Regular oil changes are an important part of a car maintenance plan. On average, a traditional oil change using conventional oil costs about $40. A synthetic oil change, however, runs about $70. If you’re just comparing the price of the oil on its own, it’s a price difference of about $17.
When people are weighing in on the conventional motor oil vs. synthetic motor oil conversation, they’re bound to raise some common questions:
- Is synthetic oil really better for the vehicle?
- What are the differences between traditional and synthetic oil blends?
- Should I be pouring synthetic oil into my car?
- What are the cons of using synthetic oil?
- Can I mix conventional and synthetic motor oil?
Before diving into these pressing matters, it’s best to define synthetic oil in general terms. The oil is a lubricant made out of artificial ingredients. Instead of using crude oil, the blend comes from an array of scientifically modified compounds. The base, however, still largely consists of crude oil.
For many motor oil producers, the secret sauce is the additives. The recipes they concoct allow for many benefits for the car.
Is Synthetic Oil Better for my Car?
Is Synthetic oil worth it? Many experts say yes!
Mechanics rave about the benefits of using synthetic motor oil. They point to the temperature viscosity which performs well in extreme temperatures, both cold and hot. In general, they believe, the formula is more stable. This also helps prevent evaporation resulting in lost oil.
Synthetic oil helps prevent issues that were common in older vehicles: oxidation, sludge, and thermal breakdown come to mind. Even in the coldest conditions (think Chicago in February), the oil holds up.
This means the vehicle should be able to last a lot longer out on the open road. For the real pros, the devil is in the details:
- “Ash” is less likely, meaning there are fewer buildups in turbochargers/superchargers
- There is an increase in horsepower and torque thanks to reduced drag
- Fuel efficiency rises up to 5% with synthetic oil blends
- Some reports claim that synthetic oil yields a better performance by as much as 47% overall
What are the drawbacks of synthetic oil? Although fine for motor vehicles, some commercial and industrial uses have shown that synthetic oils aren’t great in every situation. Additionally, the higher price tag is a deterrent for budget shoppers.
Choosing Synthetic Oil over Conventional Motor Oil
Most mechanics and car producers agree that synthetic oil is the optimum choice for motorized vehicles.
Mineral oil (the old-fashioned motor oil) does get the job done in terms of lubrication. It’s been relied upon for decades. However, synthetic oil lasts longer and provides better lubrication and in more extreme conditions.
This is thanks to the improved base oil used in the formula. The improved blend adds stability and reduces oxidization.
In summary, if you’re worried about attributes like engine protection and performance, then the best route to go is synthetic oil. They will help you prevent sludge, deposits, and buildup in the engine. Synthetic oil also cuts back on wear and tear all while withstanding temperature changes.
In some ways, synthetic motor oil is a modern marvel.
Should I be Using Synthetic Oil for my Car?
When determining if the extra few bucks is worth it for synthetic motor oil, car owners should be looking into the additional benefits it provides.
The improvements in motor lubrication over the past century have been brought to us by science. Experts study the molecular nature of the lubricant to better understand its behavior. This has brought good news in the world of petrochemicals.
Today, impurities are taken out of crude oil so that the blend can rise to the challenge provided by engines. As customization increases, so do performance and protection.
Two Major Reasons to Use Synthetic Motor Oil
- Improved engine performance
- Improved engine protection
We have to remember the basics of how the car engine operates. Within the machinery, the parts move back and forth very quickly, causing heat via friction. The oil helps regulate the movement. Without it, the car would breakdown very quickly.
As the oil works, it’s trapping little deposits. With conventional oils, this can result in a sludge-like mixture forming. In synthetic oils, this is a lot less common. Some synthetic blends claim they will reduce sludge in the engine in one oil change!
Regular oil breaks down faster than its synthetic counterpart. The companies that produce synthetic motor oil assert that using the correct synthetic blend can help keep a car on the road for over 250,000 miles (although this would depend on many other factors).
Synthetic Motor Oils better for the Cold
When winter hits, we worry about our cars. That’s the time many people realize that having a fresh car battery and an engine full of synthetic motor oil are worth it.
Oil settles when the car isn’t being used. The process of the oil moving about takes a moment, and with conventional oil, this process is slower in the cold. Synthetic oil takes less time to get to work.
It is specifically designed to operate well in cold temperatures.
Luckily, the benefits still enter the picture on the opposite end of the spectrum. In other words, when the weather is hot, hot, hot, the synthetic motor oil keeps up, too. It’s less likely to evaporate, resulting in less “oil loss.” These formulas were created to withstand high temperatures.
