Should I Use Synthetic Oil in my Car or a Synthetic Blend?

The last time you took your car to get its oil changed, you were probably asked if you wanted synthetic oil (the most expensive option), conventional oil (the least expensive), or a blend (costing somewhere in the middle).

To help you choose which oil to choose, let's discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the different types of motor oil.

What is Synthetic Oil?

Synthetic oil is artificially made from chemical compounds. They are specifically designed in the lab and refined in the factory to perform predictably and efficiently, whereas conventional oil relies on mineral oil (from crude oil) which is less predictable and contains undesirable composite materials. In general, synthetic oil costs more (often twice as much as conventional oil).

You may be surprised that a lot of synthetic oil is actually petroleum based (fossil fuels from dinosaur bones). How do they get away with labeling it as synthetic? According to Auto Guide, petroleum that has been extremely refined and classified as "Group III" oil can be labeled as synthetic . But in essence, Group III oil and completely synthetic oil are virtually identical, and you shouldn't worry too much about the difference between the two.

What is a Synthetic Blend?

A synthetic blend combines synthetic oil with conventional oil (derived from crude). Blends are "second tier" oils-containing some of the benefits of synthetic in a slightly cheaper package.

Benefits of Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil is specially formulated to:

  • Last longer in your engine (meaning you can go longer between oil changes)
  • Lubricate your engine more efficiently (so your car doesn't have to work as hard)
  • Leave less residue (since it doesn't contain the contaminants in conventional oil)
  • Give you slightly better gas mileage

Drawbacks of Conventional Oil (and by extension, Synthetic Blends)

Conventional is made from crude oil, but before it winds up in your engine it goes through an extensive filtering process. Several additives are put in as well, designed to improve your engine's performance.

If you were to compare today's conventional oil with engine oil from 20 years ago, you'd see a huge improvement. That's because filtration techniques have gotten much better; but unfortunately conventional oil still contains contaminants left over from the original crude. These contaminants, over time, will start to cake the inside of your engine, reducing performance.

On a molecular level, the chemical compounds found in conventional oil are a little.

In synthetic blends, you get some of the drawbacks of conventional oil, but their effects are muted a little.

Is Synthetic Worth the Higher Price?

There is a wide range of costs and features when it comes to synthetic oils and blends. When deciding which to you, you can trust the age-old maxim, "you get what you pay for."

Higher-quality synthetic oils will typically cost more, but they can actually last a lot longer in your engine. Since you'll be going longer without needing your oil changed, then the price tag may even out. (Pro tip: don't forget to change your oil filter regularly, even if you're waiting longer between oil changes.)

Can I Switch Between Different Types of Oil?

You're probably safe switching between different types of oil-after all, synthetic blends are safe to use, and they are a mix between the two.

However, the absolute best resource for which kind of oil to use is your owner's manual. If your engine's manufacturer recommends full synthetic oil, then that will be your wisest choice. You can also ask your trusted mechanic which oil they think would be best for your particular car.

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