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Synthetic vs. Conventional Oil: What’s the Difference?

February 11, 2020

If you’ve ever had your oil changed, or walked into an auto parts shop to buy motor oil, then you’ve probably been faced with the question: synthetic oil or conventional oil?

It’s a straightforward question, but it perhaps sounds a little bit more confusing than it actually is. It goes without saying that motor oil is vital for your car, so these types of questions are important to understand. Let’s dig into it.

What’s the Difference Between Synthetic Oil and Conventional Oil?

The difference between synthetic and conventional oil (also known as mineral oil) is pretty simple, unless you want to get deep into a scientific discussion. Conventional motor oil is crude oil that has been extracted from the ground and refined. Synthetic oil, on the other hand, is a manufactured product that may be made from modified petroleum components and/or other materials.

Is One Better than the Other?

Generally, synthetic oil is considered to be better than conventional oil. The product is engineered in a lab to remain fluid at low temperatures and stable at high temperatures. Furthermore, it has a longer service life than conventional engine oil.

What are the Advantages of Synthetic vs. Conventional Oil?

Synthetic oil  is made up of uniform molecules that decrease the amount of friction in the engine. Since the purpose of motor oil is to be a lubricant, this is a good thing. Less friction means less damage to your engine, and a better-performing engine.

Synthetic oil is also more refined than conventional oil, which limits deposits in the engine. It’s cleaner, and has fewer impurities. Additionally, it doesn’t break down as easily and, therefore, offers a longer service life.

As for conventional oil, it really only has one advantage: It’s cheaper. But because synthetic oil lasts longer than mineral oil, the savings are negligible.

Some industry insiders also argue that, since synthetic oil has a more streamlined molecule structure, it can easily leak past worn seals in an old engine. Though whether that assessment is accurate is up for debate.

Synthetic Blend vs. Full Synthetic

In addition to synthetic oil and conventional oil, you can also purchase synthetic blend oil. Synthetic blend is basically what it sounds like: A blend between synthetic oil and conventional oil. It offers a middle ground between the two oils. It’s cheaper than full synthetic oil, but has better performance than conventional oil.

Is Conventional Oil Bad?

Although synthetic oil performs better than conventional oil, that doesn’t mean conventional oil is bad. Typically, the only time you must use synthetic engine oil is when your car requires it. Otherwise, in most cases, you can opt to use either conventional or synthetic – the choice is up to you. You can find out what type of oil your car takes by looking in the owner’s manual.