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Conventional vs Synthetic Oil Conventional vs Synthetic Oil

Synthetic Oil vs. Conventional Oil: Which One Should You Use?

The motor oil protects critical engine components from damage and wear. However, not all motor oils perform the same. Synthetic, conventional, blends—each comes with pros and cons. But what does that mean for your engine? We break down the differences between synthetic and conventional oils so you can make the best choice for your car.

What is Conventional Oil?

Conventional oil, also known as mineral oil, has been the standard form of engine oil in the automotive industry for years. It comes from refined crude oil and naturally contains certain impurities that can affect its viscosity and make it less smooth over time. While it has basic cleaners added to it, it doesn't have the chemicals that some newer oils have.

In simple terms: this oil does a decent job protecting most engines. But if it gets super cold or hot, it might not work as well. It's good for older cars or ones that don't push their engines too hard. For newer or high-performance cars, there are better oils out there.

What is Synthetic Oil?

Synthetic oil is made using special man-made chemicals and undergoes a refining process to remove most contaminants. The refining process also allows for more control over its molecules. This means the oil is more consistent in size and structure, which makes it less likely to form sludge. Although it's more expensive, it offers a range of benefits that can prolong the life of your engine.

Benefits of Synthetic Oil

1. Composition: Synthetic oil is made from special chemicals and contains additives. These chemicals make the oil more even and consistent. On the other hand, regular oil comes from natural crude oil, so its composition can vary based on where and how it's sourced. Due to the additives and uniform molecular structure, synthetic oil lubricates better, flows better, is less prone to oxidation, and is overall more stable than conventional oil. 
2. Engine Wear: Regular oil can have tiny unwanted bits that can accumulate over time and create deposits in the engine if you don't change it often. Synthetic oil is made so that it is smoother and keeps any contaminants from accumulating together. This makes it move easily through the engine and protects it better. 
3. Change Interval: Compared to conventional oils, synthetic oils often last longer between oil changes thanks to their resistance to breakdown.  
4. Temperature Resistance: Regular oils can get too thin in hot weather and too thick in cold weather, causing them to lose their lubricating properties. Synthetic oils, however, stay more consistent under extreme temperatures. This means they're great for engines that work in demanding conditions or in regions with very cold winters or hot summers. 
5. Cost: Conventional oils are less expensive, but they need to be changed more often than synthetic oils. So, you might end up spending more on regular oil changes over time. 
6. Fuel Economy: Synthetic oil is made to create less friction, making the engine run with less resistance than with regular oils. This can make your car use fuel a bit more efficiently and even save you some gas in the long run. 
7. Cold Start Protection: Synthetic oil flows better at low temperatures, protecting your engine right when you start it. Regular oil, being a bit thicker, takes more time to get moving in the cold, so it might not protect as fast. 

Parameter Synthetic Oil Conventional Oil
Base Material
Artificially made chemical compounds  Refined from crude petroleum 
Molecular Structure Uniform in shape and size  Varied shapes, sizes, and structures 
Viscosity Maintains viscosity  Degrades over time 
Temperature Resistance Performs well in extreme temperatures  Less effective in extreme temperatures 
Additives Higher-performing additives for better engine protection  Basic additives for engine cleanliness 
Engine Wear Provides better protection against engine wear  Adequate but less effective than synthetic oil 
Oil Change Interval Longer  Shorter 
Cost More expensive  Less expensive 
Fuel Economy Offer better fuel economy due to reduced engine friction  Slightly less efficient 
Cold Weather Performance Flows well in cold temperatures  May become more viscous in cold temperatures 
Environmental Impact Less waste  More waste 
Manufacturer's Recommendation  Often required for newer, high-performance engines  Often recommended for older models or specific conditions 

 

Can You Change from Conventional Oil to Synthetic Oil?

Most cars can use both regular and synthetic motor oil. Unless your engine specifically needs mineral oil, there's no reason not to use synthetic. However, it's advisable to consult your vehicle owner's manual or a qualified mechanic first. A few older cars might leak a bit if you switch to synthetic oil due to the finer molecular structure. It's not common, but if you're switching the oil in an older car, it might be good to clean out the engine first. 

Before switching from regular to synthetic oil, check your car's oil filter as well. Some filters are designed for regular oil, and others for synthetic. If you're planning to make the switch, consider getting a filter with an extended life to match that of the synthetic oil. If you don't, you might end up with a filter that wears out faster than the oil does. This can lead to impurities and dirt getting into your engine, which can cause wear and damage over time. 

For your convenience, FRAM offers a full line of high-quality oil filters that work with both conventional and synthetic oils. A good example is FRAM Synthetic Endurance®. It's our most durable filter optimized for use with synthetic oil to deliver 99% filtration efficiency. 

Questions? We're here to help. Reach out the FRAM specialists for product and maintenance support.


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