Compressor oil is a critical component of maintaining a healthy compressed air installation. Primarily a coolant, oil removes the heat generated during the compression process. A quality compressor oil reduces the wear and tear on rotating parts by using various additives to prevent metal from rubbing against metal; in other words, the oil cools the system so that the element doesn't overheat.

Oil also lubricates the rotors and seals the compression chamber. Because compressor oil is used for cooling and sealing, it must be special, high-quality oil and cannot be substituted with alternatives such as motor oil. Essentially, as the oil flows around between the screw elements, it seals the space in which the air is compressed. Another important task is cleaning. In some situations, dust enters the machine through the air filter. The oil picks up these particles, carries them to the oil filter, and flows back. Keep in mind that if your compressor oil fails, or doesn’t lubricate as it should, the internal compressor components can be quickly destroyed.

Types of Compressor Oil

There are mainly two types of Compressor Oil available in the market, they are:

  • Standard (Mineral) Compressor Oil: Standard compressor oil is made by using a mineral base and are cheaper than synthetic compressor oil. Mineral oil is more volatile and is more likely to evaporate than synthetic oil. As a result, it is used up faster. It also has a higher oil carry-over, so it can get into the compressed air network despite the downstream components such as the oil filter and oil separator. Mineral oils are also significantly more reactive than synthetic oils. The carbon chains are not 100% saturated with hydrogen, which means that the oil reacts faster with other substances and can form clumps. This shortens the service life of the oil and the service life of the filters and oil separators. This type of oil is typically recommended for use in compressors that aren’t used continuously, or for homeowners/DIY’ers whose applications are lighter in nature.

  • Synthetic Compressor Oil: Synthetic compressor oil is made with – you guessed it! – a synthetic base. This type of oil is a higher-quality, premium product that has a longer service life; in fact, synthetic oils can run typically run 50% longer than standard oils. Synthetic oils can also extend the life of your compressor, are consumed at a slower rate (which equates to adding oil less often), stay cooler than their standard oil counterparts, and also can help in reducing various deposits that negatively impact compressor performance. Another benefit? Synthetic oil doesn’t contain sulfur or additives, which helps with preventing buildup on valves.

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