Compressor Oil vs Motor Oil: Get To Know Them

Compressor oil and motor oil. Which one is best for your compressor system? They’re both used in engines, but with differences. In this article, let’s explore the distinctions between them and help you decide which one fits better.

For a smooth running engine, maintenance is essential – whether it’s gas-powered or electric/hydraulic. Knowing the different oils on the market is important. Compressor oil and motor oil have their own advantages and uses. Let’s find out which one is right for you by looking at some aspects related to each product:

Compressor Oil

Compressor oil is a special oil used in air compressors. It has a high viscosity index and flash point. It also resists oxidation and thermal breakdown. Plus, it’s formulated to resist foaming. This helps keep the lubricating film on compressor surfaces.

So, what are the benefits of compressor oil?

What is Compressor Oil?

Compressor oil is specially made to keep air compressors running well. It meets many needs for the design, use, and maintenance of different air compressors. The oil saves money, improves lubrication and reduces wearing. There are various grades of compressor oil, each made for specific machines or needs. It increases the life of an air compressor by decreasing the operating temperature and making it more resistant to dirt.

Generally, compressor oil is made up of mineral or synthetic oil, thickeners like hydrocarbons, and additives. The viscosity level can go from 8 cSt to 2000 cSt depending on the type and grade.

It comes in different levels and types for different reasons:

  • Oil Grades: Different grades are made for different machines, as instructed by the manufacturer.
  • Viscosity: Viscosity measures how well a liquid flows. Low viscosity oils flow easily through small spaces, while high viscosity oils have better heat resistance in bearings. Low viscosity protects against wear, while high viscosity reduces friction.
  • Additives: Additives change the properties of compressor oil. Anti-wear agents like ZDDP make it better in hot conditions. Lubricity agents like PAG help maintain viscosity. Foam control agents reduce foaming. Detergents like alkaline materials clean carbons. Rust preventatives with phosphorus compounds protect against rust. EP materials with sulfur solubles prevent ‘Border contact’ damage in bevel gears.

Types of Compressor Oil

Compressor oil is key for air compressor performance. Depending on the model, it could need mineral-based or synthetic-based oil. Make sure the oil is compatible, and provides the required function.

  • Mineral-based oil comes from petroleum products. It’s used in conventional and some portable compressors. It reduces wear, protects against oxidation, rust, corrosion, and foaming. It needs to be changed after every 100 hours or 6 months of storage.
  • Synthetic-based oil is based on PAO molecules. It provides better oxidation protection than mineral oil, and can handle more extreme temperatures. Synthetics have a longer lifespan, so you don’t need to change it as often. It also reduces wear, increasing efficiency and output from your unit.

Follow manufacturer instructions for application frequency and volume to optimize performance.

Advantages of Compressor Oil

Compressor oil is specially made for air compressor engines. It has many benefits compared to normal motor oil. Compressor oil can reduce friction, make the engine more efficient, protect against wear and buildup, and stop rust and corrosion.

Advantages of Compressor Oil:

  1. Less Friction: Compressor oil is thicker than normal motor oil. This helps the engine move smoother with less trouble from friction.
  2. More Efficiency: Compressor oil gives more power to the compressor’s engine with each turn. This makes it more efficient. It also reduces wear from friction.
  3. Prevention of Wear & Deposits: Compressor oil has additives to fill the gaps between moving parts. This stops wear and buildup over time.
  4. Rust & Corrosion Prevention: Compressor oil takes away heat from the electric motors. This protects them from rust or corrosion caused by spills or damp conditions.

Motor Oil

Motor oil, essential for a purring engine. It greases the parts in motion, and shields them from heat. Friction is minimized too, extending engine life. Let’s discover the types of motor oil, and what you should know!

What is Motor Oil?

Motor oil is a special type of lubricant. It reduces friction and heat between the moving parts of an engine. It helps the engine stay efficient and run smoothly. Different types of motor oil contain additives. These can help fight corrosion or reduce deposits in the engine. Motor oil keeps engines clean and helps them last longer.

Motor oil is split into two kinds. Compressor oil is for air compressor motors. It’s a thick liquid that can handle extreme temperatures and keep the motor going. Motor oil is for internal combustion engines. It helps the engine use less fuel and reduces wear on motor parts.

