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Did you know that though most of today’s cars, trucks and SUVs have synthetic motor oils in their engines because it’s better for the vehicles, there are still some vehicles using mineral motor oil for lubrication purposes? And the main reason they haven’t changed and started using synthetic oil is that they were worried and apprehensive if it’s safe to switch from using regular oil to synthetic oil in their vehicles.
Differences between synthetic and mineral oils
You can understand the apprehension about this oil change if you clearly understand what synthetic oil is, and how different it is from mineral oil. So talking about synthetic oil, it is base oil that lubricates engine parts. It’s not a product of the crude oil refining process like mineral oil is but is oil created in the lab. Some powdered additives are added to synthetic oils while carrier oil suspends them in the mix.
Reasons to change from mineral to synthetic oil
Synthetic oils were started as a solution to a crucial issue of combustion engines had whenever they started. The engine oil didn’t merge well the solvents. While engine oil is meant to lubricate the engine’s moving parts, most petroleum-based fuels are solvents and just remove mineral oils that coat the engine parts.
An engine needs maximum lubrication while starting up because 75% of the engine wears out when it heats up. Synthetic oils provide a thin, protective lubrication layer on the metal parts to keep the engine lubricated for a long time. Besides, synthetic oils offer many benefits like performing better at both high and low densities, less evaporation and sludge, improved fuel economy, horsepower and torque, better lubrication in cold weather and reduced oxidation.
Of course, the biggest reason to switch to using synthetic oils instead of mineral oils is that it can maintain better performance at both extremely hot and cold temperatures. It’s very important that turbo vehicles use full synthetic oil because mineral oil tends to thicken up and become sludgy because of the high heat emitted by the turbo engine.
The same process occurs in extremely cold temperatures where mineral oil thickens up. However none of this occurs with synthetic oil, and you can afford to extend your oil change period to more than 3000-mile intervals if you use synthetic oil. This means synthetic oil is longer lasting when compared to mineral oil. This not only reduces your overall engine oil costs, but also justifies its high rates.
Myths about switching to synthetic oils
Yes, it’s true that it once wasn’t advised or recommended to switch between synthetic and mineral oils if you had been using one type of oil for a long time. And unfortunately, some people who had made the change underwent seal leakages and started using much more oil than usual.
This heightened the confusion as to whether it was safe to change oils or not. But this isn’t entirely true because it’s mainly based on facts. It’s just that synthetic oils earlier had esters which were harder on seals, especially the neoprene ones. But things have changed since the 1970s and today’s synthetic oils are not so rough on delicate seals.
While synthetic oils no longer create leaks, it does find leaks because its streamlined molecular structure doesn’t spare cracked or marginal seals. In fact, the oil and additives clean engine deposits which are good. So as long as your engine has decent and strong seals, it’s safe for you to switch between the oils as much as you like. It’s left to you to decide if you want to mix and match oils, use blended synthetic and mineral oils or if you want to use mineral oils for 3,000 miles or use synthetic oil for 5,000 miles.
Experts also state that you can safely fill your reservoir with five different oils from different manufacturers because it won’t harm your engine as long as the oils are the same weight. So you no longer need to worry about leaking seals because of using synthetic oil instead of mineral oil in your engine.
Things have also changed because the present and latest synthetic oils have added chemicals and seal material which collectively prevents any of these problems. Besides, there’s no scientific data supporting the fact that you should not switch to using synthetic oil after using mineral oil for such a long time.
It is true that while making the switch there is a high chance of some residual oil remaining in the engine. This isn’t something to worry about because both synthetic and mineral oils are compatible with each other. It’s in fact the reason why there are so many synthetic oils available on the market today. In fact, many facilities perform oil changes using a synthetic/mineral oil blend for its added value and better protection. These blends are synthetic oils mixed with traditional, petroleum-based oils.
And if you are one of those who are hesitant to make the switch because synthetic oils are so expensive, then you’ll be happy to know that you can overcome this problem. If you live someplace with regular seasonal changes, then it’s better to use synthetic oils in winter when your engine goes through most stress because of cold starts.
You can then switch to using mineral oils in the summer because the more random molecular structure of the oil keeps the oil warm and easy flowing. And while mineral oils are good for modern cars, synthetic and blended oils are the best. However, no oil or any form of additive will really help or have much difference in the running of your 30-year-old car, even if it has original seals.
How to make the switch
Synthetic oils were originally developed for use only in engines that were designed to be compatible with it. But today’s oil has fewer esters and engines have seals that tolerate synthetic oils. While it’s safe to switch to synthetic oils from mineral oils, it’s always better to do it progressively using these few tips.
- You need to switch from mineral to a mineral/synthetic oil blend during the first oil and filter change. Use the blend for at least two oil changes.
- It’s important that you change the oil filter during each oil change.
- It’s only during the third oil change that you should make the complete change from the blend to actual synthetic oil.
- The most important thing to remember is not to change the recommended weight or density. If followed, it’s quite safe to change from using regular to synthetic oil or use a blend with the same oil weight.
- Remember that no matter which oil you eventually use for your vehicle, regular maintenance through frequent, recommended oil changes extends your engine life. So make sure you follow your manufacturer’s guidelines or at least ask your technician about when you should best change the oil.