Synthetic vs. Mineral Oil: The Difference Explained for Students in Auto Mechanic School

Synthetic and conventional oil (or mineral oil) are both used in vehicles today, and while they serve the same purpose, they are different both in composition and impact on performance. In any vehicle, oil serves many important functions. For one, engine oil lubricates the components of the engine, preventing it from sustaining wear and tear due to friction. Oil also serves to cool the engine, as friction leads to rising temperatures and the oil reduces heat through lubrication. Oil cleans the engine as well, removing pockets of dust and debris, and preventing the engine from clogging. 

If you’re considering a career as an auto mechanic, knowing the difference and respective benefits of synthetic and conventional oil will enable you to help customers make the right choice when the time comes for an oil change. 

We discuss the difference between these two automotive oil types below! 

Difference Between Synthetic and Conventional Oil for Those in Automotive Courses

Conventional oil, otherwise known as mineral oil, is crude oil that has originally been extracted from the earth. It is then refined to be fit for use in a vehicle. Synthetic oil, unlike mineral oil, is not extracted from the ground, but is instead manufactured from several different materials. Synthetic oil is engineered in a lab, where modified petroleum components are combined with other materials to produce a substance which, unlike conventional oil, doesn’t contain any impurities. Often, other elements are added to synthetic oil to improve its effectiveness, such as phosphorus or zinc. 

Conventional oil comes from the ground, while synthetic oil is engineered in a lab

If you’re attending auto mechanic school, it’s important to note that about 70% of new vehicles today are equipped with synthetic oil instead of conventional oil. Find out what makes synthetic oil so popular below. 

The Advantages of Synthetic Oil Explained

As synthetic oil is specifically manufactured to enhance the performance of modern engines, these oils offer a few advantages in comparison to conventional oils. For one, synthetic oil is designed to last longer than conventional oil, as it is more thermally stable and more resistant to breaking down into acid. Additionally, synthetic oil keeps a vehicle’s engine cleaner. Unlike conventional oils, which contain impurities that can lead to deposits of dirt and debris, synthetic oils are more resistant to these contaminants. Synthetic oils are also made of uniform molecules, making them more efficient in lubricating the engine’s components and reducing friction. Due to the protection synthetic oils offer against wear, they work to enhance an engine’s performance and prevent damage.

Synthetic oil is designed to enhance a vehicle’s performance

Which Oil Should You Recommend to Car Owners?

If you want to become an auto mechanic, your expertise will be vital to customers when they’re deciding which oil to use in their vehicle. So which oil is best? While synthetic oil has the greatest benefits for an engine’s performance, conventional oil is still a perfectly acceptable option for most vehicles. Some drivers may choose to stick to conventional oil for financial reasons, as synthetic oil can cost up to four times as much as mineral oil. However, some vehicles today are designed to be used with synthetic oil rather than mineral oil, so checking the specifications of the owner’s manual will be important. Lastly, if a customer wishes to make the switch from conventional to synthetic oil, this change can often be made without even flushing the engine. 

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