Petroleum oil vs. Synthetic oil: A Close Look

Autos & TrucksMaintenance

  • Author Craig Kerwood
  • Published March 16, 2006
  • Word count 774

You’ve heard it before. Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. The purpose of motor oil is to lubricate and protect your engine from heat and friction; the two major enemies of your engine. Without oil your engine would overheat and cease working. Your engine might even crack. Motor oil may be the single most important fluid you will put in your engine.

What is petroleum oil?

Crude oil, better known as petroleum oil is pumped from the earth, refined, and sold as a lubricant. In spite of the refining process which is imperfect, components which are not beneficial for your engine will be introduced to it using petroleum motor oil. Petroleum motor oil’s contains a different-sized molecular structure which contains properties both beneficial and non-beneficial. Petroleum motor oil has been the predominant automobile lubrication product for generations. If changed regularly, petroleum motor will provide a measure of protection for your engine, but not necessarily the best measure of protection.

What is synthetic oil?

Synthetic motor oil is a laboratory manufactured, custom-designed product that contains a uniform-sized molecular structure and is pure from any of the non-beneficial properties found in conventional petroleum motor oils. Before being introduced to automobiles, synthetic oils were first used in fighter jets. First introduced in the mainstream market in 1972 by AMSOIL Inc., synthetics have grown in popularity because of the superiority in protecting today’s high performance engines. Following AMSOIL’s lead, Mobil introduced Mobil 1 and is probably the most recognized synthetic motor oil on the market.

Synthetic vs. Petroleum. Which is better?

Every year motor oil companies spend millions promoting their product; the majority of them petroleum motor oils. Although petroleum motor oil will provide adequate protection, there are some reasons why synthetic motor oil may be the better choice when it comes to protection your engine. But why settle for adequate protection? Synthetic motor oils have clear advantages. Let’s take a look at some of these advantages.

Longer oil change intervals

Unlike petroleum motor oil which must be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, synthetic motor oil can go 10,000 to 15,000 miles between oil changes. Longer oil change intervals means fewer trips the lube shop or time spent underneath your car.

Better for the environment

Because synthetic motor oil last about 3 times longer than petroleum motor oil change intervals are significantly longer. Fewer oil changes reduce the waste-disposal problem that comes with changing your oil which leads to a healthier, greener planet for all of us.

Higher resistance to breakdown

Petroleum motor oils are prone to boil or vapor within the normal operating temperature of the engine. This is commonly referred to as breakdown. Once the oil begins to breakdown it usually results in oxidization creating hardened oil deposits in your engines components and sludge. Synthetics by contrast, are able to withstand greater heat temperatures resulting in greater protection against breakdown.

More cost effective

A typical oil change using petroleum motor oil may cost anywhere from $25 to $30 at your local oil change shop. Using synthetic motor oil will cost you approximately $45 per oil change. While synthetic motor oil may cost you more per quart, it will save you money in the long run because of longer oil change intervals.

Provides superior heat protection

Heat is a major enemy of any engine. Heat produces friction and friction produces wear and wear reduces the life of your engine. The uniformly smooth structure of synthetic motor oil, free of the components found in conventional petroleum motor oil provides superior protection against heat, friction, and wear on your engine. Simply put, synthetic motor outperforms conventional motor oil when it comes to protecting your engine against heat.

Provides superior start-up protection

Petroleum motor oils contain waxes and parrafins which can thicken when exposed to cold temperatures. Once the petroleum oil is cold, it makes it difficult for the oil to get from the oil pan to the moving parts of your engine during cold-weather start-ups. Meanwhile, until the oil heats up and is fluid enough to circulate through your engine, damage is occurring to your engine which over time can reduce the life of your engine. Synthetic motor oil on the other hand, does not contain these waxes and has fluidity properties which allow it to get into your moving parts almost immediately providing greater protection for your engine.


Most conventional petroleum motor oils will provide adequate protection for your automobile’s engine, but wouldn’t you like you car, the second most expensive investment you’ll make to have the absolute best protection available? Hopefully, this article has demonstrated why synthetic motor oils are the clear choice for your car.

The author resides in Everett, Washington and has served in the Air Force and worked in a variety of jobs including retail manager, branch manager, and automobile sales. He is the sole propreitor of Jet City Oil and you can visit him on his website:

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