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If someone tells you that synthetic oil is always better than conventional oil, don’t buy it. Don’t buy the opposite argument, either. The debate over conventional and synthetic oil can’t be settled with a black and white manner. There are too many variables. Read more to learn what is best to protect your vehicle.
It’s always best to consult the owner’s manual that came with your car. If you don’t have it, you can likely get one from the manufacturer. The manual will recommend the best type of oil for your engine. Obviously, it’s just a recommendation. There are things to consider if you want to dig a little deeper.
First up are the constituents of both oils. Conventional oil is a petroleum product. You take it out of the ground, process it, introduce additives, and put in a bottle. That’s about it. Conventional oil is pretty basic. On the other hand, synthetic oil is made from a number of non-petroleum chemicals. It’s considered synthetic because it’s developed in a lab.
You may have a preference for natural products over their synthetic counterparts. If that’s the case, conventional oil is probably more to your liking. If you don’t care either way, synthetic oil brings a lot to the table.
The whole point of motor oil is to lubricate your engine so that it does not seize up. Various components in the oil respond to heat over time. Some of them break down. This is where synthetic oil has an advantage. Its components perform better and last longer. As a result, you don’t have to change your oil so frequently.
Synthetic oil also tends to hold up better in extreme conditions, especially heat. If you live in an area prone to high temperatures – like Nevada or southern Florida, for example – synthetic oil is going to perform better over the long term.
Synthetic oils are thinner than conventional oils. As such, they are considerably more viscous at startup. Why does this matter? Because starting a cold engine is not good for it. The engine parts grind against one another for that brief amount of time it takes for engine oil to begin circulating.
In cold temperatures, synthetic oil will begin circulating faster. Conventional oil has to warm up a bit before it starts flowing freely. So once again, synthetic oil seems to be superior. Your engine is likely to endure less wear and tear under cold conditions with synthetic oil.
Thus far, it seems like synthetic oil wins hands down. Not so fast, Speed Racer. The big downside to synthetic oil is cost. For the purposes of this post, we researched just one brand that sells both conventional and synthetic products. Their synthetic oil was nearly 50% more expensive than a similar conventional product.
This matters if you’re the kind of person who insists on regular oil changes every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. If you’re going to change your oil that frequently anyway, the performance boost you get from a synthetic product might not be enough to justify the cost.
Synthetic oil is a good fit for people who prefer less frequent oil changes and worry free maintenance. But if you are a car guy or girl, one that loves to tinker under the hood, conventional oil might be a better fit for you.
No, this post did not settle the debate once and for all. That was by design. Whether or not you choose conventional or synthetic oil is entirely up to you. Take your manufacturer’s advice and go from there.