Types of Motor Oil

Motor oil is great for protecting your engine from damage, increasing lubrication and making it last longer. Different types are available to fit different engine requirements. To get the best performance from your car, you need to know which type of oil is right for it.

The three main types of motor oil are:

  • Conventional oils which are mainly made from refined crude oil with added additives.
  • Synthetic blend oils which combine conventional and synthetic bases, plus more additives.
  • Fully synthetic oils which are made up of only highly-refined bases with additives to give better cold-start, fuel economy and longer drain intervals than conventional or blend oils.

Which type of oil is best depends on different factors. These include age, make/model, driving habits, climate and service history. Your car’s manual should tell you what type is best, or you can ask a qualified mechanic.

Advantages of Motor Oil

Motor oil, sometimes called engine oil, is created to lubricate the parts of an internal combustion engine that slide against each other. It helps keep the engine clean by providing a thin shield from air or fuel pollutants that could harm the vehicle. It also assists with cooling and has various additives to stop sludge from forming.

Advantages of Motor Oil:

  • Reduces friction between moving metal pieces: Motor oil minimizes wear and tear on the engine by providing a lubricating layer between the metal parts.
  • Decreases wear and tear: Motor oil keeps the car’s engine running longer by decreasing metal-on-metal contact which weakens parts over time.
  • Boosts efficiency: By cutting friction and heat, motor oil can improve engine efficiency by using less energy and still having great performance.
  • Protects from corrosion: The anti-corrosive properties of motor oil safeguard engines from rusting or corrosion from humidity or environmental pollutants like salt.
  • Minimizes emissions: Lower friction from well-oiled components means less air pollution from an engine’s exhaust system, enhancing efficiency.

Comparison of Compressor Oil and Motor Oil

Compressor oil and motor oil may look similar, yet they are not. They’re made for varied tasks and have different goals – so one can’t be taken in place of the other. Let’s compare them both and spot the dissimilarities.


Compressor oil and motor oil have similarities in the way they work and help protect machinery. Both types of oils have additives to keep engines working longer and reduce wear-and-tear. They are made with a mix of base oils from petroleum or synthetic sources. Plus, they have anti-oxidants, anti-foam agents, anti-rust agents, detergents, dispersants and other additives.

The major similarity is that both have viscosity modifiers to stay thick under pressure. This creates a protective barrier to reduce friction, heat transfer and corrosion. Compressor oil can handle higher levels of humidity and temperatures up to 350°F (176°C). It’s used in auto workshops and industrial plants where there’s a lot of heat. Motor oil can withstand temperatures up to 500°F (260°C). It’s best for providing protection against extreme pressure in an engine’s engine block, crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons during high RPMs.


Compressor oil and motor oil have similarities. They are both made from petroleum, need to be changed regularly and keep engines running smoothly. But there are also differences.

Compressor oil is made for air compressors. It has benefits like higher viscosity and anti-wear additives. Motor oil is made for vehicles. It has detergents, dispersants and agents like zinc dialkyldithiophosphate. It also includes additives like molybdenum, antioxidants, and phosphorous. The oil’s formulation depends on the engine type or model.


At the end of the day, motor oil and compressor oil are not interchangeable. Motor oil is mainly for smaller air compressors used for crafting and tools. Compressor oils are made for larger stationary compressors.

Refer to your compressor manual for the oil type and grade. Make sure to use the correct blend of oil. When mixing different types of oil, always fully flush the system first. This will prevent cross-contamination from prior lubricants.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between compressor oil and motor oil?

Compressor oil is specifically designed for use in rotary screw, rotary vane, reciprocating and other types of air compressors. It is formulated for use in air compressors to control foaming, wear, rust, oxidation and provide for effective seal lubrication. Motor oil is designed to lubricate the moving internal parts of an engine, helping to reduce friction and wear, disperse heat, and keep the engine clean.

How often should compressor oil be changed?

The frequency at which you need to change your compressor oil depends on the type and brand of oil being used. Generally, you should change your compressor oil every 1,000 to 2,000 hours of use or every six months, whichever comes first.

What type of oil should I use in my air compressor?

It is important to use the type of oil recommended by the compressor manufacturer. Most compressors use non-detergent, petroleum-based oil. Synthetic oils are also suitable for some compressors. It is important to note that motor oil should never be used in an air compressor.