Synthetic oil

Is synthetic oil a good idea in a new or newer car?

A great idea. Some of the high-end cars need syn oil. Corvette with the ZR1 motor of a few years ago recomended, if not required syn. oil. If it weren’t for the price, I’d use it in my lawn mower!

I have a friend <cough> <cough>, ahem… excuse me…

I have a friend who works for the chemical division of a major oil company, and he recently did an analysis of most of the major brands of synthetics, and found that Chevron and Mobil produced the best synthetics, and were fairly comparable. What he meant by “best” was that they were actually what they said they were, were the most pure, and had the most desirable physical properties. Most of the others had mineral oil as a significant portion of their composition. It should be noted that he did not do any actual performance testing on any automobile engines. This was strictly component analysis, and physical property analysis (viscosity, pour point, etc.).

If Porsche felt it was important to ship their oil-cooled flat-six sports cars with Mobil 1, that’s good enough for me. Here’s the only testimonial you’ll need to hear:

I got horribly drunk one year and decided to drive to where I was nominally attending school, the wonderful Virginia Tech (home of Mike Vick–RAAAA!), from Washington, DC. I did about 110 the whole way, up and down some fairly good grades, made it in about four hours (including pee breaks).

I continued to putter about over the weekend, and finally I noticed my Supra had a nice throaty sound that it shouldn’t have had. Somewhere in between kegs I decided to check the oil–gone. None left. What could have happened to it? I checked it fifteen thousand miles ago!

It had been Mobil 1, and although my car gave up the ghost a mere 25000 miles (twenty-five thousand miles) later, I’m convinced I wouldn’t have made it to Lexington on anything other than the dregs of a synthetic.

Did I mention I no longer drive? The world sleeps better knowing so.

If Porsche felt it was important to ship their oil-cooled flat-six sports cars with Mobil 1, that’s good enough for me. Here’s the only testimonial you’ll need to hear:

**that Chevron and Mobil produced the best synthetics, **

I did not know that about the Porsches… I have been putting Mobile One in my camero since I bought it. That is the only oil I have used. Now after hearing this stuff, I will DEFINITELY never use anything else.

Consumer Reports said that there is no discernable difference between the brands of oil and/or whether it’s natural or synthetic from what I recall.

Yer pal,

Four months, one week, 3 hours, 46 minutes and 27 seconds.
5166 cigarettes not smoked, saving $645.78.
Life saved: 2 weeks, 3 days, 22 hours, 30 minutes.[/sub]

"Satan is not an unattractive person."-Drain Bead
[sub]Thanks for the ringing endorsement, honey!*[/sub]

Satan: agreed, provided you are not a foolish idiot like me and attend to the regular maintenance of your car.

Probably doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure. Whether or not it helps is a different matter.

Synthetic oils use base stocks which are synthesized from ethylene gas. The big advantage of this is that the chemists/chemical engineers can produce a very uniform base stock with pretty close to the exact properties that they want it to have- low temperature flow, high temperature stability, resistance to oxidation, high viscosity index, etc…

Regular mineral oil tends to have non-uniform molecules of various sizes & shapes, and some boil off when hot, others gel up when cold, some oxidize easily, etc…

So in a nutshell, synthetic oils show noticeably different specifications as to pour point, flash point & viscosity index when compared to conventional oils of the same grade. The big debate is whether or not this is important in a normal engine under generally normal conditions.

The only obvious situation I could see synthetics being a no-brainer would be in winter somewhere like North Dakota or Siberia. In those situations, the MUCH lower pour points of the synthetic oils would be extremely handy.
Oh yeah… Steve-O, go check the MSDS of the various oil companies & they’ll tell you what they’re made of. Mobil 1, Valvoline Synpower, Quaker State Synchron, Chevron Synthetic, and Pennzoil Pennzane are all completely synthetic.

Their only ingredient is 1-decene homopolymer or something like that, which is a fancy word for polyalphaolefin base stock. Castrol Syntec on the other hand, recently lost a suit vs. Mobil due to their use of class III(hydrocracked) mineral oil base stock. Hydrocracking regular old mineral oil makes it much more uniform, so it performs much like synthetic, but at lower cost. Pennzoil purebase is a good example…

My personal experience is far different. After changing to Mobil one, my gas mileage improved enough that the money I saved on gas more than paid for the more expensive oil…even if I change the oil every 3000 miles, which I do religiously.

Your mileage may vary…

My 00 BMW came from the dealer with synthetic oil, and from what I can tell, it’s pretty damn cool. The car was designed to use synthetic oil, and BMW recommends not putting anything else in.

I did a little investigating, and from what I can tell, it doesn’t break down like conventional oil, and in cars that are designed for it (a crucial point) it allows MUCH longer life between oil changes. I know, I know, every mechanic out there says 3K between oil changes. I’ve heard so many stories, however, of people with these cars doing oil changes at the prescribed 15K interval and having the oil drain out clear as a bell that I’ve been sold on the idea.

I’m confused (as usual, but anyway)… What I hear from the discussion between Satan and Sofa King is essentially that if you drive without a lead foot or a load of lead and change your oil every 3000 miles, there is no difference between regular and synthetic oil. But if you were into some sort of high-performance driving OR wanted to go more than 3000 miles between changes OR both, then synthetic is the recommendation. Is this correct?

Bottom line: A very plain vanilla 1999 Saturn, driven more or less normally and conservatively. Would I have anything to gain by switching to synthetic oil?

