Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor [Which One Is Good In 2021]

Well, if I have to start discussing and arguing with you about the oil vs oil free air compressor. Then I would begin with my own garage. As you know I am your old tool companion Hassan.

In our today’s epic conversation I am sharing some very useful insights, tips. Plus, beyond knowledge based on my past experiences, what I have learned up till now. And what my other garage companions have taught me.

The Hunt

By oil vs oil free air compressor, I remembered I did hunt down a new compressor for my pretty little garage. At that time I was being a cheapskate 😅 and bought an unbranded air compressor. How Unprofessional of me?

And here’s a picture for you to see. 😁…

So, we’ll begin from the basics: what oil lubricated and oilless air compressor is? Knowing the bright and dark side of oil vs oil free air compressors.

Are differences between both air compressors important for us. Based on all this information and what do I have learned I’ll also be giving my opinion as well.

Finally, some of the questions posed by other people that you should be aware of. Now let’s get down to some serious business dear folks…

1st Drop – Learning The Basics

You already know that when you start something you begin from zero. Keeping that in mind we’ll be covering what an oil lubricated air compressor is. And what an oil-free air compressor is?

And also here I’ll be going off on one of my tangents? You know I am a cozy and casual type of guy.

The Compressor Cocktail Tangent

So, many folks mix all types of air compressors in these two categories 😅. I say they want the compressor cocktail 😂. Sound good to ears “A Compressor Cocktail”. But it’s a novice mistake you know.

Because there are heavy-duty air compressors like the 2-stage, 3-stages, rotary, Stationary air compressors, and vice versa. These heavy machines are in use today due to their own specific functionality and usage in industry, garage. And whatever DIY work you need them for.

Coming to the main point, here we are with the oil-lubed air compressor…

What Is An Oil Lubricated Air Compressor?

In simple terms, those compressors in which oil is pumped into the compression chamber to cool down the heat. While also providing lubrication to other parts for efficient work and higher performance are called oil-lubed air compressors.

In these types, the oil moves into the compression chamber and at the same time courses through the internal framework.

By providing lube to the entire skeleton, (i.e different compressor parts) the risk of friction between various compressor organs is eliminated. While lowering down the heat, and reducing the noise as well.

Tip For ya!

The Friction is the assassin for your compressor. Because friction causes damage to the various internal parts of the compressor. On the flip side, the same friction produces heat up to that limit where a compressor can be overheated.

What Is An Oil free Air Compressor?

While in an oilless air compressor the oil is not injected into the compression chamber. But, into the cylinder as well as to the different internal parts of the air compressor. That’s why these types of compressors are known as oil-free air compressors.

Now, in these buddies, the oil is pumped into the cylinder to cool down the generated heat. While in a compression chamber an internal cooler is used in place of oil to reduce the heat.

2nd Drop – Which Is Better Oil Or Oilless Air Compressor

Moving on to the 2nd drop, we’ll be looking into the bright side and dark side of both types of air compressors. What will be the benefits we will gain? And What will be the problems we have to face in this battle of oil vs oil free air compressor.

The bright side

Ahhh! Everyone’s face lit up when they hear about benefits. Yep, that’s our human psychology.

the dark side

On the other hand, the dark side becomes the crucial sign for people like you and me that the machine we’re going to buy really worth it or not.

Oil Lubed Air Compressor


  • Have a longer life span
  • Produces less noise
  • Produces less heat
  • Higher CFM along with PSI
  • Beastly performance and functionality
  • Designed for heavy commercial jobs


  • Usually have high prices
  • There are additional oil costs
  • Few of them cause oil spilling & leakage
  • Require regular maintenance due to in-built oil system

Oilless Air Compressor


  • No extra oil cost hassle
  • No oil spilling or leakage
  • Cheaper compared to oil ones
  • Portable and easy to carry around
  • Doesn’t require the kind of maintenance the oil ones need
  • Built for small to moderate jobs (DIY, Home, Garage, Shop)


  • A bit on the Noisier side
  • They do Heatup pretty quickly
  • Lifespan is shorter compared to oil ones
  • Lower CFM and PSI compared to oil-lubricated air compressors

3rd Drop – Difference Between Oil And Oilless Air Compressor

By pouring out the 3rd drop we’ll be clearing up some differences in this oil vs oil free air compressor conundrum. These differences make both of them unique in their own perspective.

