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Conventional vs. Synthetic Oil: What to Buy and Why

With so many options available, choosing the right oil for your vehicle can seem impossible. With our full breakdown of synthetic versus conventional oils, you’ll know exactly what your ride needs!
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All combustible engine cars need oil to run, but choosing the right one for your vehicle can often be confusing. Most of us have heard the terms conventional and synthetic oil, but few know the differences and advantages of each. Today, we’ve got you covered with a full breakdown of different motor oils - from conventional, synthetics, and blends, we’ll tell you what each term means and why to use them.

What is Conventional Oil?

Traditional motor oil comes from crude oil and provides a stable lubricant for your engine’s components to operate correctly, even at high temperatures. For most of automotive history, conventional oils were the only kind available, with synthetics not being introduced to the consumer market until the early 1990s.

Advantages of Conventional Oil

  1. Cost - The most significant advantage of conventional oils over synthetics is cost. Without the extra additives applied to synthetics, traditional oil will cost the consumer quite a bit less when it’s time for an oil change. With a proper maintenance schedule, these savings can add up quickly.
  2. Vehicle Age - If you’re still holding on to your classic ride, conventional oil is probably your best option. As synthetic technology has improved, many newer vehicle’s engines are being designed specifically for use with synthetic oil. Your vintage car or truck will perform better and last longer if you stick with traditional options.

Availability - Conventional oil is the most common type of lube on the market, and you won’t have to look long to find the right kind for your motor. Many synthetic-specific engines require particular variations or additives, making an oil change an inconvenient scavenger hunt. With conventionals, you’ll know your type will be around just about anywhere.

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What is Full Synthetic Oil?

Synthetic oil begins its life as conventional motor oil but is mixed with special chemical additives to increase stability and viscosity. Synthetic oil was actually developed during World War II but didn’t enter the commercial market until decades later. As mentioned above, synthetic oil will cost you approximately 40% more than conventional motor oil because of these additives.

Advantages of Full Synthetic Oil

  1. Better Protection - There are several advantages to synthetic motor oil that could offset the initial purchase cost. The biggest benefit synthetics hold over conventional oil is their ability to protect your engine long-term. Synthetic oil is more stable and viscous, creating optimum lubrication to your engine’s components even in extreme heat. This makes your vehicle more efficient and will improve its lifespan with less wear.
  2. Cleaner Engine - Conventional oils are known to leave behind sludge deposits and other harmful substances inside your motor. Synthetic oils perform much cleaner and will leave virtually nothing behind. If switching from conventional to synthetic, it’s recommended that you check your engine frequently, as the cleaner oil will help bring up old deposits.
  3. Less Maintenance - Because of the clean performance of synthetics, oil changes can be spread out further. While most conventional oil still needs to be changed around every 3,000 miles, synthetics can go between 5,000-10,000 miles, with some brands advertising up to 25,000 miles between changes. This makes the extra price worth it from day one.

What About Synthetic Blends?

Synthetic blends will give you some of the benefits of both conventional and synthetic oils and include some of the disadvantages, too. Synthetic blends are less-refined than their full synthetic counterparts, but many of the same additives increase oil stability and viscosity. This will improve engine performance and reduce wear, but some of the sludge and deposits found in conventional oil may build up over time. You may see increased mileage between changes, but nothing near the range of full synthetic options. If you’d like some of the protection of synthetic oil closer to conventionals’ price point, synthetic blend oil is the choice for you.

Be sure to consult your vehicle’s manual for any specific oil requirements. Most newer cars and trucks are specifically designed for synthetic oil, so be sure to research the right variety specific to your ride. Your vehicle’s performance will improve, and you’ll slow down wear, keeping you on the road longer!

CPC-logoThis story was made possible by our Community Partners Program. Thank you Davis Chevrolet for helping to expand local news coverage in Alberta. Learn more.