Air Compressor Oil

We provide you with valuable information to decide
which air compressor oil will suit your needs the best.

Finding oil for your air compressor can be annoying task since almost every air compressor have special specs for compressor oil.
Using more common oils is possible but you need to find out similar specs between recommended and more common oils.

There are three relevant main groups of oils on market.

1.) NON- Detergent oil (good for air compressors)
2.) Oil with Detergent (mostly used for engines, bad for compressors)
3.) Synthetic Oil (the best for air compressors but very expensive)

Non-Detergent engine oil is commonly being used by piston type compressors. Difference between normal engine oil and non-detergent is in additive package. It also contains low ash content and some other oxidation inhibitor .These changes are here to protect the valves plus they prevent carbon deposits too. Air compressors are using splash lubrication for almost all parts. The crankshaft is used to stir the oil and splatter it all around crankcase to lubricate various parts.

More conventional motor oil makes lots of foam quickly, which negatively impact the flow rate and the return rate.
Low liquid volume also reduces cooling. Foam alike oils fail to take away heat from internal parts.

Engine oil with detergents is what makes foam. It is good for engines since they got a pump to collect returned oil and a pressure pump for oil delivering through pipes under pressure where making foam is not possible.

Splash and splatter lubrication system in air compressors is the same as in old lawn mower engines. They also insisted on non-detergent oil for same reasons.
Oil without detergent does not suspend carbon particles. Its clear when you see it, but there is a sludge filling the crankcase which came out of the oil.

Hi-Detergent oil suspends carbon – that makes engine oil black and filthy looking, but it really cleans inside of the engine.

If you want to be 100% sure that air compressor oil will be good for your compressor then use actual manufacturer recommended “compressor oil
It can be bought at most auto part and hardware stores.

To be honest any 30 weight non detergent motor oil can be used by air compressors without any issue.
Oil with this weight can be used in a broad range of weather temperatures and its most common used.
For sub zero conditions you can use 10 or 20 weight for torque/load reducing on electric motor.
If you are in area with mild winters and long hot summers then you can use 40 weight oil. Its also great for long runtimes and heavy usage

Tens of thousands air compressors have run 10+ years on regular plain 30 weight non detergent motor oil.

For those who require heavy usage, the best option are synthetic oils. They are extremely expensive but extended runtime/duty cycle plus boosted change intervals save lots of dollars in industrial/commercial heavy duty applications.

Various air compressors manufactures recommend Mobil 1 Synthetic – most commonly available synthetic oil.
Mobil 1 synthetic is being recommended for 100% duty cycle where air compressor runs all day. Regular recommended oils from air compressor makers
are for 60% duty cycle, around 40-45 minutes per hour.

To summarize:

Officially recommended – your air compressor manufacturer specific oil.

For the most common use– 30 weight (or other weight for specific climates) NON-Detergent Motor Oil

All day extreme service – Mobil 1 Synthetic or any other synthetic air compressor oil

Worst case scenario – When you MUST add oil to keep compressor running and nothing else is available any regular motor oil can be used (even HI-Detergent). This is NEVER recommended and there is plenty of reasons not to do it BUT it has been used in practice plenty of times without any obvious or immediate harm. Be sure to replace it with normal oil after.