Larry Crider
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Today’s consumer is faced with a bewildering number of choices when it comes to choosing motor oil for their car; a quick look down the motor oil aisle at the local auto part store reveals anywhere from a few to dozens of different brands and viscosity weights. Then there’s the choice of whether to pick conventional petroleum oil, a semi-synthetic (petroleum synthetic blend) or any one of a number or brands of full synthetic motor oil.   

Synthetic motor oil first came to the attention of the motoring public in 1972 when Amsoil Inc introduced the first full synthetic motor oil to meet American petroleum Institute certification requirements and with it, the confusion began!    

Faced with the dilemma of choosing a less expensive conventional petroleum oil or a sometimes much more expensive full synthetic motor oil  many motorist have found themselves wondering just what you’re actually getting for your money with the more expensive full synthetic oil?    

First of all, what’s wrong with the old tried and true regular oil anyway? Petroleum oil has served us well for a century so what’s the real advantage to synthetic oil?    

The answer to that is state of the art protection and performance, and that higher level of protection and performance is more important every year.   

Modern engines and smaller fuel efficient drive trains pump more horsepower and torque through smaller, lighter components practically every new model year.    

Today’s engines, often with multiple cams, valves and turbo charging make more horse power from fewer cubic inches of displacement than ever before. Throw in the requirements of meeting emissions standards with new and more complicated pollution control equipment with the fact that many of today’s engines hold only half the amount of motor oil that engines of just 20 years ago held and you see a whole new level of demand placed on motor oil. 
Automotive engineers are to an ever greater extent, designing the new drive trains around synthetic oil for a lot of reasons.    

Because modern engine hold less oil but stress the oil more with higher operating temperatures, power train designers have found many advantages with synthetic lubricants such as a wide operational temperature range. At high temperatures that would have conventional oil oxidizing and shearing (losing viscosity) with the attendant sludge, varnish and wear this causes, engineers have found that synthetic motor oils run clean and cool. In fact high grade PAO (polyalphaolifin) based synthetic oils dissipate heat faster than petroleum oil and will actually lower operating temperatures 20 to 50 degrees.    

This fact was not lost on the engineers that were designing the latest high performance Chevrolet Corvette back in the early 1990’s  Chevrolet had come up with a really super high performance engine for the new Vette.    

The problem? When installed in the tight confines of the new Corvettes’ engine compartment, Chevrolet’s new powerhouse ran at un-acceptably high oil temperatures. The only answer was to install a large oil cooler. Un-fortunately there just wasn’t room in the new car to place an oil cooler without a big redesign of the engine space; something that would cost time and money on the project and also ruin the new cars carefully tuned aerodynamics.   

The answer? Chevrolet engineers found that using synthetic motor oil dropped the engine oil temperature significantly. Enough that an oil cooler was not necessary!   

At very low temperatures that would have petroleum oil gelling and becoming thick and hard to pump, synthetic oils flow through the tight clearances’ of modern engines easily eliminating poor oil pressure and wear on start-up when the highest percentage of mechanical wear takes place.   

Properly designed synthetic motor oil also has many more times the film strength of conventional petroleum oil making it well suited to demanding high performance, and heavy duty applications. It prevents metal to metal contact and wear at far greater pressures than conventional oil could ever handle.   

Last, we simply cannot ignore the very real cost savings synthetic oil offers in fuel economy improvements. At any given viscosity, high grade synthetic motor oils reduce friction and drag significantly enough to improve fuel economy, often by as much as 3% to 8%. For a car that drives 15,000 miles per year the yearly savings in fuel costs alone is sometimes more than the cost of a synthetic oil change.    

Throw in the convenience of a much longer than standard change interval with a product such as Amsoil’s long drain synthetic motor oils which allow for up to one year or 25,000 mile drain intervals and suddenly synthetic motor oil seems much less expensive than regular oil!   

Synthetic oils offer, performance, wear protection, fuel economy benefits and convenience well ahead of what you get with fossil oil. All these reasons add up to why “factory filled” with synthetic oil is becoming more and more common and why you should consider a high grade synthetic for your vehicle.   

By Larry Crider,  Lubrication Specialist  

 Corpus Christi, TX 78411