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Synthetic Oils

Synthetic Oils Beat Petroleum Oils On All Counts!
Reproduced with kind permission of Michael Kaufman - Automotive Lubrication Online

Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle's engine. Without it, there is little likelihood that any of your vehicles would make it past the end of our street each morning. For decades conventional petroleum oils have been providing adequate protection for all of our vehicles. Notice the key word here: adequate. Petroleum oils, for the most part, have done an adequate job of protecting our engines from break down. If you change it often enough, you can be relatively sure that your car will last 100,000 to 150,000 miles without a serious engine problem.

My question is this: Why are you settling for adequate when something better has been available for the past 25 years? Do you ask your mechanic to simply keep your vehicle from breaking down, or do you want him/her to keep it running in tip-top shape? The fact that you are reading this article suggests the latter. It is perfectly reasonable to expect top performance from your vehicles. You are certainly paying for it. It's tough to buy a vehicle for less than $15,000 to $20,000 anymore. That's a great deal of money to shell out for adequate performance.

Today's engines are built for better performance, and, although petroleum oils are designed for better performance today than they were 10 or 20 years ago, there is only so much that can be done. Today's engines need high performance lubricants, and synthetics are the only ones that fit the bill.

Why Petroleum Oils are Insufficient
Conventional petroleum oils are insufficient for use in today's vehicles primarily because they are a refined substance. Unfortunately, no refining process is perfect. Impurities will always remain when any refining process is done. Thus, there are many components of petroleum oils which are completely unnecessary for protecting your engine. They do absolutely nothing to lubricate your engine. In fact, there are even some components of petroleum oils which are actually harmful to your engine.

Prone to Break Down
Some of the chemicals in conventional lubricants break down at temperatures within the normal operating range of many vehicle and equipment components. Others are prone to break down in these relatively mild temperatures only if oxygen is present. But, this is invariably the case anyway. These thermally and oxidatively unstable contaminants do absolutely nothing to aid in the lubrication process. They are only present in conventional petroleum oils because removing them would be impossible or excessively expensive.

When thermal or oxidative break down of petroleum oil occurs, it leaves engine components coated with varnish, deposits and sludge. In addition, the lubricant which is left is thick, hard to pump and maintains little heat transfer ability.

Poor Cold Temperature Start-ups
Petroleum lubricants are also likely to contain paraffins which thicken dramatically in cold temperatures. As a result, petroleum lubricants will not readily circulate through your engine's oil system during cold weather. This may leave engine parts unprotected for as long as five minutes after startup! Obviously, significant wear can occur during this time frame.

Marginal Heat Control
Even when all conditions are perfect for conventional oils to do their job, they still don't do it all that well. Part of the problem is that (because of their refined nature) petroleum oils are composed of molecules which vary greatly in size. As the oil flows through your vehicle's lubrication system, the small, light molecules tend to flow in the center of the oil stream while the large, heavy ones adhere to metal surfaces where they create a barrier against heat movement from the component to the oil stream. In effect, the large, heavy molecules work like a blanket around hot components.

There is another effect of the non-uniformity of petroleum oil molecules which reduces their effectiveness as well. Uniformly smooth molecules slip over one another with relative ease. This is not the case with molecules of differing size. It would be much like putting one layer of marbles on top of another. If the marbles were all of the same size, they would move over one another fairly easily. However, if they were all of differing sizes, the result would be much less efficient. In the case of petroleum oils this inefficiency leads, ironically, to added friction in the system (the very thing that lubricants are supposed to reduce). Hence, petroleum oils are only marginally capable of controlling heat in your engine.

Maybe Adequate is OK for You
Once again, I would like to state that petroleum oils ARE adequate for the purpose of protecting your engine. Under normal circumstances, most vehicles lubricated with petroleum oil should run satisfactorily for 100,000 to 150,000 miles without serious incidence. However, in order to achieve this life expectancy it will be imperative that you change your oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles religiously.

So, if you like the hassle of changing your oil regularly and you are only looking for marginal performance for the next 100,000 miles, feel free to use petroleum oils. By the way, if you're interested, I've got an old dishwasher for sale too. You have to rinse your dishes first, it's really loud and runs for about 3 hours, but it gets most of the food off of our plates. It's a steal at only $50. Let me know if you're interested.

However, if you aren't all that fond of pulling dirty dishes out of your dishwasher, I'm going to assume that you don't relish the idea of changing your oil every 3,000 miles or dealing with another pushy car salesman every 3 to 5 years either. If that's true, keep reading. I think you're going to like this.

Synthetic Oils Simply Perform Better
There are five main areas where synthetic oils surpass their petroleum counterparts:

bulletOil drains can be extended
bulletVehicle life can be extended
bulletCostly repairs can be reduced
bulletFuel mileage can be improved
bulletPerformance can be improved

Synthetic lubricant molecules are pure and of uniform size. This is because synthetic oils are designed from the ground up with the sole purpose of protecting your engine. Nothing is added if it does not significantly contribute to the lubricating ability of the oil. In addition, in top-quality synthetics, no component is added which is contaminated with any substance that might lessen the lubricating qualities of the oil. Not only that, synthetic oils are designed so that the molecules are of uniform size and weight. This significantly adds to the lubricating qualities of the oil.

Extended Oil Drains
Heat and oxidation are the main enemies of lubricant basestocks - especially of the contaminants in conventional basestocks. Once a lubricant has begun to break down, it must be replaced so that the vehicle is not damaged by lack of lubrication or chemical attack. However, since synthetic oils are designed from pure, uniform synthetic basestocks, they contain no contaminants or unstable molecules which are prone to thermal and oxidative break down.

