What is Synthetic Oil and Should You Use It?
If you’ve recently gone in for an oil change you’ve been asked the standard question conventional or synthetic? To most people the only difference is the price, but what is the real difference.
What is Synthetic Oil?
Synthetic oil is a manmade lubricant designed to improve efficiency by reducing friction and wear on an internal combustion engine. Full synthetic oil is a combination of chemicals made from breaking apart petroleum and rebuilding it. This creates a more efficient lubricant allowing it to outperform conventional oil.
Full synthetic also has a greater resistance to degradation from heat which gives it a longer lifecycle.
Synthetic oil allows you to stretch the time between changes, as it lasts anywhere from 12,000 to 24,000 kilometers. This longer lifecycle means you can save money and not worry about your engine’s performance degrading or being at risk. In addition, this results in vehicles lasting longer with less waste oil to deal with at the end of the day!
Should You Use Synthetic Oil?
In short yes, but there are other options. Synthetic oil is great if you can afford it, but for most the added price can feel like a stretch. Synthetic oil will help your engine age more gracefully, helping reduce wear. If you’re someone who puts a lot of kilometers on a car or want to have extra protection, synthetic is a great option. A great alternative to a full synthetic oil is a synthetic blend.
Synthetic blends are a mixture of synthetic oil and conventional oil. Blends takes advantage of the lower price of conventional oil and better performance of synthetic. By combining the two into a blend you can have a higher quality oil without the top dollar price tag. Having even just some synthetic oil in your vehicle can help protect it better than only conventional. So, when you can, synthetic is the way to go.
Do You Have a Choice?
Just like most things in the automotive industry, there isn’t a helpful hard-and-fast answer to that question. Before you change your oil, you should refer to your owner's manual to check what oil your vehicle can accept. Some vehicles such as hybrids, vehicles with high-performance engines or turbocharged engines may require synthetic oil. These motors require synthetic because of higher stresses within the engine demanding less viscous oil.
How to Read an Oil Can Label
On an oil container you will see two numbers, a low number and a high number. The lower number indicates how thin the oil is, the larger number is the thicker rating. The engine temperature will determine the thickness of the oil.
For oil that is marked 5W30, the 5W will tell you the oil viscosity when cold. This is important because the oil needs to be thin enough to flow properly before the engine has warmed up. The second number (30) indicates the oil viscosity when the engine has warmed up. Use only the oil weight that your engine’s manufacturer recommends.
How Often Should I Change My Oil?
Each vehicle and engine have different requirements for oil change intervals, but it's been a general rule of thumb to change your oil every three months or 5,000 kilometers. These days, however, oil change intervals seem to be growing, with most manufacturers making the switch to synthetic or fully synthetic oil. Since synthetic oil takes far longer to degrade and can withstand higher temperatures, you should be able to stretch out the time you take between oil changes.
With most synthetic oil manufacturers claiming to get 15,000 kilometers between each oil change, it’s easy to get confused about when you should be swapping out your oil. The best way to know when to get an oil change is to read your car’s owner’s manual, as it will list all the various service intervals needed to maintain your car properly.
Biggest Myth About Synthetic Oil
One of the biggest myths surrounding synthetic oil is that if you use it, you can’t go back to conventional oil. This is untrue however; you can switch between the two as often as you like. If your oil needs a top up, you should use the same type of oil for that. Mixing oil isn’t the end of the world but should be avoided if possible.
*Always check your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Improperly performed maintenance may affect your vehicle’s warranty, performance, and lifetime.