What are the differences between synthetic oil and mineral oil?
Motor oil is used to lubricate engine parts and decrease friction, but before filling your oil tank, it is important to choose the right oil, especially prior to the first fill. There are two main types of motor oils: mineral oils and synthetic oils. Let’s explore their features and differences.
What is a mineral motor oil?
Mineral oils are derived from the refining of crude petroleum. During the process, natural contaminants and unwanted hydrocarbons are removed.
Mineral oils are ideal for older vehicle models that were developed to run on less technologically advanced lubricants; a reason why they’re also a low-cost option for fleet managers and motorists.
However, mineral oils do flow through engine circuits slower than synthetic oils, which can result in increased fuel consumption and impacted vehicle performance. Mineral oils also need to be changed more frequently than synthetic oils. However, if they are recommended by your automotive manufacturer, mineral oils can still provide high-quality lubrication, usually more so than synthetic lubricants.
What is synthetic motor oil?
Composition of synthetic motor oils
Primarily designed for high-performance engines, synthetic motor oils are a product of complex chemical transformations that are performed either directly on drilled crude petroleum or using preselected molecules. The difference with mineral oils resides in the transformation process: synthetic oil undergoes more sophisticated modification.
Key points on synthetic oils:
- They contain fewer impurities than mineral oils
- They are chemically modified
For both types of oil, additives are included to significantly improve their performance. These additives can protect against wear, oxidation, corrosion, or foam, or provide detergent or dispersant effects.
What are the advantages of synthetic oils?
Synthetic oils offer many advantages:
- Excellent flow at low temperatures
- Stable viscosity, even at high temperatures (synthetic oils do not fluidify easily)
- Less frequent oil changes
- Less deposit formation
- Less wear on parts
- Optimise fuel consumption
- Protect engines and increase their lifespans
The main disadvantage of synthetic oils is that they are slightly more expensive, although this is often offset by their extended drainage intervals.
What is the difference between synthetic and semi-synthetic engine oils?
There are several facets that set semi-synthetic engine oils apart from fully synthetic lubricants:
- Semi-synthetic oils contain a mix of conventional 100% synthetic and mineral oils.
- There is no single industry definition of what they should constitute.
- Generally, semi-synthetic oils are more expensive than mineral oils and cheaper than fully synthetic oils.
- Semi-synthetic lubricants offer fewer performance enhancements, protect components less and degrade faster than synthetic oils.
- Semi-synthetic oils are purer, better-flowing and longer-lasting than mineral oils.
- Semi-synthetic lubricants should only be used in more modern vehicles that have been designed to use them. These engines may still benefit from the use of fully synthetic oils, however.
All oil types are not suited to all engines. Before choosing between standard mineral oil, semi-synthetic oil or synthetic oil, it is important to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.