Oil Change – Synthetic vs. Conventional - It’s that time again! "Maintenance Soon" pops up on your dash display and if you’re anything like me, you get excited thinking about your upcoming visit to your second favorite place in the world, after the dentist that is. Going in for a "simple oil change" is a daunting task and exhaustive battle if you are not properly armed. For now, let’s focus on one of the most commonly debated issues of the 21st century: Synthetic Oil versus Conventional Oil.
Conventional Oil – Conventional oils, also known as standard oil, have been used in automobile engines since day one. This tells your average Joe or Jane that it should be perfectly fine, and in most cases, it is. However, engine development and technology has come a long way since the release of the first mass-produced Ford. These advances may encourage the more technologically savvy individual to lean towards synthetic oils. Fortunately for you, the manufacturer of your vehicle specifies if you must employ synthetic oils, at least to maintain your warranty.
Synthetic Oils – Synthetic oils provide significant benefits over conventional oils in a few ways. Through years of lab testing it has been proven that the synthetic product will withstand higher temperatures and abuse than its predecessor. Also, higher end synthetics provide better lubrication. Lastly, another benefit is increased oil life. Yes, most synthetics these days will not break down as fast as their conventional counterparts. Does this mean it is better? I’d say so! Does this mean it is best for you? Not necessarily. I can’t make it that easy!
Common Misconceptions – I never get bored of all the misinformed sales pitches and variety of ways eager servicemen attempt to woo you into their top products. It is a common misconception that switching from synthetic oil to conventional oil will affect the oil seals. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, when synthetic oils were introduced to the general public, inconsistencies in the blending of the formulas would cause oil leaks. Basically, the properties of the synthetics would cause oil seals to shrink where as petroleum based oils allow a perfect seal swell. Well that was 30 years ago folks and oil technology has come a long way. This is no longer an issue if using the majority of mainstream synthetics.
Which One Should You Use – Your owner’s manual will indicate if the car maker recommends synthetic oil over standard oil. If it implies synthetic, then use synthetic. Also, ignore anything the serviceman implies about oil seal swell and oil leaks involved in the selection of the synthetic or conventional oil.
Now to the fun part! How to decide which route is the best for you to take. Honesty is the best policy when truly evaluating your needs. If you meet or exceed your owner’s manuals service interval expectations when it comes to changing oil, like a saint follows the bible, you are probably the right candidate for standard oil. If you aim for that mileage interval but overshoot it by a long shot and are pretty consistent at that practice due to your busy schedule, then synthetic oil should be considered.
Are you a cruiser or a gas pedal bruiser? For you light-footed, "defensive" drivers, standard oil is more than sufficient. Those heavy-footed, "offensive" drivers like myself, may want to lean towards synthetics. I’m just being honest. Stop and go driving is actually more strenuous on your engine than coasting on the highway. Remember, the harder your engine works decides if you should move from standard oil to synthetic oil.
Ultimately, your driving and vehicle maintenance habits should determine whether you spend the extra bucks on the synthetic up-sell, or go with the more economical conventional oil option.