Synthetic oil, myth versus truth

30 09 2014


Maybe your vehicle’s manufacturer requires synthetic oil, or you have a choice.  In either case, you should still learn why one type might perform better than another for your specific vehicle.  We recommend taking a closer look at this article from Vehicle MD regarding “The Truth About Synthetic Oil.”

For the record, we strongly support and recommend synthetic oil when applicable (Mobil 1, in most cases).  This topic of discussion has been sensationalized over the years, but these experts do a great job of cutting to the quick.  No conspiracy theories here.

In any event, you should always consult your vehicle’s owners manual when considering what application might work best for you.  Should you have any additional questions, we’ll be here to help you.


Possible to go 5-6 months between service?

10 01 2011

(Part 2 of 2 – covering engine oil types/facts)

Different variations of this question are asked on a fairly regular basis, but almost always the same answer applies:  Depends, not usually.

There are enough variables in properly caring for your vehicle that prolonging the time between routine service is inadvisable at best, and potentially harmful at worst.  This question generally derives from people wanting to know if synthetic oil (versus conventional) will allow them to drive longer without making a service stop, however their concern isn’t exclusive.  Now days a lot of people are trying to get the most out of their vehicle and holding onto them much longer.  We actually commend those whom have made this decision.  Nevertheless, you must arrive to this point keeping a few important things in mind:

01. As cars age they are naturally more likely to require additional service (in most cases)

02. Because older vehicles generally require more of your/our attention, skipping recommended maintenance can often be to the vehicle’s detriment

One method of extending the life of your newer vehicle is the use of synthetic motor oil.  You’ll want to consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation but something as simple as synthetic versus conventional may provide you with a competitive advantage.  Synthetic motor oil contains significantly more additives than conventional, which among other things protects your oil from viscosity (internal resistance to flow) breakdown.  Synthetic handles extreme weather (hot or cold) better than conventional.  There are far less impurities to potentially damage your engine with synthetic oil, whereas with conventional it can be a real challenge to eliminate these through simple filtration.  This last point is actually the main reason vehicles can often drive much further between synthetic oil change service.

If you’re going to opt for the use of synthetic motor oil it is best to do this when the vehicle is new or within the first few years of its overall life.  If you own an older vehicle and have been running primarily conventional oil, it may be wise to stay the course.  Switching from conventional to synthetic isn’t nearly as advisable in older vehicles, as your engine develops a type of memory that you are best not to manipulate.  Keep in mind also that “extreme conditions” is synonymous with frequent stop-and-go driving.  There is a rather common misnomer that synthetic motor oil in newer vehicles is pointless unless you live in a climate that exceeds normal temperatures.  What engine oil manufacturers are really saying here is that the temperature of your engine matters more than the outside weather.  Synthetic oil produces the best results above 250 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not difficult to reach/exceed in stop/go traffic.  Much easier than you may realize, actually.

Of course better protection comes with a price.  That may ultimately be the main reason some decide against using synthetic motor oil.  However, don’t be so quick to dismiss the documented advantages, especially if you drive a newer vehicle.  Whatever you decide, it is always a good idea to have a routine maintenance check-up on your vehicle every 3 months. Even if your motor oil is not due to be changed, make an appointment to have your vehicle inspected for routine wear/tear and manufacturer recommended maintenance.

We understand when people answer with “Hopefully not too soon” when we wish them well and tell them “See you next time.”  Our remarks have nothing to do with major repairs that you might experience, but everything to do with the fact that we know how important it is to service your vehicle on at least a 3 month “preventative” schedule.  To us, this constitutes “soon.”

Every 3,000 miles / 3 months, or what?

30 12 2010

Here is part 1 (albeit abbreviated in light of the influx of customers taking advantage of our “winterization” promotion that ends today) of the Oil Change Interval blog entry that many of you have asked for these past few months.  More detailed information forthcoming in part 2.


There is some question as to whether 3,000 mile oil change intervals are too short or really necessary.  There may in fact be some truth to this, especially as it pertains to our responsibility to the environment, however try not to rush to any premature conclusions here.  We’ll cover this age old debate for conventional oil below, but stay tuned for more on synthetic options as well.

Extending the amount of time or miles that you drive between having an oil change service does have an impact on engine life.  That said, many things need to be taken into consideration when making a decision on when the right time may be for you.  For starters, the climate that we live in (for us Michiganders) is considered by the NHTSA to be “severe driving conditions.”  This is primarily due to the significant temperature fluctuations one can experience this far north, not to mention the residual natural effects, some of which include salt, gravel, dust, humidity, strong winds, hail, etc.  If you’ve been in Michigan long you’ve likely experienced how possible it is for all four seasons to show themselves in the same day.

Distance of trips and frequent stop and go driving play a significant factor as well.  Under severe conditions the oil should be changed more frequently.  When an engine does not get up to full operating temperature, condensation can build up and cause the oil to become acidic, which can lower the effectiveness of the oil itself.  Also, with short trip driving the unburned fuel or hydrocarbons can collect and contaminate the engine oil, which causes it to turn dark and appear dirty.

To illustrate an extreme case of what NOT to do, we rewind to a time when we had to replace the engine on a Toyota 4 Runner due to serious neglect from the owner.  The engine failed due to lack of oil changes and proper maintenance for a duration of 25,000 miles!  Yes, you heard us correctly.  The engine oil was so old and polluted that it turned into sludge.  When we removed the oil drain plug nothing came out – NOT one drop.  In fact, we had to penetrate the sludge with a screw driver to create a hole before we would even see any sign of liquid, and this was a few drops at best.  Bottom line, there was no saving this engine.

Changing your engine oil and filter with a routine vehicle inspection every 3 months/3,000 miles (whichever comes first) for severe conditions is recommended.  In cases where you typically drive longer distances on a regular basis, going 5,000 miles and in rare cases 7,500 between oil change service isn’t inadvisable.  Weather conditions, terrain, and driving distance are the three elements of this equation that we believe command your attention.  Whichever you decide is right for you, it is always a good idea to check your engine oil level about every 3-4 times you refuel.

In part 2 we’ll cover the option of using synthetic engine oil.  As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.  Also, feel free to give us a call if you have any specific questions that haven’t been answered here, or ones completely unrelated to this particular blog entry.

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