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Air compressor oil is crucial for lubrication of internal moving parts. It protects the components from wear and tear, keeps them cool, and prevents overheating. To keep your air compressor healthy, you should always use the manufacturer’s recommended oil.
Sometime folks still look for a substitute for the compressor oil. One decent guy has sent a question to us, “Can I use 5W30 in my air compressor?” So we thought we should write a blog post about this topic. Why not?
Read along, and you will find the detailed answer below.
What Does 5W30 Means?
5W30 is a multi-grade motor oil. The two parameters before and after ‘W’ are the viscosity/thickness scale.
The letter ‘W’ stands for winter and the number before this letter indicates oil viscosity in a colder environment. The number after this letter ‘W’ shows the viscosity at high temperatures.
Due to a lower viscosity, 5W30 multigrade oil is vastly used for petrol and light-duty diesel engines. This oil resistance to thinning will be much lower in cold temperatures than a 10W grade oil. So, it will be easier to pump when the temperature gets too low. In contrast, when the temperature gets too high, or when the engine runs at full capacity, 30 grade oil will be thicker than 20.
In a nutshell, 5W30 means the viscosity of this motor oil will range from 5 weights on a start up to 30 weights when operating. An internal combustion engine will have different temperatures at its initial stage and working phase. So, multi-grade oil is a good fit for car engines.
What Oil Should I Use in My Air Compressor?
Most manufacturers recommend using either SAE 20 or SAE 30 weight compressor oil. This is a single-grade oil with a single scale of viscosity.
SAE 20 is a thinner oil while SAE 30 is comparatively thicker. If your air compressor is operating at an ambient temperature, a straight 30-weight oil will be a perfect fit. If your compressor is operating in a colder environment, you need SAE 20.
The rule of thumb here is to use SAE rated ND (Non-detergent) oil for your air compressor.
Detergents in motor oil help prevent harmful carbon build-ups in internal combustion engines. However, detergent can be extremely hazardous for air compressors. They are known for collecting sediments and carrying them around inside an air compressor. Since air compressors do not have oil filters, these deposits can clog the internal components causing the reduction of air pressure being delivered.
There are two different oil types to use in a compressor oil.
1. Standard Oil
2. Synthetic Oil
Standard oils are mineral-based and derived from natural ingredients. These oils degrade rapidly and transform to vapor in a short period of time. As a result, you must change the oil on a regular basis.
These refined mineral oils (Group III) contain sulfated ash (up to 1 percent) and emulsifiers. The presence of ash is harmful to the air compressor’s engine valve. Emulsifiers tend to absorb moisture, causing the oil to lose its ability to cool properly.
If there is urgency you can use regular engine oil for your air compressor temporarily. Then it must be a non-detergent oil.
Synthetic oils are made from Group IV or V synthetic substances. Non-detergent synthetic oil is best for heavy-duty air compressors. These oils are expensive but give a far better performance. Synthetic oil lasts at least 50% longer than Standard oil. In comparison to standard motor oil they are much cleaner and contain the least amount of ash. So, buildups will be less of an issue.
Can I Use 5W30 in My Air Compressor?
You can use 5W30 in your air compressor only if it is a non-detergent synthetic oil. Normally, you should not use multi-grade, all season oil if your owner’s manual does not recommend using it as a substitute.
If you are choosing a multi-grade motor oil, you must choose a non-detergent, synthetic variant such as Mobil 1 5W30.
Most Compressor manufacturers recommend using SAE 20 to 30 Weight compressor oil. So if the recommended viscosity of your air compressor oil is closer to 5W30, you can use it as a temporary substitute.
NB: Using oil apart from the manufacturer’s recommendation voids the warranty of your compressor. It may bring damage to the components during prolonged use.
Can I Use 10W30 in My Air Compressor?
Motor oils such as 10W30 use detergents which may bring serious trouble to your air compressor’s internal components. Detergents tend to emulsify and stick to the compressor cranks that need lubrication. This will lead to increased friction in the ball bearings.
Again, the weight and viscosity of this motor oil do not suit the specified viscosity scale for air compressors. Air compressors require a thicker viscous oil to withstand high heat environments.
You should only use 10W30 oil in an emergency and when you know you will be able to flush the oil tank properly afterward.
Read more details about whether you can use 10W30 oil in your air compressor or not.
Using a motor oil as a substitute for your compressor oil is never recommended. Most motor oil contains detergents which is the great enemy of an air compressor engine. If you are in a hurry you can use motor oil given that they are non-detergent, synthetic oil.
There are many evidence showing that air compressors run better on thinner oil during winter. So, 5W will be ideal for air compressors in winter. However, considering the temperature an air compressor usually operates using 20W or 30W single viscosity oil will be a wise decision.