The time for an oil change has come, and you find yourself in the automotive section of your nearest store of choice. Rows on rows of different oils sitting upon shelves that are an entire section of their own. You know which grade of oil you need for your vehicle, but as you reach for it, you notice something. Some oil is synthetic, while others are conventional, or non-synthetic. You are now faced with the choice of choosing one or the other, but maybe you don’t know the difference; which one should you choose?

an image of an engine

What Is Synthetic Oil?

As the name suggests, synthetic oil is an oil that has man-made origins for part of its production. Most of synthetic oil begins life as a highly refined crude oil that is pumped out of the ground, which is the same origin as regular oil. Others come from a base of other compounds, or another synthetic as a base. While their initial origins are similar, the big differences come out of the refinement process.

The refinement process allows for scientific control over the end result, which can produce an oil with higher purity, and molecular size then a standard oil could achieve. This results in an oil that can lower friction, reduce engine sludge, and increase the performance of your machine.

Synthetic oil is not a new item by any means! It has been around since 1929, as a matter of fact.

When it was first developed, it took some time to develop the technology and resources to refine it, but eventually it was used in jets, high-performance engines, and even everyday vehicles. A large portion of development occurred in Germany during the Second World War, as the Allies imposed oil shortages on them. Another big push for synthetics occurred during the 1970s American Energy Crisis, which resulted from a big push to improve fuel economy.

Synthetic Vs Conventional

So which one should you choose? We know that they are made differently, with synthetic being far more refined than the normal stuff. The big difference comes in the way they run in your engine, with synthetic being far and away the superior option. Consider this quote from the AAA: “According to industry tests, synthetic oil engines perform 47% better than engines using conventional motor oil.”

Here’s an overview of the benefits of synthetic oil vs regular oil:

  • Fewer emissions
  • Better fuel/oil economy
  • Increased protection from wear due to lower friction
  • Longer times between oil changes
  • Reduced engine drag
  • More uniform oil quality
  • Quicker engine start times
  • Helps at cleaning engine sludge and deposits

One thing to keep in mind: while it’s considered the best for performance, it is the most expensive option, and many don’t use it for that reason. Also make sure to check with your engine manufacturer, or handbook, to see if synthetic oil can’t be used in it for any reason. The last thing you’d want is to ruin the engine.

If you can afford the costs and your engine has no issue with synthetic oil, go ahead and choose it. You’ll end up with better performance and less frequent oil changes, and deposits. Should price be an issue, but you still want to get into it, you can always rotate which oil you use per change. Additionally you can also choose a blended oil, which is a less refined form of synthetic that lives between full synthetic and regular oil.