Ask the Expert: How much oil does my air compressor need?

Nov. 30, 2018
It is important to check your oil level regularly and to know how much oil your compressor needs.

Air compressors require constant oil lubrication to prevent friction on the pistons or screws and other moving parts. To make sure your air compressor is running efficiently, it is important to check your oil level regularly and to know how much oil your compressor needs.

Before adding any oil to your air compressor, you want to check your compressor manual for guidelines on checking/adding oil to your unit. The manual will indicate exactly how much oil you should add into the sump for your model of compressor. Once you have read the manual, you should be able to locate the oil sight glass on your compressor. It may be found on the base of the pump for reciprocating type compressors or on the sump tank in a rotary screw compressor. In the middle of the sight glass, you will see a dot. Ideally, you want the oil level to be in the center of the dot. If the oil level is below the dot, your unit needs more oil. If the oil level is above the dot, you have added too much oil.

What can happen if I add too much oil?

We often receive calls from customers saying, “My compressor is spitting oil.” or “There is oil coming out of my compressor lines.” Those are both indications that the air compressor was overfilled with lubricant.

Typically when we think of adding/changing oil, we think about the oil in automobiles. When oil is added, it is usually filled near the top, which is why there is a common misconception of having the same practice for air compressors. However, filling your compressor's oil sump to the top can cause significant internal damage to your unit. When excess amounts of oil become aerosolized by the compressor’s discharge, it can cause damages not only to your compressor, but to any pneumatic tools and accessories that are hooked up to your compressor. Oily discharge can also ruin your end-product, sometimes to the point where projects must be scrapped and reworked entirely. Any spray painting, sanding or the application of finishes would be ruined by oil entering the airstream.

To keep your air compressor running as efficiently as possible, it is important to make sure it is always operating at the proper oil level. With preventive maintenance, you’ll greatly reduce the risk of having projects ruined by the interference of oil in your compressor’s airstream.

Information provided by: Chicago Pneumatic

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!