I see many different opinions when it comes to oilless vs oiled air compressors. Not too shabby everyone is right in their own perspective on how they use the oil or oil free air compressor. what benefits did they gain? and what issues they had to face?

Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor Lifespan

As far as I am concerned with “The Lifespan”. We can use another word longevity. And if I were to say that the longevity of a compressor only means “Manufacturer’s Written 200 Hours, 2000 Hours” Then I am Wrong.

My Advice To You

Remember, “The Lifespan” doesn’t depend on a single aspect. Be real man, many folks just base the lifespan on the longer duration of 200 Hours, 2000 Hours, etc.

But, it depends on:

  1. What kind of job you’re going to use it for?
  2. Does the environment effects/halter your compressor’s abilities?
  3. How much you’re going to care for and maintain your compressor?
  4. How much longer or continuously you’re going to work (Per Day/Week or Month)?
  5. What material the compressor parts are built with (Cylinder, Motor, Pump, etc.)?

Be the tyrant

Use your air compressor as cruelly as possible. And the only thing you’re going to get is a beaten-up, dead-weight air compressor. Whether it is the oil-lubricated air compressor or it is the oil-free air compressor.

Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor Power Struggle

Going ahead I’ll be discussing the power issue. Yep, Garage owners, DIY Workers, and Experts. All these companions do check the power level that a compressor commands. The PSI, CFM, and HorsePower.

We all do look for these buddies when getting an air compressor. I am not going to explain to you what PSI, CFM, or HorsePower is? You already know that…

Here, I’ll be using only CFM as a difference for oil vs oil free air compressors.

High CFM Air Compressor

Now, in oil-lubricated air compressors, these power levels are on a whole different level. As they are specially built for industrial/commercial beast jobs. Their CFM range begins from 4, 5 CFM, goes up to 10, 20, 25 CFM, and beyond.

The manufacturers keep these aspects in mind and design it with more durable, stronger, and powerful material with higher CFM, and PSI ratings. So, the compressor can easily withstand the heavy workload, multi-tool usage compared to the oil-free ones.

You can take the example of 20-Gallon, 30-Gallon, 60-Gallon, and 80-gallon air compressors. These are known to be industrial-grade air compressors. More Power, More Strength, and More Durability.

Low 2, 3, 4 CFM Air Compressor

On the other hand, oil-free air compressors are not primarily designed for heavy-duty jobs. That’s why they don’t have that kind of capacity, the stronger material let alone the high CFM, PSI, or HorsePower.

Take an example of the pancake air compressors. These mates are lightweight, portable, and have enough CFM/PSI rating to do your daily DIY chores and garage jobs. Their CFM ranges from 2 and ends on or before 4 CFM.

Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor Noise Levels

I know it’s a bit of an excruciating experience. When you’re powered or hyped up for working and have full concentration on your work. And then you start your compressor.

Lo and Behold! There comes the loud irritating noise that breaks all your focus and ruins your hyped-up mood. I am not even going to the neighbor’s side. When we have to deal with them.

I know because we do have an old air compressor. Pretty beaten up with orange tint cylinder. And it is a loudmouth. And whenever that guy starts the whole house echoes.

Now, it is biting the dust because of the green one that you saw above we’re using here. I think I should give it a proper burial. Poor guy…

The Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor Noise Examples

Well, the oil-lubricated air compressors more tilt towards the silent side. Due to the oil flow in the different compressor parts, the inner components are continually greased up.

Thus eliminating the noise-causing factors like friction, metal hitting, or metal parts sliding against each other in the compression chamber.

Oil Lubed Air Compressor Example: In the case of oil lubricated ones, the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor is an extremely powerful guy with a noise level of above 70 dB. But, with quieter operation due to the oil running in the compression chamber shutting up the friction and other noise-causing factors.

