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Choosing the Right Air Compressor Oil: For Dummies

Just like different car models require a specific type and grade of oil for the best performance, the same is true for air compressors. When you use the right oil in your air compressor, it will benefit your machine in more ways than one. These benefits include a reduction in energy consumption, a decrease in friction between different motor components, and an increase in the compressor’s life span. Today, we’re giving you all you need to know about air compressor oil and which type is the best for your needs.

What’s the Difference Between Standard and Synthetic Oil?

Standard and synthetic are the two basic types of air compressor oil. Each has distinctive characteristics:

  • Standard Oil: Standard air compressor oil is made using a mineral oil base. The oil is cheaper than synthetic and is recommended for air compressors who don’t work continuously. It’s also a good choice for compressors that only do light- or medium-duty work.
  • Synthetic Oil: Synthetic air compressor oil is made using a synthetic base. This oil undergoes lots of processing, but is more refined than standard oil. If you’re using your compressor at least three times a week, synthetic oil is the way to go! Synthetic oil will allow your compressor to run quieter and smoother. It also protects the machine from overheating. The overall temperature range of synthetic oil is also wider than standard oil.

Is There a Difference in Oil Use Between Reciprocating and Rotary Screw Compressors?

While you can run different types of oil products on reciprocating and rotary screw models, manufacturers often recommend that you use synthetic oils. They contain no sulfur or additives that can lead to unwanted buildup on the valves.

The main benefits of synthetic oils for rotary screw air compressors include:

  • Longer life span: Synthetic oils can extend the life of your rotary screw air compressor by an incredible 8,000 hours. That’s a freakin’ long time!
  • Fewer deposits: Synthetic oils reduce unwanted deposits such as varnish and sludge. These deposits lead to premature wear and tear and have a negative affect on your compressor’s performance.
  • Cooler temperatures: Synthetic oils stay cooler during compressor operation and produce an air discharge of a lower temperature.
  • Less oil consumption: Synthetic oils are consumed at a slower rate, meaning you don’t have to add oil as often.

Reciprocating air compressors can also benefit from synthetic oil in the following ways:

  • Less accumulation of carbon: Synthetic oil reduces how much carbon accumulates on the valves and reduces the feed rate.
  • Safer operation: The auto-ignition temperatures and flashpoints are higher for synthetic oils.
  • Extended lifetime: Synthetic oil can also help prevent packings and piston rings from wearing out too soon.

How Often Should I Change My Oil?

The frequency of your oil changes usually depends on the kind of machine you have. Check the user’s manual that comes with your compressor. The manual should provide detailed information on air compressor oil specifications. If the information is not provided, use the following guidelines as a reference:

  • Rotary screw compressors need oil changes every 7,000 to 8,000 hours of use
  • Reciprocating air compressors ideally need oil changes every three months
  • Regardless of use, the oil should be changed once per year at the very least to ensure smooth operation and a long-lasting life span.

Do all Air Compressors Need Oil?

You only need to use oil if you have an oil-lubricated compressor. Oil-free air compressors do not require oil since they are already coated and sealed straight from the factory. Generally, oil-lubricated air compressors handle higher-duty cycles and have an extended engine-life over oil-free models. Most oil-lubricated air compressors also run quieter than, another reason why most factories, workshops and other industrial use-cases choose air compressors that require oil.

Can I Order Oil from 3C Industrial?

Of course you can! We have both synthetic and standard oil for you. We also have an array of air compressors ready to ship out if you’re in the market for a new compressor. Contact us today if you have any questions! 


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