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Synthetic Vs Regular Oil
Which is better Synthetic, Semi Synthetic, or regular dino oil?
Contributed By: Enginebasics.com
Synthetic oil seems to have really taken off and changed the way we look at motor oil. No longer do we just select an oil based on it’s weight, but instead have much more to consider when it comes to what oil we should be running in our car or truck.
What is Synthetic Motor Oil?
Synthetic Oil is oil that didn’t occur naturally in the ground that we then harvested and refined. Instead this oil is made in a chemistry lab. Scientists understand what makes oil…..oil, and have been able to reproduce it in a test tube. This technology isn’t necessarily new, but with technology synthetic oil has become affordable enough that it can be sold to the general public to be purchased for their vehicle. While synthetic engine oil is more expensive than conventional “dino” (dino is short for dinosaurs or other carbon rich material) oil, it does have many reasons why it could be worth looking into purchasing.
Should I run Synthetic Oil in my Car / Truck?
The thing that makes synthetic oil special is that it was made in a test tube to perfection. What this means is that every oil molecule has been engineered to be the exact same size and same structure. Why should you care? Well this has several bonuses we should discuss. We talked about this some in our "Selecting an engine oil" article, but more are discussed below:
1. Because all of the molecules are the same size it allows the engines mechanical parts to sit flush on them at all the same height. This allows the mechanical parts to move on the oil much easier. This is best described by saying that the synthetic engine oil is “slicker”. This is a good thing being that the number one attribute we are looking to get our of our oil is that it will offer little to no friction of our internal engine parts. This is going to allow our motor to run at tighter tolerances and yet show less wear over its use. This right here is why many owners and OEM manufacturers have switched over to synthetic oil. It has been proven to keep engines running smoother, longer.
2. Resistance to Heat. Synthetic oil has an incredible resistance to breaking down do to heat. Typical regular motor oil will start to break down (meaning separate into water) starting at around 230-240 degrees Fahrenheit. Synthetic oil has been shown to resist breaking down till 260 degrees on up to 280. This is significant in that it allows the oil to do its job for a much larger range of temperatures. Its ability to maintain its chemical structure is greatly superior to that of regular oil. (click for larger image)
3. Resistance to changing measured oil weight. Oil is listed based on its weight, and its weight is listed based on its viscosity at a certain temperature. As regular motor oil is pushed to extremely cold or hot temperatures it deviates from its listed cold/hot weights. Synthetic oil on the other had is able to better maintain its listed weight viscosities.
What about Semi-synthetic motor oil?
This is a little bit of a grey area. One can assume that a product listed as “semi-synthetic” has some part of it that contains engineered synthetic oil, but the question is how much? The answer is different for every brand. There is no regulation or requirements on what it takes to be classified as semi-synthetic. This leaves the door wide open for a lot of products that might not be what you’re interested in. For this reason many stay away from these types of “semi” oils and choose to either run a regular oil or a full synthetic.
Is it worth it to switch to synthetic oil?
Honestly there is no perfect answer to that question. Regular motor oil does a great job for most people in most climates as long as it is changed on schedule. Really it comes down to this:
1. Do you run your car or truck in harsh environments under harsh conditions?
2. Are you looking to not change your motor oil so frequently?
In answering these questions you will have a good understanding of if you should run a synthetic motor oil. If you have a lead foot, run your engine to redline often, track the car often, or live in an area of extreme hot or cold weather than consider changing over to a synthetic motor oil assuming the OEM manufacture already didn’t spec a synthetic oil for the engine since it was manufactured. The other consideration is that regular engine oil should be changed every ~5,000 miles. If an owner is looking to extend that to 7,000 or even 8,000 miles, than synthetic motor oil should be run. Most regular motor oils are just not up to the task of running that many miles and still be able to maintain their viscosity.
Hopefully this article has taught you more about the differences between regular dino oil and synthetic oil. If you have any more questions be sure to contact us. Also check out the other articles found here at enginebasics.com found at the top of the page in the links. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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