July 20, 2024
#Car Advice

Synthetic Oil vs Regular Oil. What Every Driver Needs to Know

Tony Ongom drives a well-used 25-year-old Golf 4 with a mileage of 215,000km. The car has been reliable over the eleven years that he has owned the vehicle. While servicing his engine at a local petrol station a few weeks ago, the mechanic suggested he tries a synthetic oil that would last him the next 10,000km. Although he initially bought the idea, a quick search on google indicated that for older high mileage cars, it was safer to stick to mineral lubricants if that is what the vehicle has been using for extended periods.

Engine oil is the lifeblood of any vehicle. It is important to select the right oil for your car at every service. Engine oil ensures smooth operation which contributes to the longevity of the engine. While Mineral oils have been the standard for decades, synthetic oil has emerged as a popular alternative for modern vehicles and among car enthusiasts. Synthetic oil is, engineered to provide superior performance and protection. It offers numerous benefits that can significantly enhance your vehicle’s engine health.

In this comprehensive guide, we will get in the meat of the advantages of using synthetic oil, compare it with mineral oil, and provide insights on how to choose the right synthetic oil for your car. Whether you’re a seasoned mechanic or a novice car owner, this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about your engine oil.

What is Synthetic Oil?

Synthetic oil is a lubricant consisting of chemical compounds that are artificially made. It is manufactured using chemically modified petroleum components rather than whole crude oil. The manufacturing process allows for the creation of oil that offers enhanced properties compared to mineral oils.
Synthetic oils are typically made from high-quality base oils and are formulated with advanced additives. These additives typically include:
Detergents: Help keep the engine clean by preventing sludge and deposits.
Dispersants: Aid in keeping contaminants suspended in the oil to prevent clogging.
Anti-wear agents: Protect metal surfaces from friction and wear.
Antioxidants: Prevent oil oxidation and breakdown at high temperatures.

Comparison with mineral Oil

FeatureSynthetic OilMineral Oil
Base MaterialChemically modified petroleum componentsRefined crude oil
PerformanceSuperior stability and performanceBasic protection and performance
Temperature RangeExcellent performance in extreme temperaturesLimited performance in extreme conditions
Oil Change IntervalLonger intervalsShorter intervals

Key Benefits of Synthetic Oil

Improved Fuel Economy
Using synthetic oil can contribute to better fuel economy by reducing engine drag and improving efficiency. The superior lubricating properties of synthetic oil reduce internal engine resistance, leading to better fuel efficiency. By maintaining optimal engine performance, synthetic oil helps your vehicle run more efficiently, potentially saving you money on fuel costs.

Enhanced Engine Performance
According to Richard Mugerwa a lubricants sales person dealer in industrial area,  one of the primary benefits of synthetic oil is its ability to enhance engine performance. “Synthetic oil is the best option for newer cars with modern engines. It is well formulated and gives the best engine protection any driver could need.” Richard says. Synthetic oil’s uniform molecular structure reduces friction more effectively than mineral oil. This leads to smoother engine operation, improved power output, and better overall efficiency. Advanced detergents in synthetic oil help keep the engine cleaner by preventing sludge and deposit formation. Synthetic oil generally provides superior lubrication, ensuring all moving parts function optimally.

Superior Temperature Resistance
Synthetic oil excels in maintaining its stability across a wide range of temperatures. This makes it an ideal choice for vehicles operating in extreme weather conditions.
Synthetic oil has high temperature stability which resists breaking down at high temperature. This is crucial during long drives or in hot climates. Additionally synthetic oil also has good cold-weather performance remaining fluid at lower temperatures. This ensures easy starts and effective lubrication in cold weather.

Longer Oil Change Intervals
Another benefit with synthetic oil, according to Mugerwa is that you can enjoy longer intervals between oil changes, saving time and money in the long run. This is due to its enhanced durability and resistance to breakdown. While synthetic oil may cost more upfront, the extended oil change intervals and enhanced engine protection offer better value over time.

Better Engine Protection
Synthetic oil provides superior protection against engine wear, deposits, and sludge. This is crucial for maintaining engine health and longevity.
Anti-wear agents in synthetic oil protect engine components from friction-related damage. Synthetic oil’s advanced formulation prevents the formation of harmful deposits, keeping the engine clean. Detergents and dispersants in synthetic oil help prevent sludge buildup, ensuring smooth engine operation.

Synthetic Oil vs. Mineral Oil

Choosing between synthetic oil and mineral oil can be daunting. Understanding the differences in cost, performance, and suitability for different vehicles and driving conditions can help you make an informed decision.
Cost Comparison
One of the main considerations for many drivers is cost. Synthetic oil generally costs more per litre than mineral oil.Despite the higher upfront cost, synthetic oil can lead to long-term savings due to fewer oil changes and reduced engine wear. Over time, these savings can offset the initial higher expense.