While in oil free air compressors the compression chamber doesn’t have oil in it. So, friction, metal hitting or metal parts sliding against each other in the compression chamber is obvious. That’s why the oil-less air compressors are a bit loudmouth.

Oil-Free Air Compressor Example: While here in oil-free ones, the Porter-Cable and BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressors are pretty famous celebrities. And these little buddies’ noise level rivals up to the beastly Makita oil-lubricated air compressors. Just look at the Makita example above…

Good News For Ya!

Aside from both of these, there is an exception with oil-free air compressors regarding noise reduction.

Now, Makita and Californian Air Tools have been building oil free electric air compressors with noise as lesser as 50 to 60 dB level.

These buds are also called quiet air compressors by garage owners. It’s pretty awesome, don’t you think.

Below is a checklist of the Makita and CAT ultra-quiet air compressor series.

  1. MAC100Q Makita Air Compressor
  2. MAC210Q Makita Air Compressor
  3. California Air Tools 2010A Air Compressor
  4. California Air Tools 4610AC Air Compressor

The Air Compressor Muffler

And I was thinking about the “Budget Thing” you know… In order to bring down the budget bar and the noise level as well to its maximum level.

I’ll suggest you use the air compressor muffler. This bad boy is specially designed as a noise filter device. And it reduces your screaming oil-free unit up to a greater extent. It’ll come in handy when you need it the most.

Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor Heatup Timing

Moving on to our next objective as we feel the heat. Both these compressors’ heat-up time has an earth and heaven difference.

Oil Lube Air Compressor Timing

In oil lubricated air compressor, due to the oil coursing through its compression chamber as well as other parts, the generated heat is quickly eliminated. In hot weather, the oil maintains a cooler temperature for the air compressor without overheating it up.

Oil Less Air Compressor Timing

While as I said before in the section “What Is Oil-free Air Compressor?”. That this type has an internal cooler installed inside the compression chamber to cool down the heat. In both types, the liquid does a better job absorbing the heat instead of a device putting the temperature down.

Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor Weather Advantage

However, in the “The Heatup Time” area, the oil-lubricated ones do have an advantage. While when it comes to weather conditions, the dice tilts in favor of oil-free air compressors.

Oil Lubed Air Compressor

The oiled-up units do face issues like oil thickening and sluggish movement in cold weather. And in order to avoid this pain, you can use an all-weather synthetic air compressor oil. That works fine in all weather conditions.

Oil Free Air Compressor

On the flip side of the coin, the oil-free units don’t have this hassle. They work confidently fine in cold weather. Because there is no oil in the compression chamber, so no “Oil Thickening & Sluggish Movement” issues.

Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor Usage Type/Applications

Now, coming to the most crucial point. This difference in the battle of oil vs oil free air compressor seals up a lot of holes in our today’s talk.

Oil Lubricated Air Compressor

In oil-lubricated units, the CFM, PSI, Horsepower is on a higher level as I have said before in the “Power Struggle” section. These mates are built for heavy-duty commercial/industrial jobs.

Not only that these air compressors also have to run for a longer duration of hours with Multiple tools usage at the same time.

For Example, running up heavy jobs/tools like a construction job, woodworking shop, or painting cars at mechanic shops.

Oil Free Air Compressor

As for the oil-free units, they don’t support that kind of usage and time limit. Their CFM, PSI, and Horsepower are on the lower side.

For Example, nailing, screwing, tire inflation, and other DIY, home, garage work are excellent and acceptable jobs/tools for these small air compressors.

Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor Maintenance

So, far we nearing to end of our debate here. The next critical thing that I want to highlight is “air compressor maintenance”. Now now, maintaining an air compressor is not child’s play you know.

It requires careful analysis, checking, and working. I do want to explain all of the maintenance here. But, our debate will go for a long ride. So, I’ll be discussing the strong points here and leave the rest in another article.

Note For Ya!

In the case of oil-lubricated air compressors, the maintenance part is a bit rigorous training because of the oil change/handling.

