Air Compressor Oil Type: Oil for Air Compressors You Need to Know

air compressor oil type

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Air compressor is a pressure-lubed machine. That is why most of the air compressors require lubrication. And lubricators like oil, grease, etc. can reduce friction, heat, and energy consumption.

There are some oil-free models. In that case, you don’t need oil. Otherwise, there is no alternative other than oil.

But the big question is- Which types of oil is needed to lubricant your air compressor? As you know, there are several air compressor oil types for reciprocating and rotary screw models.

However, you may notice that most of the manufacturer suggests using synthetic oil as it is sulfur-free oil. And you know, sulfur-free oil does not produce build-up. Therefore, it is good to use synthetic oil.

Is that all?

Nope. There is a whole lot to know about air compressor oil and its variations. Keep reading and let’s go through the details-

Air Compressor Oil Type: Oil for Air Compressors

Types of Compressor Oil: Based on Compressor Mechanism

We can divide air compressor oil into four types based on air compressor mechanism-
#1. Oil-free(no oil is needed)
#2. Lubricant oil for air compressor pump
#3. Oil for rotary screw model
#4. Diesel or gasoline engine oil

#1. Oil-free (No oil is required)

Oil-free mechanism air compressors are small and only used by DIY-ers. The manufacturer itself permanently lubricates this.

These are not industrial quality air compressor, and they are used less often as well. That is why it is permanently lubricated. Before going to find lube, make sure that your one is oil-free or not.

If you’re interested in oil-based models instead, proceed to the next sections-

#2. Lubricant oil for air compressor pump

Lubricant oil

Sometimes, small air compressor requires lubricating oil for the pump. And obviously, pump lubrication is a must to do for industrial air compressor.

Usually, there will be an oil fill tube to determine whether the oil is needed or not. It could be transparent to see oil-level, or there could be dip-stick to decide on oil-level.

For the very first use, you should have input oil before use.

#3. Oil for rotary screw model

Rotary screw type air compressor needs to bath the compressor pump. Thus, it will lessen friction and perform the best.

Your air compressor needs to seal the process in these types of model. And oil helps in this regard.

#4. Diesel or gasoline engine oil

Diesel or gasoline engine oil

If you have a diesel or gasoline driven air compressor, then this type of oil is recommended. This type of oil is as like as automotive oils, however.

With a variety of viscosities, this oil contains detergents. Most air compressor manufacturers do not recommend this.

Types Based on Chemical Composition

You just learned oil type by the mechanism. We can also divide air compressor oil into two categories based on the chemical composition-
#1. Synthetic oil and
#2. Regular oil

#1. Synthetic oil

synthetic air compressor oil

In these days, automotive enthusiasts seem to suggest using synthetic oil, and that is why brands are making air compressor in such a manner.

If your air compressor is made to run for an extended period, then synthetic oil is best. One more thing is, there is a variety of synthetic oil also. But don’t worry, manufacturers know the fact. And they mention the list of compatible models (air compressor) to make that more accessible to you.

Types Based on Presence of Detergent

You are afraid of using synthetic oil, or you don’t have the option to use. You can go for standard 20 weights or 30 weight regular oil. It should work fine. But you have to choose from non-detergent or non-flammable type.

On the other hand, if you are going to work in a high-temperature condition, then you can go for 40 weight or 50 weight versions.

Another chemical compound detergent is a factor. So, based on detergent there are two types of oil.
#1. Detergent oil
#2. Non-detergent oil

#1. Detergent oil

Most of the automotive oils have detergent. It is because of preventing deteriorating at high temperature. It is a blessing for the motor engine but not for air compressor. You should avoid this type of oil. Because it will build-up a full carbon deposit.

#2. Non-detergent oil

Non-detergent oil

This is recommended for air compressor. Because air compressor does not have an oil filter. So, your machine is not capable of filtering oil and manufacturer recommend to change the old oil entirely rather adding.

If you like to have the best air compressor oil, then it is better to read the instruction manual that came with the air compressor. There you will find the manufacturer recommendation.

Then compare all the facts, like temperature, uses time, etc.

Do New AC Compressors Come With Oil?

In short, some ac compressors come with oil, and some do not.

If it is not labeled with the instruction manual about oil recommendation, then you have to check the vacuum pump for oil presence.

At first, search there for any leaks. If there is not any leaks and no oil, then add at the suction side port about 5 ounces of recommended oil.

Do not miss out to check if your new ac compressors come with oil or not because the ac compressor needs to lubricate for functioning correctly and longevity.

