Synthetic Motor Oil or Conventional

If you’re not sure what motor oil to use for your car, read on.

What does the manufacturer of your vehicle recommend?

Check your owner’s manual. This will tell you not only what kind of motor oil is best for your car, but the schedule you should follow for changing the oil and filter, along with other regular maintenance recommendations. If you don’t have the owner’s manual for your car, go online and do some research. You’ll find all kinds of information – and opinions. The challenge then becomes sifting through it all to make the right decision. Luckily, AAMCO Colorado is here to help. We’ve put together some information to help you understand and make good decisions about the maintenance of your car, especially when it comes to oil.

Synthetic motor oil or conventional?

Synthetic oil is basically an artificial engine lubricant created from chemicals. Some classes of synthetic oil are called synthetic blends. They use conventional oil as a base, then are chemically processed to produce synthetic lubricant or “oil.” Other synthetics may be 100% artificial, but use other raw materials. For our purposes here, synthetic means 100% synthetic or artificial, no blends.image of clear golden colored oil pouring out of wide mouth plastic bottle.

Conventional motor oil is refined from crude oil and is referred to as standard or mineral-based oil. Always check your owner’s manual to see if synthetic oil is required. On some late model cars, high performance vehicles, and hybrids, synthetic oil is a requirement, not an option. If you don’t use the right kind of oil, you risk voiding the engine warranty. Conventional oil should not be considered to inferior to synthetic oil. It is just a different way of lubricating the engine and has to be changed more frequently.

Is synthetic motor oil better for your car? It depends.

The main goals of synthetic oils are to reduce engine wear and oil degradation. Synthetic oils are thinner and more resistant to temperature extremes. They degrade less, or more slowly, than conventional oil, and are more durable, which results in less frequent oil changes and a better lubricated engine. Synthetic is basically superior to conventional oil because it’s better at doing the things oil is supposed to do inside the engine. But factors such as age and mileage of the car come into play when using synthetic oil over conventional. More on that later.

Oil changes might be less frequent with synthetic oil.

Depending on the make, model, and year of your car the recommended interval for oil changes varies. For conventional oil it has always been 3,000 to 5,000 miles. If you use synthetic, your interval is probably 7,500 to 10,000 miles recommended. In some cases, depending on the vehicle manufacturer, 15,000 miles or one year is an acceptable timeframe. Again, this is all dependent on the manufacturer’s recommendation for oil change intervals. Synthetic oil will not magically extend your oil change intervals from 3,000 miles to 15,000 miles.

Is synthetic oil worth the extra cost? Should I switch?

The longevity of synthetic oil is its biggest advantage over conventional oil. Assuming your car does not require synthetic oil, and you are diligent about following routine maintenance schedules – such as oil changes – conventional oil is just fine for your purposes. It’s less expensive, and if you take good care of your car, there is no real reason to use synthetic oil. There are also some potential risks in making a switch from conventional to synthetic if your car is old and has high mileage.

If your car is new and the manufacturer requires, or even just recommends, synthetic oil, and the change interval is 7,500 miles, then obviously you will operate within those guidelines. Going from synthetic to conventional to save money just does not make sense in many cases, especially with new cars.

The cost savings from switching from conventional to synthetic oil due to its not needing to be changed as frequently are probably a wash given the premium prices charged for synthetic oil and change services, as well as potential mechanical glitches. But it really comes down to your car’s make, model, age, your driving habits, how many miles you put on your car every week, month, year, and what the conditions are in which you drive those miles. Just don’t make the decision lightly.

What about older, high mileage vehicles?

image of old vintage car isolated on white backgroundIf your car is about 1990 or older, with a lot of miles, and you are thinking of switching to synthetic oil, you probably should have a mechanic inspect your car’s engine and see how it’s doing with the conventional oil. Just be aware that your oil change intervals should not change drastically, if at all. The car manufacturer’s recommended oil service schedule should still be honored. If your old car was new, with the requirement to use conventional, you would be voiding the warranty by using synthetic and going so long between oil changes. The extended intervals made possible by synthetic oil are sales gimmicks to help justify the higher price. But switching to synthetic – regardless of your vehicle’s age or mileage – is not a magic money-saving solution.

Switching to synthetic might be a “shock” to the car’s system – the engine, gaskets and seals within. The engine can become “used to” conventional oil and a change to synthetic might create leaks in seals, gaskets, and other components that are not as tight as on a newer car. Synthetic oil is thinner and more slippery, so it gets through smaller openings than conventional oil can, which results in leakage. You might think at first that your car is using more oil, but the reality is that the synthetic you’re using is escaping out smaller or weaker points in the seals and gaskets that the conventional oil was not. Conventionally speaking, synthetic oil is supposed to last longer, it just might not last longer in your engine.

In short, those leaks will cause the engine to lose  or even burn oil and require you to check oil levels and get it changed, or topped off, more frequently. If you don’t, you risk damaging the engine or other components. It’s not accurate to say that you should not switch to synthetic if your car is old or has a lot of miles on it, but you should be careful about the decision. Come to your local AAMCO Colorado auto repair center for help in determining if synthetic oil is the right choice for your car.

Which kind of motor oil is better for the environment?

Conventional oil is derived from petroleum, and the various processes through which petroleum is obtained and refined are not necessarily environmentally safe or friendly. Standard oil is also difficult to recycle, though it is done and reputable oil change services and repair shops collect the used oil to be shipped to recycling facilities. The recycling process itself is by no means kind to the environment – but neither is owning and operating a vehicle, for that matter. Synthetic oil is created through processes that utilize toxic chemicals, which are not so environmentally friendly, either. Either way – conventional or synthetic – you’re using a product that requires processes to create, use, and discard or recycle it that are harmful to the environment. Either type of oil takes certain things from the world around us, impacts the world in not-so-good ways, and leaves us with byproducts and dirty, used sludge. So, if someone asks you which type of oil is better for the environment – conventional or synthetic – a good answer is that we have options in reducing the impact we make to the environment over time.

AAMCO Colorado Can Help You With Your Motor Oil

image of happy customer and AAMCO mechanic sitting in customer's car.Whether synthetic or conventional, AAMCO Colorado’s expert mechanics can help you make the right choice. From oil and filter changes to checking vital fluids, systems, and components, we’ll do a vehicle courtesy check, make sure everything is in good working order, note needed repairs or scheduled maintenance, and get you back on the road safely and reliably. Call or come into your locally owned Colorado AAMCO transmission and total car care center today for the best in automotive repairs, maintenance, and customer service.


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