Is Full Synthetic Oil Worth It?

Pure synthetic oils are not made from petroleum at all but are composed of other chemicals and are designed to be “molecules by molecules,” Calkins says. It also contains superior additives which are intended to help prevent oil degradation over time.

Other synthetic oils begin as petroleum products, such as conventional oils, but undergo a special refining process that alters the molecular structure in order to meet certain criteria, such as operating at high temperatures and lasting longer than conventional oils.

High-performance vehicles, especially those equipped with turbochargers requiring oils that can withstand high temperatures, are more likely to require synthetic oil. However, automakers are moving towards a wider use of synthetic oils or synthetic bleached oils, which are usually cheaper.

Synthetic oil technological advantages include:

  • Uniform molecular size means less friction
  • Refinement and engineering reduce deposits
  • Additives boost protection and can clean engines
  • Better function in cold and extreme weather
  • Cleaner oil with fewer impurities

Synthetic oil was first produced in 1929. With technology and access to resources, it has been refined to accommodate jets, high-performance vehicles and everyday consumer vehicles. When, for example, the Allied forces imposed oil shortages on Germany during the Second World War, Nazi Germany pushed for man-made oil to fuel its army. In the 1970s, the US Energy Crisis made a huge effort to improve fuel economy by creating better synthetic oils.

The need for synthetic oils also stems from technological changes. High-performance vehicles and machines — from jets that break the sound barrier to industrial plants — have to operate under extreme conditions and temperatures. Highly refined engine oil allows for better temperature resistance.

Synthetic Oil vs. Conventional Oil

Visually, you can’t tell the difference between new synthetic and conventional oils. There are, however, two major differences. First of all, how they are made is a distinction. We explained that synthetic oil is far more refined than conventional oil.

Second, the way they run in your car is a world apart. The used motor oil is much thicker and sluggish in conventional oil vs. synthetic oil, given the same amount of wear. Synthetic oil is far better for performance. It protects the engine from lower friction levels. Additives help clean the deposit engine. And, with fewer impurities, it burns cleaner, thickens much more slowly, and has fewer deposits to begin with.

The benefits of synthetic oil vs conventional oil:

  • Fewer emissions
  • Better fuel and oil economy
  • Increased engine protection and wear from lower friction
  • Longer intervals between oil changes
  • Reduced engine drag from greater resistance to thickening
  • Oil effectiveness/quality is more predictable and uniform
  • Better all-weather protection
  • Quicker engine start time
  • Helps clean engine sludge and deposits

Switching to synthetic oil

You may have heard that it is harmful to switch from conventional to synthetic oil, or that a “break-in period” is required to make a switch. “This is a common myth,” according to information from the Mobil 1 engineering team, which is producing a line of well-known synthetic oils. “In fact, you can change from a conventional oil to a synthetic oil at any time,” without damaging the engine.

In addition, synthetic oil is often recommended for older cars because it helps to reduce the sludge and deposits accumulated in the vehicle engine. Synthetic oils are more resistant to high temperatures, which is a cause of sludge.

If you decide to switch to synthetic oil, make sure that it is the same weight — also referred to as “viscosity”—as the conventional oil you used.

And although many synthetic oils are advertised as allowing you to drive further between changes in oil, AAA does not recommend doing so. Instead, you should stick to the same intervals of oil change recommended by the manufacturer.

By Jon ‘ShakataGaNai’ Davis, CC BY 3.0,

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