Why Your Plasma Cutter Won’t Arc: Troubleshooting Tips

The Beginner’s Guide to CNC Plasma Cutter by STYLECNC Jinan Style
The Beginner’s Guide to CNC Plasma Cutter by STYLECNC Jinan Style from medium.com


If you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional metalworker, you understand the importance of a reliable plasma cutter. However, even the best tools can encounter issues, such as a plasma cutter that won’t arc. This can be frustrating and interrupt your project. In this article, we will explore some common reasons why your plasma cutter may not be arcing and provide troubleshooting tips to help you get back to work.

1. Insufficient Air Pressure

One possible reason why your plasma cutter won’t arc is insufficient air pressure. Plasma cutters require a steady flow of compressed air to create the plasma arc. Check if your air compressor is set to the recommended pressure, typically between 60-80 PSI. Insufficient air pressure can prevent the arc from forming, resulting in a non-functional plasma cutter.

2. Faulty Ground Connection

A faulty or loose ground connection can also cause your plasma cutter to fail to arc. Ensure that the ground clamp is securely attached to the workpiece and that the connection is clean and free from rust or debris. A poor ground connection can disrupt the electrical circuit required for the arc to form properly.

3. Worn or Damaged Consumables

Plasma cutters rely on consumables, such as electrodes and nozzles, to create the plasma arc. Over time, these consumables can wear out or become damaged, leading to arcing issues. Inspect your consumables regularly and replace them if they show signs of wear or damage. Using worn-out consumables can result in an inconsistent or non-existent arc.

4. Incorrect Torch Height

The distance between the torch tip and the workpiece, known as the torch height, plays a crucial role in arc formation. If the torch is too close or too far from the workpiece, the plasma arc may not form correctly. Consult your plasma cutter’s manual to determine the recommended torch height and adjust accordingly. A proper torch height ensures a stable and reliable arc.

5. Power Supply Issues

A plasma cutter relies on a stable power supply to function correctly. If your plasma cutter is not receiving adequate power, it may fail to arc. Check the power source, ensure the voltage and amperage settings are correct, and verify that the power cord is securely connected. If you suspect power supply issues, consult a qualified electrician to diagnose and resolve the problem.

6. Contaminated Air or Gas Supply

Contaminated air or gas supply can also hinder arc formation. Ensure that the air or gas supply is clean and free from moisture, oil, or other contaminants. Use appropriate filters and dryers to purify the air or gas before it reaches the plasma cutter. Contaminants can disrupt the ionization process, leading to a faulty or non-existent arc.

7. Malfunctioning Pilot Arc

Some plasma cutters utilize a pilot arc to initiate the main cutting arc. If the pilot arc is malfunctioning, it can prevent the main arc from forming. Inspect the pilot arc components, such as the electrode and swirl ring, for damage or wear. Clean or replace these parts if necessary to ensure a proper pilot arc, allowing the main arc to ignite.

8. Inadequate Input Power

Insufficient input power can also cause a plasma cutter to fail to arc. Ensure that your plasma cutter is receiving the correct voltage and amperage from the power source. If you’re using an extension cord, make sure it can handle the required power load without significant voltage drop. Inadequate power supply can lead to weak or non-existent arcs.

9. Software or Control Panel Issues

For plasma cutters with advanced features and control panels, software or control panel issues can prevent arcing. Check for any error codes or messages displayed on the control panel. Reset the machine, update the software if applicable, and follow troubleshooting steps provided by the manufacturer. Software or control panel glitches can disrupt the arc initiation process.

10. Internal Component Failure

If all else fails, and your plasma cutter still won’t arc, there may be an internal component failure. In such cases, it is recommended to contact the manufacturer’s customer support or seek assistance from a qualified technician. Attempting to repair internal components without proper knowledge and expertise can lead to further damage.


A plasma cutter that won’t arc can be a frustrating obstacle in your metalworking projects. By troubleshooting the possible causes, such as insufficient air pressure, faulty ground connection, worn consumables, incorrect torch height, power supply issues, contaminated air or gas supply, malfunctioning pilot arc, inadequate input power, software or control panel issues, or internal component failure, you can identify and resolve the problem. Remember to prioritize safety and consult professionals when necessary. With the right troubleshooting steps, you’ll be back to cutting metal with a functional plasma cutter in no time.