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    by: Tom Torbjornsen | AOL Autos
     

    I've been getting a lot of mail regarding using synthetic motor oil in vehicles. Questions such as:

    • Should I use synthetic oil?
    • Does it work better in some cars than others?
    • Does it cost more?
    • Do I have to change the oil more frequently? Less frequently?
    • Does it make my engine last longer?

    First of all, let's take a brief look at the history of synthetic motor oil and its introduction to the marketplace.

    AMSOIL Inc. developed the first synthetic motor oil to meet API service requirements. Lieutenant Colonel Albert J. Amatuzio, President and CEO of AMSOIL Inc. witnessed synthetic lubricants in action as a jet fighter squadron commander. He noted that synthetic oils were developed for (and still are used exclusively in) aircraft jet engines because of their ability to reduce friction and wear on engine parts. This preformance was due to synthetic oil having incredible ability to function dependably at severe hot and cold temps as well as to withstand rigorous and lengthy engine operation without viscosity breakdown. This is critical in aircraft engine operation because, if oil breaks down at 30,000 feet, aircraft engines can fail and ... well, you get the picture. Amatuzio decided that he would develop synthetic motor oil to be used in automobiles for the same benefits. In 1972 AMSOIL introduced the first motor oil for automotive applications. In the early seventies, another company was also working on synthetic oil development for the automobile ... Mobil Oil Company. They came to market with synthetic motor oil in 1975. By the 1990's the other major oil companies added their synthetic oils to the marketplace, in addition to their petroleum-based products.

    Before we discuss whether you should use synthetic motor oil in your car and the pros and cons of the product, lets first take a look at how motor oil is made.

    Here is what Mobil Oil says about the subject on their website (https://www.mobiloil.com/USA-English/MotorOil/Synthetics/Mobil_1_Circle_of_Performance.aspx):

    "Conventional oils come from crude oil that is pumped from the ground. Crude oil is made up of a complex mixture of molecules that form chains and rings of different sizes and shapes. Long chains of carbon atoms produce a thick, viscous fluid that flows slowly. Shorter chains produce fluid that flows more readily.

    In an oil refinery, crude oil is separated into various fractions. These become the basis for lubricating oils and fuels. Thick tangled masses of carbon chains become asphaltic materials used in roofing tar and road work. Very short chains and ring compounds of carbon are volatile and can be refined to produce gasoline and other products.

    While petroleum refining is an advanced science, small amounts of contaminants, such as sulfur and reactive hydrocarbons, cannot be completely removed from petroleum, and may end up in motor oil base stocks.

    All motor oils are made up of base oils and additives. In general, fully synthetic motor oils contain non-conventional, high-performance fluids. Synthetic blends usually use some non-conventional, high-performance fluids in combination with conventional oil."

    Should I Use Synthetic Oil In My Car?

    That depends on the vehicle's age, mileage, and the carmaker's recommendations for engine lubricants. Older vehicles with high mileage tend to have excessive mechanical wear in the engine, allowing for internal oil leakage. On vehicles with high mileage, it is not recommended to use full synthetic oil because it is thin and very free flowing, and use of it does (more often than not) result in internal oil combustion. I used full synthetic oil in a Plymouth Neon. After logging120K miles the car started to consume oil at an alarming rate. Concerned, I switched to a semi-synthetic oil that was more full-bodied and the consumption stopped. I logged another 30K miles and sold it. It's still running with over 200K miles today and it doesn't burn oil. Carmakers use full synthetics and semi synthetics in some of their engines today. In most cases, you will find that a synthetic lubricant is used when there's a high performance engine with tight engine tolerances, high compression, and high operating temperatures. Follow your owner's manual for motor oil recommendations. If you want to use synthetic oil and your car is still under warranty, check with your local dealer before switching to synthetic oil (just to make sure you're covered with the switch).

    Does It Work Better In Some Cars Than Others?