I’ve always heard that it is not advisable to switch to synthetics if you’ve been using regular oil for some time. Whether or not to run synthetics in a new car, as per the OP, is a different question. I’ve never used synthetics, but I certainly would if the owner’s manual said I should.

One thing… I wouldn’t listen to any of those AMSOIL monkeys. They sell that stuff like Amway, & it isn’t officially API rated, so it’s a crap shoot, especially on a warranty car. From what I can tell, they’re the ONLY ones advocating a huge oil change interval. Mobil & Valvoline both advocate following your owners manual.

Also, it’s not generally the oil which wears out, it’s the additives- viscosity improvers break down, thickening the oil, the antioxidants get depleted, etc… So following the oil change intervals can’t be a bad idea, especially for insurance.

As to your other question, no, synthetic oil wouldn’t buy you much unless you planned to race it or drive in the Arctic or some other super-severe service.

As a point of comparison, Quaker State will warrant new car engines for 250,000 miles with no engine problems if you use Quaker State from the start. Leads me to think that conventional oil must be more than sufficient for most uses.

The important point that Satan made is that with regular maintenance, engine wear will be roughly equal with either synthetics or non-synthetics. If a car is taken care of the way it should be–oil changed regularly and checked often, etc., synthetic oils may be considered a needless expense by some.

I gave my earlier anecdote to show that someone who is less than responsible about maintaining a car may gain some extra leeway using a synthetic. I’m pretty sure that I drove about 250 miles, fast, with almost no oil in the car at all. Only an idiot would take off on a trip of that distance without even checking the level. I’m that idiot, and I got lucky, probably because I had some Mo1 in there.

So your Saturn is probably good to go with regular stuff as long as you check it regularly and maintain it religiously. If you’re not that kind of a person, consider going for the good stuff–just in case you forget.

I used to use synthetic oil in my '77 Firebird, and I changed it once a year (about 7500 miles). I generally had to add an extra quart once during the year. The car ran great, with no problems at all. It had been on regular oil for 13 years before I switched it to synthetic. I think I did two oil changes close together when I did the switch (“close together” being about 4 months), but after that, once a year seemed to be plenty.

I don’t know what Consumer’s Report said about regular oil vs. synthetic; but they did do a study involving New York taxicab engines. They found no difference in engines run with 3K or 6K miles between oil changes. The findings imply that 3K is an obsolete standard with modern oils and engines. Does anyone know when the 3K recommendation was originally promoted?

Well, in every car I’ve had or my family’s had(1972-1995 model years), the owner’s manual says to change the oil anywhere between 4500 and 6500 for “normal” service, but every one of them says to change at 3000 miles for “severe” service. Their list of things which qualify you is as long as your arm, and probably covers everything but driving your car to church on Sunday & taking one long highway trip per year.

So based on that, I think it’s just a conservative interval which is backed up by most owner manuals. And, it’s really cheap insurance when compared to the kind of engine repairs that oil problems cause.

*Originally posted by bump *

Like I wrote earlier… my friend personally analyzed several of the major brands, and found that most synthetics did, indeed, contain a significant proportion of mineral oil. I don’t know what this means since we all know no company would ever lie on an MSDS to make money. :wink: The gas chromatography (G.C.) traces of the pretenders were a huge mound (the mineral oil) with periodic spikes sticking up from the mound (the actual 1-decene oligomers). The two brands I mentioned earlier didn’t have the huge mound in their G.C. traces, indicating that they were actually all synthetic (or they went to a $#!^ load of trouble and expense distilling out the fractions that would make it look as if they had made a synthetic :wink: ).

Personally, I never trust what I see on an MSDS. IMHO, MSDS’s are crap. The hazards and the remedies to exposures in many cases are a joke, thus making the rest of the MSDS’s suspect. They are written by lawyers, for lawyers. (And we all know that lawyers wouldn’t lie on an MSDS either… heh.)

Well, I sure trust that guy with the vague British/Australian accent, whatever the hell it is, that pushes Mobil 1.

I’ve been using Pennzoil High Performance Full Synthetic for a long, long time, but after recent studying of the issue, I’m seriously considering a switch to Mobil 1. Can anyone suggest the best filter brand? I’m using Fram DoubleGuard, but possibly I’d switch to K&N High flow filter…

Oh, and according to the guys at, AMSOIL is great stuff, and does work awesome, BUT, it still shows the bronzing and chemical breakdown associated with normal wear after a normal to slightly extended period (5-10k miles), even though it stays highly viscous. So change it anyway! No 25k miles!


Finnally a post I can talk knowledgably about.

I spent a year working as an industrial chemist for Esso (EXXON) Lubricants in Dublin.

The short awnser to the question about wether or not syth is good for your machine is yes.The longer awnser is “it depends”.

The amount of reasearch and testing that goes into the formulation and blending of these oils would surprise most people.Formulations are originnaly designed with “conditioning” as principle numero uno. Essentially a system will be given environmental factors and constraits under which it must perform to an agreed standard.These factors will include everything from width ratios to the average seasonal temperature and humidity.

From this model formulations are designed and tested and retested and reformuted etc (I was end production QA).

So in my roundabout way what I am saying is that with the model (AND YEAR) of your engine along with info on stress and pull factors and environmental conditions recomendations can be made.

My 97 VW Golf GTI MARK III should be using an Ultron from Esso , but for some reasons I am prepared only to hint at I will never recommend using a lube from anyone but Statoil.