Substitute/Alternative for Air Compressor Oil

Are you struggling to find an air compressor oil substitute for your air compressor? However, before buying one, it is essential to know that you can’t use any oil type to run your air compressor.

Alternative for Air compressor Oil

After digging and researching, I found 3 oil types that match perfectly as an alternative to air compressor oil. Keen to know the oil types?

They are

  1. Hydraulic oil
  2. ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid)
  3. Synthetic oil

So, you have got the name. I will share more information about these oil types so that you can make the right decision during an emergency.

Let’s begin.

What to Look for When Picking an Ideal Substitute Oil for Air Compressor?

An air compressor substitute oil should have a few certain characteristics. If you find the below 3 factors in any oil type, choose it to use in your air compressor.


The weight of the oil is known as viscosity. The viscosity level is proportional to the density.

Depending on the weather condition, 10W – 30W is a suitable range of viscosity level.


Used additives in oil have both beneficial and unsafe characteristics. For instance, detergent is a type of additive used in some oils. It cleans the inner components of the air compressor and minimizes deposits.

In contrast, the same additive types (detergents) create foam in the pump, reducing the air compressor lifespan.

So, the decision is yours whether you want to clean your air compressor components or reduce longevity.

Temperature Changing

Based on the temperature, oil’s viscosity level varies. It happens because of the oil’s molecular cohesive force.

So, when choosing oil for your air compressor, the temperature and viscosity factors need to keep in mind.

What is the Substitute for Air Compressor Oil?

Before buying any air compressor oil replacements, note that the performance of a substitute oil will never be similar to an ideal air compressor oil.

According to the above characteristics, below are the 3 oil types that are good air compressor substitute oil.

Also, read: oil lubricated portable air compressor.

Hydraulic Oil

Characteristically, hydraulic oil has a few special features, making them an ideal substitute for air compressor oil.
Hydraulic Oil
At low temperatures, hydraulic oils show low viscosity characteristics. The viscosity specifies how a fluid flows smoothly without struggle. Less viscosity means less density. As a result, the flow rate of hydraulic oil is high compared to other oil types.

Let me ask you a question. Do you live in an area where low temperature is common? If the answer is YES, hydraulic oil is one of the best substitutes for air compressors. Due to low viscosity characteristics, they flow more smoothly than high viscosity oil types; even lower temperatures can’t affect these oil types.

If your compressor is the pump of a simple crank-case type, using hydraulic oil will be a wise decision. Deciding to use 10W hydraulic oil is suitable in winter. It would be best to use equivalent to this weight during winter because the oil can get jammed. While in the summer, go up to 30W hydraulic oil.

Hydraulic oil is a premium quality lubricator for air compressors. It is corrosion-resistant. This means the air compressor will be protected.

Sealant materials are used to manufacture an air compressor. And hydraulic oil shows good performance with these materials. This tells that hydraulic oil is a good substitute for air compressor oil.

ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid)

Automatic Transmission Fluid is well known for performing a variety of tasks in an air compressor. They are good performers in doing car transmission tasks. It will do the below tasks.

  • Performs as a hydraulic medium.
  • The parts remain deposit-free.
  • Keeps the parts cool.
  • Breakdown-resistant when the device is under pressure.
  • Friction and wear-resistant.
Automatic Transmission Fluid
Source: Wiki

Since ATF is a suitable option when doing car transmission, at the same time, this oil type is good for air compressors, too, due to its above-mentioned tasks. Let’s say, when an air compressor works, different parts get heated. These parts need to be cool, and less wear and friction are also necessary.

Superior additive packages along with strong base oils are the main sources of the most Automatic Transmission Fluids. Detergents, antioxidants, demulsifiers, and wear-resistant agents are the prime components of ATFs.

ATF has a few advantages. Find them below.

  • As stated earlier, when running, an air compressor creates heat. When the heat is available, the air compressor can break down, and it is the responsibility of a liquid that prevents breakdowns. ATF is such a type of oil. This is the reason; ATF is a good substitute for air compressor oil.
  • When repelling breaks, extreme heat gets created in areas by the produced deposits of ATF. Detergents of ATF perform here efficiently to minimize the deposits. Inner components of the air compressor get cleaned with detergents.
  • Antioxidants of ATF are another significantly essential component for air compressors. Oxidation happens during the compression of air compressor gas. This way, early oil failure occurs. Such degradation is resisted because of these antioxidants.

However, don’t assume that ATF has advantages only. Similar to everything, it has disadvantages too. Read the below points.

  • Before buying ATF oil, make sure it is compatible with your air compressors. You should avoid using ATF if it is unsuitable for the air compressor.
  • ATF detergents may damage the compressor motor faster than your expected.
  • Generally, every air compressor performs best with the manufacturer’s recommended oil within the guaranteed date. After using ATF, if you don’t get the required result, the warranty can’t help you recuperate the loss.

Synthetic Oil

The artificial chemical compounds are used to manufacture synthetic oil. The manufacturing process of this oil follows multiple processes that make them a more refined oil than other oil types. For this reason, they are best for specific purposes only.
Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil is another best substitute for air compressor oil. The unique feature of synthetic oil is that when using this oil type, your air compressor will accomplish tasks at both high and low temperatures. And your compressor will be protected from overheating.

Usually, air compressors create noise when working. You will get a reduction of noise when using synthetic oil in your air compressor. It is advisable to use 30W oil in summer and not more than 10W oil in winter.

Synthetic oil also has drawbacks. Synthetic oils are made for specific purposes only. If you choose the wrong synthetic oil for your air compressor, the tool can get damaged.

Essential Tips When Choosing Air Compressor Substitute Oil Type

  1. Low viscosity air compressor oils are best for winter, while high viscosity oil types offer the best result in summer. If the temperature level is moderate throughout the year, pick the oil with the closest viscosity level of the recommended grade by manufacturers.
  2. Make sure that the substitute oil’s properties are compatible with working with your air compressor.
  3. Many people think that OEM oil delivers the best performance than non-OEM oils. The truth is, it is a misconception. You will be wondered, in some cases seeing the performance of non-OEM oil. So, before buying a substitute oil, check the oil’s compatibility.

Final Words

Air compressors are an expensive tool. Picking the right air compressor oil substitute will ensure the longevity of your tool.

Hopefully, you will find this write-up helpful, and using this information; you will buy the ideal substitute oil for your air compressor.