Why are Synthetic Oils better?
A Lubricant is not automatically better or superior to Petroleum Oil just because it is or claims to be "synthetic ".
However, because many synthetic lubricants are chemically more uniform, and are stable under extreme pressures and temperatures (both hot and cold), and usually do not decompose as rapidly as petroleum base lubricants, longer oil change intervals are therefore permissible.
Modern Premium Synthetic lubricating oils will allow up to 40,000 Kms or one year between engine oil changes.
The same service life that was promoted by Mobil for the original version of Mobil 1 back in 1976 -- no such claim is now being made for the current version of Mobil 1 .
But likewise these permissible extended oil change intervals are based on the expected service life of ONLY 7 years or 1,15,000 Kms for vehicles operated under ideal conditions. If vehicle is operated under severe service operating conditions (as most vehicles are), or if longer service life is required, this extended service interval needs be likewise reduced to one half or one third.
This means that engine oil should still be changed every 4,000 to 12,500 Kms in most automotive and light truck applications.
There are number of "synthetic" oils available to consumers in the market.
Most recognized brand is Mobil 1.
Others are DELVAC 1, Exxon Synthetic,SHELL, Valvoline, PETRONAS, CHEVRON, etc.
CASTROL Syntec is also promoted as "synthetic" despite of it being produced from Group III Petroleum Basestock.
Because Synthetic Oils are about four times more expensive than equivalent petroleum oils, less than 4% of vehicle owners in the country currently use them.
Premium Synthetic Oils are available from small companies such as AMSOIL, Eon, Red Line, Royal Purple.
Premium Synthetic Oils are six to nine times more expensive that petroleum oils, and since they are produced by small companies, reliable data on their market share is not available, but it is estimated to be less than 1/2 %.
Semi Synthetic or Synthetic Blend - a Hype?
In recent years a new category of Motor Oils has been developed primarily in the USA, they are "Synthetic Blend" also known as "Semi Synthetic" in our local market.
They are about half the price of "Fully Synthetic" motor oils which currently sell in the Rs 1000 to Rs 1250 price range for one Litre.
They promise the same performance as "Synthetics" but for half the price.
At first glance that seems promising, but when the ultimate truth of "Synthetic Blends" is examined, it is apparent that the only benefit that they offer, is a higher profit margin for the marketer of the oil.
"Fully Synthetic" Motor Oils contain 70% to 85% Synthetic Base Oil by volume, the balance are additives dispersed in Petroleum Carrier Oil. They sell for under Rs 1500 per Litre and cost about Rs 600 to manufacture.
The mark up is about 50%. The market share is about 4%.
Petroleum Motor Oils contain 80% to 95% Petroleum Base Oil by volume, the balance are additives dispersed in Petroleum Carrier Oil. They sell for under Rs 300 per Litre and cost about Rs 100 to produce (even at price of crude oil @ $80.00 per barrel).
The mark up is about 150%. The market share is over 90%.
"Synthetic Blend" Motor Oils contain 5% to 20% Synthetic Base Oil, 60% to 70% Petroleum Base Oil, the balance are additives dispersed in Petroleum Carrier Oil. They sell for Rs 400 to Rs 600 per Litre and cost ONLY about Rs 125 to Rs 150 to produce.
The mark up is 300%. The market share is about 2%.
The temptation of high returns on investment which is presented by "Synthetic Blend" Motor Oils is the only driving force behind their promotion, after all if you could double your profit, what would you rather sell "Petroleum" or "Synthetic Blend"?
Even Mobil, which for over 20 years held the position that "semi-synthetics" as they used to call what now is generally referred to as "Synthetic Blend", are a waste of money, if you want synthetic quality and synthetic performance get "100% Synthetic" (Mobil 1, of course).
But now under the pressure of Exxon management since Mobil was merged into ExxonMobil,
guess what the latest news is: "Mobil 1 Synthetic Blend" !!!
"Synthetic Blend" or "Semi Synthetic" is a hype, if you think that you cannot "afford" synthetic oil, get premium petroleum oil or normal petroleum oil and change it frequently.