Unleash Your Air Compressor’s Power: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Oil

Oil is the blood of an air compressor. It is one of the crucial elements for most air compressors to function normally, so it is important to select the best one. Just like cars, compressors also need a specific type of oil. With the selection of the right oil, the compressor can run smoothly and efficiently and ultimately reach its peak performance. It also extends the compressor’s life. However, it can be a hassle to select the correct oil. After all, the compressor may experience excess friction, wear-and-tear, high energy consumption, residue build-up, and even damage with the wrong oil. This article will focus on answering all oil-related issues, from its importance to maintenance. So, let’s begin.

Compressor Oil and its Importance

Compressor Oil

Since cars need oil, most people are already aware of using oil for lubrication in their machines. However, this type of oil differs from vehicle to vehicle. The same rule applies to air compressors. It has a different blend of oil as compared to motor oil you’d rather put in a car. The oil used for an air compressor has unique lubrication properties, which prevent air compressor damage and promote its lasting. This oil can be synthetic or natural, depending on the added additives and viscosity. Unlike regular motor oil, air compressor oil doesn’t have harmful extras that can mess up the airflow. It also has fewer carbon and sulfur parts.

Air compressor oil has many jobs, and one of them is to make sure compressors last longer. Here are a few reasons why using oil in air compressors is crucial:

  • Firstly, it prevents moving parts from grinding by acting as a lubricant, lowering friction.
  • Secondly, it maximizes efficiency by acting as a sealer.
  • Lastly, it helps prevent the air compressor from getting too hot and having other problems by working as a coolant.

Why Does an Air Compressor Need Oil?

Why Does an Air Compressor Need Oil?

Air compressors constantly need oil for lubrication. This lubrication protects the moving components, like pistons, screws, etc., from wearing down quickly due to friction.

Air compressor lubricants perform numerous functions:

  • Heat Absorption: Oil helps the compressor stay cool by soaking up extra heat, making it work better.
  • Increased Lifespan: The additives in the oil protect the motor’s parts, making the compressor last longer.
  • Maintain Viscosity: Unlike many oils that struggle in the cold, air compressor oil keeps its thickness intact even when it’s chilly.
  • De-Emulsification: These oils are beneficial for improving water separation, thus preventing oil and water emulsions.
  • Anti-Foaming Properties: The oil has the best properties to prevent foaming. Foaming leads to oxidation when the soil surface is exposed to oxygen. The anti-foaming properties make the machine durable. 
  • Reduced Noise: When the compressor’s parts move smoothly because of good lubrication, it makes less noise.

Is Oil Necessary for All Air Compressors?

Oil is necessary for the optimal function of most compressors, but some compressors usually don’t require lubrication. The compressors without lubrication requirements are called oil-free air compressors. It is used where extra-clear air with low oil carryover is required, such as in the pharmaceutical department or food industry. Regardless of use, the oil should be changed at least once a year to ensure smooth operation, laboratory, etc.

Normally, oil-lubricated air compressors handle high-duty tasks and have extended engine life compared to oil-free ones. Oil-free air compressors generally don’t last much because there is no way to add oil to them when lubrication is required. Most factories and workshops prefer oil-lubricated compressors due to low noise and heat. 

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Types of Air Compressor Oils:

Types of Air Compressor Oils

There are three types of air compressor oils: petroleum-based (mineral), synthetic, and food-grade. The majority of the compressors use synthetic or mineral oils like synthetic hydrocarbon (POAs), Polyol Esters (POEs), or polyglycol (PAGs). Experts recommend using specific lubricants made only for air compressors and avoiding general-purpose motor oil. The two major types of these oils are described below:

Standard vs. Synthetic: Which One is better?

Standard and synthetic are the two basic types of air compressor oil available for industrial and household purposes, and each has distinctive characteristics:

Standard/ Mineral Oil:

This oil is made using a mineral oil base and is generally less expensive than synthetic oil, making it a cost-effective choice for daily purposes and homeowners who don’t use their compressors regularly. However, standard oil needs more regular oil changes than synthetic oil and may not perform well in extreme temperatures or under heavy loads.

Synthetic Oil:

Synthetic oil is made up of a synthetic base. It provides better lubrication and protection in varying temperatures. This oil is more refined due to lots of processing. It has high oxidation-reduction, improved efficiency, and reduced energy consumption. Although it is more expensive than standard oil, it has more benefits, outweighing the costs. It is ideal for heavy-duty operations and for extreme temperatures. It is your best bet if you’re a professional who uses the compressors three times a day. Using it means you’ll notice longer maintenance intervals and reduced wear and tear.

Selecting the Right Type of Oil

How to choose best oil for an air compressor?

Many people wonder what the best oil for the compressor is and if there are any better oil options. One oil doesn’t fit all solutions, so selecting the right oil is the key factor. As mentioned above, regular motor oil will not work for compressors; special types of compressor oils are designed for optimal performance. The best oil for your compressor depends on the manufacturer’s recommendation. Typically, the compressor’s guidelines tell which oil works best for peak performance.

If your warranty instructions don’t recommend oil, a standard 20-30 weight oil can be a better option. A 30-weight oil is more viscous, providing better coating and protection in warm weather. However, a 20-weight oil works best in cooler temperatures to ensure a smooth compressor’s start-up.

The right type of compressor oil offers many advantages: 

  • Better heat absorption 
  • Slower oxygenation and acidification processes.
  • Enhance the compressor’s life cycle.

How Often Should I Change the Oil in the Air Compressor?

The oil changing frequency depends on the vehicle you have. Lubricated air compressors need regular oil changes to work perfectly. However, mineral oils should be changed every 4,000 working hours, while synthetic oils last twice. If your compressor is dirtier, it should be changed more frequently. If oil is dirty or contaminated, it should be replaced with fresh oil. Signs such as thick or opaque oil, Discoloration, and bad smell show that your oil needs to be changed.

Oil-Lubricated Air Compressor Maintenance

Oil-Lubricated Air Compressor

Even though changing the oil is important, we can’t overlook the need for regular maintenance. You should regularly check the air compressor and perform regular maintenance. Here are some tips for air compressor maintenance.

Use the Right Oil: Always choose the oil that is compatible with your compressor to ensure its smooth working overtime.

Leak and Hoses Inspection: Look for air and oil leaks whenever you feel low performance. Corroded or cracked hoses are also accountable for leakage. Most of the time, leaks are responsible for drastically reduced performance. 

Airend Inspection: Compressor usually lasts up to 44,000 hours (5 years) if maintained properly. However, poor lubrication and other damages can result in airend breakdown. Periodic inspections of airend can solve the problem early on. 

Check Air Filters: Air filters also allow dirt and dust to enter the device, hindering the compressor’s power to intake air.

Enhanced Performance with Ideal Oil:

You can’t simply grab whichever oil seems appropriate for your air compressor. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations is your only bet if you want to keep maintenance costs down. We have done our best to overview the various air compressor oils comprehensively. It makes the air compressors last longer and works better every time. If you have this manual on hand, selecting the best air compressor for your needs will be effortless.

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