Conventional Motor Oil Vs. Synthetic: The Jury Is In
February 25th, 2016
For decades, conventional motor oil was the only way to go for engines. Over the years, conventional motor oils were continually improved, enhanced with detergents, dispersants, friction modifiers and other additives. These additives would improve the oil’s performance and lubricating properties, lengthening the intervals between oil changes and helping to prevent sludge buildup on internal engine parts. In the 70s, multi-grade motor oils were introduced; these oils could perform well at a wide range of operating temperatures. Conventional oil tends to thicken and become more viscous in cold weather and thin out at high temperatures; prior to the days of multi-grade oils, drivers had to use a thinner oil in winter months and a thicker oil in the summer.
The refining process for conventional motor oil is fairly complex, yet it still leaves paraffin and other impurities in the final product, which compromises its lubricating properties. In the 1930s and early 40s, German chemists began to experiment with synthetic oil as a replacement for mineral-based oil. They soon found that synthetic oil could stay fluid in sub-zero temperatures at the Eastern front, unlike conventional oil.
In the following decades, formulations of synthetic oil were developed further, and by the 70s full-synthetics were available for automotive use. Earlier synthetics tended to degrade gaskets and seals, leading to leaks and giving synthetics a bad reputation, but that problem is now a thing of the past. Today, all manufacturers recommend synthetic motor oil for new vehicles; tests and real-world experience have shown that synthetics outperform conventional mineral-based oil in every respect.
· Synthetic oil doesn’t thicken and become more viscous at cold temps, making startup easier and helping move oil to the engine’s upper end more quickly, reducing wear
· Synthetics don’t thin out at high temperatures, for better protection in summer
· Synthetics enhance engine efficiency and fuel efficiency, reducing emissions
· The molecular uniformity and purity of synthetic oil gives it better shear strength. The tolerances between moving parts in an engine are literally microscopic, a thickness of a micron or two. Shear strength refers to the oil’s ability to hold up and not disintegrate at the molecular level in these tight tolerances, and the smaller, more uniform molecules of synthetics are superior in shear strength.
· Short trips mean that the engine never has time enough to warm up to operating temperature and burn off the water vapor, acids and other byproducts of the combustion process. Synthetic oil does a better job of suspending these contaminants so they can be trapped in the oil filter.
Synthetic Oil Changes
So, what does all this mean for you, the driver, when it comes to oil changes? For years, quick-lube shops pushed the “3,000 mile” rule for oil changes with conventional oil. Over time, the improvements in motor oil formulations pushed that oil change interval to 5,000 and even 7,000 miles. The superior lubricating properties of synthetics, however, mean that motor oil can now be changed at a 10-12,000 mile interval (always check your owner’s manual for manufacturer’s recommendations). While synthetic motor oil is considerably more expensive per quart, it pays off with extended oil change intervals and better engine protection all-around. Are you thinking about switching over to synthetic oil for your vehicle? Give us a call and make an appointment with Black’s Tire & Auto Service in Myrtle Beach, SC!
|Conventional Motor Oil Vs. Synthetic: The Jury Is In was written by Ryan Benton of Black's Tire and Auto Service|