Hydraulic Oil vs Lubricating Oil: The Differences Explained

Looking to learn more about lubricating oil and hydraulic oil? Look no further than this comprehensive guide!

From the similarities and differences between the two types of oil to the selection process for each, this article covers everything you need to know.

Whether you’re an engineer, mechanic, or simply curious about the inner workings of machinery, this article is a must-read.

lubricating oil

With clear explanations and helpful tips for proper maintenance, you’ll be able to choose the right oil for your needs and keep your equipment running smoothly for years to come.

So why wait? Dive into the world of lubricating oil and hydraulic oil today and discover the key to optimal machine performance!

What Is Lubricating Oil and What Is Hydraulic Oil?

Lubricating oil

Lubricating oil is a type of lubricant used to reduce friction between two moving objects that are in contact. It also serves several other purposes, including cooling, rust prevention, cleaning, sealing, and buffering.

Lubricating oil can be further divided into diesel engine oil and gasoline engine oil, each with various grades to choose from.

Hydraulic oil

Hydraulic oil

Hydraulic oil is a special type of lubricant used in hydraulic systems that operate through liquid pressure energy. Its role is multi-faceted, serving as a medium for energy transmission, anti-wear protection, lubrication, anti-corrosion and anti-rust, cooling and sealing.

This oil is specifically designed to transmit pressure and is divided into three types: common hydraulic oil, anti-wear hydraulic oil, and low-condensation point hydraulic oil.

Engineering machinery hydraulic oil is a specialized version of hydraulic oil, formulated specifically to meet the demanding requirements of construction machinery and die casting machines. This type of hydraulic oil offers improved wear resistance, rust resistance, emulsification resistance, oxidation stability, hydrolysis stability, and thermal stability compared to other hydraulic oils.

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Similarities and Differences Between Lubricating Oil and Hydraulic Oil


From the explanation above, it is evident that both lubricating oil and hydraulic oil possess similar functions such as anti-wear, cooling, rust prevention, cleaning, and sealing. This is why we often hear about the use of hydraulic oil as a lubricant.


  1. The main role is different.

In the primary role, lubricating oil and hydraulic oil for engineering machinery differ. The primary function of lubricating oil is to reduce the damage caused by friction between objects, while the primary function of hydraulic oil in engineering machinery is to transmit pressure (power).

  1. The focus is different.

Due to their contrasting main functions, lubricants primarily focus on reducing friction, reducing wear, and avoiding metal bonding. On the other hand, hydraulic oil places more emphasis on the viscosity index, requiring it to perform efficiently at high temperatures and to ensure smooth flow at low temperatures while reducing energy usage.

Hydraulic Oil and Lubricating Oil Selection

Lubricating oil selection

It is crucial to choose the right type and grade of oil based on the operating conditions of the engine. Many of you are aware that the selection of lubricants should be based on the seasonal temperature of the region to determine the appropriate lubricant label and viscosity grade.

Hydraulic oil selection

The proper selection of hydraulic oil is the first step in using it correctly.

Generally, the following principles should be followed when selecting hydraulic oil:

  • Excellent performance
  • Economically reasonable
  • Reliable quality
  • Easy to manage

When selecting hydraulic oil, it is important to choose one with a low volume expansion coefficient and a high specific heat capacity. Additionally, the hydraulic oil should have a low pour point and low freezing point. The high ignition point and flash point should also be taken into account.

When determining the appropriate viscosity grade for hydraulic oil, the primary factors to consider are the operating pressure, ambient temperature, and speed of the hydraulic system. This is distinct from the considerations for lubricating oil.

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After choosing an appropriate hydraulic oil, it is crucial to properly maintain it during use. Consider the following points:

① Prevent contamination of the hydraulic oil

Contaminants can pose a significant hazard, including corrosion of equipment, clogging of filters and orifices, acceleration of oil aging, and corrosion of components.

② Avoid the introduction of air

Mixing air into the hydraulic oil can cause cavitation, noise, and accelerated deterioration of the oil, negatively impacting its performance.

