Can I Use 10W30 in My Air Compressor?

Over the years, there has been considerable talk over which types of oil you can effectively use in an air compressor – and which is likely to work best for lubricating the parts you’ll come across in this type of machine. 10w30 is just one of many oil types that many people ask about. 

Air compressors are amazing pieces of kit – some are large and industrial, while you can keep some smaller air compressors in your garage! However, they all have different demands and needs. Some air compressors won’t need oil at all.

No, it’s never a good idea to use 10w30 in your air compressor. This is mainly because it contains detergents – and the vast majority of air compressor manufacturers advise against this, as it can cause serious internal damage.

So – while you might have an old bottle of 10w30 hanging around and you fancy using it to help lubricate your air compressor, don’t – or you might end up causing more harm than good. 

So, keep on reading to find out more about the different types of oil you can safely use in your air compressor – and which we recommend, too.


Can you use motor oil in an air compressor?

No. Motor oil such as 10w30 is not advisable for use with air compressors because it contains detergents. Detergent-based oil is not designed for use with air compressors, and as such, you should reserve them for your vehicles instead.

This can seem a little strange, but consider what motor oil is actually used for. 10w30 and other oils don’t simply lubricate the working parts alone, they clean them, too – hence the presence of detergents in the mix. 

Instead, for your air compressor, you’re likely to need an oil that’s nice and viscous, and that can handle a lot of heat. Keep reading for our recommendations.

What oil to use in an air compressor

Most of the time, it’s worth following what your air compressor manufacturer recommends. That’s mainly because they will know better than anyone else as to what is likely to work well in your machine!

However, in our experience, and through years of research, we have found that the following oils work really well in air compressors – so let’s break them down and take a look at why they come so recommended.

Synthetic oils

Before you reach for any synthetic oil, it’s important to make sure that the oil you choose is specifically formulated for air compressors. There are plenty available on the market, so you won’t have to worry about having to search around for long.

Synthetic oils won’t contain detergents, on the whole, and they tend to be some of the most refined available. Therefore, it’s likely to work well at high temperatures as well as low ones. Artificial or synthetic oils are great alternatives to motor oil for air compressors when they are designed and produced for purpose – choose anything too general, and you are at risk of causing damage to your machine.

Try looking for air compressor oils from brands such as Powermate and DEWALT – and, again, consult your manufacturer’s manual or their website for more details.

Oil with high viscosity

Oil that’s thick at high temperatures, or is highly viscous, is likely to do well with air compressors when they come under particular pressure. Therefore, again, while looking for air compressor oil that’s specifically formulated for your machine, choose a blend that’s high on viscosity. Air compressors can get very hot, and that’s all the more reason to find temperature-resistant oil, too.

Oil that’s a low viscosity at low temperatures can also work well just make sure to invest in a good all-around choice.

Hydraulic oils

In some scenarios, you might wish to use hydraulic oils in your air compressor. It’s great for lubricating the various parts when the temperature turns cold. A good choice, then, if you are already considering how to store your air compressor in winter.

Hydraulic oils and fluid have stable viscosity, on the whole, and are already pretty resistant against corrosion. As anyone who owns an air compressor will tell you, corrosion is very much the enemy – and while you should already be taking good care of your air compressor, you should also do what you can to lubricate and protect the inner walls against corrosive events.

It’s worth remembering that some hydraulic oils can contain additives that may do serious damage to your machine – so do ensure to check the bottle and speak with the manufacturer before you go ahead and add anything into the mix!

Do I have to use oil in my air compressor?

Not always – there are many air compressors that don’t run on or need oil at all – in which case, you have nothing to worry about. Those who need and use oil will do so to help keep the inner components of their machines running as expected – otherwise, these parts can seize up and lock!

But – can I use 10w30 in my air compressor? No – it’s never a good idea. Detergent in any motor oil is going to do serious damage to an air compressor over time, so make sure to avoid more than just 10w30 – and invest in the right stuff at the right time.

Using the wrong oils and causing corrosion in your machine could lead to an air compressor explosion – and no, that’s never a good thing! Take our advice – find oil that’s made for air compressors first before looking at the alternatives.