Close this search box.


What Type Of Oil For Air Compressor?

Like cars, your air compressors also need a particular grade and type of oil for the best performance. Choosing and using the right oil for your air compressor will optimise your machine in several ways, like maximising the compressor’s lifespan, reducing the friction between the components, and decreasing energy consumption.

In this article, we have discussed the various types of air compressor oil and which type best suits your air compressor and its application.

What Exactly is Air Compressor Oil?

The air compressor oil is a unique lubricant used to restrict the damage in the air compressors, enabling them to last longer. It can be either synthetic or natural, which differs with respect to the additives it has and their viscosity. It varies greatly in the case of motor oil, which has no detergent and contains lesser carbon and sulfur.

Importance of an Air Compressor Oil

Air compressor oil provides several advantages, which in turn increase the lifespan of those compressors. We have discussed the benefits in the section below.

  • Absorption of Heat: The oil enables the maintenance of a temperature that is cooler for the air compressor by absorbing the heat it produces.
  • Resistance to Oxidation: The additive in the air compressor lubricants enables the acid formation and oxidation process delay.
  • Increases Life Span: Another huge advantage of having additives in the compressor oil is that it enhances the lubricant’s lifespan, shields the motor’s parts, and acclimates the oil to a wide range of conditions.
  • Viscosity In Cool Temperatures: Many oils fail to serve their purpose when it is cold, but the air compressor oil gives no reason to complain by keeping the viscosity intact even when the temperatures are low.
  • Demulsification: These lubricants help to improve water separation with the help of additives. Therefore, it protects the compressor from oil and water emulsions.
  • Anti-foam Qualities: Usually, when the air bubbles go up to the surface, foam is formed. This facilitates the oxidation process as the oil surface is exposed to oxygen, thus reducing the life of the air compressors. Therefore, the anti-foaming qualities help maintain the durable life of the machine.

What are the Different kinds of Air Compressor Oil?

Air compressor oils are majorly available in two different kinds- the standard air compressor oil and the synthetic air compressor oil. Both of them have unique properties which cater to some particular applications.

Standard (Mineral) Oil

This variant is made up of their mineral oil bases. For this reason, it is affordable and accessible compared to synthetic variants. They are ideal for medium-load to low-load compressors, mostly used for residential purposes and not used very frequently or regularly.

Synthetic Oil

This variant is highly processed and manufactured of a synthetic base before the final product is obtained. Synthetic oil is more effective in facilitating the performance of the compressor. They also work better for long periods and are suitable for heavy-duty load. Moreover, synthetic oils make less noise, maintain a cooler temperature and enable the machine to run smoothly.

Are There any Alternative Oils for Air Compressors?

Majorly, there are three kinds of oil substitutes that are available for commercial use. We have discussed all of them in detail.

1. ATF-Automatic Transmission Fluid

Automatic Transmission Fluid(ATF) is suitable for performing several tasks successfully. They work very well with automotive transmissions and are known for the following qualities.

  • The air compressors need to maintain a cool temperature and avoid friction for the different components. ATF can achieve that quite successfully.
  • The main components of ATF are robust base oil with better additive packages. This helps to resist breakdown under operation stress.
  • They contain antioxidants, demulsifies, and anti-wear agents, which allow serving for a longer period of time.

Now, let us look at the advantages offered by ATF.

  • The base oil’s antioxidants help resist degradation during the compression process.
  • The detergency in ATF reduces the deposits made by broken oil while heating, hence keeping the air compressor clean.
  • This air compressor oil prevents breakdowns that are generated while they function.

There are some drawbacks too, that are listed in the section below.

  • ATF might not be compatible with the given air compressor so you must check it before buying it.
  • The detergents contained in ATF might damage some components of the air compressor.
  • To claim a warranty, you need to use the specified air compressor oil that is specified by the companies. It might not include ATF.

2. Engine/ Motor Oil

Motor oil or Engine oil can also be used as a substitute. The artificial chemical compounds in this variant make it more refined than the other types. They only work well for specific purposes. We will talk about some of the characteristics.

  • This oil can work at both extreme ends of temperatures.
  • It reduces friction between the components of the air compressor which enables it to last long.
  • It helps to resist the breakdown of the whole compressor system.

Now that we are clear with the characteristics, let us talk about the advantages of motor oil. They are listed below.

  • It can reduce the operational noises of the parts of the air compressors.
  • It protects the air compressor from all kinds of overheating.
  • Motor oil enables the air compressor to work at both low and high temperatures.

However, there are some liabilities related to motor oil which are discussed below.

  • They are very purpose-specific and using the wrong synthetic oil can lead to serious damage.
  • For being able to claim a warranty, you need to use the given choice of air compressor oils listed by the brand.

3. Hydraulic Oil

This possesses several great characteristics which make it a good choice as an alternative for air compressor oils. We have listed the characteristics below:

  • At lower temperatures, this oil has a low viscosity which results in low density and enables it to flow freely.
  • They are more suited for small-scale projects rather than industrial-sized piston air compressors.
  • The sealant materials are a good substitute for the compressor oil.

Directly, we will go on to talk about the advantages involved with this oil.

  • It is immune and resistant to corrosion and oxidation, protecting the air compressor from wear and rust.
  • The low viscosity helps them to flow better than the other alternatives.
  • It is ideal for use in low temperatures.

On the downside, let us talk about some of its disadvantages.

  • Hydraulic oil is not suited for large-scale industrial-size projects.
  • In comparison to compressor oils, it lacks a good water separability feature.
  • For claiming a warranty, you need to check the list of compressor oil permitted by the given brand of air compressor.

What is the Correct Type of Oil for Your air Compressor?

For your air compressor, it is better to settle for mineral or synthetic oil, and you must avoid oils that contain any detergent additives. The detergent additives are quite common in motor oil, which is why we encourage you not to go for it. On top of that, when viscosity is concerned, you should go for SAE30 or SAE 20 air compressor oil.


We have tried to list all that you need to know about the different kinds of air compressor oils. It improves the efficiency and consistency of the air compressors and enables them to last long. With this guide at your disposal, you can easily pick the right air compressor suited for your application.

If you still have doubts or apprehensions, write to us in the comments section below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *