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Thread: The Myths of Synthetic Oils

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    The Myths of Synthetic Oils

    As I always like searching the net for info, I thought I would post something about the use of synthetic oil.
    Take in the information and make your own judgment. Everyone has a different idea and this information
    is just collected from the most reliable resources available.

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    Is it safe to switch to synthetic motor oil?

    We're going to give it to you straight: Yes, you can safely switch to synthetic oil. But it would probably help to know the details about what we're talking about -- specifically why this question would even come up in the first place. And it does -- a lot.

    First off, let's talk about what synthetic oil is. To begin with, there's a base oil that does most of the work of lubricating engine parts. It's lab-created, as opposed to being a product of the refining process of mineral oils that are pumped out of the ground. There are also performance additives (in powder form) in many synthetic oils, and a carrier oil to suspend these additives in the mix.

    So what's the practical difference between synthetic oils and mineral oils? There's not much difference when you're just looking at two clean puddles of oil, according to Kevin Chinn, a technical advisor at ExxonMobil. "You'd slip on both of them," he says. But the advantage of synthetic oil is that its molecular structure stays more stable with temperature changes and extends the maintenance interval between oil changes.

    So why the heck wouldn't you want to switch from mineral oil to synthetic? Keep reading to find out some of the myths and realities of these high-tech oils.

    Myths about Synthetic Oils

    The most often cited myth concerning synthetic oil is that it will wear down the seals in your engine and cause leaks. That just isn't true. Well, for the most part, anyway.

    Like many myths, this one is based in fact. Early synthetics were made of esters, which were harder on seals, especially those made of neoprene. However, synthetic oils have come a long way since the early 1970s, and they're much nicer to delicate seals. But while synthetic oil won't create a leak, it will find one. Its streamlined molecular structure has no mercy for cracked or otherwise marginal seals. The oil and its additives may even clean deposits from the engine, which is good -- unless those deposits are acting like spackle on questionable seals.

    Related to this is the myth that if you started with mineral oil in your car, you can't switch to synthetic oil. As long as your engine's seals are in decent shape, you can switch back and forth to your heart's content. You can mix and match, you can use blended synthetic and mineral oil or you can use mineral oil for 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) and synthetic oil for the next 5,000 miles (8,047 kilometers). You could even fill your reservoir with five different oils from five different manufacturers, and as long as they're the same weight, it will do your engine no harm, according to David Canitz, technical services manager at Royal Purple.

    So let's consider those popular myths busted and move onto the realities of switching to synthetic oil.

    Realities of Switching to Synthetic Oils

    Since synthetics are created in a lab and contain additives to keep your engine in tip-top shape, they're more expensive than traditional mineral oils. How much more? Try six to 10 times the price, according to Cantiz at Royal Purple.

    However, there are ways to get some of the benefits of synthetics without breaking the bank. For those who live in climates with noticeable seasonal changes, you could use a synthetic oil in the winter months when your engine is under the most stress from cold starts, and then switch to a mineral oil in the summer, when its more random molecular structure will remain warm and easy flowing.

    For modern cars, mineral oils are good, blended oils are better and synthetic oils are the best. But if you've got a 30-year old car with original seals, the truth is, no oil or additive is going to help much. Modern cars tend to benefit the most from synthetics. So if you drive a 30-year-old car with original seals, you may find that synthetic oil won't help much -- but it will cost more.

    by Kristen Hall-Geisler

    Synthetic oil works so well because the molecules in the stuff are created to all be a uniform size. So instead of lubricating the engine with conventional oils that have a range of molecule sizes, the synthetic does a better job.
    For example, if you take a bunch of marbles ranging in different sizes and place them on a floor, then place a board on top of the marbles you can roll on the board, but it will wobbles and tips as it rolls over the different size marbles.
    Now place the marbles again on the floor, but this time make all the marbles the same size. Place the board on top of the marbles and roll across them. You will notice that the board remains flat, no wobble and it stays stable as you roll across the marbles.
    This is the same example as synthetic oil uses to lubricate. Using the same size molecules, thus creating an even surface for parts to move across on. Such a simple idea that makes a big difference when friction is involved.

    Here below are some :Q and A: from Valvoline Oil Company

    Full-Synthetic Motor Oil

    1. How is synthetic motor oil different from regular (conventional) motor oil?

    Synthetic engine oil products are produced through a synthesis process that takes very small molecules and assembles them into larger designer molecules with premium lubricating properties. Others may be produced through a synthesis process that takes very large molecules, breaks them apart, and re-arranges them to produce designer molecules with premium lubricating properties. In either case, the end products are base fluids with extremely good lubricating properties.

    Conventional base stocks are refined from crude oil through various hydrorefined/hydrotreated refining processes to separate and/or convert undesirable compounds to yield a suitable finished base stock.

    2. Is synthetic motor oil made in a laboratory? Is it "fake" oil?

    Synthetic oils are not fake - they are still derived from crude. However, synthetic engine oils use higher base stocks than conventional oils and go through a synthesis process in which all the molecules are made into the same size for a higher film strength.

    Full synthetic motor oils also contain man-made additives that are added to the oil to increase film strength, the ability to handle high temperatures, etc.

    3. Can you go longer between oil changes if you use a synthetic blend or full synthetic motor oil?

    Synthetic or synthetic blended oils are not intended to extend oil change intervals. These oils are recommended for use in harder working engines and to assist with gas mileage, not to extend service intervals beyond what the manufacturer recommends.

