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When to start synthetic


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When would you should you start with synthetic oil? I talked the the service guy at the dealership today and he said that they were recommending starting a full synthetic on the third oil change. He said somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 miles. Any thoughts?

 

Mike

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I've been running a full synthetic Mobil one in my 2000 gmc 5.3 since 2000 miles. Its has 150,000 miles on it and has been used to plow every winter and to this day it still does not burn or drip a drop of oil within every 4000 mile oil change. I am going to switch over to synthetic in my new 2013 around the 2000 mile mark also.

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I have used mineral based motor oils and put more than 170,000 miles on 4 trucks and an SUV and none of them consumed oil between changes. I did change the oil at the manufacturer recommended intervals and used a top quality oil with a good additive mix.

 

What has escaped most people is that the metals/alloys used in engines have improved dramatically over the past 50 years. A 1970's car that had 100K on the odometer was considered to be on borrowed time but now it is no big deal. There is a club for Toyotoa truck owners that have more than 300,000 miles on their original engine and it was not magical motor oil that got them there.

 

25% of the volume of a gallon of motor oil is the additive mix and it is what makes the difference. There is not difference in the base stocks that are mineral based and those that are synthetic so long as they meet the SAE standard and all of them do. Where a synthetic can be useful is if the engine is run in temperatures below 0 degrees for weeks or months at a time. Where a synthetic can be harmful is in running at temperatures over 90 degrees if you use a 5W40 multi-grade year round.

 

Synthetics suffer from polymer shearing and it is most likely to occur when the oil goes through the small openings in the journals to get to the surface of the main bearings of the engine. When this happens 5W becomes 0W. This is also why all the motor oil manufacturers are working on new formulations for the 2016 engines which will have much closer tolerances and where the space for the motor oil will be even less than it is now. I only use 15W-40 oil in my engines as I drive in conditions where the air temp is always above 15 degrees and last month where I was hauling a heavy load over the mountains with the air temp at 113 degrees.

 

If synthetics provided a big benefit it would be used by all the fleet operators but that is not the case. Change a synthetic out at 15,000 mile intervals or a mineral oil out at 7500 mile intervals, I would bet on the engine with the mineral oils lasting longer as any soot and sludge and other contaminents are being removed twice as often. Sythetics cost 2-3x that of comparable quality mineral based oils and the idea of greater engine life is a fiction. I don't care whether my truck's engine might get 300,000 miles with a mineral oil and possibly get 350,000 with a synthetic oil as something else will fail long before the engine does and with the repair costs being more than the truck is worth.

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If synthetics provided a big benefit it would be used by all the fleet operators but that is not the case.

Why do people assume that fleets always look for the best products? Nothing could be farther from the truth. Those that say that likely never had to drive a fleet owned vehicle.

 

I drove fleet vehicles (large fleet w/1,000's of vehicles) for over 30 yrs. All they care about is cost and to make sure the drivers do not spend $ on unnecessary services. Our fleet managers would buy a Ford over a Chevy because is was $1.00 less, if it met the same gereric spec they established (not us users). Same with lubes, we were not permitted to use synthetic oil simply because it was an unnecesssary expense. They knew it was better but that was not in their management plan. The fleet managers had determined from years of fleet operations that 5,000 miles was the oil change interval. That changing oil sooner was unecessary and costed them to much and going longer was too risky with the lower cost oils. They keep track of every penny spent on every vehicle, they collected miles at every fill up, they controlled where we took the vehicle for any service and they had a planned point of no return at when the vehicle cost more to operate that it was worth at auction. Weather it was in good shape of not at the end of its usefull life was of no concern, all it had to do was last as long as they had planned it to last. It was all about operating the fleet at the lowest possible cost to the organization.

 

They would not let us put anything but the lowest grade fuel in the vehicle. Once I had to fill up my K2500 Suburban with premium because this remote gas station had only premium left and because of that I got a letter reminding me that I must only purchase the lowest price fuel and premium fuel was not allowed. We were also not allowed to take a vehicle to the dealer for oil change due to higher costs.

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