Why It is Important To Put Proper Oil in Your Air Compressor

The smooth running of your air compressor depends on the quality of the oil you use for it. Getting the right oil for your air compressor is important for prolonging its lifespan. Different oils are available in supply stores and choosing the wrong oil damages the engine of the air compressor over time.

It is safer to use a manufacturer’s recommended oil and most of them recommend the use of synthetic oils because they lack additives. These air compressor manufacturers always show their guidelines for the choice of oil.


The choice of compressor oil depends on the type of compressor and the gas to be compressed. These oils should have compatible viscosity with the engine, environmental temperature range, and those without detergents.

Here are two good reasons why you should choose the right oil for your air compressor:

1. Reduction of Energy Consumption

Synthetic oils have been recommended by many manufacturers for air compressors. They do have sulfur or other additives that can accumulate on the valves.

It has been documented that synthetic oils enhance the discharge of compressed air at a cool oil temperature.  This, in turn, will reduce friction, heat as well as energy consumption. The reduction of energy consumption of compressed gas systems of factories and facilities that use them is a function of the running efficiency of the chosen oil. Eventually, there will be a reduced need to top up the oil volume regularly.

2. Prevention of Compressor Failure

Often, people that have air compressors tend to go for universal oils. The ease of buying these oils at any time from supply stores may be accountable for this.

However, universal oil does not supply adequate lubrication for compressor engines, especially if it is diluted. Varied oil viscosity results in high temperature within the compressor, its seizure, and long-term failure.

Also, avoid the use of motor oils because they have detergents (such as alkyl phenolates, calcium sulphonates, and barium) that are harmful to compressors. These detergents deposit carbon particles in the pump. These particles also contribute to the failure of the pump in the long run.

Now that you have seen how important it is to have good oil, you might be wondering how to choose the best oil for your compressor. There are several factors that you need to look out for when choosing the best oil for your compressor.

Compressors are mostly made up of an oil base and some other synthetic additives. The oil does not only supply lubrication, it prevents contamination, corrosion, and extends the life of your oil compressor.

These additives are made with ingredients that must be well balanced to make the oil function optimally. These substances are what give the oil its various characteristics. Good oil must have the following characteristics:

  • It must be resistant to oxidation.
  • It must be viscose at low temperatures.
  • It must not have emulsifying properties.
  • It must have the ability to release air.
  • It must have anti-foaming properties.
  • It should be durable.

Components of oil additives

  • Antioxidants additives

Good compressor oil is made with antioxidants to prevent oxidization. They also stop the development of acids. These antioxidants also extend the shelf life of the oil and make it adaptable to various operations. Your equipment will also stay protected when it is not in use.

  • Anti-foaming additives

Compressor oils that have surface activity additives help to increase the antifoaming properties of the oil. Foaming occurs when large air bubbles rise to the surface as the oil flows.

When this happens, the oil becomes more susceptible to oxidization. The foaming process exposes the surface of the oil to oxygen. If oil does not have these anti-foaming additives in it, the oil separator will be filled with foam and this will reduce the durability of the oil.

  • Demulsifying additives

These are special substances that are added to the oil for water separation. They also protect the oil from water emulsions. This is what makes it easy to capture the oils in the oleophilic bags and dispose of them appropriately.

Should you use specific oil or generic oil?

You may be wondering whether you should buy specific oil for your compressor. Many people with a lot of equipment ask this question too. It might be tempting to just use your motor oil for your air compressor because you think the oils are the same.

Air compressors are hugely different from other machinery. They are complex in their design and operation. They are heavyweight machines that are designed to carry out difficult operations.


Manufactures of compressors and compressor oils must do a lot of research and testing before making oils that will be most suitable for the compressor. They must discover the right additives to use so that the oil will meet the demands of the compressor.

However, generic oils are made for a wide variety of equipment that does not require so much lubrication. Such oils do not have the special additives that are used in producing that of air compressors. These oils will not be suitable for air compressors as they will prevent the compressor from performing its complex functions

Compressor oils are specifically designed to enable the compressor to perform its various tasks. They are made with substances that will allow the oil to withstand the airflow without oxidization. Generic oils do not have these properties and cannot be used with air compressors.

Many suppliers sell the wrong oils as compressor oils. These oils have no business being in an air compressor. They lack the specific ingredients that make oil compatible with air compressors.

It is important that you carefully select the right oil that is most suitable for your air compressor. If you buy the wrong oil, you will significantly decrease the durability of your compressor or even damage it.

Always follow the recommendations given by the compressor manufacturers about the right oil to use. Only then will you be able to extend the life of your air compressor and keep it functioning at its best for a relatively long period.

Salman Zafar

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