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Why Does My Air Compressor Keep Tripping the Breaker?

Written by Edwin Jones / Fact checked by Andrew Wright

why does my air compressor-keep tripping the breaker

Does your air compressor circuit breaker trip every time you turn it on? Do you want to know how to stop air compressor from tripping breaker?

There are many factors why your air compressor trips your breaker. Additionally, each factor that affects the air compressor also has different types of solutions. So to fix this, you need to understand some of the problems it may encounter, thus causing the tripping.

Read on to find out the answer to “why does my air compressor keep tripping the breaker?” and how you can troubleshoot it.

Possible Factors


Troubleshooting an air conditioning compressor can be challenging to do so. You need to trace the source of the problem, which is mainly under the purview of professionals. However, even DIYers can learn a thing or two to do their own checks.

Safety first: Before starting with your inspection, take precautions, especially when working with electricity. It’s best to disconnect the airconditioner’s main power before doing anything.

To give you an idea about the factors that affect your air conditioning compressor and breaker, these are some common problems that you might encounter. There are also included tips that can help you repair it quickly and easily. But if you’re not sure of what you’re doing, leave it to the professionals!

1. Shorted Air Compressor

The most common reason for circuit breaker trips is a shorted air compressor. Sometimes, the air compressor trips breaker immediately, but sometimes it makes a noise for a moment before it trips its dedicated breaker.

Check the line and terminal of the air compressor with your multimeter. However, to test if the real short is your compressor, disconnect it from the circuit then turn on the affected breaker. If the breaker does not trip, then the compressor is the problem. In that case, you need to find a professional to look at it.

Furthermore, here is a detailed guide about breaker size for air compressors if you needed!

2. Damaged or Shorted Wire


There is the possibility that the wire insulation connecting the air compressor to the breaker might be damaged. It could be because of animal bites, like mice, or simply due to aging. If this happens, it may short if it accidentally contacts other cables.

You should check the air compressor’s cable, starting from the disconnect switch up to the circuit breaker panel. If you find a damaged wire, repair it using wire and terminal connectors. You can find a good pair in the top-rated wire connector article so you can find a suitable wire connector to help you with your repair.

3. High Power Draw During Start-up

If your air compressor tripping breaker on startup, or if your lights dim or fluctuate for a few seconds every time you turn it on, it means that it has a high power draw. This high power draw might exceed your circuit breaker’s capacity, leading to a trip.

The best thing you can do about this problem is install a hard start kit containing a relay and a hard start capacitor. It can help drop the amp requirement by up to 50% for every startup. Check this guide to know how many amps an air compressor uses!

4. Clogged Condenser Coil

A clogged condenser coil can also cause an increase in amp requirements. If the air that goes to the air compressor is blocked by too much dirt, the fan will have to work harder, increasing its power draw.

To clean it, spray the coil with water using a water hose from the inside out. However, be careful while doing this, as too much force from your pressurized hose might damage the coils.

5. Not Enough or Too Much Freon

Freon levels may also be a reason your circuit breaker trips. When the freon in your air compressor does not match the manufacturer’s requirement, this can cause the unit to malfunction, therefore causing the trip. Unfortunately, you need a technician to check it and see if it’s the actual cause of your issues.

6. Damaged Condenser Motor


If your air compressor runs slow then trips breaker, check your condenser fan if it’s stuck or doesn’t rotate as fast. That could mean your condenser motor is damaged. This is because the fan draws a lot of power to cool your unit, which it doesn’t do well because of the damage.

7. Damaged Contactor

A contactor is the one that controls the voltage of your air compressor. If the voltage is uneven for both terminals, it may result in tripping your circuit breaker. Test the voltage with a multimeter to see if you get voltage fluctuations. However, be careful during your testing as you’re dealing with live power.

8. Dirty Air Filter

A dirty air filter can also cause breaker trips. Like a dirty condenser coil, a dirty air filter can reduce airflow, thus requiring the fan to work harder.

Furthermore, the air filter prevents dirt from coming into the air pump. If it’s too dirty, it could fail and let contaminants into the pump itself, leading to expensive repairs. Change your air filter when you see that it is dirty.

9. Grounded Disconnect Switch

A grounded disconnect switch may lead to a short circuit. It is also dangerous as it’s typically attached to the metal casing, thereby increasing the risk of electrocution. Regularly check the disconnect switch terminals and replace them immediately if you see any damage, like scorch marks.

10. Faulty Circuit Breaker

If you’ve checked all the factors above and your compressor keeps tripping breaker, you may have a faulty circuit breaker. Call a professional electrician to check if your breaker is defective.

However, if you also see some scorch marks in your circuit breaker, immediately replace your breaker before it gets worse.

Note: Before troubleshooting your equipment, turn off your circuit breaker or pull out your disconnect switch. It ensures that no current flows into your air compressor line and keeps you safe from electrocution. You could also watch this video by Word of Advice TV so you can have a better idea of how to troubleshoot your air compressor.


All of the factors discussed above are some of the most common reasons air compressors cause breaker trips. If you’re experiencing the same problem, you can go through them one by one and see which one affects your unit. Still, if you’re unsure of what you’re doing, it’s best to call a professional electrician.

That way, you and your property can remain safe.

So, did you find the answer to why does my air compressor keep tripping the breaker? If you have additional questions regarding your air compressor unit, leave them in the comments section below.

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