It’s common knowledge that maintaining regular oil changes for your vehicle is crucial. The specific mileage intervals between these appointments can vary, usually falling within the range of 3,000 to 7,500 miles before your vehicle’s oil begins to deteriorate. At this point, the oil accumulates enough contaminants and issues to pose a significant risk to your vehicle’s health and safety.
While the importance of frequent oil changes is indisputable, there’s an ongoing debate regarding the choice of oil. Synthetic and conventional oils each have their advantages and disadvantages, so which one is the optimal choice? To make an informed decision, let’s start with some essential definitions.
Defining Conventional Oil
Conventional oil is the oil that likely comes to mind when you think of an oil change. It is the refined form of crude oil extracted from the ground. After crude oil extraction, it undergoes further refinement to become a usable product. Conventional oil has stood the test of time, serving as a reliable option used in vehicles almost since the inception of the automotive industry.
Defining Synthetic Oil
Synthetic oil is often thought to be a product created entirely in a laboratory. However, it’s more accurately considered as an advanced stage in the same refinement process that produces conventional oil. Crude oil extracted from the ground is refined to create conventional oil, and this conventional oil can undergo further refinement and purification to become what we call synthetic oil. This higher level of processing results in oil with a more uniform and predictable structure, which generally leads to better performance in most vehicles. Some high-performance vehicles are even designed specifically for synthetic oils.
There is a third option, synthetic blends, which literally combine both synthetic and conventional oils. These blends offer a middle ground between full synthetic and standard conventional oils, providing higher performance than traditional conventional oil at a more competitive price point than full synthetic.
Direct Comparison of Synthetic and Conventional Oil
Synthetic oil’s refinement from conventional oil underscores why it typically outperforms conventional oil in direct comparisons. Synthetic oil builds upon the strong foundation provided by conventional oil.
Synthetic oil generally lasts longer than conventional oil. In some cases, it may only require changing every 15,000 miles. Additionally, synthetic oil is more resistant to extreme temperatures, whether it’s high engine heat or freezing cold.
The only aspect where conventional oil surpasses synthetic is its price. The extra processing required for synthetic oil makes it more expensive, though this additional cost is often offset by reduced oil change frequency and enhanced performance. This price point is why many opt for a synthetic blend, which offers improved performance over conventional oil while remaining more cost-effective than full synthetic oil.
Determining the Superior Oil Choice
Synthetic oil or a synthetic blend typically delivers the most benefits for your vehicle. Synthetic excels in terms of performance and longevity when compared to conventional oil. While synthetic oil may come at a higher price, the reduced need for frequent oil changes and the cost-effectiveness of synthetic blends can balance out the overall cost.
In the end, all oils that meet your vehicle’s specifications are suitable choices. The decision between oil types is more about considering their respective benefits than accepting any inherent shortcomings. Furthermore, you can switch between synthetic and conventional oils as desired, as long as your vehicle doesn’t specifically require synthetic oil. The most crucial point to remember about oil is that it must be changed regularly, regardless of the type you choose.