Air compressors must need machines for various applications such as pharmaceutical, food and beverage, agricultural, and automotive. And the air compressor can be of two types: oil- and oil-free. sometimes we need to compare oil vs oil-free air compressors.

Besides, they come with many differences, but the primary one is oil. Specifically, oil air compressors need oil to run, whereas oil-free compressors can work with Teflon or other polymers. 

In this article, I will discuss everything about these machines in depth. So no more talking and diving to the section beneath for further information.

What Is Oil Air Compressor?

What Is Oil Air Compressor

An oil air compressor, also known as an oil-lubricated air compressor, is a type of air compressor that uses oil as a lubricant for its moving parts. These compressors typically have a motor that drives a piston or a screw mechanism to compress air, which is then stored in a tank for later use. And this safe it from overheating and reduces corrosion. 

Besides, oil air compressors are commonly used in industrial settings where high volumes of compressed air are needed for tasks. And it using oil as a lubricant helps to decrease friction between the parts of the compressor. Which can extend the machine’s life and improve its efficiency.

However, oil air compressors also require regular maintenance to ensure the oil remains clean and effective at lubricating the compressor’s components. Therefore, you also need to monitor the oil level and quality regularly and replace the oil as necessary to keep the compressor running smoothly.

You can read more detail about: What is an oil-free Air compressor? Expert recommendation

How Do Oil Air Compressors Work?

How Do Oil Air Compressors Work?

These air compressors use oil as a lubricant to reduce friction between the compressor’s moving parts. And the oil is stored in a reservoir and pumped to the compressor’s moving parts, such as the piston and cylinder.

When the compressor starts, the piston falls down and makes a vacuum, pulling air into the cylinder. Then the piston moves up, compressing the air and pressuring it through a stock tank. And the oil lubricates the piston and cylinder, decreases erosion and safe the compressor from overheating.

In some oil air compressors, the oil is also used to cool the compressed air entering the storage tank. The oil and air mixture is sent through a separator that splits the oil from the air. And which  allows the oil to be recycled back into the compressor and the air to be used for various applications.

Besides, oil air compressors can be two work systems like splash and pressure. In splash types, you need to splash oil regularly over the crankshaft and cylinder walls with the help of a dipper while working. Also, you have to pour oil into the important place in the pressure compressor. However, this type of compressor is less common and more expensive.

Types of Oil lubricated Air Compressors 

Types of Oil lubricated Air Compressors 

Oil-lubricated air compressors are widely used in various industries for their high efficiency and durability. Here I have mentioned some of the types of oil-lubricated air compressors:

  1. Reciprocating Air Compressors
  2. Rotary Screw Air Compressors
  3. Scroll Air Compressors
  4. Rotary Vane Air Compressors

Application Of Oil Air Compressor

Application Of Oil Air Compressor
  • Sandblasting and surface preparation
  • Operating pneumatic tools, such as drills, nail guns, and sanders
  • Spray painting and coating
  • Running air-powered machinery in manufacturing plants
  • Powering HVAC systems in large buildings
  • Providing compressed air for scuba diving tanks

Benefits Of Oil Air Compressor

Benefits Of Oil Air Compressor
  • Best for heavy-duty and industrial application
  • Longer lifespan before needing replacement
  • Quieter operation
  • Better heat dissipation
  • Versatility

Drawbacks Of Oil Air Compressor

Drawbacks Of Oil Air Compressor
  • Larger and need to place one location
  • Huge maintenance requires 
  • Usually more expensive than an oil-free air compressor
  • Oil harmful to the environment

What Is The Best Oil Air Compressor?

What Is The Best Oil Air Compressor?

The craftsman compressor is the best as an oil air compressor. You can learn the details about this machine from here and select the perfect one for your needs.

What Is Oil-free Air Compressor?

What Is Oil-free Air Compressor?

