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Natural vs. Synthetic Oil; Which One Is Better For Your Vehicle?

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On: Sat, Jun 29, 2013 at 7:09AM | By: Bill Wilson

Natural vs. Synthetic Oil; Which One Is Better For Your Vehicle?

While every driver knows how much gas prices have risen in recent years, the spiraling cost of motor oil hasn’t received nearly as much attention. This is unfortunate, because oil is every bit as vital as fuel to a properly functioning automobile. One step many car owners are taking to save money is to use synthetic oil instead of natural blends. But are synthetics worth their higher cost? Let’s take a look at both types.

What is natural oil?
The word “natural” pretty much sums up these blends. They’re derived from the same base liquid that gasoline is—plain oil crude oil straight from the well. Historically, natural oils have been plagued by a number of drawbacks, such as sulfur and other contaminants that can damage an engine’s interior parts. They also tend to be thick in cold operating temperatures. This can reduce the amount of lubrication they provide, though this is not nearly as big an issue today as in the past.

Despite recent price hikes, natural motor oils are still comparatively inexpensive, especially when compared to synthetic alternatives. This, along with its vast improvements in quality in recent decades, make natural oil a good choice for engine protection, provided that it’s changed on a frequent basis (every 3000 to 5000 miles).

Synthetic oil explained
As its name implies, synthetic oil is a manmade substance. It’s formulated in laboratories by petroleum chemists and sold by a number of major manufacturers. Because it has been designed especially for automotive purposes, it offers the following advantages over natural lubricants:

• Provides protection to engines from the moment of startup.

• Resists the high temperatures of modern engines better than other products.

• Lasts longer between changes.

• Flows faster and easier to internal engine parts than natural oils.

• In some vehicles, boosts performance and improves economy.

The primary disadvantage of synthetic oil is its cost, which is normally two to three times that of natural oil. This can more than double the cost of an oil change, both for do-it-yourselfers and for those who go to a shop.

The bottom line
Given synthetic’s overall superiority, veteran mechanics recommend that drivers who can afford the higher upfront costs use it. They can then wait as much as 10,000 miles before the next change. On the other hand, those who want to stick with natural blends will be fine, so long as they’re diligent about changing it every 3000 to 5000 miles. Whatever type you use, the important thing is to make sure your vehicle gets the scheduled maintenance the manufacturer recommends. That’s the real key to keeping it running trouble-free over the long term.

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