Think synthetic oil is a sham? Think again, says AAA.
The motor club recently tested a variety of name brand motor oils and found that synthetic oils on average perform almost 50 percent better than conventional.
AAA evaluated how well the motor oils did motor oils things like clean and lubricate the engine.
The club concluded that synthetic oil offers significantly better engine protection for what equates to $64 per year.
“Oil is the lifeblood of an engine, and AAA found that synthetic engine oils performed (much) better than conventional oils in a variety of industry-standard tests,” said AAA’s Automotive Engineering and Repair Managing Director John Nielsen. “AAA found that synthetic oil is particularly beneficial to vehicles with turbocharged engines and for vehicles that frequently drive in stop-and-go traffic, tow heavy loads or operate in extreme hot or cold conditions.”
Like conventional oil, synthetic oil is often derived from petroleum. But it can also be made with materials such as natural gas and alcohols.
Another difference is synthetic oils are modified in a lab to have more uniform molecules, which results in better protection and performance. Its refinement process also removes more impurities, such as waxes and sulfur, from the oil.
While only a limited number of vehicles require synthetic oil, AAA says all vehicles can benefit from it.
“Synthetic oil lubricates better, its more heat resistant, and it gets to where it needs to go faster, said AAA’s Car Doctor John Paul. “Yes, it costs more, but it helps you get the most life out of your engine.”
Because of its lubricating capabilities, an engine with synthetic oil cranks faster, too, Paul said. This puts less stress on the battery, which is an important benefit in cold weather, he added.
Of course, if a driver’s vehicle does not require synthetic oil, using it is a personal choice, Nielsen said. A conventional oil that meets a manufacturer’s recommendations is still good. But if your budget allows, synthetic oils are better at withstanding the extreme conditions under the hood, he said. They are more resistant to deterioration and they offer better protection of vital engine parts, he added.
Still, many drivers do not believe the synthetic “hype.” A companion survey done by AAA found that 44 percent of drivers are unsure if the more expensive synthetic oil provides any benefit and 17 percent of drivers believe it does not. AAA’s survey also found that 83 percent of auto industry professionals choose synthetic for their personal vehicles.
During its oil study, AAA also researched the price of the average oil change. Researchers determined the average cost of a conventional oil change is $38 and a synthetic $70. For those that change oil themselves, the average cost of 5 quarts of conventional is $28, with the same amount of synthetic at $45.
Drivers who select synthetic oil can rest easy knowing that their engine is better protected, but that doesn’t mean it should be neglected. Even when using synthetic oil, have the oil changed at your vehicle’s recommended oil change interval and monitor the oil level (or warning light) and add oil if or when needed, Paul said.
Do you put conventional or synthetic oil in your car? Is there an oil change question you have always wanted answered? Let us know in the comments section below.
To read the full AAA Engine Oil Research report, click here.