It’s time for an oil change. Back in the days where there are a few options available, it’s easier to decide which type of oil works best for your car. But now you might be confronted with a dilemma: To synthetic or not to synthetic oil, that is the question. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you answer that question.
But first, let’s shed some light on what synthetic oil is. Synthetic oil, as the term suggests, is a man-made lubricant and composed of artificially-made chemical compounds. This type of oil is usually made from chemically modified materials like petroleum components, but the base material is more often than not distilled crude oil. Any extra additives and the actual synthesis process for making the oil differs among manufacturers and is considered a trade secret.
What is better synthetic oil or regular oil?
Synthetic oils are generally better than regular oils. Although regular oil provides sufficient lubrication, it doesn’t match the synthetic oil’s overall performance and engine protection.
The base oils used in synthetic oils have higher quality than regular oil. Conventional oils are created with less-refined base oils. Because of the higher quality base, synthetic oils are more chemically stable, less likely to acidify and oxidize, and more difficult to break down and lose their desired qualities.
According to Consumer Reports, fully synthetic oils give superior engine protection and performance over any regular or synthetic blend motor oil. CR also pointed out that synthetic oils resistance to breakdown, makes it last longer than regular oil. Its ability to withstand higher temperatures than regular ones helps keep engines running longer one. On top of that, synthetic oils can flow in cold temperatures so they can reduce engine wear during frigid startups.
Not all synthetic oils are created equal but in general full synthetic oils provide better protection than regular oils or synthetic blends.
Difference Between Synthetic and Conventional/Regular Oil
Visually, the two oils look the same. The two major differences between synthetic and regular oil are a little more subtle.
First, they differ in the way that they are created. For instance, regular 5W-30 motor oil is a petroleum-based oil which is thick at cold temperatures and thin at hot temperatures. To alter this variance, oil manufacturers put additives to change the properties of the oil, that is, reduce its viscosity at cold temperatures, and thicken it at hot temperatures.
When it’s newly made, regular 5W-30 motor oil acts the same as its synthetic counterpart, but over time, the additives that have been used to change its properties will eventually break down or vaporize, so the oil returns to its original consistency.
On the other hand, synthetic oils are made to match a specific type of multi-grade oil from the start. Even without the chemical additives, a synthetic 5W-30 motor oil won’t degrade or change viscosity. The only thing that may cause it to become thicker is when contaminants get to it.
Second, the synthetic oil and conventional oil differ in how long they last. Generally, synthetic oils provide longer intervals between oil changes, but it will also depend on the brand you will use. There are brands that recommend oil change every 3,000 or 5,000 miles.Others recommend having an oil change every 7,500 miles or even every 20,000 miles.
You should also consider the driving conditions and your driving style in determining when to get an oil change. For instance if you are driving less than 10 miles a day and don’t drive on highways, you may have to change oil more frequently because the engine is not heating up to a temperature high enough to get rid of condensation that builds up in the system. Thus, your oil can break down faster and need replacement more often. In this case, you may have to change oil sooner than the rated mileage recommendations.
Regardless, you should refer to the recommendations for oil change intervals indicated in your owner’s manual especially when your car is still under warranty. You must also take your car for more frequent oil changes when first changing to synthetic oil since the engine most likely has a buildup of sludge and deposits.
Advantages of Synthetic Oil Over Regular Oil
Synthetic oils are made using complex processes, and because of this, they are able to achieve the exact molecular qualities needed for specific applications.
The processes used to create synthetic oils allows manufacturers to get rid of impurities otherwise found in crude oil. They are able to adjust the oil molecules to meet the specific demands of modern engines. This level of customization makes it possible for synthetic oils to provide higher levels of protection and engine performance than regular oils. Specifically, synthetic oils come with the following advantages:
- Better engine protection. The engine parts of the car move at high speeds and are often in contact with one another. In extreme conditions, those engine parts can wear down. Your oil is the only thing that can provide a protective element between those moving components. Fully synthetic oils won’t break down and will provide longer protection to your engine (unlike synthetic blends or regular oils that break down over time). It can even provide protection of up to 250,000 miles.
- Cleaner engine. Deposits buildup as your motor oil circulates through a car’s engine. Regular oils form sludge from these deposits over time which reduce the engine’s efficiency and lifespan. By contrast, full synthetics resist sludge and deposit buildup and contain less impurities.
- Better viscosity. Regardless of the temperature, high or low, synthetic oils have better viscosity and stability compared to synthetic blends or conventional oils. As mentioned earlier in this article, they are designed to flow quickly in cold temperatures and resist extreme heat. This makes it possible for your engine to run smoothly all year round.
- Turbocharger protection. As more cars come equipped with smaller engines and turbochargers, synthetic oils flow faster to crucial parts, providing the proper lubrication your engine needs. On the other hand, conventional oils break down more quickly under turbocharged conditions. The use of full synthetic oil will make sure your turbocharged car is operating at its peak performance.