In an oil-free air compressor, the pump instruments require Teflon coating and synthetic equipment rather than oil. And this mitigates wear and heat without needing oil. Typically oil-free air compressors are lighter and usable for light work. 

However, this oil can contaminate the compressed air and may not be used for certain projects. Such as in the medical or food industries, where pure, oil-free air is required.

How Do Oil-free Air Compressors Work?

How Do Oil-free Air Compressors Work?

Oil-less air compressors use various techniques to compress air without using oil as a lubricant. 

There are two main kinds of oil-free compressors: scroll compressors and piston compressors. Scroll compressors use two spiral-shaped scrolls that rotate in opposite directions. And the scroll keeps stationary while the other orbits all over it, compressing the air as it moves towards the centre. Because the scrolls don’t touch each other, there is no required for oil. Scroll compressors are quiet, efficient, and ideal for small to medium-sized applications.

While Piston compressors, also known as reciprocating compressors, use a cylinder and piston to compress air. Instead of oil, these compressors use Teflon or other polymers as a lubricant. With the help of a piston, the machine compresses the air in the cylinder and then pushes it into a storage tank. And the Piston compressors are more powerful than scroll compressors.

Types of Oil-free Air Compressors 

Types of Oil-Free Air Compressors

Many kinds of oil-free compressors are available, and I have included here some of them. Take a look–

  1. Scroll Compressors
  2. Piston Compressors
  3. Centrifugal Compressors
  4. Diaphragm Compressors
  5. Rotary Screw Compressors

Application Of Oil-free Air Compressor

Application Of Oil-free Air Compressor
  • Operating medical equipment, such as dental chairs and ventilators
  • Providing compressed air for laboratory equipment
  • Manufacturing of food and beverage products, such as bottling and packaging lines
  • Powering electronics manufacturing equipment
  • Running air-powered machinery in cleanroom environments
  • Providing compressed air for pharmaceutical manufacturing processes.

Benefits Of Oil-free Air Compressor

Benefits Of Oil Air Compressor
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Require less maintenance
  • Effortless to operate
  • Suitable for non-commercial projects
  • Environment-friendly

Drawbacks Of Oil-free Air Compressor

Drawbacks Of Oil-free Air Compressor
  • Can’t handle more extensive high-quality application
  • Need to replacement eventually than an oil air compressor
  • Limited application

What Is The Better Oil-free Air Compressor?

What Is The Better Oil-free Air Compressor?

You can choose DeWalt DWFP55126, which is efficient and reliable for an extended period of work. And, if you want to know more about this machine, you can read this review on Dewalt dwfp55126 air compressor and make yourself knowledgeable before purchasing.

Comparison Between Oil and Oil-free Compressor

Comparison Between Oil and Oil-free Compressor
Oil Air CompressorOil-free Air Compressor
Oil air compressors need oil to run.It can be moved with Teflon coating or water without oil.
This air compressor is more extensive and heavy.Oil-free compressor compact and light shape.
It has to be set in one place, and carrying  can be difficult.You can move this compressor from place to place.
It can be used for more significant works and industrial projects.This is for light work or home use.
This air compressor is less noisy. It is loud than an oil air compressor.
It requires regular maintenance.These air compressors do not need any maintenance.

Key Distinction Between Oil and Oil-free Air Compressors

Key Distinction Between Oil and Oil-free Air Compressors

Let’s see some of the critical distinctions between these two air compressors here–

  1. Lubrication Requirements

The primary distinction between these compressors is the lubrication system. Oil compressors use oil to lubricate and cool down the compressor pump. In contrast, oil-free compressors use other things like Teflon or synthetic materials to avoid the need for oil lubrication. 

  1. Maintenance Needs

As you know, oil air compressors need oil for their moving part or operation. And you have to pour and check the oil level regularly. And if you don’t do that, the machine will be damaged and reduce its lifespan. On the other hand, the oil-free does not require any oil change and tends to be run like oil air compressors. But when the frictionless coating starts to fall off, they need replacing immediately. Also, they run as heated as oil compressors.

