Why You Should Upgrade to Synthetic Oil

June 25th, 2015 by

Despite all of the alternative-fuel advances in the automotive industry, the fact remains that most cars still require motor oil.

Even with that requirement, there are three primary types of oil to choose from. What are the differences between them? And why should you ultimately opt for a synthetic oil change when you make your car’s next service appointment?

Order Out of Chaos: The Development of Synthetic Oil

There’s that old saying, “desperate times call for desperate measures,” and that really applies to the creation of synthetic oil. Just as alternative-fuel technologies were born of environmental crises, the development of synthetic oil resulted from military efforts during World War II.

Needing more oil to power their own war machines, the United States and Germany turned to synthetic oils, rather than conventional oils.


Both the Allies and Axis Powers needed not only more, but better, oil. Conventional oil is somewhat limited because of the process required to make it usable. Conventional oil comes from crude oil and requires a significant amount of refining before you can actually operate an engine with it.

Synthetic oil does not require refining. Instead, it results from chemical reactions. Also, synthetic oils are more versatile, able to reliably power machines, even under challenging climate conditions.

Wax is a component of conventional motor oils, which causes conventional oil to thicken when temperatures drop, especially when they plummet to subzero levels.

If you consider the fighting that took place across the European front during the winter months, it’s not hard to imagine military vehicles failing to start or breaking down on a regular basis.

After the war, automotive manufacturers reflected on what they had learned and used that knowledge to improve commercial vehicles for their consumers. As that knowledge evolves, synthetic motor oil continues to improve.

But is it right for your car?

The Benefits of Synthetic Oils versus Conventional Oils

A few compelling, hard-to-argue-with reasons really support why you should choose synthetic over conventional oil at your car’s next scheduled service. The one drawback is cost. Synthetics are more expensive, but after considering this brief cost-analysis, I think you’ll agree that synthetic oil still proves that it is worth every penny.

Freeze Protection – Synthetic Oil isn’t Afraid of the Cold

You already know that synthetic oil holds up better under temperature extremes, but just to support that claim with some numbers and data, consider this:

Even if the temperature plunges below -62 degrees Fahrenheit, synthetic oil is still able to flow smoothly.

I find this particularly impressive because, as a current resident of New England, our -20 degrees Fahrenheit winters essentially make my blood come to a screeching halt. I suppose this means I’m rather conventional, as conventional oil, subjected to the same -62 degrees, freezes almost instantly.

Um, who could blame it?

Anyway, the point is, you should absolutely consider synthetic oil if you live in a frozen tundra – or anywhere in and around New England. Trying to defrost yourself in a car that won’t start is no fun.

Choose synthetic oil and know that your car will power up and perform the way you want it to, no matter what Jack Frost throws your way.

Heat Resistant – Synthetic Oil Won’t Break Down

Of the five types of oils divided into categories by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the first three groups consist of conventional motor oil, while the remaining two belong to the synthetics.

Synthetic oils are combined by as many as three synthetically-based fluids: synthetic esters, polyalphaolefin (PAO), and alkylated aromatics. No matter the combination, synthetic oils are similar in that their molecules are uniformly sized and shaped. Because of this, synthetic molecules do not create as much friction when they collide as conventional molecules, which means that the movement of synthetic oils produces less friction.

Why is this important?

Less friction equals reduced heat, meaning the viscosity of synthetic oil does not change even when the temperature changes.

However, with conventional oils, high temperatures can cause the molecules, which are all various shapes and sizes, to break down or even evaporate. If this happens, your engine could suffer metal-on-metal contact, meaning the metal parts could grind against one another, destroying your engine.

That alone is one excellent reason to choose synthetic oil in favor of conventional options.

Smooth Operator – Synthetics Improve Horsepower and Mileage

Compared to conventional oils, synthetic oils are much slicker, meaning your engine will run cooler and smoother.

Why does this matter?

Engines that operate more smoothly and at cooler temperatures perform better and are more efficient. If you want to boost your car’s horsepower while maintaining, if not improving, it’s fuel efficiency, then synthetic oil is your best option.

So, if this the best option, what’s the debate? Why isn’t everyone using synthetic oil? Why are you even reading this post?

Because money changes everything.

Save Up for Synthetic Oil

Here’s the rub: synthetic oils cost, on average, at least twice as much as conventional motor oils.

But, before you put away your wallet, think about this. With synthetic oils, you can wait longer between oil changes.

Now, whether or not you actually believe that your car needs an oil change every 3,000 miles is irrelevant. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the 3,000 mile benchmark is absolutely true for all cars. (It absolutely isn’t, but just hear me out).

In that case, if you were opting to use synthetic oil, you still would not need to get your car’s oil changed until it reached the 7,000-mile mark.

Just think about that…rather than shelling out your hard-earned greenbacks after every 3,000 miles or so, you can wait until you’ve logged at least 7,000 miles on your car’s odometer. That’s like getting two oil changes for the price of one, without actually having to schedule an appointment and sit around and wait.

Math was never my strong suit, but this is adding up nicely if you ask me.

But let’s say you really can’t swing the cost of synthetic oils right now. No sweat.

Some oil manufacturers are actually offering part-synthetic oil, which blends synthetic oil with conventional oil, reducing the cost, but your vehicle will miss out on the full benefits of a purely synthetic oil.

Always check your owner’s manual to see what kind of oil your car’s manufacturer recommends. However, more and more automakers are recommending that consumers opt for synthetic over conventional oils in order to protect and extend the life of their car’s engine.

The Beauty of Indecision: Switch Between Synthetic and Conventional Oil

Despite the increase in more automakers’ support for synthetic oil, conventional  oil isn’t going anywhere. It’s been used for generations and people trust it to power their vehicles. If you, like most people, are resistant to change, keep this in mind. You do not have to permanently commit to synthetic oil. You can give it a try and always switch back to conventional if, for some reason, you aren’t happy with your engine’s increased performance and improved fuel efficiency. Kidding.

But seriously, synthetic and conventional oils are completely compatible – how many things can you honestly say that about? You can choose synthetic for your vehicle’s upcoming oil change and then switch back to conventional for the one after. Or vice versa.

This being said, don’t you think it’s worth trying out synthetic oil at least once? I suspect that if you do you’ll end up sticking with synthetic for all of your car’s future service needs.

Sometimes you have to spend money to save it in the long run. With synthetic oil, that’s exactly what you’ll do.