Ask a Technician: What’s the Difference Between Conventional and Synthetic Oils?
Most drivers understand the importance of engine oil in keeping their car running efficiently, but as the range of different engine oils on the market increases, it is becoming more difficult to decide which one is right for your car. There are normally two different types of oil to consider—conventional and synthetic.
What is synthetic oil?
As the name would suggest, synthetic oils are fabricated differently than conventional engine oil, which primarily comes from crude. Synthetic oils combine a number of non-conventional fluids that have been manipulated and engineered to perform better than conventional oils. As a result, synthetic oils are normally priced rather more than their conventional counterpart—however, the benefits may be worth it in the long run.
What is conventional oil?
Conventional crude oil is constructed from a series of short-chain and long-chain carbon and hydrogen atoms. When placed under extreme heat, the short-chain molecules can evaporate and break down. As a part of this process, contaminants can more easily enter the product, too. Overall, this can significantly reduce the efficiency of the product and means that the engine oil must be replaced more frequently.
What are the advantages of synthetic oil?
Synthetic oils are the result of combining a number of different substances in one product. The base element of most synthetic oils is polyalphaolefin (or PAO), which is built up from a number of different super molecules. Synthetic oil based on PAO offers a number of advantages over conventional oil. The oil flows at lower temperatures and is more resistant to boiling off under heat. It is also less susceptible to oxidation, a process which can cause the oil to thicken over longer periods of time exposed to heat. Synthetic oils have a uniform structure and are therefore less affected by impurities, which can impact the oil's capability to protect the engine.
Most cars can work effectively without synthetic oil, but conventional oil will not last as long and may cause damage to engine parts over time. Synthetic oils keep the engine cleaner and reduce wear on the engine at higher temperatures. This is particularly beneficial when the engine is working under very high temperatures, as in a performance car. Cars that are supplied with synthetic oil are also prone to better cold-start performance as the oil flows better at ignition. In older cars, therefore, this can represent a significant benefit.
What we recommend
Synthetic oils often cost three or four times as much as conventional oil, but this can be a worthwhile investment over a longer period of time, as your car is likely to see improved fuel efficiency. There are further cost reductions to be made in regular maintenance too. Where synthetic oils are used, the engine oil needs to be changed less frequently, reducing the cost of expensive work in the repair shop. Ask Germain Toyota of Columbus for more details on the most suitable oil for the make and model of your car.