Oil Guide: Synthetic Oil explained

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  • Jun 26, 2014
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Synthetic engine oils do more than just keep the engine running smoothly. These help get the best performance out of your engine as well

Synthetic engine oil

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Synthetic oils have been around for a while; in fact they were on sale as early as 1929. During World War II, the Germans further advanced synthetic oil technology after the Allied forces halted their oil supply. Despite the crisis in oil supply, it took a while for synthetic oils to gain prominence in the automotive market. But the question is where does synthetic oil come from? 

Although oil is available as a natural resource, before actually being canned it has to go through a lot of processing and filtration. Of the kinds of oils used in motor vehicles, mineral oil is as close to crude oil as it can possibly get. Synthetic oil on the other hand is actually a subset of mineral oil. They are made from the purest part of the mineral oil refraction process, the gas. 

Unlike mineral oil, Synthetic oil doesn’t have unnecessary molecular compounds like paraffin waxes that don’t contribute to the lubricating properties of the oil. The absence of such substances gives it better mechanical properties even in extreme conditions and gives them longer change schedules and improves their overall performance. That said, despite a vast difference in its properties, if there is puddle of synthetic and mineral oil on the floor you will not be able to point out the difference. 

Further, Synthetic oils are manufactured using superior chemical process such that allows its properties be closely controlled. They are more resistant to heat thanks to a high rate of viscosity and can even perform better at extreme temperatures. 

The advantages of pure synthetic oils are as follows:

• They have better low and high temperature viscosity performance

• They have better chemical stability

• They are more resistive to oxidation, thermal breakdown, and oil sludge problems

• They have longer change schedule, so less oil is wasted

• These oils extend an engine’s life compared to other types of oils 

• Synthetic oils are known to increase the horsepower and torque of engine as they reduce the drag on the engine

The disadvantages of pure synthetic engine oils include:

• The initial cost of these oils is very high

• Chemicals in synthetic oils have been known to corrode rubber seals in carburetted engines

• Many synthetic oils do not give an engine any major advantage, as far as performance is concerned, over mineral or semi-synthetic oil. Performance enhancements will be limited to high performance engines

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