One of the most important things is finding out the type of air compressor oil, your ac need. You can find that on the manual or sticker. If not, then you can contact the manufacturer for a recommendation.

If that fails, then check the air compressor oil manufacturer list. Usually, they label which compressor is matched with the oil.

Follow the procedure mentioned above to find the exact match.

Air Compressor Oil Substitute

Air Compressor Oil Substitute

Though it is not recommended, you can use hydraulic fluid for your air compressor.


At first, I want to tell you why it is not recommended. There are many facts for using compressor oil. Number one fact is longevity. Without proper lubricating you, the machine will sound like “crank.”

That will decrease the lifespan of the air compressor. So, oil is needed. An air compressor supports not all type of oil. You learned that earlier.

But what if there is no option for oil.

Well, in that case, you can use hydraulic fluid to keep your air compressor in good condition. This is just an alternative. Don’t think that this option to use. You should change hydraulic oil immediately after getting the right oil for your compressor.

What kind of oil goes in an air compressor?

Most of the air compressor uses synthetic and non-detergent oil. If your manufacturer does not recommend one or does not label specifically, which type of oil is required, then, you can go for either 20 weights or 30 weight.

But it also depends on the temperature. If the working area is too hot, then 40 weights or 50 weights is perfect.

No matter which one you are going to choose but the oil should be non-detergent one.

However, also look for the recommendation by the oil manufacturer. It will help you to decide while choosing air compressor oil.

How to tell if the oil is detergent or non-detergent?

It is an important fact to determine detergent and non-detergent oil. Because you can’t use detergent oil for your compressor.

The main difference is, detergent oils have some additive that can hold engine deposit and dirt. It is essential for an automotive engine. It prevents to dirt build up in other parts. And you can change the oil thoroughly to clean dust from suspension.

On the other hand, the air compressor does not work like an automotive engine. Its suspension needs not to hold dirt. It will be harmful to use detergent oil as it will build up dirt.

To avoid detergent oils, you need to identify them first. So, here is how you can identify-

You have to read the label of the container to identify. Read carefully; if it is labeled as API SL, then it is detergent oil. And if it is marked as API SA, then it a non-detergent oil.

On the other hand, if a container makes no mark as non-detergent, then it is a detergent one. It is a trend, not to mark means detergent.

How to add oil to the air conditioning compressor?

How to add oil to the air conditioning compressor?

To do that, you have to have a recovery machine to evacuate the air conditioning system. If you are all set, then follow the given below steps-
Determine the high and low valve. You can determine by diameter. Small diameter one is high, and the lower diameter one is low. Now, hook it with air conditioner and turn on the power of ac.

Open the red and blue valve. Push the reclaim button and turn off the valve when the gauge read “O”.

Unhook the high and low valve from the ac. And disconnect all electrical connectors.

Take out the air compressor.

Read the sticker that is attached to the compressor. If the oil matches then proceed to the next step. Otherwise, get the correct type of oil.

Empty old oil from the tank of the compressor. Now read from the sticker for the correct amount of oil. Usually, it is measured with the unit ounces. Note that.

Now, pour the tank slowly with the indicated amount of oil. Once finished, wait for approximately 1o minutes to lubricate well.

The front seal should be lubricated to prevent leaks for the very first start.

Reassemble the ac. Don’t start the Air conditioner immediately after reassemble. Wait for at least 30 minutes and then hit the start button.


  • Ensure that you are using the right oil that is indicated on the ac compressor.
  • Use the right tool to disassemble and reassemble

How to add POE oil to the compressor?

How to add POE oil to the compressor?

POE means Polyol ester Oil. That means, it is synthetic oil. Mostly used in Air conditioning compressor. But always make sure that by reading the sticker of your ac compressor.

In Conclusion

Air compressor is a versatile tool. It is accessible from professional to Diy-er.

Using the right compressor oil can increase the lifespan. And for that, you have to know the air compressor oil type.

In this article, I wanted to elaborate on that theme. And hope that you are now educated all about air compressor oil.

About the author

John Patterson

Hi there! My name is John Patterson. I’m a meticulous guy who loves to deal with the perfect tools for various needs. No matter if it’s a woodworking tool or gardening tool or anything else, I don’t compromise the quality and usability. Since 2010 I’ve been testing different tools for different DIY and professional tasks. Later in 2015, I decided to share my knowledge with the world. I started by answering people in the forums and several Q/A sites like Quora. Then I founded this blog to aid others like you with my knowledge and experience.