You may have heard about the advantages of using synthetic motor oil and want to make the switch. Before you do, you need to understand the difference between synthetic and petroleum-based motor oil and how the change could impact your vehicle.

What is synthetic oil?

Synthetic oil is made from chemical compounds that may contain some petroleum but not the whole crude oil. It can also be made from various other raw materials. They may be made from organic or inorganic compounds. In addition to synthetic oils, there are also synthetic blends that combine synthetic oils with traditional petroleum-based oils.

Because of the design, synthetic oils have many advantages over regular motor oil. They include the following:

  • Better high and low viscosity performance

  • Decreased evaporation

  • Resistant to oxidation and sludge issues

  • Improved lubrication during extreme cold weather

  • Improved horsepower and torque

  • Increased fuel economy

Another advantage is that synthetic oil doesn’t have to be replaced as often, which can reduce the costs or at least help justify the higher price tag that comes with synthetic oils. For example, a person might change his or her oil every 3,000 miles with regular oil and only every 5,000 miles with synthetic oil. With all of these benefits, it is no wonder more people want to make the switch in their vehicles.

Switching to synthetic oil

In past decades, synthetic oil was not safe to use in vehicles that took regular oil. The reason was that those old oils would damage the seals and create a leak. They used esters, which were compounds mixed with alcohol, and were harder on the components. Today’s synthetics are made to be safer with seals.

What synthetic oils do is find any hidden leaks you may have. They do a better job of cleaning out your engine components, which may mean sweeping away deposits that are held in place to cover a leak.

The chemistry of the oil doesn’t matter for your vehicle as much as the weight or viscosity. It is safe to switch from synthetic to regular or even use a synthetic blend as long as you buy the same weight of oil.

Some people will switch to synthetic oil in the winter and use regular oil in the summer when the warm weather reduces the amount of temperature change in the engine from startup to running.

Concerns about switching to synthetic oil

Most newer model vehicles will adapt to the change with no problem. However, older models with high mileage may not adjust to the change. Their seals are likely to be thinner and worn and you may find that they start burning oil as it seeps into the combustion chamber. It is important to consult your owner’s manual or ask a trusted technician before making the switch in a vehicle.

No matter what type of oil you use, regular maintenance with oil changes is essential to extending the life of your engine. Follow the guidelines by the manufacturer or ask the technician how often you should have your oil changed based on the make and model and how the vehicle is used.

This article originally appeared on as Can You Switch Between Regular and Synthetic Motor Oil? and was authored by Joyce Morse.

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