Best Air Compressor Oil – Everything You Need to Know

Got an air compressor? Do you want it to run as smooth as a nice breeze? Then you need some air compressor oil. However, what exactly is air compressor oil, how does it differ from other oils, and how do you use it? Let’s find out.

What exactly is air compressor oil?

Air compressor oil is a little bit unique when compared to motor oil. Motor oil has additives, which will keep the oil from deterioration when you’re in extreme temperatures. Air compressor oil lacks those additives. This does make sense, as many air compressors are indoors.

Because of this, never use air compressor oil in a motor vehicle. With that said, some air compressors  can use motor oil, but others may be harmed by the detergents found in motor oil. With that said, you should always go with the type of oil that is recommended in the manual.

As for air compressor oils themselves, they use synthetic, usually 20 or 30 weight ISO 100. Sometimes, you may find air compressor oils specifically formulated for the type of air compressor you’ve picked.

As we said before, your best bet is to look at your air compressor and see what type of oil is recommended.

Are there any substitutes for air compressor oil?

As mentioned, some air compressors may accept motor oil, but it depends on which air compressor you have. With that said, there are some types of oil that could be substituted in. This includes:

  • Hydraulic oil. This type of oil can keep your air compressor warm if you live in a cold area due to their lack of viscosity. 10W hydraulic oils can work well in wintertime, and in the summertime, 30W is recommended. Also, hydraulic oils are good with lubrication and sealing.
  • Automatic transmission fluid, or ATF, could work as air compressor oil. ATF cools the parts and prevents them from accumulating deposits. In addition, it prevents wear and tear due to stress and continuous use.
  • Synthetic oil may be one of the best substitutes due to how they were formulated to handle higher temperatures. In addition, synthetic oils can make your air compressors less noisy. With that said, you do want to make sure that the oil you’re using is designed for air compressors. Get the wrong type of oil, and your compressor may have problems.
  • Finally, the ultimate substitute is an air compressor that doesn’t use oil. While noisier, it’s good if you hate changing oil.

How do you change air compressor oil?

Changing air compressor oil is simple. First, turn on the air compressor to warm it up. When you warm up oil, it can move around more freely.

After it’s warmed up, turn off the air compressor and put an oil pan under its pump end. Unplug the oil drain, and the oil should come out onto the pan. Once the oil is all out, plug it back up. Afterwards, look for the oil fill cap. Fill it up using the recommended oil and use a dipstick to make sure it’s at full level. Cap it back up, and you’re good to go.

What’s the best air compressor oil?

The best oil ultimately depends on what type of air compressor you have, but for most compressors, Powermate is a good place to start. It’s a type of synthetic oil that has no additives and can handle low temperatures. It even works well for high temperatures.

As long as it’s appropriate for your air compressor, we say to try out all the types of oil and see which one you like. There isn’t an extreme difference between oils that are appropriate for your air compressors, but some may give you slightly better performance.

Air compressor oil DeWalt

DeWalt Air Compressor Oil

Air Compressor Oil Separators

This is a part that keeps the oil separate from the water, or sometimes gas. As the old saying goes, oil and water don’t mix, and the air compressor will keep both seperate. You may need to replace the separator after 3,000 hours, or once a year.

In order to replace it, release the pressure first and keep the power switch pulled down. Take out the minimum pressure valve connecting pipe, the control pipes along with the tubing. Then, take out the cover plate that belongs to the separation tank. Extract the separation core, and then replace it with a new separation core.


An air compressor is such a nifty tool, but like any other home improvement tool, you will need regular maintenance on it. Replacing your oil for any motor that needs it is something you should do regularly according to the manual so make sure you’re doing it in order to keep the machine running as smooth as possible.

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