Lubricant is the lifeblood of your compressor.
Many people do not understand the amount of work the compressor lubricant is asked to do while it is running in your machine. The reality is if you run your compressor at 4,000 hours a year, it is the equivalent of putting 160,000 miles on your vehicle a year.
Let’s look more closely at what your air compressor lubricant does.
Because lubricant is the lifeblood of your compressor, it is important to know what it does and how it does it. So, what does the compressor lubricant really do?
- Lubricates – makes sure all wear parts have an adequate film to prevent premature failure.
- Cools – in most reciprocating and all lubricated rotary screws, the lubricant is an important part of the cooling system to maintain proper operating temperatures.
- Cleans – since an air compressor is essentially a vacuum cleaner that sucks in everything around it, the lubricant is part of the internal cleaning process to make sure the machine stays clean with as few contaminants as possible. This, of course, is dependent on the oil filter as well as a separator in a rotary screw.
- Fight Chemical Contaminants – many compressors not only suck up particles, but it also vapors anything that is in the air as a result of factory production or the environment.
- Protects End Products – some compressor lubricants are chosen to be compatible with products being made to the extreme of food-grade that is FDA accepted for food contact.
Which lubricant is correct for your compressor? Well, this depends on the five items listed above and the recommendation of your compressor manufacturer or service provider. Many compressor oils are available for rotary screw machines to run up to 8,000 hours before changing, however, this is tempered by the environment, temperatures, operation cycles, and equipment aid. The best way to determine a proper lubricant is to sample the existing condition and contaminants to see what changes need to be made.
Very often the question is “What Lubricant Do I Need and How Often Should I Change It?” Here are some parameters.
- Use manufacturer’s lubricant if you are under warranty.
- Change lubricant more often in high ambient temperature (95° F) environments. Operating temps over 200° F will shorten the life of the oil exponentially.
- Sample and change lubricants more often in environments with high contamination of vapor or particulates.
- If a non-OEM lubricant is used, be sure that it is from a highly qualified vendor and matches the OEM lubricant properties.
- Sample every quarter or 1k – 2k hours for lubricant contaminants and quality – short money for insurance.
- Don’t forget the back-up compressor as it needs an oil change based on time sitting not hours used.
- Is compressor selection magic? No, not really. It’s an accumulation of the correct information for existing and future needs. Remember a new compressor is not a solution for a poor distribution system or inappropriate air usage. If you are part of the decision process on buying a new compressor, remember to keep these key questions in mind during the selection process.
Without the proper lubricant, you will substantially reduce the life of your air compressor. Remember for every year it is equivalent to at least 120,000 miles on the road.
Keep it clean, keep it clean and keep it lubricated.