One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to an oil change service is whether conventional or synthetic oil is the better choice. There are a lot of variables to consider when determining an accurate answer to this question. It won’t be the same for every vehicle.
Let’s break down what you need to know to help make the decision regarding conventional oil vs synthetic oil.
The Difference Between Conventional & Synthetic Oil
They may look the same in appearance, but the biggest difference between conventional oil and synthetic oil is in how they are made. Conventional oil, sometimes referred to as standard oil, is a naturally sourced, crude mineral oil that is partially refined to improve its viscosity and protective properties.
In contrast, synthetic oil is entirely manufactured in a lab or factory using a highly controlled process that adheres to stringent standards. The oil is highly refined to leave only the best elements of oil and additional additives. This means that the oil will provide the highest level of performance and engine protection.
The manufacturing processes for these oils have a significant impact on how long they last and the level of performance they offer your engine. (See more on this below.)
When it comes to the oil change service itself for conventional vs synthetic oil, they will largely be the same. The only difference will be the specific type of new oil that is put into the vehicle, after the old oil has been drained out, and the new oil filter installed.
How Often is an Oil Change Needed with Each Type?
Another big difference between the two types of oil is how quickly they break down and become too dirty to perform optimally. Since conventional oil is not as refined as synthetic oil, it breaks down more quickly. So, if your engine is running conventional oil, it is recommended to have an oil change done every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on driving habits and brand of oil.
Synthetic oil usually holds up much longer than conventional oil. As a result, oil changes will not need to be done as frequently. If using synthetic oil, it is usually recommended to have an oil change service done every 6,000 to 12,000 miles, depending on the brand.
Your best bet is to always follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations for your vehicle, which you’ll find in your owner’s manual. This will give you the best oil change schedule to follow and help extend the life of your engine, ensure it is always properly protected, and avoid expensive engine repairs down the road.
The Benefits of Synthetic Oil
Besides lasting longer than conventional oil, synthetic oil has several other great benefits for engines, including:
- Performing at a wide temperature range – Due to the higher viscosity levels (meaning a better flow), synthetic oils start performing optimally right from startup, even in freezing weather.
- Withstanding hotter engine temperatures – Synthetic oils have better chemical stability so they can more easily withstand hotter temperatures. This reduces burn off and ensures that the engine stays properly protected. This is true even in engines that usually run hot, like those with turbochargers.
- Keeping the engine cleaner – Since synthetic oils contain fewer impurities, they resist sludge and deposit buildup better than conventional oil, keeping engines much cleaner.
- Increasing the life and performance of your engine – Another advantage of containing fewer impurities than conventional oils is that your engine will have better protection against excess wear and a smoother overall operation.
How to Determine Which Type of Oil Is Better for Your Vehicle
Of course, there are some great benefits to using synthetic oil in an engine. In many cases, it will provide additional protection and performance to the engine. But that doesn’t mean that opting for a synthetic oil change is always the best idea. Aside from a synthetic oil change being more expensive, there are some instances where conventional oil may be the better choice.
There are several things to consider when it comes to determining which type of oil is better for your vehicle. These include:
The Age of Your Engine
Even with significant advancements in oil technology, it is still not recommended to run synthetic oil in engines that have reached 75,000 miles or more on the odometer.
High-mileage engines are significantly more susceptible to wear on the moving parts and inner gears. Even though synthetic oil generally offers better engine protection over time, its high-flow viscosity can flow too quickly through older engines, meaning a greater chance of grinding gears.
This is why most vehicle manufacturers and mechanics recommend using conventional oil in older, high-mileage engines. Conventional oil, with a slower flow, provides better lubrication and protection for older engines. This can mean the difference between your engine lasting for many years to come and it seizing up much earlier than expected.
The Type of Oil That Was in It Originally
Some manufacturers put synthetic oil in all their new vehicles, but not all vehicles will have it. So, unless your car came with synthetic oil off the line and the manufacturer recommends sticking with synthetic oil moving forward, conventional oil may provide sufficient protection for your engine.
If you are trying to decide between the two types of oil when it comes to your next oil change, check what the manufacturer recommends (which would have been what they put in originally). If synthetic oil is what is recommended by the manufacturer for maximum engine performance, that’s what you should stick to. But, if your vehicle wasn’t originally running synthetic oil, you may want to switch for the extra protection and performance.
High-performance and extreme driving conditions call for maximum engine protection. So, if you drive a high-performance vehicle, often drive long distances, tow heavy loads, or make a lot of short trips, synthetic oil will probably be the better call for your vehicle. In these types of driving conditions, synthetic oil will give your engine the proper amount of lubrication, heat absorption, and protection that it needs.
Also, the local weather conditions should be taken into account. Conventional oil will break down much faster in hot weather, like we sometimes experience here in Texas. Therefore, synthetic oil may be a good call to help sufficiently protect your engine, especially during the warm summer months. (Yes, you can switch back and forth between the two types of oil.)
Trust Driver’s Edge for All of Your Oil Change Needs
In many vehicles, synthetic oil will be the better choice for extending the life of the engine. But the most accurate answer for which oil change will be better comes down to what the manufacturer’s recommendation is for your vehicle and your driving habits.
No matter what type of car oil change you need, the ASE-certified technicians at Driver’s Edge can help. You can trust our team to deliver a professional auto service using only high-quality products, such as Valvoline motor oil, to keep your engine properly protected. We can also answer any questions you may have and provide expert advice on which type of oil may be best for your vehicle.