It’s time for an oil change and you might enjoy doing things yourself or you might prefer to take your car to a mechanic. Either way, the choices are endless. Different brands and different types, like synthetic or conventional.
QUESTION: Does a high price tag mean the oil works better in your engine?
PROCESS: This is really a two-part answer. To verify, we reached out to David Dew, General Manager of Honest-1 Auto Care. We also pulled a study from Blackstone Laboratories, which analyzes how well different motor oils wear on engines over time. In July of 2017, the lab published a report, compiled of date from different brands, like Pennzoil, Valvoline, Mobil, etc.
The analysis looked at whether certain oil brands and their additives kept the engine from wearing and tearing. The results showed there wasn't much difference between high end oil and low end oil.
It is important to note the report did not include factors such as driving style or weather conditions.
In addition, API or American Petroleum Institute, determines whether an oil is up to specifications for most major brands.
“If you see a star burst symbol, that's usually an indication that it is an API approved oil, meaning it can go in just about any make and model car,” Dew explained.
In other words, findings suggest an expensive oil may not provide any additional benefit to the helping an engine last longer, despite additives.
“When you look at the chemical breakdown of each of these oils, there’s very, very little difference between them. You’d really only see a difference over a half a million miles. Not the 200,000 to 300,000 miles we see with most vehicles,” said Dew.
But what about type of oil? Conventional oil is derived directly from crude oil. Dew described it as “dinosaur juice.”
“It’s the oil your parents put in their cars and the oil their parents put in their cars.”
Dew explained the molecules in conventional oil are different sizes, causing them to rub against one another, creating friction and build-up.
Semi-synthetic oil is a mix of conventional oil and full synthetic oil and helps to lubricate the engine without that much build-up over time.
Full synthetic oil begins as conventional oil and is modified so it only has one size molecules to help improve engine performance. Older cars or cars that have always run on conventional or semi-synthetic oil are fine to continue using this type of oil. However, engines that need full synthetic, should opt for that choice.
The price tags are different here as well. Full synthetic oil changes at the mechanics will cost more.
“A full synthetic oil change is going to run you twice as much as a semi-synthetic oil change. But, it will also get you twice as many miles, so it evens out in the long run. You really want to make sure that you’re looking in your owners Manuel for the specifications recommending by the manufacturer,” Dew explained.
So, we can verify: You may want to save money when it comes to the brand but when it comes to the type of oil, spend the money if you need synthetic oil.
David Dew, General Manager, Honest-1 Auto Care