    As I stated earlier, some carmakers recommend only using synthetic oil in their engines. For instance, Chevy recommends the use of Mobil One full synthetic oil in its new generation Chevy Corvette engine. I have used synthetic oil in all of my vehicles for the last six years with great results, with one exception. I didn't use a full synthetic in my Ford Taurus 3.0 DOHC V-6. Ford specifies using a 5W20 semi synthetic due to engine design, so I followed the manufacturer's specification. Remember, before changing to synthetic oil, check with your dealer on carmaker's recommendations. As stated earlier, you could void the warranty.

    What are the pros and cons of using synthetic oil in my car?

    Pros:

    • It flows easier in cold weather, therefore no loss of prime when the oil is cold. Also, it is highly resistant to viscosity breakdown (the ability of the oil to flow easily in all temps) from heat, friction, chemical contaminants.
    • Longer change intervals: 5,000 - 7,000 miles between oil changes (compared to 3,000 for regular oil). Some folks have documented up to 25K miles between changes. However, I would not advice going that long!

    Cons:

    • Cost is twice as much as conventional oil per quart. However it lasts longer, so the actual cost increase is closer to 50 - 60 percent.
    • Flows easily, therefore not recommend for use on high mileage engines; nor do I recommend using it in new engines during the break-in period because it is so slippery and dramatically limits the wearing of new mating parts within the engine. This initial wearing of parts is what makes for proper engine break-in, sealing of piston rings, mating of camshafts and lifters, etc.

    Does it make my engine last longer?

    Yes, because its so slippery, synthetic makes for less engine wear and thus greater engine longevity.

    'Til next time ... Keep Rollin'

    Read More about Auto Repair, Ownership and Maintenance:

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    - Eight Great Auto Questions

