What Oil to Use in an Air Compressor

What Oil to Use in an Air Compressor: A Comprehensive Guide

If you have an air compressor, then it’s your responsibility to maintain it and keep it running optimally. One of the most important ways to do so is by using the right type of oil in your machine. Using the wrong type may result in malfunctions and expensive repairs. In this article, we will examine the various kinds of air compressor oils and guide you in selecting the most suitable one for your compressor.

what oil to use in a air compressor

What kind of oil should I use for my air compressor

The type of oil you should use for your air compressor depends on various factors such as compressor type, duty cycle, and operating temperature. There are three main types of air compressor oil – mineral oil, synthetic oil, and semi-synthetic oil. Mineral oil is the most commonly used type of air compressor oil and is recommended for small compressors with a low duty cycle. Synthetic oil is a high-performance oil suitable for large compressors with a high duty cycle and operates in extreme temperatures. Semi-synthetic oil is a blend of mineral and synthetic oils and offers good lubrication and temperature resistance. To determine the best type of oil for your air compressor, refer to the manufacturer’s manual or consult a professional.

Understanding Air Compressor Oil

Air compressor oil plays an important role in keeping the moving parts lubricated in an air compressor. It also helps to reduce the heat from compressing air. Air compressors require a specific kind of oil which is different than motor or hydraulic oils. This particular oil has properties that make it suitable for air compressors, enabling them to function properly.

Types of Air Compressor Oil

There are 3 main types of air compressor oils to choose from: mineral, synthetic and semi-synthetic. Each have their own unique properties and benefits.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is the go-to option when it comes to air compressor oil. It’s made from petroleum, easily accessible and even more affordable than other types of oils. This type of oil is compatible with most compressors and a good choice if you have a low-duty cycle machine at home or the office.

Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil is an advanced lubricant produced from modified compounds. It offers improved lubrication and a higher tolerance for extreme temperatures when compared to mineral oils.
Synthetic oil is recommended for use in large compressors that have a high duty cycle and operate in extreme temperatures.

Semi-Synthetic Oil

Semi-synthetic oil is a great option for compressors with moderate duty cycles as it provides excellent lubrication and temperature protection. It offers a balance between the performance and cost of fully synthetic and conventional motor oils, making it advantageous to use.

Choosing the Right Air Compressor Oil

Choosing the right air compressor oil can be confusing, but it is essential to ensure that your compressor is working at its best. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right air compressor oil.


Viscosity is the thickness of the oil. It is an essential factor to consider when choosing air compressor oil as the wrong viscosity can cause damage to your compressor. The viscosity of the oil you choose should be compatible with the temperature and pressure of your compressor.


Some air compressor oils contain additives that improve their performance. Additives such as anti-wear agents, detergents, and corrosion inhibitors can help to extend the life of your compressor and minimize the risk of breakdowns.

Compressor Type

The type of compressor you have will determine the type of oil you should use. Reciprocating compressors require a different type of oil than rotary screw compressors. Ensure that you read your compressor’s manual to determine the type of oil recommended by the manufacturer.

How to Change Air Compressor Oil

Changing air compressor oil is an essential part of compressor maintenance. It is recommended that you change your air compressor oil every 500 hours of use or at least once a year.
Here are the steps to follow when changing your air compressor oil:


      1. Turn off the air compressor and unplug it from the power source.
      2. Release the pressure in the compressor by opening the drain valve and allowing the air to escape.
      3. Remove the oil fill cap and drain plug to drain the old oil from the compressor.
      4. Clean the oil fill cap and drain plug before replacing them.
      5. Refill the compressor with the recommended amount of oil, making sure not to overfill.
      6. Replace the oil fill cap and drain plug.
      7. Start the air compressor and run it for a few minutes to distribute the new oil.
      8. Check the oil level and add more oil if necessary.


    Choosing the right oil for your air compressor is essential to ensure that it is working at its best. Mineral oil, synthetic oil, and semi-synthetic oil are the three main types of air compressor oil. When choosing the right oil, consider factors such as viscosity, additives, and compressor type. It is also essential to change your air compressor oil regularly and use high-quality brands such as Mobil 1 and Royal Purple. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your air compressor will last for many years to come.

    No, motor oil is not suitable for air compressors as it does not have the same properties as air compressor oil.

    It is not recommended to mix different types of air compressor oil as it can affect the performance of the compressor.

    It is recommended to change your air compressor oil every 500 hours of use or at least once a year.

    Yes, you can use synthetic oil in a small air compressor, but it is not necessary unless you operate your compressor in extreme temperatures.

    Using the wrong type of oil can cause your compressor to malfunction and lead to costly repairs. It can also decrease the lifespan of your compressor.

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