The oil in your engine is extremely important. Without regular oil changes
and a high-quality lubricant that can stand up to the temperatures your
engine runs at without failing, your engine won’t last very long
and you could find yourself stuck with an expensive repair bill. As a
result, auto parts manufacturers frequently advertise that their motor
oil is the best at simultaneously providing your engine with superior
protection and unparalleled performance for what you want out of it. There
are tons of different oils on the market, and you’ve probably seen
the advertisements put out by manufacturers like Pennzoil, Quaker State,
Valvoline, and Mobile 1. However, which of these brands is best?
Well, turns out, if you take the labels off the bottles, there’s
not a whole lot of difference between them. In reality, nearly all motor
oil brands provide more than ample protection for your engine, and all
share the same risks of sludge and friction development of the oil shears,
oxidizes, cooks, or is contaminated. So how can these companies continue
to try to set themselves apart? Well, what you hear in their advertisements
is usually a hodge-podge mixture of hype and meaningless claims mixed
in with a few facts. Let’s take a closer look at some of these claims.
There are two major types of oil when it comes to the automotive industry:
“conventional” and “synthetic.” Many years ago,
there was a distinct difference between these two types: conventional
oils were sold with very little processing and alteration, while synthetic
oils had numerous additives and were processed much more before begin
bottled and sold. The dividing line between these claims used to be heavily
regulated, but today that line has blurred considerably as even conventional
oils are still pretty heavily processed.
All oil begins its life as standard mineral oil, known as base stock. The
base stock comprises most of each quart you buy, with the other parts
being made up of the additives that do things like “prevent sludge”
and “clean your engine.” Depending on the amount of processing
that’s done to an oil, it falls in to one of four groups. Group
four oils will behave and respond the most predictably on a molecular
level, making them the most suitable for high-intensity usage (like auto
racing) but they’re also the most expensive. Group one oils will
be the opposite, as they are the closest to standard mineral oil. However,
today even group one oils are considerably processed, and every manufacturer
produces them essentially using the same techniques, meaning there’s
very little difference between them.
James Garthie, an agricultural engineer at Penn State University says “I
tell people that 95 percent of the words on can of engine oil are marketing
hype. Don’t believe all that crap that’s on there.”
Essentially what this means is when an oil advertises that it has “sludge
fighting capabilities,” it’s not much different from its competitor:
nearly all engine oils have sludge-fighting additives in them now.
So is there a difference? What am I paying for?
But there is some truth to the synthetic vs. conventional debate. While
the difference between the two has narrowed considerably thanks to better
chemical engineering, a full-synthetic oil is generally considered to
provide better protection than a conventional oil. Synthetic oils are
widely accepted to protect better against
thermal breakdown, or the tendency for oil at higher temperatures to lose its protective
properties and deteriorate. This means synthetics are generally considered
to reduce wear and tear on an engine, increase contamination resistance,
and provide better flow at colder temperatures due to less heat sensitivity.
So generally, the slightly higher price for synthetic oil is justified
by you receiving more in return.
Let’s compare the four types of oils:
Conventional oils: These oils have been treated the least, usually have the fewest additives,
and generally meet performance certification standards. They’re
also usually the cheapest per quart.
Synthetic Blends: These are similar to conventional oils, but are blended with a little
bit of synthetic oil that has been processed. This gives the impression
of better quality, but doesn’t actually always protect your engine
better due to the very limited amount of additives they receive from their
Full-Synthetics: These are fully-processed oils and generally contain chemicals designed
to protect your engine in the ways they say they do. However, their higher
performance also nets a higher price tag. Also, be advised that a “specialized”
synthetic may not be
that much better at what it claims to designed for compared to a general synthetic oil.
Recycled oils: A recycled oil uses a lot less energy to produce and is created using oil
has been used and disposed of. A careful filtration process has removed
dust, grime, and other contaminants, making it safe for use again. However,
generally recycled oils are about on par with conventional oils in terms
of performance with a higher price tag.
So are some oils better than others? Yes. Generally synthetics will perform
better than conventional and synthetic blend oils. Oils designed for a
specific purpose will do that job better than a comparable all-purpose
oil, but synthetic oils tend to do most things fairly well, so you won’t
notice much of a difference by purchasing a more expensive “specialized”
But is one brand actually better than another? Not really. As long as you
change your oil regularly and use the right weight, your car will purr
happily for miles and miles to come.
Want to learn more about turning your ride into the high-horsepower beast
you’ve been dreaming about? Call HP Motorsports today at 281.231.9950 for a