Engine oil is one of the crucial fluids of a car; without it, the engine cannot operate. That’s the reason why an engine oil change is so vital in car maintenance. The role of car engine oil is to lubricate the engine moving parts, reduce wear and tear and keep the internals clean. There are mainly two types of engine oil: synthetic engine oil and normal engine oil. So, which oil is better for your car? In this article, we discuss one of the most debated topics in the automotive world: synthetic oil vs normal oil.
Synthetic engine oil for cars is a type of lubricant made out of artificial chemical compounds. The chemical compounds are produced by breaking and rebuilding the petroleum molecules. The molecules are almost the same size and structure—the uniform molecule size results in less friction. Further, they are classified as fully-synthetic oil and synthetic blend oil.
Fully-synthetic oil is the purest form of synthetic engine oil. It uses a synthetic base stock and is designed molecule by molecule without the use of petroleum. It also includes additives to help oil degradation. On the other hand, synthetic blend oil is a mixture of normal oil and synthetic base stock. Conventional oil's performance and protection abilities increase slightly by adding the synthetic base stock. Hence, synthetic blend oil is better than mineral oil.
Conventional or normal engine oil is a lubricant made out of crude oil. The crude oil is refined until it has lubricating properties. It’s a natural process; hence, there will be inconsistencies in the size and structure of the molecules. The varying molecular size and structure increased friction and faster oil breakdown. That’s why conventional oils do not last as long as synthetic oils.
The engine is the heart of an automobile, and its maintenance is the topmost priority if you own a car. Changing engine oil at regular intervals is one of the crucial aspects of car engine maintenance. But which engine oil is best for your car? Synthetic oil vs normal oil is one of the most discussed questions in the automotive world. But before answering the question, let’s understand what synthetic and normal oil is.
To begin with, synthetic engine oil and regular engine oil, also called mineral oil, do the same job of lubricating the engine components. Both oils reduce the friction inside the engine and prevent excessive wear and tear. Moreover, both oils are derived by refining crude oil. However, what differentiates synthetic from conventional oil is the level of refinement.
Regular engine oil cannot match the performance and protection offered by synthetic engine oil. That’s because the production process involves the addition of artificial chemical compounds. Hence, it is partially artificial, and the additional artificial compounds enhance its performance and protection abilities.
Now, answering the question, synthetic engine oil is better than normal engine oil. But it is more expensive than regular engine oil due to the advanced manufacturing process. But the performance and protection it offers are worth the additional cost.
Refer to the table below to know the main differences between synthetic oil and conventional oil.
|Parameters||Synthetic engine oil||Normal engine oil|
|Manufacturing process||Partially man-made||Derived naturally|
|Additives||It comprises artificial chemical compounds.||Normal oil does not contain any additives.|
|Molecular size and structure||Uniform||Inconsistent|
|Friction||Less friction due to uniform size and structure of the molecules.||More friction due to the irregular size and structure of the molecules.|
|Performance||Offers better performance, especially in extremely high and low temperatures.||Normal oil may not withstand extremely low/high temperatures and can break down.|
|Engine efficiency||Higher than an engine using normal oil.||Lower than an engine using synthetic oil.|
|Wear and tear protection||High||Low|
The synthetic engine oil price for cars can vary depending on the brand as different brands use different manufacturing technology. So, there’s no fixed cost for synthetic engine oils. Fully-synthetic oil costs almost two to three times more than regular engine oil. It may give you an idea about the cost difference between both the oils.
You already know that synthetic oil is more expensive than regular oil when it comes to synthetic oil vs normal oil. So, there should be additional benefits for the extra price you pay. Below are the advantages of synthetic engine oil.
Better engine wear protection: An engine comprises numerous moving parts that cause friction. The engine oil’s job is to reduce friction and slow down wear and tear. Synthetic oil does it better compared to regular oil. Since it is made out of superior base oil, it lasts longer than conventional oil. Hence, it protects the engine for a more extended period, even under extreme driving conditions.
Keeps the engine clean: When the oil circulates throughout the engine, it can pick up impurities, which may lead to sludge formation over time. Sludge reduces engine efficiency and life. Synthetic oils contain fewer impurities and prevent sludge formation. Moreover, it can also clear out any previous sludge formation due to its superior protection properties.
Flows better at lower temperatures: In extremely cold temperatures or if you park the car for a very long time, the engine oil tends to settle down. But when you start the car, the oil should immediately circulate to lubricate the engine. Synthetic oil has superior flowing properties even in very low temperatures, whereas regular oil can take some time to circulate. Hence, it offers better protection in cold weather conditions.
Superior performance at high temperatures: Normal engine oil tends to evaporate in extremely high temperatures as the molecules break up easily. But synthetic oil molecules do not break up in hot weather conditions. Hence, it provides better protection in higher temperatures.
Protects turbocharger components: Nowadays, turbocharged engines are common. They offer high power output with smaller engine capacity. However, a turbo engine operates at higher temperatures than a non-turbo engine. The oil inside a turbocharger can hit extremely high temperatures. Synthetic oil can perform well in such conditions and protect the turbocharger's critical components.
Below are some of the cons of using synthetic engine oil.
One of the most significant disadvantages of synthetic oil is the cost. It is more expensive than conventional engine oils.
Synthetic engine oils are prone to additive separation during cold storage conditions. The additives may completely separate from the oil. Without additives, the oil may not perform as it should.
Synthetic oils may lead to slightly lower fuel economy at highway speeds.
In this section, let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of normal engine oil.
Here are some benefits of normal oil.
One of the biggest benefits of using regular engine oil is the cost. Conventional engine oils cost way less than synthetic oil.
Normal engine oils are easily available.
Regular engine oil helps in smoothing the rough surfaces of a brand new engine with its uneven molecules.
Below are some cons of normal oil.
Normal oils do not offer good protection in extremely high or low temperatures.
Regular oil comprises impurities that may lead to sludge formation.
Conventional oil does not last long as the molecules break down easily.
Lastly, regular oils do not offer superior protection against engine wear and tear.
So, which engine oil is better for your car, normal or synthetic? We hope that you can answer this question after going through the above sections of this article. Synthetic engine oils are expensive, but they offer superior performance and protection. On the other hand, regular engine oils are affordable, but you compromise on the protection and performance abilities. Hence, synthetic oil is always better, provided your car’s engine is built to use such oils. Although you pay a premium for synthetic engine oils, you get better engine protection and performance.
Below are some of the most common questions and their answers related to synthetic oil vs normal oil.
Can I mix regular and synthetic engine oil?
Yes, you can mix synthetic and conventional oil, and it will not damage the engine. However, instead of mixing the oil yourself, you can opt for semi-synthetic engine oils. It is nothing but a mixture of normal and synthetic oil, but they are professionally mixed.
How do I know if I can use synthetic engine oil in my car?
You can refer to your car's owner's manual to know whether you can use synthetic oil or not. If you don't have the owner's manual, you can consult an expert mechanic from the authorised service centre to confirm the same.
How often do I need to change the synthetic engine oil?
The oil change interval depends on the make and model of the vehicle. You can refer to your car's owner manual to know the exact oil change interval.
Can I switch from synthetic oil to conventional oil?
Yes, you can switch from synthetic to conventional engine oil. Since both the oils are compatible with each other, you can go ahead with the switch. You need not flush the engine when changing from synthetic to conventional oil.
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