    - Oil Change Intervals

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    Discuss
    1 - 19 of 19 Comments
    kmdeming Oct 06, 2010 3:07 PM
    Also have a 2007 Zo6 Vette, Much Sweeter ride and intend to see how She holds up with Full Synthetic over the next 30 years.
    Report This
    kmdeming Oct 06, 2010 2:58 PM
    Have a 1969 Ford Mustang fastback with 340,227 miles on that Tuned 460, Zero Smoke and plenty of compression & have used Amsoil 10-40 FS since 1976 and regular maintence to say to the "doesn't matter croud, Yeah right." The key to ANY machine is to keep it clean. My Piece of Crap Ford can Light up the tires in 3 gears & hold 6800 RPMs NP for a whole 20 gallon tank, Can Your whatever do that? Amsoil FS series 3000 is worth the $ if you really love your ride.
    Report This
    ecerni Oct 05, 2010 9:55 AM
    Four cylinder Ranger, 210,00 miles, full synthetic, change every 10, 000 miles, filter every 5000 miles. Will writeagain when I get to 300,000 miles.
    Report This
    knautical1 Oct 05, 2010 9:48 AM
    Type your own comment hereSynthetic or Mineral? That is the question What does a piston aircraft use for oil mineral or para synthetic meaning a mix of mineral oil and synthetic. If you can't use 100% synthetic oil in a piston aircraft engine what makes you think I want to use it in my car or boat? Using it in a gear box is another story I'm all for that. Synthetic oil has low viscosity and doesn't fill, coat or stay in the pores of the steel engine components if the engine is not run on a daily basses. If your running the engine every day it's one thing. If your running it every couple of weeks or a month it's another. I'll stick to mineral and regular change intervals for now thank you.
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    maskrichard Oct 01, 2010 9:41 PM
    electric vehicles should use synthetic lubrication, seal the motors in liquid coolant to avoid overheating, the wheel hub is in and of itself an electric motor lightening the load and saving space, the front wheels generate electricity eleminating the need to rechardge. batery powered vehicles only ,not a glorified golf cart.the frame is the batery.
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    americanpatrick Sep 27, 2010 4:50 AM
    I have used Mobil 1 since 1995 in all of my vehicles. Chevrolet Z28, Mustang GT, 2 Mercury Grand Marquis', and various performance hot rods. We have today, a future hot rod, 1987 Cutlass V8 T-Top....147K miles, 2000 Chevrolet 4X 5.3 V8....126K miles. Both run Mobil 1. We do not change oil every 3,000 miles. We change oil every 7,000 to 10,000 miles. Mobil 1 also sells Mobil 1 EP that is good for 15,000 miles. I have never gone that long. Lets see, here in Indianapolis 1 gallon of Mobil 1 is $20. I go twice (minimum) as long, or longer, get better mileage. We air up our tires, use K/N air filters, hi flow exhaust, platinum plugs, 8-10 mm wires. No smoke, no leaks, no noises, no failures. That does not compute to higher cost ! This writer is off the mark................
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    lengua99 Sep 26, 2010 10:24 PM
    I had a rotary engine blow up using slick 50 which is teflon based. The best one I use in my international truck is z-max. You have to run the engine till it's hot before you pour it in for it to work right. ******** not as good as a full synthetic which Mobil one is. I guess now that some judge decided purified oil can now be called synthetic maybe we can call pesticided food that was washed organic. I've rebuilt motors, I don't care how often you change it no conventional oil is as good as any "ture" synthetic. Since you always get a little better mileage it's not "expensive". Also keep in mind that since it reduces wear what that means is you will get the same mileage at 200,000 as you got at 10,000 miles on the engine. So unless you are driving a lease car or you definitely will sell that car before 80,000 miles you will have lower costs with synthetic. I have two diesel trucks, one an isuzu with mobil one 15w-50 in it I can feel the difference it starts up in zero degree weather no problem. The other is an international which can't use that and does leak so I only use delvac with z-max, though I'm gonna try lucas at the next oil change. Once I rebuild the motor with an "inframe" changes the sleeves, pistons, rings and connecting rods I will go to mobil one delvac. Unless you have a crappy dodge or some vehicle that has cheap seals there's no reason not to use it. If 10w-30 leaks, try the 15w-50. That usually doesn't leak, I've seen cars that leak with regular 10w-30 do fine with the mobil one 15w-50. But if you'd rather spendmore for fuel then have to rebuild your motor go ahead save a few bucks on an oil change. My friend has a ford e350 van he moved to maine, blew an engine with the cheap oil, now he only uses mobil one. Does a route 250 miles long, sometimes in -18 below zero never warms up his truck. His fuel economy went from 16 mpg to 18 mpg, save that money with cheap oil. MARC
    Report This
    djgalate Sep 24, 2010 2:18 PM
