Switching to Synthetic
IS IT SAFE TO SWITCH FROM CONVENTIONAL TO SYNTHETIC OIL?
We're going to give it to you straight: Yes, you can safely switch to synthetic oil. But it would probably help to know the details about what we're talking about -- specifically why this question would even come up in the first place. And it does -- a lot.
First off, let's talk about what synthetic oil is. To begin with, there's a base oil that does most of the work of lubricating engine parts. It's lab-created, as opposed to being a product of the refining process of mineral oils that are pumped out of the ground. There are also performance additives (in powder form) in many synthetic oils, and a carrier oil to suspend these additives in the mix.
So what's the practical difference between synthetic oils and mineral oils? There's not much difference when you're just looking at two clean puddles of oil, according to Kevin Chinn, a technical advisor at ExxonMobil. "You'd slip on both of them," he says. But the advantage of synthetic oil is that its molecular structure stays more stable with temperature changes and extends the maintenance interval between oil changes.
So why the heck wouldn't you want to switch from mineral oil to synthetic? Keep reading to find out some of the myths and realities of these high-tech oils.
Realities of Switching to Synthetic Oils
Since synthetics are created in a lab and contain additives to keep your engine in tip-top shape, they're more expensive than traditional mineral oils. How much more? Try six to 10 times the price, according to Cantiz at Royal Purple.
However, there are ways to get some of the benefits of synthetics without breaking the bank. For those who live in climates with noticeable seasonal changes, you could use a synthetic oil in the winter months when your engine is under the most stress from cold starts, and then switch to a mineral oil in the summer, when its more random molecular structure will remain warm and easy flowing.
For modern cars, mineral oils are good, blended oils are better and synthetic oils are the best. But if you've got a 30-year old car with original seals, the truth is, no oil or additive is going to help much.