Vehicle Needs

Certain driving conditions and vehicle types benefit more from synthetic oil:
Sports cars and high-performance engines typically require synthetic oil to handle the higher stresses and temperatures.
Vehicles operating in very hot or very cold environments perform better with synthetic oil.

Mugerwa notes that older Vehicles with high mileage engines may run better with mineral oil, especially if they have been using it for a long time. “For standard commuting like in Kampala and regular driving mineral oil can be an adequate and cost-effective option.” Examples of mineral oils on the Ugandan market include Total Energy’s Quartz 5000 and Shells Helix HX3 and Helix HX5.

Types of Synthetic Engine Oil

Not all synthetic oils are the same. There are different types of synthetic engine oils, each with its own unique properties and benefits. Understanding these types can help you choose the best oil for your vehicle.

Fully Synthetic Oil
Full synthetic oil is made from high-quality base oils and contains advanced additives that enhance its performance. This type of oil offers the highest level of protection and performance. Fully synthetic oil has very high purity. It is refined to remove impurities, resulting in a more stable and consistent product. It provides superior performance with exceptional lubrication, reduces engine wear, and enhances fuel efficiency. Full synthetic oil has extended oil change Intervals lasting longer between oil changes, making it more cost-effective in the long run. Examples of fully synthetic lubricants on our market include Total’s Quartz 9000 5W-40 and Shell’s Helix Ultra 5W-30 and Helix Ultra 5W-40. There are also imported options from manufacturers such as Castrol and Liqui Molly.

Semi Synthetic Oil

Semi Synthetic oil combines synthetic base oils with mineral oils. This blend offers a balance of performance and cost, making it a popular choice for many drivers.
Semi synthetic oil is generally cheaper than fully synthetic oil but offers better performance than mineral oil.It provides better protection and performance than mineral oil, particularly in terms of temperature stability and engine cleanliness.
While not as long-lasting as fully synthetic, semi synthetic oil still allows for longer intervals between oil changes compared to mineral oil. Examples of semi synthetic oils include Shell’s Helix HX7 10W-40 and Total’s Quartz 7000 10W-40.

When to Choose Semi synthetic oil Over Fully Synthetic

Budget Constraints: If fully synthetic oil is too costly, a semi synthetic oil is a good compromise, offering many of the benefits at a lower price. For drivers who do not push their vehicles to the extremes, semi synthetic oil can provide adequate protection and performance. Older Vehicles with high mileage that are transitioning from mineral to synthetic oil might benefit from starting with a semi synthetic.
Choosing the right synthetic oil for your vehicle is crucial for ensuring optimal performance and longevity. Following your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations is essential for choosing the right synthetic oil. Manufacturers design engines with specific oil requirements to achieve the best performance and longevity.

Explanation of Oil Viscosity

Viscosity is a measure of an oil’s resistance to flow. The right viscosity ensures that your engine is protected under various operating conditions.

Viscosity Index: This indicates how the oil’s viscosity changes with temperature. A higher viscosity index means the oil performs better over a wider temperature range.
SAE Ratings: The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) assigns viscosity ratings like 5W-30 or 10W-40. The first number (with the “W” for winter) indicates the oil’s flow at cold temperatures, while the second number indicates flow at operating temperatures.

5W-30: Ideal for cold weather, flows well in low temperatures, and maintains protection at normal engine temperatures.
10W-40: Suitable for warmer climates, provides thicker oil film at high temperatures, beneficial for older engines or those operating in hot conditions.
Your vehicle’s owner’s manual is the best source for oil recommendations tailored to your specific vehicle. You can also visit your vehicles manufacturer Websites which often provide updated information and recommendations for oil types and viscosities.

Things to Note About Synthetic Oil

Can You Mix Synthetic and mineral Oil?
Generally, synthetic and mineral oils are compatible and can be mixed without causing immediate harm to the engine. However  mixing the two can dilute the benefits of synthetic oil, reducing its effectiveness in providing superior protection and performance. It is recommended to stick with one type for consistency. If you need to top off your oil and only have mineral oil on hand, it’s okay to use it temporarily until you can get a proper oil change.

Is Synthetic Oil Suitable for Older Engines?
Many older engines with have seals and might develop leaks when switching from mineral to synthetic oil due to its superior flow properties.
You shuld consider using a synthetic oil with high-mileage formulations. These are oils are specifically designed for high-mileage vehicles that contain seal conditioners to prevent leaks and reduce oil consumption. Overall synthetic oil can still offer superior protection, reduce engine wear, and improve performance in older engines.

How Often Should Synthetic Oil Be Changed?

Determining the right interval for changing synthetic oil can vary based on several factors.Always refer to your vehicle’s owner manual for the recommended oil type and change intervals. However, synthetic oil typically last between 7,500 to 10,000 kilometers depending on the oil formulation and driving conditions.

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