    Tom, Thanks for talking about this topic, most folks don't have a clue about what oil to use. I suggest people follow the manufacturers recommendations on engine oil as well as other component lubricants (trans, rear, power steering, brake fluid) for new cars. If they recommend a synthetic oil then use it from day 1. It will decrease wear and increase life of the component. Use the API/SAE oil specification (5W-30, other) indicated by the manufacturer. Using the wrong weight oil in todays small engines (especially Hybrids) can triger sensors for cranking speed (and other) and cause your engine check light to illuminate. Older cars (prior to 2001) you can use many types of oils. Higher viscosity oils (10W-40) seem to work better (reduce noise and oil consumption) with cars with high mileages. If you use a synthetic in an older vehicle with high mileage, it will work, but you might find oil leaking out of some seals (engine, transmission, power steering) not designed for the smaller molecules of synthetic oil. Remember, if you use a standard motor oil, most manufacturers designate around town, daily driving, dropping the kids off to school and going to the grocery store as a SEVERE DRIVING CYCLE. This type of driving cycle requires 3000 mile oil and filter changes. Use synthetic for this type of driving and you can follow the manufacturers standard oil drain of 5000-7000 miles. If your driving includes normal, over the road, daily highway driving then a standard motor oil will allow you to change oil at the manufacturers standard oil change intervals. if you are going to error...error on the side of changing all your lubricants too often. Yes, you may waste some oil that might still be good, but it is cheap strategy compared to the cost of replacing worn, damaged, sludged or plugged components.
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    taxocrat Sep 24, 2010 12:15 AM
    Just to clarify what Torgzorg misrepresents... the difference in "lubricity "is SLIGHT, synthetic might give you an extra mpg or two, what REALLy counts is it stays thin when cold, doesn't get thinner when HOT and doesn't break down into harmful presludge goop if you "extend" your oil changes a bit too long. Toyota has reported not finding a "sludged" engine with synthetic oil in it. BTW the real history of synthetic is that the Germans developed the sutff during WWII when they discovered what happened to their motor vehicles in the Russian winter.
    Report This
    taxocrat Sep 23, 2010 11:58 PM
    This writer is a hack. He knows NOTHING about oil chemistry and he is about 50 years behind the times. "Synthetic oil "flows easily" so you can't use in in a "high mileage" engine. I guess 250K on an I4 Camry isn't high mileage. His lead in is RIGHT out of an AMZOIL puff piece. "Non-conventional high performance fluids"???? Since Chevron won a lawsuit against Mobil in which they convinced a judge that conventional oil with heavy processing (Group THREE OIL) is as good as "synthetic" this oil has carried the label "Synthetic". There are only one or two small time producers left using "PAO" and Ester fluids not directly derived from crude oil. Chevron developed a method of processing crude oil which turns removes sulfur and other impurities (Google Group Three oil if you wish) and the result preforms as well as the "full synthetic" sold by the boutique companies. This "flow freely" BS really torques me off. Synthetic is provided in everything from 0w20 to 20w50 and a number of combinations in between. Those numbers MEAN something, there Torbzorb. Using a bit of 0w20, try a 5w30 instead. Don't just write it off because according to this nob it "flows freely" Synthetic doesn't THIN anywhere near as much with HEAT, so it may stay in a worn engine BETTER than non-group three. It also burns more cleanly, so even if you use some, the chances are lower that your plugs or converter will foul, and YES, it doesn't sludge. BTW after Mobil LOST the suit brought by Chrvron regarding the use of the word "synthetic" they STOPPED making pure synthetic themselves except for one grade and call their "group three" synthetic just as Chevron wanted to do. In Europe, where this lawsuit means nothing, "full synthetic" means somethng different. If you have noticed a DROP in "synthetic" prices of late it is because group three oil is not as expensive to make. With regard to "jet fighters", turbine engines don't have a crankcase and are total loss lubricated, what makes it past the bearings is burned. NO need to worry about what happens to oil circulated in a crankcase for 7500 miles. There are NO pistons, piston rings, rods, rod bearings poppet valves or camshafts needing lubrication. Turbine oil, as the aviation industry calls it is good stuff but NOT a "gotta have" for piston engines as Amsoil would have you think. Piston engine aircraft don't use "turbine oil" they use regular motor oil. So, Torgborg, starts out cribbing from an Amsoil puff piece, throws in a lot of old wives stuff (like the "new engines"line the production tolerances on new engines are so GOOD synthetic oil is FINE and a number of high end cars COME with a FACTORY sunthetic fill--- what about THAT Torgborg?) Just Google this yourself, maybe checkl out "Bob is the Oil Guy site, and for heven sakes don't put powdered teflon into your crankcase. Dupont REUSES to allow the magic mouse milk people like Tuffoil to use "Teflon", they mantain it has NO USE in an piston engine. Despite what they say, it ends up clogging your oil filter pretty quick. So enjoy the lower prices on "synthetic" oil and use it anywhere a regular oil would go. Sure makes starting a 4 cycle snowblower a lot easier. ANd, since it burns cleanly, it makes a GREAT 2 cycle oil.
