When you change the engine oil of your vehicle, you have many choices- most significantly is the choice between synthetic or conventional motor oil. Well here it is, the pros and cons of each:
Conventional oil is derived directly from crude oil after going through some refining processes for the removal of impurities. Synthetic oil, on the other hand, is manufactured molecule by molecule to achieve an optimized profile. This way synthetic oil can be tuned to the demands of any engine. In general, synthetic oil performs better than the conventional counterpart. It has improved lubricant and protective properties. Some of the common benefits synthetic offers over conventional are:
- Cleaner Engine- Conventional oil contains a certain level of natural contaminants. As conventional oil circulates through the engine, it breaks down and often leaves deposits on the engine components. These deposits are referred as ‘sludge’ or ‘scaling’ which can reduce the efficiency of an engine and eventually, lead to shorter engine life.
- Better Wear Protection- Engine components are in constant contact with each other. Motor oil serves as a protective barrier between these components to prevent engine wear. Conventional oil breaks down and loses its ability to prevent engine wear. Synthetic, being resistant to breakdown, is much more durable than the conventional lubricant. The robustness of synthetic oil means that the engine has better wear protection and will last longer. It also means that synthetic oil offers an extended service interval and doesn’t need to be changed as often as conventional oil.
- Better Stability- Synthetic oil is made up of uniform sized molecules as opposed to the different length molecules in conventional oil. Under extreme temperatures, non-uniform molecular structure tends to burn off causing the oil to lose its viscosity (thickness). Synthetic oil is better at handling higher temperatures. It also flows better through critical engine parts in low temperature environments and hence, protects the engine from dry start. A dry start occurs when the vehicle sits for a longer period of time, oil settles and it takes a while to flow smoothly through an engine. Starting the car under these conditions can cause damage to engine and other components.
- Improved Fuel Economy- Since synthetic oil flows better and produces less resistance, it can help the engine achieve greater fuel efficiency. It may not cause a huge increase in fuel economy, but can boost the efficiency by around 2-3 percent.
The superior properties of synthetic oil over conventional do come at a price. A synthetic oil can cost twice as much or even more than the conventional oil. But considering the advantages it offers, it may justify the expense of synthetic oil. These type of oils are however in no way absolutely necessary. Conventional oils will work just fine in your vehicle as long as they meet the API (American Petroleum Institute) certification. The most important thing you can do is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on motor oil grade and service intervals.