To Use or Not to Use: Synthetic Oil and Your New Car

By: Jasonlancaster
People often wonder if they should be using synthetic oil in their new vehicles. Synthetic oil is better than regular oil for many different reasons: it's a better lubricant; maintains integrity at high temperatures; is fairly pure; and rarely turns into sludge, even when it's abused. To many people, the obvious benefits of synthetic oil lead them to conclude they should start using it ASAP. However, despite synthetic oil's benefits, it really depends on how you take care of your car.

To start with, do you change your oil regularly? Oil needs to be changed before it breaks down and puts your engine at risk. But if you're good at changing your oil on time every 3-5k miles, you'll never experience one of the benefits of synthetic oil. Synthetic is resistant to breaking down, even after extended use. For instance, if you forget an oil change, or even if you just put one off for a few weeks, synthetic is the best oil to have in your engine. But if you're changing your oil regularly and at the proper mileage, you'll never be in a situation where your engine is at risk from worn-out oil.

Synthetic oil can last a long time without deteriorating. If you're changing your car oil based on mileage, then switching to synthetic could save you money. Regular oil needs to be replaced after 6 months or after 5K miles. If you drive less than that distance in 6 months, then you're not getting the full mileage out of your oil. Switching to synthetic oil which lasts for a longer amount of money will help you get the most out of each oil change. You might save money by having to change your oil less frequently, and you'll definitely save time.

One of the biggest reasons why people use synthetic oil is because of its resistance to heat. Regular oil breaks down in high temperatures, and continue to break down as the heat rises. Drivers who use their vehicles in ways that create a constantly hot engine environment should use synthetic oil. So should people who live in hot climates, such as in the desert, or at high altitudes, like in the mountains. Neither high ambient temperatures nor low air pressure are ideal conditions for keeping your engine cool, so synthetic oil would give you the best performance in these areas. Finally, if you own a high-performance vehicle or just drive like you do, consider synthetic, which is the best choice for these vehicles.

There are lots of people who will recommend synthetic oil to you, even if you don't need it. For instance, synthetic is recommended for drivers who have to drive in stop-and-go traffic. However, almost everyone drives in this type of traffic at some time, and not everyone needs synthetic oil. It's really only necessary if you're stuck in stop-and-go for long periods of time, and on a regular basis. Synthetic might also be recommended to people who only drive on short trips, as a means for protecting the engine. But only driving for short trips will damage your engine regardless of what oil you choose, so the recommendation is redundant. Your engine is designed to perform for 20 minutes or more. There might be a slight benefit to running synthetic for short trips, but the difference is negligible.

If you determine that one of the above situations applies to you, take care when you purchase synthetic oil. Many places will suggest a synthetic blend as a way to save money (instead of full-synthetic), but the "blend" is oftentimes a mystery. Maybe you're getting a 50-50 blend, or maybe you're getting 1% synthetic and 99% regular oil. My recommendation is to go full synthetic or not bother with it - unless the blend suggested is provided and produced by your vehicle's manufacturer.

Last but not least, what do auto manufacturers have to say about synthetics? Most state that "any oil that meets API standard specifications can be used in your vehicle." That means normal oil is just fine. For most people, new cars will operate for a very long time without the benefit of synthetic oil so long as they are properly maintained and used normally.
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