    Report This
    amsoildad Jul 28, 2010 7:13 PM
    Better than what? Quality petroleum based oils can be better than a mediocre synthetics, which may be only a blend of oils that are petroleum based and synthetic additives. Legally - to be called synthetic it only needs to have as little 10% synthetic. Watch for the API SAE details. Currently you will see API SM but SAE SN will hit the shelves by winter.
    Report This
    molloyro Apr 26, 2010 6:08 PM
    When the oil was last changed in my 2005 VW Passat I think they used regular oil. Today, 3000 miles later, the oil pressure light came on. Took it to the VW dealer who said there was internal sludge in it as a result of not using synthetic oil, estimate to repair $1500. Can this be true? I have 65000 miles.
    Report This
    rsteg7 Apr 25, 2010 3:48 PM
    What the article suggests to me is that, synthetic oil was originally developed for jet fighters, The fact that anyone thinks they need it in your everyday driver, should ask themselves, does my vehicle have a jet engine? or can I save money buy using conventional oil. End of story !!.
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    johnnyedward2008 Mar 13, 2010 9:23 AM
    I have a 2000 Nissan Frontier four door crew cab.. not a 4X4.. the vehicle has logged over 145K miles, and runs wonderfully.. I use synthetic oil... and change every 5000 to 7000 miles... I drive to work one way two hours 97 miles and I wonder if Hwy driving is easier on the engine than driving through a city full of lights? Also, you mentioned that you would not recommend synthetic oils in high mileage engines, and even though my truck runs like new, I am starting to have second thoughts...about synthetic oils... mmmm? Also what of the fuel filter? how often would you recommend changing it? Would you add anything else to help maintain my engine life? I would love to see my engine run across the one million mile mark! Johnny
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    droth10524 Mar 13, 2010 9:20 AM
    I have three vehicles all on full Synthetic 2005 Crown vic police cruiser 92000 miles 1999 Toyota Solora 86000 mi 1994 GMC Surburban 120000 mi My question is can i change any back to semi synthetic and have the best of both worlds
    Report This
    rln91649 Jun 09, 2009 10:50 AM
    My friend suggested that I use synthetic oil in my Dodge Dakota.He got mad at me when I told him that it cost too much and that I was having very positive results using Penzoil and an additive known as TUFOIL.I have been using this combination for the last 18yrs in all four of my vehicles,lawn mower,and motorscooter.The truck has 210,000 on it and holds good oil pressure and runs cool and does not burn oil.Tufoil is the only additive that is listed in the Guinness Book of World records.This stuff is super!! If you are thinking of using synthetic oil,you may want to try TUFOIL instead.Your engine will love you for this!!!!!!
    Report This
    rln91649 Jun 09, 2009 10:50 AM
    My friend suggested that I use synthetic oil in my Dodge Dakota.He got mad at me when I told him that it cost too much and that I was having very positive results using Penzoil and an additive known as TUFOIL.I have been using this combination for the last 18yrs in all four of my vehicles,lawn mower,and motorscooter.The truck has 210,000 on it and holds good oil pressure and runs cool and does not burn oil.Tufoil is the only additive that is listed in the Guinness Book of World records.This stuff is super!! If you are thinking of using synthetic oil,you may want to try TUFOIL instead.Your engine will love you for this!!!!!!
    Report This
    rln91649 Jun 09, 2009 10:49 AM
    My friend suggested that I use synthetic oil in my Dodge Dakota.He got mad at me when I told him that it cost too much and that I was having very positive results using Penzoil and an additive known as TUFOIL.I have been using this combination for the last 18yrs in all four of my vehicles,lawn mower,and motorscooter.The truck has 210,000 on it and holds good oil pressure and runs cool and does not burn oil.Tufoil is the only additive that is listed in the Guinness Book of World records.This stuff is super!! If you are thinking of using synthetic oil,you may want to try TUFOIL instead.Your engine will love you for this!!!!!!
    Report This
    rln91649 Jun 09, 2009 10:49 AM
    My friend suggested that I use synthetic oil in my Dodge Dakota.He got mad at me when I told him that it cost too much and that I was having very positive results using Penzoil and an additive known as TUFOIL.I have been using this combination for the last 18yrs in all four of my vehicles,lawn mower,and motorscooter.The truck has 210,000 on it and holds good oil pressure and runs cool and does not burn oil.Tufoil is the only additive that is listed in the Guinness Book of World records.This stuff is super!! If you are thinking of using synthetic oil,you may want to try TUFOIL instead.Your engine will love you for this!!!!!!
    Report This
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    Is synthetic motor oil better for your car? Lean about the pros and cons of synthetic oil.
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