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When most people think about their car engine, they imagine a sleekly designed lump of metal. They know the engine has distinct sections but don't consider the complexity of making roughly 200 parts work together.

All these moving parts are quickly becoming more efficient and require a different kind of oil to keep everything running smoothly. Synthetic oil is one solution, promoting several benefits over regular engine oil, and is required by many automakers.

However, this doesn't mean that every owner should immediately switch to this pricier alternative. Consider synthetic oil's unique benefits before deciding whether it's necessary for your vehicle.

What Is Synthetic Oil?

Synthetic oil performs the same job as conventional engine oil. The hundreds of moving parts in your engine rub against each other when active and create large amounts of harmful friction. Engine oil lubricates these parts, preventing damage and increasing their lifetime.

Synthetic oil is artificially produced rather than distilled. Each formula is proprietary, but synthetic oils are typically built off a base oil and customized through engineered additives. This method lets the makers know exactly what's in the oil and how it will handle certain conditions.

Benefits Of Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil costs 50 to 100 percent more than conventional oil, so it better have the perks to back up its price tag. Fortunately, synthetic oil more than makes up for the difference due to its longer lifetime, performance, and protective features.

Improved Fuel Economy

The most cited reason for requiring synthetic oil is to improve a vehicle's MPG. With gas prices rising considerably over the past few years, who wouldn't like to squeeze a few extra miles out of their tank?

In the long run, fully synthetic oil reduces friction more than conventional oil, which may lead to better efficiency. It also flows faster, allowing the oil to seep into superchargers and turbochargers more quickly and achieve more complete lubrication.

Less Buildup and Deposits

Manufacturers remove as much residue as possible in the distillation process, but unwanted mineral deposits are inevitably left behind. These deposits break down and thicken the product, forming an engine sludge, which can eventually damage it.

Engine Sludge

Additionally, conventional oil includes additives meant to improve performance in different conditions. These additives break down at varying speeds compared to the base oil, further affecting the oil's performance over time.

Synthetic oils lack those impurities and use high-quality additives that age at the same rate as the oil. This chemical engineering allows the oil to remain clean without transforming into a sludge over time.

Enhanced Harsh Climate Performance

Engine oils tend to thicken in freezing weather and thin out in extreme heat. Both of these conditions can lead to engine failure since your engine depends on a specific viscosity to ensure proper lubrication to all parts.

Maintaining the right balance is the main reason manufacturers introduce proprietary additives into their oils despite the other challenges that they bring. Fully synthetic products eliminate the risk of poor performance in harsh climate conditions.

How Often to Change Synthetic Oil

Another great perk of switching to synthetic oil is that it reduces the frequency of oil changes. Rather than dragging your car to the shop every 5,000 miles, synthetic oil recommended changing schedule is between 7,500 and 15,000 miles, according to the Kelly Blue Book.

However, professional synthetic oil changes will cost more than you're used to. The extra cost of the oil has to come out of somebody's pocket. Rather than the $50 change, those looking for a synthetic upgrade are looking at around $65 to $125, depending on the location. Remember that these estimates are general recommendations based on "normal driving conditions" on paved roads or highways. If you take the vehicle off-roading, you may experience more frequent oil changes.
Your vehicle owner's manual will include an oil replacement schedule that you should follow for optimal performance and safety.

Can I Change Synthetic Oil Myself?

The additional cost may push more people into a saving mindset and into considering a DIY synthetic oil change. Despite being a novel product, replacing your old engine oil with a synthetic option isn't any different.

Our biggest recommendation when switching to synthetic oil is to flush your engine. You may have skipped this step before, but flushing the engine is vital to seeing the full effects of switching to synthetic oil. An oil flush removes any leftover sludge or debris that has accumulated through years of conventional oil use.

Can I Use Synthetic Oil in an Old or Classic Car?

In the old days, synthetic oils were made with chemicals called esters that could weaken engine seals and create leaks. However, esters were phased out a long time ago, and many classic car enthusiasts recommend opting for synthetic products.

Despite the advancements, many people still hesitate to use synthetics in their vintage cars. People needing further proof can search for a manufacturer's stamp on the back of their oil bottle. These markings prove that the manufacturer tested that oil on their engines.

In most cases, synthetic oil will be the better option for your old car. An aging engine may need these oils' extra lubrication and lasting power. Your car engine may also lack modern temperature controls, making synthetic products' heat resistance even more desirable.

Synthetic vs Conventional Oil

Synthetic vs Conventional Oil

Most people who've taken their car in for routine maintenance have had the option for synthetic oil thrust in their face. The problem is the ensuing price tag and the suspicion that the mechanic is trying to 'upsell' you on an unnecessary upgrade.

Let's be clear. Synthetic oil is only a necessity when it's required by your automotive manufacturer. Otherwise, conventional oil will not harm your vehicle and does a fine job of protecting and enabling your engine. The switch does have value, but it isn't for everyone.

For example, if you only use a car once in a blue moon, switching to synthetic oil may not be worth the extra cost. You won't benefit from the additional mileage before hitting the recommended number of months before an oil change. The oil can deteriorate over time even if you don't drive the car.

Now, we highly recommend synthetic oil for everyday or high-performance vehicles. We also recommend it if you've made any modifications to the engine, such as adding a supercharger or a turbocharger. Modifications will cause your maintenance tasks to differ from what's outlined in the user manual.

The price tag shouldn't scare you away since you'll be changing the oil significantly less frequently. Synthetic oil helps keep your engine safe through superior lubrication while improving fuel economy compared to conventional oil.

Can You Mix Synthetic Oil with Regular Oil?

You might assume that mixing a little synthetic oil with regular oil will increase the latter's performance. The train of thought is similar to how a drop of dish soap can foam up a glass of water or a sponge.

The difference between these examples and mixing oil is that regular and synthetic oils are incompatible compounds. While you may achieve a slightly better performance, you also end up adding the disadvantages of regular oil to your expensive synthetic version.

Their chemical compositions are different, and combining them will throw off the synthetic oil's carefully engineered formula. So, we advise against mixing the two in most situations.

There are some situations where it's probably fine to mix oil types. If you're in an emergency situation, you can use regular oil to top yourself off if that's all you have on hand. This scenario also assumes the oils have the same viscosity.

Most manufacturers advise against mixing oils yourself in their manuals. This is to cover against potential liabilities and damage resulting from poor mixes.

Blended Synthetic Oils

There are engine oils that add some amount of fully synthetic oil with crude oil. However, these semi-synthetic oils are carefully and purposefully combined in an optimal ratio. DIY mixers won't know exactly how much to mix or even what types of oils were used.

You must also thoroughly confirm a blended engine oil’s compatibility with your vehicle before using it. Check the labels on the jug for your manufacturer’s stamp or ask an expert.

Conclusion

Synthetic products come with a heftier price tag that may turn some people away, but they are an overall better investment for your vehicle. That said, both conventional and synthetic oils are perfectly acceptable for most engines.

The most attractive benefits of synthetic oils are improved fuel economy, reduced deposit buildup, and improved resistance to heat or cold, both normal issues that could lead to a stalled engine. Although unnoticeable from the driver's seat, these improvements will improve your ride quality and reduce the risk to engine parts.

At the end of the day, the most important rules to follow are the ones outlined by the vehicle's manufacturer. They'll tell you the acceptable oil types, change intervals, and necessary viscosity. Oil and vehicle manufacturers often work hand in hand to test their products.

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