3 bars) – e.g. for devices that only operate for a brief period of time such as nail guns.

When the pressure band is increased, the compressor runs longer and has more time to heat up to eliminate any water or moisture within the compressor, which is extremely bad for your machine.

What is the best way to adjust a pressure regulator?

When you’re working with a pressure regulator, it’s important to keep in mind the following points:

  • Make sure the regulator is properly installed on the air compressor.
  • Before adjusting the regulator, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check the PSI requirement of the tool. Check the PSI on the pneumatic tool you’ve put aside for this test after the activated air tank is suitably full. If the PSI of the tool exceeds the compressor’s capacity, you must reserve the tool for a different air compressor with a larger capacity. If the compressor pressure exceeds the tool’s specifications, you may continue with the test.
  • To adjust the regulator, first make sure that the air compressor is turned off and unplugged.

There are a few different ways to adjust a pressure regulator. The most common way is to use a valve. This is where you adjust a valve that has been inserted into the line that supplies air to the compressor and opens it. This will allow more or less air to enter the compressor, depending on how much pressure you want to maintain.

Another method is to use a gauge. You can measure the pressure at various points along the line and use this information to adjust the regulator. However, this is only recommended for experienced users.

Finally, you can also use a screwdriver to adjust the regulator. This is not recommended however, because it can be difficult to get accurate readings and it can damage your compressor if not done correctly.

What to use to adjust the pressure regulator?

  • A wrench: Loosen the screw that holds the regulator in place and turn it until the psi level on your gauge matches the rating found in your compressor’s owner’s manual.
  • By hand: Hold the handle of the regulator and twist it until the psi level matches the rating found in your compressor’s owner’s manual.
  • Using the valve itself: Find and open the valve that controls pressure (usually located near the output of your compressor). Turn the knob to change the psi level.

Adjusting the pressure regulator

Remember: always consult your manufacturer for specific instructions on how to adjust your pressure regulator. By following these steps, you will ensure that your machine is functioning at its best and that any repairs or adjustments are easy and straightforward. However, the instructions below are the most common way to adjust it.

Typically, the pressure regulator is located on the air compressor. Follow these simple steps to adjust it:

1. Check the air compressor’s pressure gauge. This should be set near or at the max PSI rating of the compressor.

2. Shut off the power to the compressor and remove the pressure gauge cap.

3. Unlock the regulator knob – most regulator knobs will have a locking feature that you must release in order to spin the knob. In most situations, the lock is actuated by a push-pull mechanism. Pull the knob outward to unlock it from its locked state. Push the knob back inward to re-lock it. If this doesn’t work, visit your compressor’s user handbook for details on the regulator lock.

4. Loosen the band around the regulator body and then turn it until it stops (the number on the body should now be different). Tighten the band once you’ve made your adjustment. If using a wrench, turn the pressure regulator until you reach the exact pressure level you need. Make sure that you keep track of which direction you are turning it in so that when you replace the gauge cap, you will always put it back in the same place.

5. Replace the pressure gauge cap and turn on power to your compressor. Check again to make sure that your psi level is at or near maximum PSI rating of your compressor.

6. Reconnect your compressor and turn it on, then check to see if your adjustment has resulted in improved performance.


I found a great video which explains the process simply and safely – if you’re more of a video learner! Credit to Buster’s Garage for the video.

How to maintain your pressure regulator

If you haven’t used your compressor in a while, it’s essential to give every component a through inspection for wear and tear, which includes the regulator.

The valve is subjected to constant downstream pressure, and extended usage may result in the creation of a fracture. Such a break means air can escape, meaning your tools won’t work as well, but it can also be dangerous if you turn up the pressure to try and compensate.

If you see any signs of a crack on the valve or any kind of damage to the regulator – do not use the compressor, and replace the part immediately.

When should I replace my pressure regulator?

If your compressor is running slowly or making strange noises, it might be time to replace your pressure regulator. It’s also a good idea to replace your regulator if the psi level on your gauge is off by more than 10%. If you don’t have a gauge, you can use your compressor’s manual setting as a guide. Simply subtract 10% from the PSI rating found in your compressor’s owner’s manual. For example, if your compressor has a PSI rating of 200, then the correct setting would be 180.

When replacing an air compressor pressure regulator, always make sure to match the size and type of regulator to the cylinder size on your machine. This will ensure that the pressure is delivered at the correct levels to your equipment.


Jeff Stelling

Jeff Stelling is an air compressor obsessive who has been working with compressors for over 25 years, since he was an apprentice engineer in the mid 90’s. He designed to offer technical guidance and buying advice for compressors.

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