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Should I use synthetic oil in my car?

AAA infograph comparing synthetic and conventional oilQuestion: My brother swears by synthetic oil for his truck, but he also tows a boat with it in the summer. I’ve always used regular old engine oil for my sedan. Now that it has about 60,000 miles on it, I’m wondering if I should switch to synthetic oil. Is there a benefit to that?

Answer: The timing on your question couldn’t be better. AAA recently conducted a study to compare conventional engine oil and synthetic oil. Their research showed that synthetic oils outperformed conventional oils by 47 percent, leading them to this conclusion: Synthetic oil offers more engine protection than regular oil, and all vehicles can benefit from switching to synthetic oil.

We want to make one point clear: If your car came from the factory with synthetic oil, you must continue to use synthetic. Do not even consider switching to conventional if your engine is engineered to use synthetic.

But if your vehicle is among the millions on the road that came with conventional oil, you still have a choice. Yes, a synthetic oil change costs more than a regular oil change. AAA says the average cost nationwide is $38 vs. $70. But you don’t have to change the oil as often, and AAA says it works out to about an extra $64 more per year or $5.33 per month.

“It’s understandable that drivers may be skeptical of any service that is nearly twice the cost of the alternative,” says John Nielsen, AAA’s Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “While a manufacturer-approved conventional oil will not harm a vehicle’s engine, the extra $30 per oil change could actually save money in the long run by protecting critical engine components over time.”

We echo AAA’s advice in recommending synthetic oil if you:

  • Drive frequently in stop-and-go traffic. For many of us in the Chicago area, this is a daily occurrence.
  • Change your oil every 5,000 or 6,000 miles instead of every 3,000 miles.
  • Tow heavy loads.
  • Use your vehicle for plowing.
  • Have a newer vehicle with a turbocharger.
  • Operate your vehicle in extreme hot or cold conditions.
  • Plan to keep your vehicle for 100,000+ miles.

At Hong Kong Auto Service, our team is among the 83 percent of auto repair professionals who use synthetic oil in our own vehicles. Of course, the choice is ultimately up to you. We just want to present the facts so you can make the choice that’s best for you.

Have questions? You’re welcome to call us anytime at 847-251-0300.

About AAA’s Study: AA’s engine oil research focused on eight industry-standard ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) tests to evaluate the quality of both synthetic and conventional engine oils in terms of shear stability, deposit formation, volatility, cold-temperature pumpability, oxidation resistance and oxidation-induced rheological changes. At the time of testing, all tested oils were licensed by the American Petroleum Institute and advertised to meet the International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee’s GF-5 specifications. When selecting an oil, it is critical to reference the vehicle’s owner’s manual to ensure that the oil meets the exact specifications for that particular engine.