Air Compressor Maintenance Checklist

Here is a short air compressor maintenance checklist for you to follow:

  1. Oil Filter Cleaning
  2. Machine Cleanup
  3. Oil Change Frequency
  4. Compressor Oil Quality/Quantity Check After Usage
  5. Air Filter Cleaning
  6. Relief Valve Checkup
  7. Air Compressor Tank Drain

Oil Filter Cleaning

You can find oil filters with today’s modern compressors. Specifically with large industrial oil-injected rotary screw air compressors. These filters are specially designed to protect your compressor by eliminating any sand, dirt, rust pieces, etc.

If not taken care of properly, these tiny agents can destroy the oil filter, can cause oil-separator clogging, and wear down the bearings.

Machine Cleanup

The next important factor is machine cleaning. Always verify, clean, and thoroughly check your machine to avoid any hassle after the cleanup.

Oil Change Frequency

Always remember to change your air compressor oil. If you’re using a special air compressor oil or synthetic oil.

Make sure to change it at regular intervals for peeked performance. And do write down the schedule so you don’t forget.

Compressor Oil Quality/Quantity Check After Usage

After usage, always verify the quality of the oil. If it is suitable to run with the compressor next time.

Another thing is to check the oil quantity. You can’t run your compressor with a lesser quantity than the requirement. If the oil is reduced add more to it.

Air Filter Cleaning

A clean air filter works as a stress reliever for your compressor. Especially in oil free air compressors due to dirt/dust particle build-up, the compressor experiences a lot of strain.

In some cases, the particles do tend to pass from an old/worn out/damaged air filter into the piston chamber. This results in an overall power reduction of the air compressor.

So, in order to avoid this issue, make a habit/schedule of replacing the old one with a new suitable air filter every 6 months.

Relief Valve Checkup

The relief valve is kind of an emergency escape route. It is used in cases when the pressure exceeds the compressor limit. It is also known as “Safety Valve”.

And if you’re going to test the relief valve then the compressor should be under pressure. Then releases the safety ring and see if the pressure is released or not.

If not or if the valve does close on its own then the valve is busted. So, you have got a new safety valve for your compressor.

Air Compressor Tank Drain

Next up is the compressor tank. Now, this guy has an extremely dangerous enemy, and that is rust. This rust is caused by the water gathered up at the bottom of the tank.

In order to avoid rust, keep your compressor drained. You can do that by using the drain valve.

I’ll be ending the “air compressor maintenance” here. Because we do want to save all the juicy stuff for our next article.

4th Drop – What I Learned

Oil Lubricated Air Compressors For Bigger Projects

If you ask me then I’ll be voting for the oil ones. If I were to do the heavy-duty garage work or if a bigger DIY project comes up.

Oil Free Air Compressors For Small Projects

While on the other hand, I’ll be humbly using the small guys you know. If it’s my own small DIY project or any house chore. Just like the one below, I recently had.

The Final Drop – Oil Vs Oil Free Air Compressor FAQs

Also, I do suggest you also consider the questions posed by other folks and what answers we have given them to their questions regarding oil vs oil free air compressors.

Q: Does Oil Get Inside Air Lines To Cause Problems?

Ans: Yep, that really does occur. It is also called oil carry-over. This unfortunate event takes place when oil that lubricates your air compressor passes from the separator filter into the pipes or airlines.
It can be caused due to faulty separator filters, scavenge lines, low temperatures, oil degradation, or excess oil in the reservoir.

Q: How Much Air Compressor Maintenance Chore Should I Do?

Ans: Here are few maintaining chores that need to be done properly and regularly.
1. Cleaning or replacing air filters should be done on a weekly schedule.
2. Safety relief valve checking and bolts tightening should be scheduled on monthly terms.
3. Pump servicing needs to be done around every 200 to 250 hours. For some folks, it’ll be every 6 months.
4. Finally, I suggest you keep a calendar schedule for the best maintenance chore.

Q: What Is The Best Air Compressor Oil That I Can Use In My Compressor?

You can use the Royal Purple 01513 Synfilm Recip 100 synthetic air compressor oil. It really performs better than other oils when it comes to air compressors.
1. Prevents carbon build-up.
2. Forms a tough and high-strength coating
3. Reduces the noise level during operation.
4. It is an anti-oxidant and anti-wear.

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