Air Supply UK: Specialist Compressed Air Engineers

Published: 07/05/2024

What oil to use for an air compressor?

Using the correct type of oil is essential if you want your air compressor to perform efficiently. The right air compressor oil can help increase your machines’ lifespan, reduce the need for repairs, and lower energy consumption.

Our air compressor experts have put together everything you need about air compressor oil and how to select a suitable type of oil for your machine. We’ll cover:

  • Does a compressor need oil?
  • What is compressor oil?
  • What are the benefits of using compressor oil?
  • What oil is best for a compressor?
  • Which type of compressor oil should I use?
  • What viscosity is compressor oil?
  • What are the alternatives to compressor oil?

Does an air compressor need oil?

Only oil-lubricated compressors will require oil. Oil-free compressors don’t require additional oil because the compression chamber in these machines is pre-lubricated and equipped with a permanent lubricated coating.

If you’re unsure of the difference between these types of compressors and how these air compressors work, check out our blog, ‘Oil vs oil-free air compressors’.

What is air compressor oil?

Air compressor oil is a lubricant designed to reduce wear and tear in oil-lubricated air compressors. It’s very different from motor oil in that it contains no detergent and less sulphur.

What are the benefits of using compressor oil?

Using a suitable air compressor oil offers numerous benefits:

  • Longer life span. Compressor oil helps to protect the machine’s moving components, increasing the lifespan of your machine and reducing the frequency of repairs.
  • Improved efficiency. By reducing friction, compressor oil helps your machine operate at maximum efficiency.
  • Protection against contaminants. Compressor oil acts as a barrier, preventing contaminants from entering the machine and causing damage.
  • Heat absorption. Air compressor oil absorbs heat, helping your machine operate at a cooler temperature.
  • Oxidation resistance. This oil contains anti-foaming additives that delay the oxidation process.

What oil is best for an air compressor?

The type of compressor oil that will work best with your compressor will depend on your machine’s type, make, and model. You should look at the manufacturer’s recommendations for your machine.

Which type of compressor oil should I use?

There are two basic types of air compressor oil: standard and synthetic. Each type has different benefits, and the type you choose will depend on how you use your compressor.

Standard air compressor oil is:

  • Made using a mineral oil base.
  • Cheaper than synthetic oil.

Synthetic air compressor oil is:

  • Made using a synthetic base.
  • More refined than standard oil.
  • Runs longer between service intervals

Many manufacturers recommend synthetic oils as these contain no additive or sulphur that can cause build-up.

What viscosity is air compressor oil?

Viscosity refers to the thickness of the oil. Most air compressor oils are between SAE 36 and SAE 120. SAE stands for the Society of Automotive Engineers, which developed a classification to define oil viscosity.

Lower-viscosity oils work better in extreme colder environments, while higher-viscosity oils are superior in hot conditions.

What are the alternatives to air compressor oil?

If you cannot use a specialist air compressor oil, there are some alternatives, but manufacturers do not recommend these. If you want your machine to perform efficiently, a manufacturer-recommended oil should be used.

Can I use motor oil in my air compressor?

You should only use non-detergent motor oil in your compressor. Detergents can cause excessive carbon build-up, which can be harmful to your machine and reduce its efficiency.

Can I use hydraulic oil in my air compressor?

Hydraulic oil can potentially be used as a substitute for compressor oil in colder temperatures. However, it is always better to use specialist compressor oil to ensure your machine is not damaged.

How Air Supply can help

At Air Supply, we have decades of experience selling, servicing, and repairing a huge range of compressed air treatment equipment. We also offer used and new air compressors at competitive prices and used machines available for hire. Whatever your compressed air needs, you can find a suitable compressor on our site!

Our expert technicians also provide comprehensive compressor maintenance, servicing, and repair services. If your compressor is not working as it should and you’ve topped up the oil, our team can diagnose and repair any issues to get it working efficiently again.

Contact us today to learn more about our products and services, or speak to a member of our team if you have any questions.


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