How to Clean Reed Valves on an Air Compressor

Keeping your air compressor in good working condition is important for preserving its lifespan and ensuring that it’s ready to use when you need it.

One of the most critical, but often neglected parts of an air compressor is the reed valve. This simple yet crucial part is located under the head of the compressor and is responsible for allowing air to pass between cylinder and tank smoothly.

If you do not keep this part clean, it can cause the compressor to run inefficiently or even complete failure. Fortunately, cleaning a reed valve is a quick and easy process that takes only a few minutes and requires very few tools. 

Read on to learn how to clean the reed valve on air compressor so that you can increase compressor performance and avoid wasting time with frustrating interruptions.

How to clean the reed valve on the air compressor

If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the entire article watch the below video on cleaning reed valve:

Gather the following materials: 

  • Screwdriver
  • Brush
  • Large pliers (optional)
  • liquid cleaner

Step 1: Shut off the power and drain the tank.

The first thing you need to do is shut off the power to your air compressor, it will ensure safety when cleaning the reed valve. Now drain the tank by opening the drain valve, located at the machine’s base. 

This will ensure that there is no access pressure left in the tank. Doing both of these things before cleaning the reed valve will help to prevent any serious injury during the cleaning process.

Step 2: Take out the reed valve

There are many different ways to access the reed valve, so pick whichever method works best for your machine. If you have a very old compressor, the head might be held down by four visible screws. In this case, you can use the screwdriver to remove them and take off the head.

If you have a new model air compressor, it might have a removable reed valve without screws. If this is the case, use your fingers to loosen and remove it.

After you have access to the reed valve, pull it out. Then, bring it to your work surface and take a good look at it to see what you need to do next.

Step 3: Clean the reed valve properly

If your reed valves look made of plastic, you can simply wash them with a liquid cleaner and rinse them off with water. If the reed valve seems to be made of metal, then you will need to use some emery cloth to clean it. 

To clean the reed valve, you should take it to your work surface, put on gloves and protective eyewear, and use your liquid cleaner and a small brush to scrub the reed valve thoroughly. 

Ensure you clean the reed valve properly because there are small holes in it, which can get dirty and cause the compressor to malfunction. So properly use the brush to clean the holes.

Step 4: Recheck the valve

Now inspect it again. Just make sure that there are no cracks in the valve. If you find any cracks, then you should replace them with a new one. If there are no cracks or other problems, then you’re good to go.

Step 5: Reinstalling the reed valve back into place

Once you have cleaned and inspected your valve, simply put the reed valve back in its original position under the compressor head. Now, tighten it back down with your screwdriver and put the head back on the compressor by screwing it in.

Once you have finished putting the reed valve back on, ensure it is working properly by checking to see if air flows through the tank. That’s it you learn how to clean a reed valve on an air compressor without having to call a repair man.

Read our latest article on: Stop air compressor circuit from tripping the breaker

Things to keep in mind 

When you clean the reed valves on your air compressor, there are a few things to remember. 

  • Even when the power is off, there may still be access pressure left in the tank. So make sure you shut off your machine and drain it before working on it. 
  • Ensure you are wearing gloves and protective eyewear when working on or around the reed valves. 
  • Do not allow liquid to get inside the tank. Make sure you let it dry out before using it again. 
  • Always check cracks before reassembling. Even a small crack can cause a serious problem.

What is the best way to test an air compressor reed valve?

An air compressor’s reed valve is an important component, and it should be checked regularly in order to guarantee proper operation. 

The best way to test an air compressor reed valve is to use a multimeter. Tests with a multimeter will show whether the two wires connected to the reed valve are connected. 

If there is no continuity, then the reed valve is not functioning properly and will need to be replaced.

To test the continuity of your reed valve, follow these steps:

Step 1: Remove your air compressor reed.

Step 2: Connect one lead of the multimeter to the positive terminal of the air compressor reed valve, and the other lead to the negative terminal.

Note: If the multimeter reads the infinity, it means the reed valves are working correctly. However, if you notice that the multimeter reading is higher than infinity, it means that there is a problem with your reed valve, and you will need to replace it.


Taking care of an air compressor’s reed valves isn’t difficult, but it is important to do it correctly. If you are not sure about cleaning it yourself, then don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend or a professional. But we’re sure after following the above steps, you can clean your reed valves with ease

FAQS related to Cleaning the Reed Valve

What does the reed valve do?

Reed valves are typically made of a thin layer of metal flaps attached to the valve plate. They are essentially a series of flaps that open and close in response to changes in pressure, allowing air to flow into or out of the compressor as needed.
They help keep the compressor running efficiently by allowing just enough air into the cylinders to create compression while preventing too much air from entering and bogging down the compressor.

Do air compressor reed valves take a long to clean? 

The amount of time it takes to clean the reed valves on your air compressor will depend on how dirty they are. If you have not cleaned them in a while, it will take you a little longer (30 minutes) to properly clean the reed valves.
If your compressor is not used very often, then it will not be very dirty. In this case, the reed valves only take you about 10 minutes to clean.

Can I clean air compressor reed valves at home? 

You can clean the reed valves on your air compressor at home most of the time. It just takes a little bit of work and effort on your part. To clean the reed valves, you should just take them off and follow the steps that we mentioned above to clean them effectively. 

Why do I need to clean reed valves? 

Over time, oil and debris will slowly build up on the reed valve and cause it to become less effective. If the reed valves are dirty, they will not open and close correctly when there is a change in air pressure.
Over time this can cause damage to the reed valve and further problems in your air compressor, so you must keep the reed valves clean and in proper working order.

How often should reed valves be cleaned?

You should clean your reed valves every few months to ensure that they are in good working condition. If you have not used your air compressor in a while, it is good to clean the reed valves before you use it.

How do I know if my air compressor reed valve is faulty?

If you notice a decrease in performance or the pressure in your tank drops too low, it could be a sign that it is time to replace your reed valves.

What will happen if I don’t clean the reed valves? 

If you do not clean the reed valves on your compressor, it could lose pressure. If this happens, it will put more strain on the pump, causing it to wear out faster and put yourself at risk.

What could cause a compressor to not build pressure?

It can happen for a number of reasons that an air compressor fails to build pressure.
The most common reason is a defective reed valve. Which can be caused by many things, such as dirt, dust, or even small cracks.

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