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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Synthetic Oil-Does it Really Matter

My new BMW was due for its first oil change. The owner’s manual recommends that I use synthetic oil. What’s the difference between regular oil and synthetic? Should I take the advice?

To begin with I would advise to always take the manufacture’s advice when it comes to servicing a new car. The manufacture shares information that is best for the vehicle that you purchase and you would be wise to follow the recommendations. Synthetic oil is not actually oil at all.

As the name implies, synthetic oil is a man made combination of chemicals that are tailored to mimic the characteristic of crude derived oils. The production process is not new; it was developed by the Germans in the Second World War to augment the lack of crude oil available. They were so successful that by the end of the war their production levels had reached millions of tons. They not only synthesized oil, but, produced fuel and even developed synthetic rubbers.

What are the advantages of synthetic oil?

Synthetic can withstand higher running temperatures and higher pressures than natural oil, without breaking down. Synthetic has a higher lubricity factor (it’s slippier, if that makes sense), offers better lubrication on cold starts (making cold starts easier), increased resistance to oxidation and thermal breakdown, and offers extended drain intervals and better chemical stability. It’s just better for the engine overall.

So, why doesn’t everybody use synthetic? Primarily because initial costs are greater than those of petroleum-based oils. Also, the lower friction co-efficient may make them unsuitable for engine break-in although we are starting to see many new car manufactures installing synthetic as the initial fill. There is also the potential of damage to plastic components running in the presence of the chemicals that make up the lubricant.

For the average motorist, synthetic has no real advantage, as these higher stress levels are never reached. However; if you are towing or working the vehicle, synthetic might be beneficial.

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