Compressor Oil Substitute | 3 Best Substitutes You Should Not Miss

Air compressors have many parts to move fast, like mechanical machines. Air compressor needs lubricant or oil to work smoothly, prevent wear and tear, and reduce friction to provide the vehicle’s best performance. Generally, air compressor lubricant uses medium viscosity to reduce friction.

However, the compressor oil substitutes are Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF), Hydraulic oil, motor oil, and so on. These three lubricants have enough compatible elements for air compressors. You can consider any of them for your air compressor to get a premium result.

This article helps you to get detailed information about these three oils. For example, their pros, cons, and other information helps you to make the right choice as a substitute oil for your vehicle air compressor. Keep reading.

Compressor Oil Substitute

Compressor Oil Substitute (3 Leading Substitute Oils for You)

The compressor oil should be mineral oil or synthetic oil. But, sometimes, we can’t use these two oils for our vehicle compressor. In this situation, you can go for the best alternative oils of these two oils.

It is always a good option for you to use any of the following substitute oil for your compressor when you are unable to use air compressor oils.

1. Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)

You will discover plenty of ATF oils on the market, but all are unsuitable for air compressors. However, ATF oil is safe to use; especially synthetic ATF oil is far better for the compressor.

This type of oil is ready to reduce friction and provides medium viscosity for the compressor. You will get many benefits from using ATF because of its composition and elements.


  • It always avoids using many sludge and deposits
  • No breakdown issues you will discover from ATF oils
  • Capable of taking enough pressure and heat produced by an air compressor
  • The compressor parts will be safe from corrosion, tear, and wear


  • ATF isn’t capable of handling the contamination of water
  • Most of the ATF oils are not ready to provide a warranty

2. Motor Oil (Non-Detergent Synthetic)

This is another substitute for air compressor oil on my list. This oil works much better for the compressor because of keeping movement of the compressor parts without damaging the parts. But, you have to use non-detergent synthetic motor oil at any cost.

If you choose detergent synthetic motor oil for the compressor, it may damage and be affected by other harmful things. Though non-detergent motor oil is more expensive than detergent oil, you will get premium-grade performance.


  • It is a good substitute for a short time
  • Avoid corrosion of compressor parts
  • Handle excess temperature produced by the compressor


  • Non-detergent motor oil is expensive to buy and hard to find

Can you use motor oil in an air compressor? Yes, you can use motor oil in an air compressor. But, you have to choose non-detergent synthetic oil. Detergent motor oil is harmful to the compressor.

3. Hydraulic Oil

A lot of consumers consider hydraulic oil as a substitute for compressor oil. Typically, this oil comes with low viscosity at lower temperatures. Hydraulic oil is one of the best substitutes for cold temperatures.

The summer places users consider 30W hydraulic oil as the best alternative to air compressor oil. Unlike other air compressor oils, hydraulic oil is ready to prevent rusting problems.


  • Provides lubrication and cooling for internal components of air compressor
  • Protects the parts of the compressor from rust and corrosion
  • The oil is available for most of the online and offline shops
  • Provide the best performance in cold temperature


  • It doesn’t stay at high temperature
  • Hydraulic oil uses zinc which is harmful to the compressor

Is Compressor Oil the Same as Hydraulic Oil?

There are some visible differences between air compressor oil and hydraulic which makes them different. Air compressor and hydraulic oil are not the same for the compressor.

First of all, hydraulic oil uses zinc, while air compressor oils don’t use any zinc. Typically, zinc is harmful to the parts of the compressor because of corrosion issues.

Secondly, additives are an important part of any oil. However, compressor oil uses different additives, and you need to match additives with compressor oil and hydraulic oil.

Third, you will discover good water separability from air compressor oil, while hydraulic lacks these benefits.

Fourth, oxidation is another element that they use in different ways. You will discover a complete difference in oxidation between compressor oil and hydraulic oil.

Overall, these 4 points provide you with a clear concept of this matter. Air compressor oil and hydraulic oil are two different types of oil without any doubts.

What Oil to Use in Air Compressor?

Different air compressors use different types of oils. The manufacturer of air compressors recommended the oils which you need to follow. However, you should consider the perfect air compressor or substitute oils for premium performance.

Synthetic and mineral oil are the best solutions for air compressors. You can consider any of them to use on your air compressor. If you are unable to choose synthetic or mineral oil, consider the best alternative air compressor oil for your compressor.

I suggest you use ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid), hydraulic oil, or motor oil to get better results. These three oils are a good solution as an alternative to air compressor oil. Among these three oils, you can provide the priority of ATF oil.

How Often Should You Change Your Air Compressor Oil?

The standard time to change your air compressor oil is every 1000 hours to use. To get an accurate time of changing the air compressor oil, you can check out the user manual for the oil.

Different oil types provide different time ranges to change the air compressor oil. For example, synthetic oil provides a longer solution to change the air compressor oil.

Alternatively, you can change the compressor oil once a year. It helps you to change the oil from time to time and save the compressor from harmful things.

FAQs (Frequently Ask Questions)

What can I use instead of compressor oil?

Answer: ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid), Hydraulic oil, or non-detergent motor oil can be used. These three substitute oils are the best selection for the air compressor. Their additives, viscosity, reduced friction, and other elements provide premium performance.

Is engine oil OK for the compressor?

Answer: You can technically use motor oil for your air compressor containing non-detergent elements. Because detergent clogged your compressor components and finally damaged the compressor parts without any doubts.

What viscosity of compressor oil?

Answer: SAE 20 and SAE 30 is good enough for the air compressor. You can consider any of them to get good viscosity. However, SAE 30 provides better viscosity than SAE 20.

Can I Use 10W30 in My Air Compressor?

Answer: No, it is not recommended to use 10W30 on your air compressor. The detergent of 10W30 clogged the engine and damaged the engine parts. Clogging is always harmful to engine components. So, it would be better for you to use the above oils for your air compressor or consider the best air compressor oil.

So, Which Air Compressor Substitute You Should Consider?

First of all, ATF, hydraulic oil, and non-detergent synthetic motor oil are the best substitutes on the market. You can consider any of them for your air compressor. But, if you want to feel only one oil for your air compressor, you can go for ATF oil.

ATF oil is the best alternative oil for air compressors. Its elements are ready to reduce friction and protect the components from rust, friction, tear, and wear. Overall, ATF also avoids corrosion and other harmful things.


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I am Engr. Z Eusuf Lubricant Specialist, Mechanical Engineer & has been working with engine lubricants for a long time and knows what makes them work best. I can help you find the right oil for your needs, and I have tips on how to keep your engine running at its best.