  1. Performance

Oil compressors deliver higher performance than oil-free compressors because the oil lubrication system can reduce friction and wear on the compressor pump. In comparison, oil-free compressors may have a shorter lifespan due to the higher friction and heat generated during operation.

  1. Air quality

Oil-free compressors are preferred in applications where air quality is critical, such as in the medical, pharmaceutical, and food industries. Oil compressors can introduce oil and other contaminants into the compressed air, which can harm sensitive equipment or products.

  1. Maintenance Costs (oil vs oil-free air compressor)

Because an oil air compressor needs oil for running or regular maintenance, they are more expensive than an oil-less air compressor (oil vs oil-free air compressor). Therefore you need to take care of the machine as the manufacturer suggests, which is costly. But the oil-free air compressor does not require oil, so they need fewer maintenance fees,

  1. Contamination Risks

Oil air compressors can be harmful to the surrounding air. And it can’t be used where contamination is concerned and avoided. Many companies use this policy to ignore risks. In this situation, an oil-free air compressor is highly demandable. And they are commonly used in electronics manufacturing, food processing, and medical equipment manufacturing, where oil contamination is a concern.

  1. Applications

An oil-free compressor is for a light job around the home or office. In contrast, the oil-lubricated air compressor is for heavy-duty projects and industrial use. 

  1. Noise levels (oil vs oil-free air compressor)

Traditionally, an oil compressor makes a lower sound than an oil-free air compressor. And this is best for indoor use projects or where sound pollution is prohibited. But modern oil-free air compressors now also make a low sound. Before choosing one, ask or check the manufactures recommendations about the noise level.

  1. Mobility

The oil-free air compressor is much more compact and has a light body shape than the oil compressor. You can carry and move this machine whenever you want. And also it can be shifted from one working place to another simply. While oil compressor is large and heavy, so it is tough to move them.

Which One Is Best For You?

Which One Is Best For You?

In the end, I would say there is no shortcut suggestion for which (oil vs oil-free air compressor) one is right for you. They both have some pros and cons. And it basically depends on your projects and your personal preferences. For instance, if you want an air compressor for industrial purposes, you can choose an oil air compressor. Or you can select an oil-free air compressor for relatively light projects.


Can I lubricate an oil-free compressor?

The oil-free air compressor means it does not require any oil. So, you should not lubricate an oil-free compressor. Unlike oil-lubricated compressors, these compressors are built to run without oil. And adding lubrication can damage the compressor or create safety hazards. 

Is higher CFM means better air compressor?

A higher CFM rating for a compressor does not certainly mean it is the best. It depends on the particular job and the tools being used. For example, if you use pneumatic tools that need a high rate of air, such as grinders or sanders. Then a higher CFM rating would be beneficial. But if you are using smaller tools such as nail guns or airbrushes. For that, a lower CFM rating would be sufficient. It’s essential to choose an air compressor with a CFM rating that matches the needs of your specific tools and application. Rather than just opting for the highest CFM rating available.

Can I use engine oil as air compressor oil?

No, using engine oil as air compressor oil is not recommended. Air compressor oil is designed to handle an air compressor’s moisture, heat, and pressure, whereas engine oil is not. Specifically, engine oil is designed to work in combustion engines. But air compressor oil is formulated to work in the compressed air environment of an air compressor. And using the wrong type of oil can lead to reduced performance and potential damage to the air compressor. 

How do I maintain an oil compressor?

To maintain an oil compressor, there are several vital steps to follow:

  • Check the oil level often and top it up when needed.
  • Change the oil as per the manufacturer’s suggestion.
  • Ensure the air filters are regularly cleaned or replaced.
  • Inspect and tighten bolts and fittings to confirm there is no leakage.
  • Look over the belt tension and fix it as needed.
  • Drain any accumulated water from the tank.
  • Keep the compressor clean and safe from debris.
  • Obey the user’s recommendations for care and repair.
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