Oil is the lifeblood of a vehicle, and thus it's one of the areas that amateur mechanics should pay a lot of attention to. Doing your own oil changes is simple and rewarding, but some may have questions about the different types of oil on the market.
Go to any auto parts store and you'll likely find a wide range of motor oils. You'll also probably notice that the bottles that say "synthetic" cost quite a bit more than their conventional counterparts. So is upgrading to a synthetic motor oil worth it?
In short, yes. There are pros and cons to synthetic oils, but most agree that the benefits far outweighs the negative, and that they're a superior product compared to standard oil. The key to oil is standing up to extreme temperatures - both hot and cold - and this is where synthetics really shine. The oil flows better when its cold outside, but it also performs well in extreme heat. When the engine gets hot, some oils have been known to partially evaporate. With no oil to lubricate the parts, drivers can get metal on metal grinding, which is obviously not good for your engine.
Synthetics also offer better lubrication than conventional motor oil - they're specifically designed to be as slick as possible. This ultimately leads to better performance overall in terms of horsepower and slightly better gas mileage. However, some feel that it is this property that makes them not a good choice for brand new cars - the oil so slippery that the parts don't get properly "broken in," so to speak. Still, some manufacturers are beginning to recommend synthetics from the very start. Check your owner's manual to see what to do for your specific model.
Essentially, think of synthetics as being as close as possible to the perfect tool for the job. Conventional oil comes from nature and works well, but a natural product isn't necessarily the best product for a mechanical job. Synthetics are specifically engineered to work well. The only problem is their cost.
In some cases, this oil may cost twice as much as regular options. However, synthetic oils also last longer, so drivers do not have to change their oil quite as often. In addition, some feel the small boost in gas mileage is also helpful with the cost.
Whatever you end up deciding, don't skimp on your synthetic oil. Some oil-makers claim their product is synthetic but make the oil very cheaply, and this can actually end up being a worse choice than conventional oil.