    4. Is it ok to switch back and forth between regular and synthetic motor oil? I heard this causes leaks? Is this true?

    Switching between synthetic and conventional oil does not cause problems. Because the oils are compatible, you can switch back and forth as often as you like.

    5. Can you mix different types of motor oil? For example, synthetic and synthetic blend or regular and synthetic? Is this going to cause problems?

    Mixing synthetic and conventional oils will not cause any problems. The oils are compatible with each other.

    6. How does Valvoline SynPower compare to Mobil 1 and Amsoil?

    Valvoline's SynPower synthetic motor oils meet and exceed the same specifications as these two products.

    Valvoline SynPower synthetic motor oils are high performing, high-quality oils formulated with full synthetic base oils and top tier additives to provide an increased level of performance. All of Valvoline's SynPower synthetic motor oils are API licensed to ensure quality for North American vehicle application. We have specially designed Valvoline SynPower 5w40 for application in high performance European or diesel passenger cars and this oil carries the specific OEM approvals such as Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Porsche and BMW. Our North American SynPower 5w20, 5w30 and 10w30 exceed ILSAC GF-5 requirements and carry the API starburst on the front label. Valvoline SynPower is designed with extra levels of detergent and antioxidant to provide outstanding deposit and heat protection.

    7. Why are synthetic oils more expensive? Are they worth the extra cost?

    Synthetic engine oils are superior to conventional oils because they help maximize horsepower, improve gas mileage and provide a smoother, cooler operation for the engine, prolonging engine life. Many vehicle owners feel that the benefits of using a synthetic motor oil are worth the extra cost.

    8. Does using synthetic oil create more sludge?

    No. Synthetic engine oils do not increase the chance of sludge. Valvoline motor oils are 100% anti-sludge guaranteed.

    9. Does using synthetic oil cause my car to use more oil?

    No. Synthetic engine oils do not increase oil consumption.

    10. Does using synthetic oil damage engine seals?

    No. Synthetic motor oils are perfectly safe for all rubber seals.

    11. I heard that synthetic oil is too thin for use in an older car and creates blow-by and burn-off. Is this true?

    This is only true if the blow-by problem exists prior to using a synthetic engine oil. If you have a leaking or blow-by problem, synthetic oils can make the issue worse, but they do not cause it to happen.

    12. Do I need to use a different type of oil filter with synthetic oil?

    No. You can use any type of oil filter with a synthetic engine oil.

    13. Are there certain types of vehicles that should not use synthetic motor oil (e.g., Mazda's)?

    Yes, there are certain engines (e.g., rotary engines) in which synthetic oils should not be used. Refer to your owner's manual for the appropriate motor oil recommendation.

    14. How does the test measure wear protection?

    The Sequence IVA test is a 100-hour test involving 100 one-hour cycles. Twelve cam lobes are measured at seven locations using a surface profilometer for the measurement of maximum depth of wear. The wear on all seven positions of the lobe are added and then all 12 lobes are averaged for the wear result.

    15. How does Valvoline's SynPower formula protect against wear?

    SynPower full synthetic motor oil is formulated with a balance of high quality ingredients such as detergents, dispersants, antioxidants, friction modifiers, anti-wear additives and premium base oils that work together to provide exceptional protection against engine stress and wear.

    Valvoline's proprietary formulation includes special anti-wear chemistry. Valvoline's low impact ZDDP allows phosphorus in the anti-wear additive to stay in the oil longer than other leading synthetic motor oils. Phosphorous bonds to metal parts in the engine to form a "sacrificial" layer that helps protect against friction and metal wear in the engine.

    SynPower uses premium detergents and dispersants that protect against deposits and sludge to keep engines clean. SynPower's premium full synthetic base oils and additives hold up to extreme temperatures to provide increased protection for your engine.

    16. What can one test prove?

    Valvoline anti-wear performance reflects numerous industry standard tests. The Sequence IVA test is the motor oil industry's key anti-wear test and is required for API Category SL/SM and ILSAC GF-3/GF-4 certification.

    17. What does this mean for my engine?

    It means that Valvoline SynPower full synthetic motor oil provides outstanding protection for your engine. It means that SynPower does more than conventional and other oils to give you what you want in a motor oil... outstanding protection to keep your engine running its best.

    18. Are there any gas mileage advantages to using synthetic oil?

    Absolutely. Synthetic oils use higher quality friction modifiers to make the oil more slippery and stronger than conventional oils. This allows the engine to run easier and smoother, increasing gas mileage.

    19. What group of base oils is used in the formulation of SynPower?

    Valvoline uses a mixture of Group III and Group IV base stocks.

    20. Does SynPower use polyalphaolefin (PAO) base stocks?

    Yes. Valvoline uses a mixture of Group III and Group IV base stocks.

    21. Does SynPower protect engine seals or do I have to buy a higher-mileage motor oil to get that protection?

    SynPower does protect engine seals, but high mileage oils are recommended in order to recondition older engine seals.

    22. Is it safe to use SynPower in a motorcycle with a wet clutch?

    No. Valvoline SynPower oils are not approved for use with a wet clutch.

    23. Is SynPower compatible with other brands of synthetic motor oil, or do I need to flush if I'm switching brands?

    Valvoline SynPower is compatible with other synthetic engine oils.

    For more information or to submit additional questions, please contact us by phone at 1-800-TEAM-VAL.

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