What Is Aviation Oil Made Of?


For Florida aviation maintenance firms, terminal facilities and other aviation-related businesses, understanding the fluids that keep aircraft operating correctly and maximize use life are crucial. One of the most important considerations here is to understand the makeup of aviation oil. What’s it actually made from? The right aviation engine oil supplier can help guide you to the ideal product for your fleet, or your customers’ maintenance needs, but you do need to know the basics.

There are three primary types of aviation oil on the market. These are 1) mineral oil, 2) ashless dispersant oil or AD oil, and 3) synthetic aviation oil. How do they stack up to one another? Which is better?

First, both mineral oil and AD oil are the same things. Both are made from crude petroleum and are a type of mineral oil. The main difference is that ashless dispersant (AD) aviation oil has additional chemicals added to the matrix for stabilization and to help collect debris from within the engine (metal shavings, carbon and the like) and transport the more quickly to the oil filter, where they are trapped and then removed when the filter is changed. Together, mineral oil and AD oil (itself a type of mineral oil) account for the vast majority of aviation oil use in the US market.

Second, synthetic oil is not refined from crude oil, nor is it based on petroleum in any way. However, there is evidence that full synthetic oil is not the ideal option for use in aircraft, as compression loss and fuel economy reduction occur after a few hundred hours of use.

Which is the right oil for the engines of your clients’ aircraft? There’s no hard and fast answer. Each manufacturer has different recommendations for aviation oil for both the initial break-in period, as well as for prolonged use. Regarding weight, most air-cooled aircraft require SAE 50 oil. This can be mineral oil or AD oil, or even synthetic or a synthetic blend depending on manufacturer recommendations. Moreover, different multi-grade oils allow aircraft engines to turn over more easily at ambient temperatures but enjoy robust protection at peak operating temperatures.

Ultimately, most aviation engine oils are made from mineral oil and are petroleum based. Work with a trusted aviation engine oil supplier to ensure that you’re receiving the right oils and multi-grades to provide the engines you maintain with the proper care.

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