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What Is Synthetic Compressor Oil?

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  • Written By: Amy Rodriguez
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Synthetic compressor oil lubricates an air compressor's internal mechanical motor parts to prevent friction and overheating. The air compressor itself pressurizes incoming air for powering air tools, such as drills and staple guns. The compressor must remain lubricated or its motor will become irreparably damaged.

Chemical reactions carried out in a controlled manufacturing environment are used to generate synthetic compressor oil. Unlike natural oils, synthetic oil has an evenly sized molecular structure, allowing it to glide easily across the compressor's functioning parts. This oil type also lasts longer than natural oils so that users do not need to replace the compressor's oil supply as frequently. Many compressor owners prefer this lubrication form since it also ensures a long life for the machine's motor.

The synthetic compressor oil coats the internal walls of the piston chamber inside the compressor motor. As the piston moves up and down, it brings air into the compressor's tank to pressurize and store it. Since the piston constantly moves during compressor use, lack of lubrication will cause the piston to jam due to friction and possibly crack or break. As a result, the compressor's motor will need to be rebuilt or replaced completely.

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Each compressor manufacturer notes the specific oil necessary for proper functioning in the owner's manual. Synthetics are commonly listed as an oil choice since these manufactured substances do not have any small contaminants within their mixture. Tiny contaminants can easily form a sticky build up within the compressor's motor, forcibly stopping any mechanical movement and damaging the machine.

Ingredients of synthetic compressor oil vary between manufacturers. Some common ingredients include phospate-esters and fluorosilicones. In addition, each oil has a viscosity rating, much like engine oil. When a user needs to replace the compressor oil in the machine, he or she should verify the viscosity rating before purchasing a synthetic compressor oil.

Improperly matched viscosity can easily damage a compressor motor. Thin oils will not protect the mechanical parts correctly, subjecting them to excessive heat and friction, possibly warping and cracking the moving pieces. In contrast, oil that is too thick for the compressor's motor will obstruct mechanical movement, resulting in poor air flow from the compressor and damaging internal parts.

Many consumers choose synthetic compressor oil for their machines because of the friction control it offers. Proper part lubrication causes parts to move more smoothly against each other, generating less noise. A properly lubricated compressor used in a small business or home workshop will therefore not cause too much disturbance to nearby workers or neighbors.

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