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Is synthetic oil right for my car
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BDR Automotive

Ask Brian: Is synthetic oil right for my car?

The short answer to this is:  it depends on whether the manufacturer of your car suggests synthetic oil. That being said, synthetic oil is safe to use in any car or truck on the road. Synthetic and conventional oil are very similar in a lot of ways. The benefit is synthetic oil can flow more easily and lubricate your engine more efficiently. Synthetic are thinner and more resistant to breaking down over time. This is why when you have it in your car,  you can go for a longer period of time before needing the oil changed.

Are there any drawbacks to Synthetic Oil?

There are a few drawbacks to it, though. The cost is one — synthetic oil costs almost double the price of conventional oil. Synthetic is thinner and more viscous, meaning it could leak out of tired seals and gaskets more easily. Consider these factors when selecting which oil to use in your car.

Used in More Vehicles Than Ever Before

Once thought to be only for high-performance cars, synthetic is being used in more mainstream vehicles today.

A Honda spokesperson said the automaker uses a synthetic in the Civic for its low viscosity — meaning the smooth way the oil flows. This helps improve the engine’s fuel efficiency. The faster the oil flows, the quicker the engine parts can turn.

Honda is not alone, says Mel Yu, auto analyst at Consumer Reports. In the 2019 model year, about 70 percent of new cars use either synthetic or blended oil.

Several brands, including Honda, don’t require synthetics for their engines, but only synthetic oils provide the low-viscosity that these cars need. Yu says. “Some brands use synthetic blend oil, which is a combination of conventional and synthetic oils. Blends don’t deliver the full benefits of synthetic, but they’re less expensive,” he adds.

Advantages Over Conventional Motor Oil

Synthetics have some advantages over conventional motor oil. They’re designed to be more effective at:

  • Resisting oil breakdown, which makes it last longer than conventional oil
  • Withstanding higher temperatures than conventional, synthetic oil helps keep engines running longer
  • Flowing in cold temperatures, thus reducing engine wear during frigid startups.
  • If you make lots of short trips, standard motor oil may never get warm enough to burn off moisture and impurities that can accumulate. That could hasten the breakdown of conventional oil.
  • If you live in a region with very cold winters or very hot summers, or if you use your vehicle for towing or hauling heavy material, synthetic oil helps protect the engine from strain and won’t break down as quickly as conventional.
  • If you have an older engine that’s prone to sludge buildup, gunky residue forms when oil breaks down, and it can block oil passages and lead to a quick engine death. In the early 2000s, several engines from Chrysler, Toyota, and Volkswagen, among others, were especially prone to sludge buildup. Synthetic is less likely to form this troublesome sludge.

John Ibbotson, Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic, says there are some situations where synthetic’s resistance to breakdown (the tendency of oil to degrade and lose its viscosity over time) can help prolong the life of an engine:

Though synthetics generally hold up better for more miles, regular oil changes remain important, and you shouldn’t wait beyond the time interval recommended by the manufacturer—typically every six months or a year.

Using synthetic in these situations will prolong your oil life and require fewer changes. That’s also a major benefit to the environment, as used motor oil is a major source of toxic waste in water.

According to Will Hixson, spokesman for the Automotive Oil Change Association, the 2018 National Oil and Lube News annual survey shows that more than half of car owners are choosing synthetics or synthetic blends when they get their oil changed.

If you have concerns about synthetic oil for your vehicle, contact BDR Automotive at (508) 429-4720 or by email.  If you have a question for Ask Brian at BDR Automotive, send us an email and we’ll be sure to answer it in our blog. 

Jarred McGee
Jarred is not only an amazingly competent and capable technician, he is a confident leader and source of incredible knowledge. Known for being a tireless and dedicated technician, he is always friendly and professional, always willing to go the extra mile to ensure BDR customers leave with peace of mind about their vehicle. Jarred attended Mass Bay Community College where he earned his Associates Degree in Automotive Technology. He went on to receive a Toyota T-TEN Certificate while working in Toyota’s dealership system. Jarred has also worked at an auto-body repair shop that specialized in complex high-end vehicles such as the Tesla.

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