What Is the Difference Between Air Compressor Oil & Motor Oil?

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An air compressor is a versatile tool that can be used for inflating tires or running pneumatic tools. Most kinds of compressors require oil, but there are key differences between air-compressor oil and motor oil.

Air Compressor Oil

Air-compressor oil is usually a synthetic oil that does not contain detergents commonly found in motor oil. Air-compressor oil is manufactured specifically for use in lubricating the ball bearings inside a compressor and is generally the recommended choice by manufacturers of air compressors. A synthetic oil also helps reduce carbon deposits within the compressor.

Motor Oil

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Motor oil comes in organic and synthetic varieties and is used in vehicle engines to provide lubrication between metal parts. Unlike air-compressor oil, motor oil often contains additives that help protect engines by preventing the oil from deteriorating under high operating temperatures.


While it's possible to use a motor oil in some air compressors, it is not generally recommended that air-compressor oil be used in motor vehicles. Refer to owners manuals for the recommended oil types for each application.