Since 2019, most vehicles are opting for synthetic and semi-synthetic oil changes. That’s over half of all drivers. But conventional oil is still an option when getting your oil changed and almost a fourth of all vehicles that come in for service choose this type of engine oil.
But is it really the right oil for your car?
Whether you’re a new driver or a seasoned car owner, the great oil change debate still rages on and it might be difficult to really understand why one type of engine oil is better than the other.
There are indisputable facts that you need to know about conventional oil versus synthetic oil and this article will help you break it down. You’ll learn the differences between synthetic and conventional oils and what benefits each can have when it comes to changing the oil for your car.
What is Conventional Oil?
Let’s start with the age-old standard, often used in older cars: conventional oil.
Conventional oil is derived from refined crude. It’s greatest advantage is the cost — conventional oil is easier on the pocket, costing up to 10% less than synthetic oil. While some say that’s because this type of oil has “drawbacks” that could affect longevity, maintenance, and operation, that’s not the full picture.
The fact is that not all vehicle types are designed for other synthetic oils. Older cars, for example, are built with conventional oil service in mind because, really, that’s what we had!
Furthermore, the mileage of a car plays a role. Engines are complicated enough already, but any mechanic will tell you that the age of an engine affects the grinding of gears in a car. According to these industry specialists, a car at 75,000 miles becomes more susceptible to wear and tear on its inner gears and moving parts, which the flow rate of oils can deeply affect.
Since conventional oil flows slower than synthetic oils, it actually offers more protection to older engines. These vehicle types can start to consider conventional oil over synthetic options because it provides better lubrication for aging engines.
However, it’s true: conventional oils are far more susceptible to wear and chemical degradation in tough conditions like lower temperatures. These thicker fluids reduce proper circulation and can become clogged on small areas on machinery. That’s especially true when the oil doesn’t have an additive package designed specifically for it.
What is Synthetic Motor Oil?
The oil in your car is a natural resource. Synthetic oils, however, are not naturally occurring compounds.
These oils combine synthetic or artificial chemicals with crude oil to create a petroleum product that behaves similarly to conventional oil. Synthetics are the optimal engine fills for a new car or those that don’t. have a high mileage.
There are two types of synthetic oil: synthetic blend (also known as semi-synthetic) and full synthetic oil.
The combination of conventional and synthetic oils produces synthetic blend oil. It works similarly to conventional oils, but the addition of synthetics gives better protection to your vehicle’s engine.
On the other hand, fully synthetic motor oil uses synthetic oil as a base and adds chemicals to keep your car’s engine running at its best. Examples of additives include polyalphaolefin, castor waxes, and paraffinic oils.
These fluids can be mixed in various proportions depending on the manufacturer’s preference for performance or protection levels. However, most companies opt for an equal mix between these additives. These balance both factors, performance and protection, well enough so it usually doesn’t matter what blend you buy as long as it is fully synthetic.
When is Synthetic Oil Better than Conventional Motor Oil?
The additives in synthetic motor oil provide better engine protection against corrosion and rusting from water contamination, among other effects of engine wear. For this reason, synthetics are ideal for high-performance engines and those who tack on a lot of miles through the life of their vehicle.
Over time, the engine will accumulate sludge from conventional oils, which results in lower engine performance and reduced engine life. Instead of just regular oil changes, switching to full synthetics not only prevents your engine from generating deposits, but it also cleans existing sludge.
Now, if you haven’t used your vehicle for a long time, or you live in the cold, you’ll know that the oil settles. As a result, you have to wait a while before your conventional or synthetic blend oil reaches the vital engine parts after turning it on.
However, fully synthetic oil eliminates the need for waiting. Instead, the oil flows quickly and easily throughout your engine, as if your vehicle were warm and recently used.
Another reason a newer car can opt for synthetics is that they don’t break down or evaporate at extreme temperatures when the vehicle is exposed to the sun for hours or if the engine is overworked, i.e., towing.
Finally, synthetics also have longer oil change intervals than conventional oils. They offer engine protection on short trips as well as longer ones. So, instead of the usual 3,000-5,000 miles between oil change intervals, your maintenance schedule can extend to 15,000 miles before your next service.
However, the high mileage oil change varies depending on driving style and conditions and the full synthetic motor oil brand. Therefore, before spending on oil change, consult your vehicle owner’s manual for the next oil change.
When is Conventional Oil Better than Synthetic Oil?
As mentioned above, fully synthetic oil is mostly superior to conventional motor oil. However, which is the “right oil” for your vehicle type really depends on the specifics of your engine, the age of your car, and the mileage you’ve already put on.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often do you need to change synthetic oil?
It’s recommended that you change the synthetic motor oil in your car every 10,000 miles.
How many miles is a synthetic oil change good for?
A synthetic oil change will usually last between 5,000 and 10,000 miles.
How much should a synthetic oil change cost?
The cost for synthetic motor oil changes typically ranges from $30 to $50.
Is synthetic oil Better for your car?
It depends on what you use your car for. For example, full synthetic oil can be more suitable for drivers who frequently drive long distances and want their engines to run at peak performance with better fuel economy.
However, if you’re a city driver, you’re more likely to experience stop and go driving. In this case, full synthetic oil may not be worth the extra cost and a synthetic blend may suffice.
What happens if you don’t change your oil for 10,000 miles?
According to experts, if you don’t change your oil every 3,000 miles, the engine may suffer from carbon build-up. This phenomenon is also known as oil sludging.
These days, synthetic oil is the new standard and conventional oil, while not obsolete, is an option to consider based on the age of your car. Generally speaking, synthetic oils do prolong your engine life, and ensure that you don’t have to make frequent trips to your mechanic for oil changes.
So before making any real decisions about oil change services, take some time to review your owner’s manual. For example, for older engines with lots of gas mileage, the organic compound found in synthetic oils could break the seals and cause leakage to your engine.
Because of the factors involved in oil change, it’s best to consult your mechanic for professional advice on proceeding further.