3 Reasons You Should Use Synthetic Oil in Your Car

February 19th, 2016 by

Oil is being poured into an engine from a blue bottle during a synthetic oil change.

A synthetic oil change is no different than a conventional one. The process is still the same, it just might not happen as frequently if you use conventional oil. Why? Because while the process is the same, the synthetic oil itself has benefits that conventional engine oil does not. Because it’s made in the lab, it’s much more durable than conventional oil, which means it can last longer. It’s also much cleaner than conventional engine oil, and has less impurities, keeping your engine cleaner for longer. Furthermore, it’s also much thinner than conventional oil, even at the same viscosity. That means it flows through your engine with less resistance, which causes the engine to work less.

What do all these have in common? It extends the life of your engine longer, and allows it to run better. 

More Durable

Because it’s engineered in the lab, synthetic oil is made with properties that are able to enhance its durability. This means it can cycle through the engine more times than conventional oil, and keep the parts inside better protected. Even under high-stress conditions in the engine, the synthetic oil will take more of a beating than conventional engine oil. This allows it to not only last longer, but also allow you to change your oil less.

Which means synthetic oil not only protects your engine better, but you don’t need to get your oil changed every 3,000 miles/3-months.

Much Cleaner

Another reason you can change your oil out less frequently is it has less impurities. Since it’s made in a lab, it doesn’t have the impurities that come with the natural resources used in conventional engine oil. Therefore, it runs through your engine much cleaner; which reduces the sludge, grime, and debris build up in the engine. Ensuring that your engine stays in proper working order.

However, just because it runs through your engine much cleaner doesn’t mean its more environmentally safe than conventional oil. Unfortunately, the chemicals used to make it cause it to be just as harmful to the environment as traditional oil.

A Lot Thinner

Since synthetic oil is thinner than conventional oil, even when the same viscosity/weight is used, it creates less work for the engine. This means your engine doesn’t get as worn out over the years, and allows it to have a much longer life-span than an engine that’s using conventional oil. Furthermore, in the winter your engine will run more efficiently. Since your oil thickens in the winter, the thinness of synthetic oil lets it work less, making starting up your engine on a cold morning easier.

Synthetic oil also promotes better fuel economy in the winter, because the engine isn’t working as hard to cycle it through.

But, It’s Not For Every Engine…

While these 3 benefits of synthetic engine oil all protect, prolong, or improve the life of your engine, its not for everyone. Synthetic engine oil should only be used in newer engines, and if you have an engine that’s older and had conventional oil used throughout its life; stick with that. Since it’s thicker, the engine might actually need the impurities/debris build-up that come with conventional oil to run properly.

Introducing a cleaner and thinner oil could actually cause a well-worn engine harm. But, if you have a new car and want your engine to run clean, more efficient, better protected, and have a longer lifespan, then use synthetic oil.

2021 Update

The first time you had to get your car’s oil changed, you might have experienced the mechanic asking if you wanted synthetic or regular oil in your engine. One might assume that a synthetic oil change was for fancier cars with high output engines. However, that is not the case. Synthetic oil is called synthetic because it is made in a lab and is designed to last longer and keep your car’s engine running cleaner.

Synthetic oil is incredibly durable and can be cycled through your engine for thousands of miles without breaking down. This way, it can keep your engine protected, even under high stress or high demand conditions. Being more durable also means that you have to change it less often, which will save you time and money. After all, who really looks forward to having to visit the mechanic to get their vehicle’s oil changed?

Connected to the feature of synthetic oil being more durable is the fact that it’s incredibly clean. Due to being engineered in a lab, they have removed as many impurities and debris as possible, which is impractical to expect with the natural oil we find in the earth. All that stuff gets caught up in your engine, creating sludge and potentially shortening its life. Synthetic oil starts off much cleaner and therefore avoids this issue.

The final piece to the puzzle as to why synthetic oil is so much better is that it maintains its viscosity across a much wider temperature range. Normally, cold weather thickens your oil and prevents it from properly lubricating the engine on start up. On the other hand, long drives in hot weather can cause the oil to become too thin. It may seem small, but that little bit of difference in viscosity and weight provided by synthetic oil goes a long way when the engine is rotating at thousands of revolutions every minute.

