I'd like to keep my air compressor filled for quick tire top-offs, like at gas stations. The manual says to empty the tank after 4 hours. How do gas stations avoid draining this often? Is it possible with a consumer compressor?

3 Answers 3


Automatic blowdowns

This taps the bottom of the tank where water would accumulate. At intervals, it blows some air out of the tank. PSHHHHHT! This ejects most of the water and some air.

This operates at time intervals, when the compressor cycles on or off, or when water is detected.

Your electric bill will not like this

In real world practice, compressors are not leakproof. It will cycle randomly at all hours.


Pressure tanks are usually steel, steel is somewhat flexible, it stretches a bit when filled, if the tank is left full it can shorten the life of the tank, I used to have a small scuba shop and did tank inspections as required annually, with hydrostatic testing every 5 years , the recommended pressure for long term storage for all tanks was 500 psi this is for tanks that range from 2200-3500 psi working pressure. I once purchased 4 steel tanks that had been sitting for close to 15 years at 3300 psi they were 3000 psi tanks, I dumped the air and had them hydrostaticly tested in fact all 4 tanks passed by enough to get the + rating that allowed them to get the 10% over fill. After that I did not pay much attention to that guide line but did tell my students the guideline and my experience so Can it be left full sure it may shorten the life of the tank , just make sure to blow the water out of the tank prior to letting it sit full of air.

  • Does this apply at 120PSI, though?
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 16:08
  • Same thought after running the compressor, blow off the water in the tank, my 60 or 80 gallon 150 psi air compressor was purchased new in 2000 or 2001 it has been full almost the entire time, I always blow the water off the tank after running, I do this on my 5000 psi compressor that has 3 water separators it is amazing how much water is left in the tanks , if there is a lot of moisture the higher partial pressure of o2 in the air will rust out the tank faster even at 100 psi, there fore draining the water is important (and the reason SCUBA tanks require annual Visual Inspect procedure or VIP)
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 16:26
  • Would it help to pump up the tank inside in a relatively dry air-conditioned space? Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 16:26
  • 1
    Help how? You still have to drain it occasionally. What's more work, dragging your compressor around or spending 60 seconds draining it?
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 16:35
  • After the tank cools I just crack the drain open and let out the water this actually provides a fairly low dew point, industrial dryers work on this principal the cool the air and the water condenses then it is drained, some go a step further and run the still humid air through a mocular sive , I know the spelling is wrong but a desiccant that removes additional water, then when that bank is full it is shut off and heated with dry air purge until it is dry again , the largest systems I worked on like that had 4 drying tanks after the Freon based cooler
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 18:55

That statement means after four hours of run time. Storing air doesn't cause water accumulation.

I'd drain it every few months if you only use it occasionally. The fact of the matter is that there will always be water in it, and when it rusts out you can't do much about it.

Industrial compressors have air drying mechanisms upstream of the intake air, so they mostly eliminate the problem. Either that or they drain them nightly.

  • 1
    We do have air dryers prior to our holding tanks but even the large tanks have float type water dumps or electronic timers at the bottom of each tank.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 16:28

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