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What’s the best oil to use in an air compressor?

We all know that regular air compressor servicing is essential to keep machinery in good working order and reduce costly downtime. But there can be a lot of confusion around which oil is the best for your air compressors.

Our service engineers often get asked about air compressor oil and are happy to advise on the right product for your machinery – along with the pitfalls to avoid.

Here are a few pointers:

Can I use motor oil in an air compressor?

The simple answer is no. The viscosity of motor oil is not suitable for air compressor use and the working temperature will be incorrect. Buying cheap oil not suited to use in a compressor is a false economy as it can prevent your compressor working as efficiently as it should and damage its components.

How can I find out which oil to use in my air compressor?

Manufacturers will usually recommend which type of oil should be used in their particular brand of air compressor. This information will normally be found in your machine handbook – one of the many reasons you should always keep hold of it! There also might be a sticker with this information on the side of your machine.

If you can’t find the details you need, we can still help you. Simply make a note of the make, model and serial number of your machine and pass it on to one of our service engineers – we’ll do the rest.

What is air compressor oil made of?

Air compressor oil is made up of a base oil blended with additives. These additives are selected depending on the planned use of the oil.

It’s important that the oil has the correct viscosity for its intended use, which may vary depending on whether it will be exposed to low or high temperatures. The oil formula also needs to be stable, and needs to be of a quality to minimise deposit formation and corrosion, which can damage compressor components such as filters and seals.

Why is it important to use a high-quality compressor oil?

Buying an air compressor is a major capital expenditure and it makes no sense to run it on inferior oil.

The latest Atlas Copco VSD (variable speed drive) models are super-efficient and will pay for themselves in energy savings in a surprisingly short time – but the last thing you want to do is reduce their efficiency and cut short their lifetime by using cheap compressor oil.

What damage can cheap/poor-quality compressor oil do?

Using cheap or poor-quality compressor oil risks the following damage:

  • Formation of sludge/deposits – particles of oxidized oil, metals, dirt and other impurities can collect in the compressor, clogging filters and oil separators and forming on elements and coolers. This not only reduces the air compressor’s efficiency but also can be a fire hazard.
  • Corrosion of rubber and metal parts – this can happen when poor-quality oil reacts with components of the compressor, resulting in damaging leakage into the air compressor. Corrosion also prevents moving parts from working as they should.
  • Damage to the oil separator – oil is separated from air in the oil separator. Using a cheap oil can cause excess foam to saturate the oil separator and leave a higher oil residual. This will result in increased energy consumption and reduce the life of the oil separator.

How often should I change compressor oil?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as it will depend on the type of oil you are using and how often your machinery is running.

Most recommendations will be in both running hours and time, for example: changing the oil every 2,000 hours of running time or every year, whichever comes first. If in doubt, ask for advice from our servicing engineers – or why not book in a regular service slot and they can look after the oil change for you.

Why Atlas Copco compressor oil is different from the rest

Some air compressor companies will re-label standard oil and sell it as own brand. At Atlas Copco, compressor oil is developed in-house, using a rigorous process.

First, the need for the oil is assessed – this might be market need or the launch of a new compressor model. The developers will look at the operation of the compressor and which parts will be in contact with the oil. It will then go through a blending and rigorous testing process before it’s released on to the market.

The high quality of the oil will ensure that your compressor is running at optimum efficiency and also protect the compressor components, extending the life of the individual parts as well as the overall life of the machine.

Conclusion

Buying cheap compressor oil is a false economy as it can lead to the formation of sludge and corrosion, affecting the efficient operation of your air compressor.

Compressor oil should be of the correct grade and type for your machinery – if in doubt, consult one of our specialist compressor engineers, who will be happy to help.

Further information on air compressor maintenance

Air Compressor Maintenance Checklist

If you are wondering what should be on your air compressor maintenance checklist, then look no further. We have put together the essentials here and included a handy pdf you can download, print and put up by your air compressor.

Click here to read >>>

 

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