What are the disadvantages of synthetic oil?
Like any other products, Synthetic Oil has its own drawbacks. Take a look and decide if you are okay with these risks.
- Synthetic oil does not absorb lead byproducts of combustion. Older car engines that still need leaded gasoline to run in their engines normally encountered this problem.
- There are several ways to dispose of synthetic oil. It is best practice to inform the service center changing your oil that the vehicle contains synthetic motor oil.
- Numerous synthetic oil blends reduce friction better compared to the conventional motor oil. This was a common problem during a new engine break in period. The rough spots in the engine should be smoothened by the friction during this period. A break in period is not as crucial as it was before, thanks to the improved manufacturing processes that are now available.
- Many synthetic oil blends are not recommended for rotary type engines.
- Synthetic oil causes problems with race car type engines using roller lifters. Due to the less friction of synthetic oil, these rollers usually slide instead of the rollers turning as intended.
- The synthetic motor oil’s price can cost a little more than petroleum based motor oil.
Will switching to synthetic oil cause leaks?
When compared side by side with conventional oil, synthetic oil can have a little bit higher price tag. You might be wondering, “is it worth it to spend a little extra if synthetic oil makes a difference in engine performance?” The answer is, yes. Changing to synthetic oil might be a great idea. Keep on reading to learn whether switching to synthetic oil causes leaks.
Is switching to synthetic oil really a good idea?
Switching to synthetic oil can be a smart move if your engine is equipped to hold it. Synthetic oil operates at a wide temperature range, and is ideal for engines with variable valve timing, turbochargers, direct injection, or supercharges that operate hotter.
Sadly, there’s a lot of motor oil myths pertaining to switching from regular to synthetic oil that not only confuse drivers, but scare them too. To clarify things about synthetic oil, let us take a look at some of the common myths and the top benefits of switching to synthetic.
Synthetic Motor Oil Myths
Myth 1: Switching to synthetic oil causes leaks
The act of switching to synthetic oil in general does not cause leaks. People might have thought of this since synthetic oil is thinner than conventional ones so they flow more easily and if there’s a spot where oil could leak out, synthetic is more likely to leak than the much thicker conventional oil.
Myth 2: You can’t switch back to regular oil once you switch to synthetic
You are not bound to using synthetic oil once you start to use it. You can switch back to conventional one if you want, but you are better off sticking to synthetic oil to have better and long lasting protection to your engine.
Myth 3: You have to use conventional oil first for your new car.
There is no such thing as having to break in a newer car by using conventional oil for some period before switching to synthetic oil. The truth is many new cars are now shipped out of the factory with synthetic oil.
Top Benefits of Switching to Synthetic Oil
- Synthetic oil can hold out against hotter temperature, which reduces burn-off in the summer.
- Synthetic oils have little impurities compared to conventional oils, hence, increasing the general performance and longevity of your engine. The lesser the sludge or slime, means the smoother operation from the start.
- Synthetic oils do better in colder temperatures than conventional oil, so you won’t have any problem with startups even in freezing weather. So it’s best to switch to synthetic oil in winter.
- Synthetic oils can prevent sludge formation, help clean your engine and improve fuel efficiency.
What is the best oil for older engines?
There are plenty of motor oil options for older engines. We’ll make the task easier for you by listing down the best oils for your older engine.
Pennzoil High Mileage Conventional Motor Oil
If you are on a budget, a great option for your old engine is Pennzoil High Mileage. The price is affordable because it’s a conventional motor oil. But it has added properties for better protection and to reduce wear. It is formulated to help stop leaks in older engines. Pennzoil High Mileage is the best you can find on its price range. It does its job in helping prevent engine failure and breakdown.
Mobil1 High Mileage Engine Oil
This synthetic high mileage oil claims to give you protection of up to 500,000 miles when changed regularly. Mobil1 High Mileage Engine Oil has higher viscosity, helping prevent oil leaks and provides high-temperature protection. It also has antioxidants and seal conditioners. This motor oil lives up to the reputation of Mobil1. It definitely delivers premium protection to your old engine.
Castrol GTX Part-Synthetic High Mileage
This synthetic blend is available in common grades and gives your old, tired engine enhanced protection. Its detergents help get rid of sludge while seal swellers lessen the amount of oil that gets into the combustion chamber. It’s been touted as the best oil for high mileage vehicles to help prevent emissions systems and catalytic converter failure. Since it’s not a full synthetic, it comes at a mid-level price point.
Valvoline MaxLife High Mileage Synthetic Blend
This synthetic blend is formulated for engines with more than 75,000 miles. It has seal conditioners to help stop and prevent leaks, antioxidants to help prevent oil breakdown and friction modifier to prevent future engine wear.
Synthetic oils may be more expensive than conventional oils and synthetic blends but they provide a lot of benefits that are more than enough to justify their higher price tag. They offer protection for a longer period of time. They also do better in extreme temperatures.