③ Prevent moisture from entering the system

Mixing cooling water and steam with hydraulic oil can corrode metal components, accelerate oil degradation, and reduce the oil’s lubricity.

④ Control the operating temperature of the hydraulic oil

Mineral oil-based hydraulic oil can operate continuously at a temperature range of 50-65℃, with a maximum service temperature of 120-140℃. When the oil temperature increases, the oxidative deterioration of the oil is accelerated and the resulting acid can cause corrosion of metal components.

What Is the Hazard of Using Hydraulic Oil as a Lubricant?

The viscosity of hydraulic oil is typically lower while that of lubricating oil is generally higher.

As a result, when using hydraulic oil as a lubricant, it becomes more difficult for it to form an oil film, leading to increased wear on the machine and potentially even more serious consequences.

The primary role of hydraulic oil and lubricant differs, and their additives are also different. When the two oils are mixed, performance changes and chemical reactions may occur, causing the oil to deteriorate and leading to increased machine wear.

The operating temperature of a hydraulic system is not high, but the unit pressure of hydraulic oil transmission is significant. In contrast, the operating temperature of an engine crankcase is high and high-temperature, high-pressure gas from combustion can quickly cause hydraulic oil to fail, resulting in increased machine wear and greater losses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different properties of hydraulic and lubricating oil?

Hydraulic oil and lubricating oil have different properties to serve specific purposes. Hydraulic oil is designed to transmit power in hydraulic systems, while lubricating oil aims to reduce friction and wear between moving parts in machinery. Hydraulic oils have excellent sealing properties, high shear stability, and resistance to contamination, ensuring efficient power transfer. Lubricating oils possess exceptional anti-wear and anti-corrosion properties, superior film strength, and good temperature stability, allowing for smooth operation and extended machine life.

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How do viscosity levels differ between hydraulic and lubricating oil?

Viscosity, as a measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow, is a critical parameter for both hydraulic and lubricating oils. Hydraulic oils generally have lower viscosity levels compared to lubricating oils as they need to flow more freely between close-fitting parts under high pressures. Lubricating oils, on the other hand, require higher viscosity levels to provide sufficient film thickness, preventing direct contact between moving components, ensuring their long-term protection.

Are there specific applications where one is preferred over the other?

Yes, hydraulic and lubricating oils are tailored for specific applications. Hydraulic oil is used in hydraulic systems like construction equipment, industrial machinery, and automotive systems where power transmission is essential. Lubricating oil is suited for internal combustion engines, gearboxes, bearings, and other machine components that require friction reduction and corrosion protection.

What are safety concerns when switching between hydraulic and lubricating oil?

When switching between hydraulic and lubricating oils, potential safety concerns may arise, such as system incompatibility, diminished performance, or even damage to the machinery. Improper oil selection can lead to increased wear, causing premature failure or promoting corrosion. It is crucial to consult equipment manufacturers’ recommendations and adhere to industry-specific guidelines when selecting and switching oils to minimize risks.

How to identify the suitability of oils for specific machinery?

To identify the suitability of oils for specific machinery, always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations and industry standards. It’s essential to consider factors such as operating conditions, temperature ranges, load-bearing capacity, and contamination levels. Performing regular oil analysis can help monitor the oil’s condition and provide valuable insights into the overall performance, ensuring the selected oil remains appropriate for the given application.

Can hydraulic and lubricating oils be mixed or used interchangeably?

It is generally not recommended to mix or use hydraulic and lubricating oils interchangeably. Each oil is formulated to meet the unique requirements of their respective applications. Mixing or substituting oils can potentially compromise the properties and performance of the original oil, leading to reduced efficiency, increased wear, and possible equipment damage. It is crucial to follow manufacturers’ guidelines and industry-specific recommendations when selecting and using oils.

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1 thought on “Hydraulic Oil vs Lubricating Oil: The Differences Explained”

  1. Your answer to “What is the hazard of using hydraulic oil as a lubricant?” focuses on differences in viscosity.

    But could an ISO 68 hydraulic oil be used in a gear box as well as an ISO 68 circulating oil?

    Thanks for an informative article.

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