When you own a car, regular maintenance is a part of ownership. You fill the tank up with gas because without it, your car wouldn’t go. You change out the motor oil every 3,000 miles or so because if you don’t, you’ll eventually be stranded by the side of the road.
But have you ever thought about what motor oil is? Or how it works? Or if you’re using the right type of motor oil for your vehicle?
What is regular motor oil?
If you drive a car with an internal combustion engine, it requires motor oil to operate. It’s one of the most critical components to keep the engine running well.
Inside the engine are a variety of parts that work together, create friction, and convert that to energy using a tremendous amount of heat. If the parts don’t stay lubricated and operating well, fuel consumption is diminished, the vehicle won’t operate as designed, parts will wear down and break, with engine failure not far behind.
While there is a debate about oil changing frequency, there isn’t a fight over the necessity to change it regularly. It’s better to err on the side of frequency and keep all parts lubricated and working well.
In the past, regular motor oil was the only choice. It worked well, and drivers never gave it much thought. Manufacturer’s often had several motor oil viscosities for drivers to choose from based on the type of driving they did. Viscosity determines the fluid’s resistance to flow; in a hot climate, a higher density would better serve the engine. Checking with your vehicle’s operational guidelines will explain the type of oil best suited for your car’s engine and why it’s recommended.
In general, traditional motor oil is still used in many vehicles because it’s cost effective, it’s easy to find, and it works well, especially in older cars in excess of 75,000 miles on the odometer.
What is synthetic motor oil?
Synthetic motor oil is a human-made lubricant created by artificial chemical compounds as a substitute for petroleum-based oils.
Synthetic oil was first developed back in 1929 as a response to needs during World War II. In the 1970s, better artificial oils were produced to give engines better fuel economy during a time when petroleum-based products were skyrocketing in price.
The process of producing synthetic motor oils has been perfected to where today, some engines perform better with these new lubricants than with more traditional oils. Although synthetic oils were once created to benefit high-performance vehicles, today’s technological advances have made automotive manufacturers rely on them for better fuel efficiency.
Visually, regular and synthetic motor oils may look the same, but fundamentally they perform differently. Petroleum-based products are thicker at lower temperatures and thinner as things heat up. To change the viscosity, manufacturers add different additives to make traditional motor oil perform better under different circumstances.
Synthetic motor oils are designed to behave in certain ways right from the start. That means they don’t degrade or change viscosity over time, other than degrade as it circulates through the engine and picks up contaminants over time.
Synthetic oil will provide better engine protection, will last longer, and comes in advanced formulas that might be specifically made for your vehicle’s engine. This is where it’s important to understand what your vehicle’s manufacturer suggests, and stick with the recommended schedule.
Is synthetic motor oil better for your engine than regular motor oil?
In a word, yes. Although a traditional petroleum-based lubricant will do the job well, it can’t compete with the lab-created motor oil created specifically for engine performance.
Synthetic based motor oils use higher quality oils than traditional products. That makes them more chemically stable, less likely to oxidize and acidify, and slower to break down and lose their protective qualities.
That gives your engine better protection while allowing better performance at the same time. You’ll find synthetic motor oils can combat sludge and deposit buildup, reduce wear and tear on your engine, as well as control breakdown no matter what your driving conditions are like.
Chemistry makes the difference, especially in today’s technology-driven performance vehicles.
Does synthetic motor oil have more advantages over regular motor oil?
Synthetic motor oils were created with a specific purpose in mind: to protect the engine and make it perform as well as possible. That’s something crude oil can never do, because manufacturers simply adapt to the qualities of the oil already in place. Synthetic motor oils:
Protect the engine better – as the engine operates, parts are in constant motion and connection with each other. If they do so with a protective barrier between them, the engine will perform better and stay operational longer.
Keep the engine cleaner – when oil circulates through the system, it can pick up particles and contaminants that break down the functionality of the oil. These can damage your engine over time. Synthetic oils are created with this process specifically in mind, meaning they’ll stay cleaner longer in everyday driving situations.
Flow better in low temperatures – when your car is at rest, motor oil stops along with it. It takes time when the engine starts to circulate the oil back into the system, and start protecting various parts. In cold temperatures, that process can slow down, putting the system at risk.
Protect better in high temperatures – an engine in operation runs hot. When you add in heat from the environment, it gives more risk to the parts underneath the hood. This increases as you navigate the Rocky Mountains, especially if you pull a boat or trailer. Synthetic oils are made for that type of driving.
My owner’s manual states regular motor oil is fine. Should I upgrade?
Switching from regular motor oil to synthetic is perfectly acceptable and can help your engine in many ways. You’ll find synthetic motor oils built for different situations – just ask one of our mechanics which would be best for your vehicle.
However, if your older car has high mileage, it may still be beneficial for you to use traditional oils. If an engine has never used synthetic oils, has been poorly maintained, with infrequent oil changes, we would recommend sticking with conventional oil.
The key is always to provide the proper maintenance based on what your vehicle needs most.
Need help deciding which motor oil is best for your vehicle? We can help with that.