Synthetic vs conventional oil — what’s the difference?
While synthetic engine oil contains fewer impurities and is more refined than conventional oil, both these engine lubricants have their own set of benefits.
To address those questions, we’ll go through the major differences between synthetic and conventional oil. We’ll see how they’re made, their pricing differences, and their oil change interval to help you better decide the right oil for your car.
This Article Contains:
- Synthetic Vs Conventional Oil: 3 Key Differences
- Benefits Of Synthetic Vs Conventional Oil
- How To Pick The Right Engine Oil For You?
Synthetic Vs Conventional Oil: 3 Key Differences
Synthetic engine oil and conventional oil are both types of motor oil used for the lubrication of engine parts.
Apart from lubrication, they also perform these functions:
- Protects engine parts against engine wear and tear
- Protects against water damage and corrosion
- Prevents engine sludge
- Removes and prevents engine dirt and impurities from interfering with engine functions
- Cools down engine parts when they reach a high temperature
- Transmits engine torque for maximized horsepower
So, where do the differences lie?
Let’s take a look.
A. How They’re Made
Both synthetic and conventional engine oil are made from crude oil, but the quality and complexity of the process for each vary greatly.
1. Synthetic Oil
Synthetic oil is chemically produced in the laboratory.
Synthetic base oil is obtained from highly refined petroleum (crude oil), to which various synthetic additives are then added. The base oil is usually synthesized by breaking down and then rebuilding hydrocarbon atoms.
This results in a highly reliable oil with higher stability to the oil’s structure under extreme temperatures and pressures. Synthetic oil generally performs better at very high and low temperatures than conventional oil, thanks to its stability and fluidity.
Synthetic motor oil is also better at dealing with engine dirt and impurities than regular oil; it also provides far better performance with modern engines due to the use of synthetic additives and its better oil viscosity.
2. Conventional Oil
Conventional oil is obtained by heating crude oil at various high temperature points. This process leads to a heavier oil that is left behind, which becomes the base oil for conventional motor oil.
To this base oil, certain additives are added for increased performance and engine protection. Although conventional oil provides decent protection against friction and engine wear, it is not refined in the way that synthetic oil is.
B. Pricing Differences
Conventional motor oil is a lot cheaper than fully synthetic oil.
To give you an idea, synthetic oil can cost you about two to four times more than conventional oil.
The cost of producing synthetic engine oil is far higher than any other motor oil as synthetic oil requires advanced technology and equipment. This means that it can also be expensive to maintain a regular synthetic oil change schedule.
As a result, most people often shift to synthetic blend oil, a cheaper alternative to synthetic oil that performs better than mineral oil. Semi synthetic oil also acts as a stepping stone when switching to synthetic oil.
C. Oil Change Interval
Here’s where synthetic oil justifies some of its high prices.
1. Synthetic Oil
While synthetic oil does cost more, it also has better oil change intervals.
Most vehicle mechanics and vehicle manufacturer manuals recommend getting a synthetic oil change every 5000-7000 miles.
However, it can go as long as 10,000 to 15,000 miles if you practice good driving habits. These include regular oil top-ups, oil filter changes, good braking habits, and using quality oil.
2. Conventional Oil
Conventional oil, on the other hand, has a far shorter oil change interval.
You can expect to get 3000-5000 miles out of your traditional oil. In best-case scenarios, it can go about 7000 miles without needing an oil change.
After this point, you may start noticing signs that your oil has gone bad, including darker, muddy oil and impurities suspended in the expired oil. It is best to change your oil at this point.
Does this mean that synthetic oil is better than conventional oil?
Benefits Of Synthetic Vs Conventional Oil
While both conventional and synthetic oils have their advantages, synthetic oil outperforms regular oil in most cases.
To be fair, let’s take a closer look at the benefits each type of oil offers:
1. Benefits Of Synthetic Oil
Synthetic oil is an excellent motor oil for a number of functions, including engine protection at extreme temperatures.
Here are some benefits of synthetic motor oil:
- Fewer emissions than regular oil
- Longer oil change intervals
- Better engine protection against engine wear due to a higher oil viscosity and fewer oil impurities
- Better resistance to oil thickening
- Better stability at low temperatures and higher temperatures
- Maximized horsepower for engine parts due to their high resistance to friction
2. Benefits Of Conventional Oil
Conventional motor oil may not be as refined as synthetic oil, but it still has a couple of advantages over the latter. It’s:
- Cost-effective: The greatest advantage of conventional oil (mineral oil) is that it’s extremely cheap. A conventional oil change is much more affordable than a synthetic oil change, making it very economical to maintain frequent oil changes.
- Better suited for older engines: Older engines with more than 75,000 miles on them are more vulnerable to grinding gears and engine wear due to friction.
Synthetic oil has a better viscosity grade than traditional oil and flows more smoothly at low temperatures and higher temperatures. However, older engines require a thicker oil that will not flow very easily through the gears.
Synthetic oil may clean up the residue that may be previously sealing a leak, leading to oil leakage and other issues.
Given these advantages, how do you decide the right oil for your car?
How To Pick The Right Engine Oil For You?
Synthetic oil always makes for a good choice when it comes to your car engine.
Synthetic oil is good because:
If you’re going to be using synthetic oil for the long run, the longer oil change intervals usually make up for the oil’s high costs. It also gives you better fuel economy. It’s therefore perfect for heavy-duty use under extreme temperatures.
Conventional oil is a good because:
Conventional oil is cheaper to maintain.
It’s also better suited for high mileage vehicles since synthetic oil’s viscosity risks grinding gears for older vehicle engines. And if you don’t practice harsh driving or operate your car at a high temperature, conventional oil may be a good choice for you.
The good news is that you can always alternate between conventional and synthetic oil!
You can also try semi synthetic oil for your engine.
Synthetic blend motor oil is cheaper than synthetic oil but performs far better than mineral oil. Synthetic blend oil also helps with fuel economy and protects against engine wear.
Irrespective of whether you choose a conventional, synthetic, or synthetic blend oil type, remember to refer to your vehicle manufacturer manual to make sure it’s the right fit for your car.
Choosing the right oil for your vehicle can be very intimidating at first..
Before deciding between conventional or synthetic motor oil, make sure you consult the vehicle manufacturer manual for the right oil your car needs.
If unsure, you can always try synthetic blend oil.
Synthetic blend oil is an excellent stepping stone when switching between conventional and synthetic!
Most importantly, get routine car maintenance to keep your vehicle in good shape.
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