motor oil pouring from bottle

Synthetic Oil vs. Conventional Oil

All oil is not created equal.

Synthetic or conventional oil: here’s what you need to know.

If you have a vehicle, you know you need an oil change from time to time. What you may not know, like many drivers, is which type of oil you should use during your oil change – should you use conventional, synthetic, semi-synthetic, vegetable? (Please don't use vegetable.)

We're here to help you make an informed decision next time you swing by!

What does motor oil do?

To understand the difference between synthetic and conventional motor oils, it helps to understand what motor oil does. In the simplest terms, motor oil provides lubrication for the moving parts in your engine. This reduces friction, cleans out gunk, cools your engine, and helps it run smoother and longer.

What’s the difference between conventional and synthetic oil?

Conventional motor oil does a solid job of providing lubrication and protection for your vehicle's engine. Some characteristics include:

  • Derived from crude oil

  • Is thicker and less pure

  • Less temperature resistant

  • Breaks down faster

Synthetic motor oil is specifically engineered to last longer, keep your engine cleaner and provide even greater protection of your engine than conventional oil. In most cases, synthetic oil can improve your car’s overall performance, reduce engine wear and increase gas mileage, too. Characteristics of synthetic oil are:

  • Includes man-made molecules

  • Has fewer impurities

  • Withstands more extreme temperatures

  • Provides superior lubrication

Should you use conventional or synthetic oil?

Quite often, conventional motor oil can provide sufficient lubrication and protection for your vehicle. However, synthetic oil does offer some distinct advantages, including greater engine protection in very high or low temperatures. In many cases, it comes down to a personal choice. When you talk to your Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers technician, they can provide the manufacturer recommendations for your vehicle and help you decide what motor oil option is best for you.

So, when is synthetic oil the recommended choice?

  • You have an older car — Deposits and other gunk build up in car engines over time, regardless of what oil is used. And gunky engines don’t perform as well as clean ones (shocking, we agree). Since synthetic oils are cleaner than conventional oils, using synthetic can help avoid additional buildup in your older engine and keep it running better, longer.

  • You live someplace with extreme temperatures — Conventional oils break down more quickly in extreme hot or cold, while synthetic oils are specifically engineered to withstand extreme temperatures.

  • Your driving habits matter, too — If you use your vehicle for only short trips around town, conventional oil might not be able to get hot enough to do its job, whereas synthetic oil doesn’t necessarily need to heat up before it gets to work.

Can you switch between conventional and synthetic oil?

In most cases, switching from conventional to synthetic oil, or from synthetic to conventional, is fine and will not damage your engine. If you're topping off the oil already in your vehicle, it's best to use the same type rather than mixing two different types together.

Regardless of which oil you choose, maintaining regular oil changes is still important. Whether you use conventional or synthetic oil, we recommend changing your oil every 3,000 miles.

If you still need help choosing a motor oil, stop by your nearest location and let one of our knowledgeable technicians help!