What Type of Oil is Suitable for Your Air Compressor?

Air Compressor Oil Types
Air Compressor Oil Types

Air Compressor Oil Types

One consideration that is often overlooked when maintaining your air compressor is what type of oil you should be using. Choosing the wrong oil can severely shorten the life of your compressor, and end up being a costly mistake.

Of course, you don’t have to think about what oil you’ll need if you have an oil-free compressor. However, the tradeoff is that oil-free compressors usually have a shorter life cycle than the ones that require oil. So, if you’re putting in the wrong oil you’re negating one of the biggest benefits of owning a compressor that uses oil.

If you think your compressor is fine with any oil and you simply add the motor oil that you use for your car, you are in for a rude awakening. Oil for an engine usually has a type of detergent in them that helps with the internal workings of that engine.

If you have a chance, look at your owner’s manual for the specific oil that it suggests. You’ll notice that it specifically recommends that you use an oil that is detergent-free, eliminating all the motor oils used in cars. This is because oil with detergent will cause excessive carbon build up in your pump.

The compressor manufacturer will usually suggest using oil with a weight, typically represented as SAE, of 20 or 30. The SAE of oil is a measurement of its viscosity, or how thick or watery it is.

This is an important factor because if the oil is too thick or too thin it can cause overheating or other malfunctions to your pump. Again, you’ll want to check with your owner’s manual for the best oil weight for your compressor.

Your owner’s manual will also tell you how frequently you should be changing out the oil in your compressor. Typically, this will depend on what type of compressor you own.

A rotary compressor will need the oil changed about 7,000 hours of use and a reciprocating compressor will need it changed around every 3 months. If you don’t have the owner’s manual, you should be changing the oil at least twice a year to be on the safe side.

One thing that may not be on the owner’s manual is standard oil or synthetic oil. For most homeowners and hobbyists, using standard oil is recommended. Synthetic oil is usually used for industrial and commercial usages because it will offer better protection against overheating.

You may also want to consider synthetic oil for the wider range of operating temperatures if you live in a colder part of the world or if your compressor is older and is prone to overheating.

Now that you’re armed with this information on what oil to use for your air compressor, you can use your machine with confidence knowing that it’s working at its peak performance.


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