Reasons to Use Regular Oil

A smiling mechanic is positioning an oil pan under a car that is on a lift.

With all of these features of synthetic oil, one wonders why anyone would even use regular oil in our engines at all. The main reason is that it is less expensive, and if you are on a tight budget, it may be appealing to you. However, with the increase in the number of visits to get the oil changed more often and the potential cost down the road from the extra wear that it can put on your engine, you probably want to make the small investment in upgrading to synthetic oil.

Where regular oil becomes necessary to use is when you’re driving something that was never designed to have synthetic oil inside it. Synthetic oil is a relatively newer innovation in the grand scheme of automotive history. However, you should only avoid synthetic oil if you are driving a real classic car. As newer and more advanced engineering has allowed for improvements in efficiency and power, part of what makes those improvements work has been the introduction of synthetic oil.

How Often Synthetic Oil Needs the Be Changed and Why

For decades, the common wisdom has been to get your oil changed every three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. That general rule is still true if you use conventional oil, but newer and better synthetic oils have actually made the time between oil changes stretch far beyond that. A basic rule is that with a good synthetic oil, you only need to get it changed once a year or every 7,500 miles, whichever comes first.

However, every vehicle will have its own recommended oil change interval. Depending on your vehicle and driving style, that interval could be as short as 5,000 miles or as long as 20,000 miles. Synthetic oil is guaranteed to last considerably longer than conventional oil. Still, it is good to be aware of any circumstances that demand you to be more vigilant about getting your vehicle maintenance when it needs it.

An important factor to consider is your driving habits. If you regularly drive to work and back with a commute of 20 minutes or more and do not usually find yourself sitting in traffic jams, then your engine is getting exercised pretty regularly. Throw in a few road trips, vacations, and family visits, and you’re on your way to having oil that is regularly being flushed through your engine, keeping the engine clean. If that sounds like something close to your driving lifestyle, then a synthetic oil change timeframe of every 7,500 miles is a good place to start.

If you drive a lot less, then you actually may need to alter your math. If you drive under 10 miles a day, maybe only occasionally getting groceries, or if your work is just not that far away, then you should consider getting your oil changed every 5,000 miles or so. Even if you drive less than 5,000 miles a year, you should still get an annual oil change. That may sound unfair and unreasonable but hear us out. Your engine needs to run in order to prevent the buildup of grease and dirt particles.

If you aren’t driving your car, then your oil isn’t being passed through the system, and things will begin to get clogged up. If you go for too long with oil that’s being slowed down by particles and grime, then metal is going to start scraping metal without proper lubrication. The pistons, valves, and other moving parts that keep your engine going will slowly begin to wear down, and then you are in serious trouble.

The oil in your engine is like blood in your body, it needs to be recycled and pumped regularly, or the engine parts will start to suffer. An active body remains in good health while a stationary body, even if it’s out of harm’s way, will still begin to deteriorate from neglect.

A gloved hand is holding a blue oil filter over an engine bay.

Differences Between Synthetic and Regular Oil

The key differences between synthetic and regular oil come down to synthetic oil being what we wish regular oil already was. It is cleaner, tougher, and maintains its viscosity better. It is far more durable than the natural oil that we have used for generations, and it can go longer without being changed while still keeping your engine running smoothly. Quality synthetic oil also contains additional chemicals designed to clean your engine as well as lubricate it, further improving mechanical longevity. The end result is fewer changes and more efficient, healthier engines.

Regular Oil Is on the Way Out

As long as there are collectors and drivers who keep classic vehicles that run on natural oil, we will still have conventional oil around. But for the vast majority of vehicles on the road today, regular oil is obsolete and offers no benefits outside of its lower price. As technology improves, synthetic oil improves with it, while regular oil lags even further behind. The current generation of high-efficiency turbocharged engines, in particular, are vastly more reliable with synthetic oil than with regular oil. Understanding the differences in synthetic and natural engine oil is important to keeping your vehicle properly maintained and reliable for years to come.