Synthetic lubricants are oils and grease that come from man-made materials. Most conventional lubricants are made mostly from crude oil. Synthetic lubricants are made from chemical compounds that could include modified petroleum or several other raw materials. We call these compounds base stock. The base stock is dissected, molecule by molecule and then put back together so every molecule is the same size and shape. If you were to look at synthetic base stocks under a microscope, you would see every molecule is the exact same shape and size, and each molecule is perfectly aligned. If you were to look at a non-synthetic lubricant under a microscope, you would see millions of molecules that are all different shapes, sizes and arrangements.


So, with all the extra work it takes to make synthetic lubricants, why do we think it’s important to use them? One of the biggest reasons we recommend synthetics is because they have a longer lifespan. We used to recommend that you change the oil in a car every 3000 miles. With synthetic oils, we see the oil lasting 5,000 to 7,000 miles and in some cases, as long as 25,000 miles. All oils are exposed to conditions that cause them to break down and fail. The oil can become contaminated by exhaust gases, fuel and water, oxidants, acids and heat. Over time, the molecules will start to tear apart and stop working. When the oil starts to break down, we can start to see sludge, corrosion and viscosity changes that can be harmful to the engine. When you use synthetic lubricants, this is a much slower process, and the synthetic oils can take more abuse.

Synthetics can resist heat much better and since the molecules are all the same size, the oil is less likely to tear apart or shear. Another big advantage to using synthetic lubricants is the higher viscosity index. Viscosity index is the measurement of how the thickness of oil changes as temperature changes. The higher the viscosity index, the less the viscosity changes from cold to hot. This is important when engines are first started or when the oil gets exposed to extreme heat.

As we can see, there are a lot of advantages to using synthetic lubricants. Synthetics are more expensive, but they last longer which translates to fewer oil changes. They also cause the life of the engine to be extended because the oil protects the moving parts better. Overall, synthetic lubricants are always going to be a better value.


Create a list of the advantages of each type of
lubricant. Which one do you think makes more sense to use?

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