Efficiency is Key for Synthetic Oil Lovers
Today’s vehicles are becoming more efficient in general. The name of the game is fuel efficiency, and that’s why motorists are saying that synthetic oil is worth it.
Turbochargers are helping smaller engines run better, but they run at a higher temperature. As a turbo engine can circulate at 200,000 RMP, at over 400° Fahrenheit, the right motor oil needs to be added to keep everything running smoothly.
All types of oil will breakdown faster in an engine with turbocharger parts, but synthetic oil rises above the rest in lasting for the long haul. Power, performance, and protection are not in jeopardy.
How Often to Change Car Oil with Synthetic Oil in Engine
If there’s one thing many drivers hate, it’s having to schedule regular oil changes. If you’re nodding in agreement, you will be pleased to learn to that the synthetic oil often requires fewer oil changes each year.
This depends heavily on the number of miles you put on your car and the type of driving you do (city vs. highway).
Today, many motor oil brands continue to claim that an oil change should be performed between 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Specialty brands and newer cars could go longer, up to 7,500 miles. Special cases allow for oil changes to be done at 20,000 miles or after one year (whichever occurs first).
The best source for oil change intervals and other maintenance plans is your car’s owner manual. You can also refer to a licensed and certified mechanic for advice.
Full Synthetic Blends Vs. Conventional Motor Oil
Officially, there is no one-size-fits-all definition for what is synthetic, what’s blend, and what’s conventional. All of these mixes begin with the same base although synthetic versions usually begin with a better-quality starter.
It is likewise important to note that synthetic blends are different, designed for a variety of motors.
Even if your car wasn’t designed with synthetic motor oil in mind, you can make the switch! There are formulas created for conventional oil engines, high mileage cars, and more. You don’t even have to flush the engine!
If you have a car with a high number of miles, above 75,000 miles, then you should get oil changes more often. The engine needs it.
Don’t forget to follow all the basic oil change service rules while you’re at it: draining the old oil, changing the oil filter, etc.
When in doubt, refer to the car’s owner manual. This guide will tell you how often the oil should be changed, what oil filter to use, and what oil is best for the engine.
Some synthetic oil manufacturers recommended not counting on an extended oil change interval the first time you should make the switch. If you go from conventional oil to synthetic oil, that first oil change afterwards needs to be done sooner than the rest. It’s cleaning up the deposits!
Should I Switch to Synthetic Motor Oil?
Back in the day, synthetic motor oil was reserved for high performance rides. Nowadays, however, this has changed. More and more people are finding out that synthetic oil is worth it.
The reasons are clear. People like the way synthetic motor oil keeps the engine cleaner, adding value in terms of protection and performance. To sweeten the deal, this particular type of oil optimizes fuel efficiency.
One note: synthetic oil and synthetic blend oils are different. The blends offer a more affordable alternative with some added benefits.
As of 2018, more than half of car owners have been opting for synthetic blends. If you’re still on the fence, ask about the pros and cons of using synthetic motor oil when you get your next oil change.
At the end of the day, if you live in a region that is subject to cold winters and hot summers, or drive a car known for oil sludge problems, then switching to synthetic blend oil comes highly recommended.
How Much Does an Oil Change Cost?
The average oil change runs between $40 and $70. Using synthetic motor oil may cost a little more upfront, but you will enjoy benefits that will last for miles and miles.
Everybody knows how necessary regular oil changes are, and yet some people can’t help but put them off. One of the reasons they do so is that they are worried about spending money on an oil change.
This is a bad idea because the forty bucks one is saving on not doing an oil change could turn into a $6,000 engine replacement repair.
Oil change prices depend on many variables:
- Oil viscosity
- Oil capacity
- Engine size
- Oil type
- Where you live
- How often you drive
If you’re not sure if your car needs an oil change, it most likely does.
The best way to know if your engine requires an oil change is to keep track of the miles and cross reference that information with the owner’s manual. Some cars will have an oil life counter that you can use to track miles (but it doesn’t usually tell of the quality of the oil).
Luckily, another easy trick allows you to do just that. Park the car on an even surface and check the engine oil using the car’s dipstick. Pop the hood. Take out the dipstick. Clean it. Stick it in again and then pull it out. Now you’re ready for the reading.
Check to see if the engine oil level is appropriate. Too low? Fill it up! Too high?! Call a mechanic.
You can also get a quick snapshot of how the oil is doing based on its color and if you see any deposits. Golden yellow is okay. Dark brown means it’s time for an oil change.
In fact, if you notice anything funny about the engine, such as a burning oil smell or engine knocking, you may need more from the mechanic than a simple oil change.
Getting the oil change, however, is the opportune time to request a full vehicle inspection. It’s one easy way to know what’s going on under the hood.