Even drivers who don't know a ton about engine maintenance understand the importance of oil, which lubricates moving parts so the engine doesn't overheat or seize. You might not realize, however, just how many types of oil there are.
When you go to get your oil changed, mechanics won't pester you with pesky details like the weight of oil to use—they already know. What mechanics may ask is whether you prefer synthetic or conventional oil. If you don't know the difference, you're not alone. How do they differ, and which one is better for your vehicle? Here's the 411 on engine oil.
Synthetic is Better
Okay, to be fair, there are pros and cons to each type of engine oil, and you'll have to decide which is right for your car when you know the facts, but for modern drivers, synthetic is often considered demonstrably better. The first thing you need to know is that conventional oil is a petroleum product, meaning it comes from petroleum mined from the earth.
Synthetic oil, on the other hand, is a manmade version derived from chemical processes that refine petroleum. Neither is particularly eco-friendly, but for the sake of argument, let's just say that synthetic oil is cleaner, which means it leaves fewer impurities (sludge) in your engine. This equates to less potential damage to engine parts and fewer oil changes.
While most seasoned drivers have been taught that oil should be changed every 3,000-5,000 miles, you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that synthetic oil lasts 10,000-15,000 miles on average. In other words, you might only need one oil change a year, as opposed to two or three, depending how much you drive.
In addition, synthetic oils typically have lower viscosity, meaning they flow better, even in lower temperature environments. They also withstand higher temperatures and resist breakdown. This is all great news for the longevity of engine parts, as well as overall engine performance.
What's the Drawback?
The only major drawback of synthetic oil is the cost, which can be about 6-10 times higher than conventional oil, and this can add up when you're putting five or more quarts in during every oil change. Of course, when you go from three oil changes per year to just one and you enjoy less wear and tear on engine parts, you may find that synthetic oil more than pays for itself over time.
It's your choice whether you want synthetic oil in your car or if you'd rather stick with conventional, but when you realize synthetic oil lasts longer and keeps your engine clean and protected, it's not a tough decision.