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Time Needed: 5 Minutes, Difficulty: Beginner, Cost: $15-$30

You’re working on your car and blasting away with the pneumatic impact tool. You take a break about halfway through because you’re due for one, and that’s when you see it. The inscription on the handle of the impact says, “Oil daily.” That’s right about when your stomach drops. You haven’t oiled it once in your life. 

Rather than taking the chance of having that thing come apart in your hands, you switch back to the breaker bar and elbow grease until you can buy a new one. Did you have to, though? You might not know that oil is also necessary to prevent moisture that naturally builds up due to compressed air. As air runs through the system, the pressure and the moisture will work to remove any lubrication, and that’s why frequent oiling is recommended.

How To Oil Your Pneumatic Tools
Photo by Hank O’Hop

The good news is that oiling your pneumatics is a lot simpler than you might think. In fact, it’s only going to take a few seconds. Car Bibles got its tool wizards on the case, and we’re going to walk you through the process to make sure you never run those bad boys dry again.

The Safety Brief

Oiling your pneumatic tools is pretty straightforward, and there aren’t many ways to harm yourself. Still, you are dealing with tools and oils that you might not want to get on your bare skin. So, a set of protective gloves and safety glasses are a good idea.

Any time we discuss pneumatics, it’s also a good idea to talk about some general safety tips. For one, always wear hearing protection when operating these tools. You’ve only got one set of ears, and these tools are loud. Do your future self a favor and throw some earplugs in any time you put air pressure to work.

Always be mindful of the condition of the system. It’s not worth the risk of running compressed air through swollen lines, busted tools, or a run-down compressor. Pneumatic systems are safe when they’re in sound condition, but any compromise to their integrity can be catastrophic. That’s why you should regularly clean, inspect, and maintain everything throughout the system.

The Tools & Parts You Need

Are you ready for this? If you’re a home mechanic who only puts your tools to use on the weekends, all you’ll need is a little bit of air-tool oil. That’s it. If you’re feeling up for it, grab a second bottle to keep on hand.

If you use pneumatic tools daily, you should apply oil at least once a day. You also might consider adding an in-line oiler to ensure there’s no risk of you forgetting to add oil and damaging the tools.  

How To Oil Your Pneumatic Tools
You can run cleaner through the tool if it’s due. Just try to practice a little more control than me. Photo by Hank O’Hop

How To Oil Your Pneumatic Tools

Let’s get after it.

1. Inspect the Tool

As we said, it’s worth making sure the tool is safe for use. It’s a good idea to give it a visual inspection before each use and make sure everything is in working order. You don’t need to tear into it every time, but ensuring there are no signs of excessive wear or binding anywhere is a good idea.

How To Oil Your Pneumatic Tools
Remember, it doesn’t take more than a few drops to get the job done. Photo by Hank O’Hop

2. Apply Oil Directly Into Air Fitting

Turn the tool upside down. With the air line disconnected, squeeze a couple of drops directly into the air fitting. That’s all it takes to ensure that wherever the air flows, oil flows with it. About five or six drops is all it’ll take to lubricate the moving parts and add a layer of protection from moisture.

3. Cycle the Trigger

Squeeze the trigger or activation lever a few times before turning the tool right side up. That will open the passage that allows compressed air to run the tool, which is the same path the oil follows. If you skip this step, the oil will simply leak out when you turn the tool right side up.

4. Install In-Line Oiler (Optional)

If you use the tools every day, consider adding an in-line oiler to your system. This fits directly onto the air hose before the coupler the tools attach to. It will continuously feed oil through tools so you can skip out on doing it yourself. Once installed, all you have to do is top it off with oil and get to work. Remember to keep an eye on oil levels and replenish the system when necessary.

The Car Bibles Questionnaire

Car Bibles answers all your burning questions!

Q: Can you use WD-40 as air-tool oil?

A: WD-40 is a magical formula that you will put to use in all kinds of places, but it’s not good for use in air tools. It’ll do an OK job at lubricating the parts, but it will struggle to protect from corrosion. You can use alternatives to air-tool oil in a bind, but WD-40 isn’t one of them.

Q: What can I use if I don’t have air-tool oil?

A: If you don’t have air-tool oil on hand, you can use hydraulic lubricant in its place as long as it has a relatively low viscosity. An alternative you’re more likely to have on hand is automatic transmission fluid (ATF). It has lubricating properties that air tools need and will even help to protect the seals inside the tool. That isn’t to say you should always use these lubricants in place of proper air-tool oil. There is a reason oil specifically for the tools exists, and you’ll want to use it as often as possible.

Q: How often should you oil air tools?

A: Air tools typically call to be oiled daily. If you don’t use them daily, you don’t need to worry about it. Just make sure to apply oil before and after each use. If you do, follow this guideline. But if you use the tools all day long, you’ll want to add oil more frequently. It’s wise to add a few drops every few hours. That said, adding an in-line oiler goes a long way for folks who use pneumatic tools all day, every day.

Q: Can you over-oil an air tool?

A: You can over-oil an air tool, and it’ll do more than just make a mess of things when the tool starts dripping or slinging oil around. It can hinder tool performance, ruin paint jobs, and possibly even damage the moving parts inside. That’s why you only want to apply a few drops of oil.  

Q: How do you clean air tools?

A: Cleaning air tools can be done in one of two ways. Dedicated solvents for cleaning air tools exist, and you spray them directly into the air fitting. Like air-tool oil, the solvent will follow all the air passages, allowing it to clean things along the way. The other method is to take the tool apart and clean everything by hand. That’s something you should also be doing every so often.

Video Tutorial on Oiling Pneumatic Tools

That’s really all there is to oiling your air tools. As simple as it is, we understand that some folks are visual learners. That’s why we’ve attached this short clip that shows you exactly how to apply oil to your pneumatics.

Best Places To Buy Tools and Parts to Oil Your Pneumatic Tools?

You don’t need much to get the job done. Even so, we don’t want to leave you on your own to try and figure out what’s worth your money and what isn’t. As for oiling and cleaning your air tools, we strongly recommend putting the Inline Hose Connected Air Tool Oiler Lubricator in Line Oil Oiling Attachment, Lucas Oil 10216 Air Tool Oil – 16oz., and B’laster 16-ATC Professional Air Tool Conditioner to use. We also suggest checking out the Steck Manufacturing 16600 Air Tool Oiler, Oatey 1/2 in. x 260 in. PTFE Thread Seal Tape Value-Pack, and WYNNsky High Flow V-Style Air Fittings when the time comes to update your pneumatic arsenal. You guessed it: You can snag all of these on Amazon and at Walmart.

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