How to Use A Pancake Air Compressor – Definitive Guide

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Pancake air compressors are a wonder and they are now commonplace not only in professional worksites but DIYer garages as well.

Why is this? There is a big advantage to using pneumatic tools. Instead of having each tool having their own motor, a single air compressor can power all your tools. These air powered tools are relatively more inexpensive as well and are usually more powerful than their electrical version.

There are several choices of air compressors. The pancake version is compact and portable (making their use and storage easy), but still provide enough air to power most common air tools.

Like most power tools, proper use is critical to safety. Here is a step by step guide. 

Be sure to wear safety goggles. Although they might be slightly uncomfortable to wear, compressed air can be dangerous and send flying debris at you. If it hits your eyes, it can cause permanent damage!


Find the regular knob. Its color is usually black and located near the air outlet. You’re going to need to close it. You can do this by turning the knob counter clockwise. Depending on the model, you might need to sue an adjustable wrench.

Connect the air hose to the compressor. The way to do this varies according to the model. Some have a quick connecting fitting, in which case you can snap it in. Otherwise you will need to thread it. 

Place the compressor on a steady, flat area. Turn the on/off switch to off. Usually this is when it is pointing upward.

Determine if your compressor is the piston type. If so, you will need to check if there is enough oil in the crankcase. You can do this by examining the oil level – look into the sight gauge at the bottom of the compressor motor. If you need to fill it, remove the cap and add compressor oil to bring the level up to the full mark. Check oil after every time using the compressor.

Plug in the air compressor into a circuit that matches the current draw of the device. Usually this means a dedicated 15 amp circuit and you will need it to be a grounded (3 prong) electrical outlet. 

Turn the on/off switch to the “auto” selection. Wait for air to fill the tank. The device will automatically shut off when the air pressure matches the limit of the pressure switch.

Modify the air control valve to match the maximum allowed air pressure to the attached tool.

Connect your air power tool to the air compressor. Depending on how the compressor was designed, this means you will either quick connect or thread it. Make sure that you have sufficient length to reach your desired work area. Wrap the threaded end of the hose with two layers of teflon tape and then thread the hose into the compressor fitting. Use an adjustable wrench to tighten it in a clockwise direction.

Hold the regular knob and turn it clockwise until the pressure gauge is at the desired level (what your air tool need)

Use your air tool! When you are done with the pancake air compressor, hit the on/off switch to “off”.

When you are done with the pancake compressor, let the air out by opening the drain valve (which is at the bottom of the tank). You can do this by turning the thumbscrew counter clockwise.

Unplug the air compressor and store in a safe place for use in the future.

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