(July, 2011)- Not so long ago, few people had heard of synthetic oil and even fewer wanted to buy it. Things have changed… crude oil prices are rising, people are keeping their cars longer, and more people are worried about the environment. Now we have a steady stream of people at the shop asking about this important product, but many more still aren’t aware of the advantages of synthetic oil. If you’re one of the people who hasn’t made the jump yet, there are three main reasons to switch to synthetic oil. Synthetics are:
- Better for you
- Better for your vehicle
- Better for the planet
Let’s look at each of these points a little more closely…
Better for you
Synthetic oils are better for you because they save you valuable time and money! The superior protection of synthetics mean you only need to get your vehicle’s oil changed half as often, so you’ll spend less of your valuable time chasing oil changes. We recommend that clients using synthetic oils have their Minor Interval Service with oil change about every 6 months or 6000 miles. This interval coincides well with the need for tire rotation and periodic inspection. The superior properties of the synthetic oils could (in a pinch) actually be pushed as far as 12 months or 10,000 miles, though we would not recommend it. The superior protection also reduces expensive mechanical failures, keeping you on the road more reliably.
Better for your vehicle
When synthetic oils were in their infancy in the 40’s and 50’s, the challenge was to make them as good as conventional oil. Since then, synthetic technology has far surpassed the capabilities of regular crude. Now, synthetics have fewer impurities, leave fewer deposits, are better for extreme driving conditions (especially temperature), offer better mileage, lower oil consumption, lower octane requirements, and more. For example, “Film Strength” is how strong the film of oil is between any moving parts. While petroleum oils have film strength of around 500 psi, synthetics average about 3000 psi, over 6 times stronger!
In modern engines with tight tolerances and high operating temperatures this extra strength is critical to extending the life of your engine. In New York taxi tests, taxis that were run 60,000 miles on synthetic oil without oil changes (but using a special filter) showed less wear than taxis using conventional oil changed every 3000 miles.
Better for the planet
Crude oil has thousands of natural impurities that can’t be entirely removed in the refining process. The corrosive acids, paraffin and other waxes, heavy metals, asphalt, napthenes and benzenes, as well as countless compounds of sulfur, chlorine, and nitrogen in crude oil mean more toxics emitted into the air with crude than with synthetics. These chemicals also pass through your catalytic converter, reducing its life and efficiency.
The actual size of the oil molecules also has an effect on emissions. Crude oil has variable size molecules, while synthetic oil’s molecules are mostly the same size. In crude oil the smaller molecules are stripped away to form gunk in the engine and goo in the emissions.
Since synthetic oil is made from crude oil as a feedstock, it isn’t a complete replacement for conventional oil. The extended life of synthetic oils does reduce our dependence on crude oil. This is good for two reasons: Environmentally, every drop of oil we don’t use is a drop we don’t use. This leaves carbon sequestered in the ground and not free in the atmosphere to influence global climate change. Politically, every drop of oil we don’t import helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
So why hasn’t everyone already switched to synthetic oil? Some people (even professional mechanics) aren’t aware that modern synthetic oils have solved the problems of their early ancestors, but the biggest reason is probably the fact that the oil itself is about twice expensive as conventional oil. This seems like a logical stumbling block, but the higher price for the synthetic oil has to be weighed against the advantages of your time savings, fewer oil changes, better mechanical performance, longer vehicle life, better mileage, lower emissions, and the environmental advantages. We think that the advantages far outweigh any perceived cost drawbacks, and recommend that you consider synthetics on your next Minor Interval Service. Like many quality products; they may cost more upfront but the long-term return makes them by far the best value.