Moreover, because of their uniform molecular structure, synthetic lubricants operate with less friction than petroleum oils which have the non-uniform molecular structure discussed earlier. The result is better heat control, and less heat means less stress to the lubricant. Thus, synthetic oils can be used safely for much longer drain intervals than conventional lubricants. In fact, AMSOIL synthetic oils have been guaranteed for 25,000 miles or one year since 1972. Red Line Oil also recommends long drain intervals of 10,000 to 18,000 miles.

You might ask why other synthetic oil manufacturers are not recommending extended oil drains for their synthetics. The answer is really very simple: money. They are afraid that if they recommend longer drain intervals, they won't sell enough oil - petroleum oil, that is.

You see, petroleum oil is their golden goose, and has been for years. The only reason large oil companies produce a synthetic oil is because somebody else did it first (AMSOIL), and they must please the small (but growing) percentage of the population which has already decided that synthetics are better and won't purchase anything else.

Petroleum oil is where the money is. With recommended oil drains of only 3,000 miles, many people are changing their oil 5 to 8 times per year. If everyone suddenly switched over to synthetics, they would begin to realize that it is possible to go 10,000 to 25,000 miles or more without an oil change (depending upon the oil). This is a scary thought for large oil companies who depend upon regular oil changes for their business.

Extended Vehicle Life With Fewer Repairs

More often than not, vehicle life is determined by engine life. One of the major factors affecting engine life is component wear and/or failure, which is often the result of high temperature operation. The uniformly smooth molecular structure of synthetic oils gives them a much lower coefficient of friction (they slip more easily over one another causing less friction) than petroleum oils. Less friction, of course, means less heat in the system. And, since heat is a major contributor to engine component wear and failure, synthetic oils significantly reduce these two detrimental effects.

In addition, because of their uniform molecular structure, synthetic oils do not cause the "blanket effect" which was mentioned earlier. Since each molecule in a synthetic oil is of uniform size, each is equally likely to touch a component surface at any given time, thus moving a certain amount of heat into the oil stream and away from the component. This makes synthetic oils far superior heat transfer agents than conventional petroleum oils.

In discussing some of the pitfalls of petroleum oil use, engine cleanliness was an issue. Petroleum oils tend to leave sludge, varnish and deposits behind after thermal and oxidative break down. This leads to a significant reduction in engine performance and engine life as well as increasing the number of costly repairs that are necessary. Since synthetic oils have far superior thermal and oxidative stability than petroleum oils, they leave engines varnish, deposit and sludge-free.

Synthetic oils and other lubricants do not contain paraffins or other waxes which dramatically thicken petroleum oils during cold weather. As a result, they tend to flow much better during cold temperature starts and begin lubricating an engine almost immediately. This leads to significant engine wear reduction, and, therefore, longer engine life and fewer costly repairs.

Improved Fuel Mileage and Performance
As indicated earlier, synthetic oils, because of their uniform molecular structure, are tremendous friction reducers. It has already been stated that this is crucial to extending engine life, but it must also be mentioned that less friction leads to increased fuel economy and improved engine performance. Of course, logic points in that direction anyway. Any energy released from the combustion process that would normally be lost to friction can now be transferred directly to the wheels, providing movement. Vehicle acceleration becomes swifter and more powerful while using less fuel in the process.

The uniform molecular structure of synthetic oils has another performance enhancing benefit as well. In a petroleum oil, lighter molecules tend to boil off easily, leaving behind much heavier molecules which are difficult to pump. Certainly, the engine looses more energy pumping these heavy molecules than if it were pumping lighter ones. Since synthetic oils have more uniform molecules, fewer of these molecules tend to boil off. Moreover, when they do, the molecules which are left are of the same size and pumpability is not affected. Obviously, the end result is little loss of fuel economy or performance.

Those Who Know, Agree
According to a technical paper (850564.1985) by the Society of Automotive Engineers, "Laboratory engine dynamometer, vehicle chassis rolls and over-the-road field tests confirm the outstanding performance capabilities for optimized synthetic engine oils in passenger car diesel as well as gasoline engines, including severe turbocharged models...Vehicle testing under severe and extended drain conditions demonstrates the performance reserve available with these synthetic engine oils. In addition to excellent protection against critical high-temperature piston deposits, ring sticking, overall engine cleanliness and wear, these synthetic oils offer fuel savings and superior low temperature fluidity."

In 1989, Mechanical Engineering Transactions had this to say in its 1989 Synthetic versus Mineral Fluids in Lubrication article: "Oil drain intervals in both industrial and automotive applications can be extended typically by a factor of four due to the improved oxidative stability of appropriately additized synthetics."

It's Your Choice
Ultimately, it does not matter what we say. You have to decide how important these factors are to you. If you don't mind changing your oil every 3,000 miles and you'd purchase a new vehicle every 2 or 3 years regardless of its condition, maybe you don't need synthetics. Of course, the fuel savings and performance may still make the switch worth it. However, once again, the determination of whether to convert your vehicle over to synthetics can only be based on the relative importance that you place on any of these benefits.

If these benefits are of importance to you, don't settle for adequate anymore. Step up to the ultimate in protection, synthetics. Better yet, don't just use a synthetic, use the synthetic manufactured by the largest, most experienced synthetic lubrication company in the world: AMSOIL. AMSOIL beats every other synthetic on the market in terms of engine protection, fuel economy and extended drains.

AMSOIL has been recommending 25,000 mile oil drains for 25 years without one mechanical breakdown due to these practices. Name one other oil company that has the guts to subject their oil to that kind of abuse and guarantee it with a written warranty. There aren't any because there is not one other oil company out there that can match AMSOIL's commitment to a quality product or their integrity to stand behind that product.

Reproduced with kind permission of Michael Kaufman - Automotive Lubrication Online



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