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Is Synthetic Oil Really Worth The Extra Cost?

I’m sure we have all thought at one time or another if it’s worth the extra cost to use synthetic oil instead of regular motor oil. There are many differences between the two and understanding them is the key to knowing which is the better choice.


How are regular motor oil and synthetic motor oil made?


Regular motor oil is actually just refined from crude oil. Synthetic motor oil on the other hand is a little harder to make. According to Motor Trend, “Unlike conventional petroleum oil, synthetic is not refined from crude. It’s developed chemically from one or more compounds, such as organic esters, synthetic hydrocarbons, polyglycols, or polyalphaolefin (PAO), depending on the brand. The increased complexity of the refining process accounts for the extra cost of synthetics.” So now we know the differences between how each of these motor oils are produced let’s look at the different characteristics of each.


How do the characteristics differ between regular motor oil and synthetic?


Everyone knows that if you use synthetic motor oil the interval between changes is longer than if you used regular motor oil. However, there are many more differences. I found a great article from motor trend that lists the differences:

            Synthetics offer several benefits over conventional petroleum oil. With superior thermal stability, the oil holds up better in extreme temperatures. It better resists thickening at very low temperatures, providing improved flow and lubrication and less internal resistance during winter startups. Plus, under high heat conditions, such as those created by high-load summer driving, extended towing, or turbocharger use, synthetic oil will hold up better, resisting breakdown or shearing, which can degrade the lubricity of conventional oils.

Synthetics also have lower volatility; they don’t easily evaporate or boil away, which reduces oil consumption. They’re also less susceptible to the harmful effects of oxidation, better resisting the buildup of sludge. Superior friction characteristics reduce internal friction, providing slightly improved fuel economy and allowing cooler engine operation.

            Synthetics also have a generally higher tolerance for abuse, such as infrequent oil changes or running with a low oil level. All things being equal, a synthetic will hold up better over an extended period of time in an engine than a petroleum oil. This is why some manufacturers of synthetics tout extended drain intervals as a major benefit of its product, which can help offset the higher per-quart price.

The extra engineering involved in making synthetic motor oil really makes all the difference as it is well more advanced than regular motor oil. However, synthetic motor oil can potentially cost up to $3 per quart more than regular motor oil. In the end it may be best to follow the guidelines from the vehicle manufacturer when selecting the type of motor oil to use in your vehicle.


What type of motor oil do you use?

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