Different Types of Engine Oil Explained
There are three basic types of engine oil: mineral, semi-synthetic, and synthetic engine oils.
Mineral oil or conventional motor oil is really just refined petroleum oils that have undergone treatment to function under a wide range of temperatures. Mineral oil is cheaper than the other two varieties. Today, we tend to use mineral oils in older cars and motorbikes.
The downside of mineral oil is that it offers little to no lubrication and protection against friction-induced heat. Additionally, they do not perform efficiently in colder temperatures, and they tend to break down in high-temperature uses. Mineral oils require replacement more frequently as they seldom last for more than 5000km.
Incidentally, there is no visual difference between the oil types.
Semi-synthetic oil – also known as synthetic blend oil – is a good compromise as it offers the affordability of mineral oil with the superior performance of synthetic oil. It can protect an engine as much as three times better than mineral oils.
As the name would suggest, it is made by adding a small amount of synthetic engine oil with mineral oil, thereby boosting its properties without boosting the price too much. Adding synthetic oil enhances the viscosity and wear resistance of the engine oil at higher temperatures and stress. The converse applies too so semi-synthetic oils offer better performance at lower temperatures when compared to mineral oils.
The obvious negative of semi-synthetic oils is that they do not offer the protection that a full synthetic does.
This is the best that science has to offer in engine oil technology. Full synthetic engine oil gives you excellent protection and assists with achieving better fuel efficiency. Synthetic oils are treated extensively in the laboratory. In the treatment, mineral oil is broken down into its molecules, making them superior and removing impurities. The fact that the molecules of synthetic oil are uniform in terms of size and shape, the oil offers superior lubrication. Full synthetic motor oil functions optimally in low or high temperatures, or under extreme stress.
The only downside is that this scientific process is obviously costly, resulting in a more expensive motor oil.
What is Synthetic Oil?
Synthetic oil is better for your engine than conventional oil. Although conventional oil or mineral oil provides adequate lubrication, it cannot compete with either the overall engine performance or the protection that synthetics provide. Synthetic oil is made of artificial chemical compounds which include a base oil, a carrier oil, and powder additives. It is the carrier oil that ensures even distribution of additives which leads to better engine protection.
While conventional motor oils are only slightly refined and may include impurities, synthetic motor oils are very clean and boast a consistent molecular structure offering better lubrication to your engine. The crude oil that is used in synthetic oil is refined and processed to get that extreme cleanliness and to resist the breakdown of oil. This results in better engine protection over the years.
The key to a high-quality synthetic oil is using superior base oils and state-of-the-art additives in the manufacturing process.
Benefits of Synthetic Oil
Synthetic motor oils withstand higher temperatures without breaking down or oxidizing. They can tolerate up to 450 degrees F. or higher (conventional only handles 250-300 degrees) There are some superior synthetics that can handle up to 700 degrees F, making synthetic oils ideal for vehicles that are driven in hot climates as well as heavy-duty or turbo-charged engines.
It is not just superior at high temperatures, but the oil also flows freely at lower temperatures where conventional oils become thick. In this way, it helps reduce engine wear.
Your car’s engine parts move at incredibly high speeds and are always in contact with one another. This can cause engine components to wear down. Motor oil is all that protects those moving parts. Fully synthetic oils will not break down so they will protect your engine for longer than conventional oils.
In a nutshell, mechanics rate synthetic oil better because the base oils used to make them are superior, resulting in it being:
- unlikely to acidify and oxidize
- chemically stable
- harder to break down and lose desired qualities.
Generally, synthetic oil will give you longer intervals between oil changes, but that will also be influenced by the brand of oil used. Some brands recommend that you change your oil every 3000 or 5000 miles. Others recommend between 7,500 and 20,000 miles. Driving conditions and your driving style will also affect this variable. No matter what, you should follow the guidelines laid out by your car’s manufacturer for oil change intervals.
As good as synthetic motor oil is, you need to be aware that when you first switch from conventional motor oil, you may need to change the oil more frequently as your engine may have a build-up of dirt and grime.
For high-performance vehicles, synthetic oil offers turbocharger protection. More and more modern cars are built with smaller engines and turbochargers, making synthetic oil a must. It flows more quickly to the critical parts, creating the level of lubrication the engine needs. Conversely, conventional oils break down faster under turbocharged conditions.
Oil changes are not expensive, nor do they take a long time. Oil is the very lifeblood of your car, so oil changes cannot be avoided and should be done at the correct intervals recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Remember that if you do more city driving (short distances) and don’t often take your car for a spin on highways, you might have to change your oil more frequently. When engines do not heat up to a very high temperature, the oil breaks up faster.
Special Interest Automobiles is an auto service workshop in Cambridge, ON, and we provide a complete range of car services, from tires and suspension to detailing and A/C repair. We have been proudly, reliably serving Cambridge automobile owners since 1985. Speak to one of our mechanics about the best synthetic motor oil for your vehicle and they will make sure that the correct premium oil is used in servicing.