Can You Lay An Air Compressor On Its Side?

An air compressor has become a significant necessity for every manufacturer and homeowner. To perform different tasks, you must transport the air compressor to different locations. In another scenario, you want to move your brand new air compressor from the market to your home. Keeping your air compressor in an upright position is only sometimes possible due to different reasons. One reason is that you need more space to place your compressor in a vertical position. In that case, a question always pops into your mind: Can we lay a compressor on its side while transporting or even storing?

Generally, it is not a good idea to lay down the air compressor on its side unless it’s a new unit. In this article, we will describe this in detail, but first, you need to understand how an air compressor works.

How does an air compressor work?

Although running an air compressor involves a detailed procedure, we will briefly explain the process here. Understanding the working of an air compressor ultimately answers whether you can lay it down or not.

The two main parts of the air compressor are the pump and the storage tank. The air compressor draws the air, composes it, and stores it in storage tanks. After making the required pressure in the tank, the pumps automatically stop pulling the air.

With the air, dust and other small residues also store with the water and build the junk in the storage tank and other parts of the machine. Without proper machinery maintenance, this can slow down the machine.

Can you lay down your Air Compressor on Its Side?

After understanding the operating system of an air compressor, now move towards the answer to this most popular question asked by people. Whether you are moving an air compressor or storing it after finishing up the work, organizing it horizontally or vertically depends on different situations. Are you going to transport a new air compressor unit or the used/second-hand air compressor? Is your air unit oil-free or oil-lubricated?

Typically, an air compressor should not lay on its side. But if you are short of space and you really have to place it on its side, then you need to consider different things according to the type of air compressor.

1. Laying down a new air compressor on its side while transporting

If you want to transport a new air compressor from the market to your home or workspace and you don’t have enough space to keep it upright, then you can place it on its side without any issue. Why are we suggesting this?

It is because the new air compressor is free of compressor oil that it is typically suggested to apply before running the air compressor. Plus, as the machinery has not been operated, its storage tank is free of moisture and has not accumulated with any tank gunk. So transporting a new air compressor in a lay down position could be possible. Before moving, carefully tie down your new unit to transport without damage.

2. Laying down an old air compressor on its side for transporting or storing

In other cases, laying it down could be risky if you are buying a second-hand air compressor and want to move it from the market to your place. You need to consider different things to move the old air compressor into a lay-down position.

After being used for a while, an air compressor starts building the gunk in the tanks. It could be due to dust particles, and many other small residues passed through the air. That’s why air compressors need timely maintenance. But a little moisture can remain in the tank and create sludge after mixing with dust residues.

So if you choose to lay down a used air compressor while transporting or storing, this build-up sludge could damage your machinery. It can pass into your tank; this sludge can block it after reaching the check valve.. It can lead to air leakage from the valve or even increase the back pressure, which will eventually cause several problems, including overheating and overloading the motor, starting humming, and difficulty starting the unit. This created sludge can also damage the drain tank by clogging it.

3. Laying down an oil-lubricated air compressor on its side

There are different types of air compressors you can buy from the market. If you have selected the oil-lubricated air compressor for performing your tasks, you might need to lay down your oil-lubricated air compressor to move from one place to another. It is often recommended to add the oil to the sump after arriving at the required place. Some models come with already installed oil. You might damage your machine if you lay down such an air compressor.

This oil can transfer to the different parts of the tank where it should not be present. These oil particles can damage the air compressor. Other dust grains in the oil can also be stuck into the piston rings, eventually damaging the air. However, you can easily transport the oil-lubricated air compressor in a lay-down position if there is no oil in the sump and secure it tightly.

4. Laying down the Oil-less air compressor on its side

In the case of an oil-less air compressor, as there is no oil or water involvement, you can quickly transfer such an air compressor. However, an oil-free air compressor pulls air, so there is still a risk of clogging the valves with dust particles.

So regardless of the air compressor’s type, moving it to a lay down position is a risky task.

Disadvantages of laying down an air compressor on its side

There are some disadvantages if you transfer the air compressor to a lay down position.

  1. Transportation of an air compressor can be difficult if you transfer it by laying it down on its side.
  2. Another disadvantage is if you do not tie it tightly in a laying down position, it might roll over, and you will damage your unit.
  3. Staying in the laying down position can cause oil drainage from the air compressor.
  4. You need to turn off the air hose to place it on its side. This will help you to save your unit from damage. 
  5. If you mistakenly place your air compressor in an unleveled position, it can lead to dropping the belt from the pulley.


Can you lay a vertical air compressor on its side?

Generally, a vertical air compressor covers less space than a horizontal air compressor. However, you still need to move the vertical air compressors by laying them on the side. You can lay it down unless it is completely drained out.

How long should you wait to use an air compressor after it is lying down?

After transferring the air compressor to the laying down position from the market to the designated place, you must keep it upright for some time. It is recommended to keep it upright for at least 24 hours and add new oil before running the air compressor.


In a nutshell, you can place an air compressor on their sides unless you follow the above guidelines. However, it is a risky task to perform, but it is not strictly forbidden to place an air compressor on its side. But it could be a better practice and is recommended to keep upright. Still, you want to choose the first option, then before laying down your compressor, make sure to drain it entirely. Most importantly, when your air compressor has reached its destination, keep it upright for some time before running it.

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