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Synthetic vs. Conventional Motor Oil

Maintaining clean motor oil is essential in the proper care of your vehicle, but whether you take it to a shop or do it yourself, a debate is inevitable: conventional or synthetic? Synthetic is obviously more expensive, but is it worth the extra dollars spent? You might want to to tune in, especially if you have a vehicle with a supercharger or turbocharger.

Synthetic oil does perform better than conventional oil when it comes to longevity and the ability to handle high temperatures. It provides better lubrication in very low temperature starts, and it also has a greater resistance to oxidization and sludge build up. But synthetics usually cost double of what conventional oil costs. Whether it is worth the cost is largely dependent on the type of car you drive and your own preference.

Both conventional oil and synthetic oil are derived from petroleum, so there is really no environmental benefit either way as far as sustainability goes. However, synthetic oil does last longer than conventional oil so you don’t need to do oil changes as frequently, so you use less oil over time. In that sense synthetic oils might be the lesser of two evils.

Recently however, Valvoline released a brand new product called NextGen that is conventional motor oil comprised of 50% recycled oil. You can typically return your used oil back to the shop you purchased it at to recycle it, thus greatly reducing its environmental impact. So if you were to use recycled oil, it might be comparable in environmental-friendliness to synthetics at a reduced cost.

As far as emissions go, synthetic oil has been shown to have lower volatility and thus not vaporize out the exhaust as quickly, reducing emissions.

It should also be noted that any performance vehicle, especially if it is driven hard, should have synthetic motor oil because of the enhanced capabilities of synthetics. Because synthetics have a higher tolerance for extreme temperatures, engines with turbochargers or superchargers would benefit from using synthetics to prevent burnt oil build-up in their engine. But the rest of us who have normal passenger vehicles, and just shuffle from our residence to work every day, don’t typically need to worry about getting every horsepower available out of our engines or burning motor oil in our performance parts.

Ultimately it’s important to identify if the cost vs benefit for your specific vehicle and situation. Either option will do the job, which is probably why this issue is hotly debated. What do you think is better for your car, and wallet?

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