Is Synthetic Oil worth the cost?

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When it comes to automotive lubricants, you usually have a choice.

You may use a conventional oil, derived from crude oil, or a synthetic oil, manufactured from hydrocarbons and other organic compounds. Almost every lubricating fluid (engine oil, transmission fluid, differential fluid) in your car or truck is now available in a newer synthetic form.

Why choose synthetic lubricants over conventional lubricants or vise-versa? First, check your Owner’s Manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific vehicle (some of the newer cars ONLY use synthetic engine oil).

Generally, synthetic oil will last longer, and requires less frequent oil changes, but it also costs significantly more than conventional oil.  To help you make a decision, here are a few basic pros and cons relating to the physical properties of each:

Conventional Lubricants:

  • Lower cost than synthetics – many synthetic lubricants can run nearly double the price of their conventional counter parts.
  • Increased sludge and deposits over a shorter period of time.
  • Many older vehicles are designed to use conventional lubricants and cannot be introduced to some synthetics, without adverse consequences (leaking seals and excessive oil consumption).
  • More accessible. You can probably find your favorite conventional lubricant in nearly every auto store supply store or repair shop, not necessarily so for your favorite high-performance synthetic.

Synthetic Lubricants:

  • Reduces friction and subsequent heat production more effectively, allowing mechanical components to run cooler and last (wear) longer.
  • Higher resistance to “burn-off” and oxidation, both of which generate unwanted contaminates, sludge and deposits.
  • Resists shear…literally, molecules being cut in half resulting in “thinning” of the lubricant.
  • More effective at very cold or very hot weather conditions.

Also available are High Mileage Oils containing “seal conditioners” that help restore the flexibility of the crankshaft and camshaft seals, thus reducing leaks that often occur on older cars. A “Synthetic Blend” oil is a combination of conventional oil and synthetic oil, and may be suggested for use with heavier loads and higher operating temperatures.  However, don’t try to do-it-yourself and mix half-conventional oil and half-synthethic oil – you will not get the expected result.

Also, be cautious when service centers advertise low-cost “synthetic” oil changes. Usually, this is a synthetic-blend oil. Ask questions and find out exactly what you are buying – you generally get what you pay for.

Still not sure which you should use? Do yourself a favor, and ask your favorite Honest Accurate Service Advisor what they would recommend. Our experienced technicians and Service Advisers work with vehicles all day long, and can advise you as to your options, and the associated costs. They will help you weigh the positives and negatives of synthetic oil, and make the decision as to whether the extra cost is worth it.

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