Top synthetic motor oil to maximize engine performance

·9 min read



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If you’re remotely as rich as Mark Zuckerberg and have somehow found yourself here, we suggest you move along. Nothing personal, we promise. You just may find this post of little or no use. It’s not like you can’t buy a new car (or yacht, even) whenever you please. If, however, like most of us, you need to enjoy your vehicle for at least a few years before even considering saving up for a change, then synthetic motor oils are worth investing in.

You’ll find out soon enough that synthetic oils are the best choice you can make for your vehicle’s health. Why be good when you could be better, though? Why use just any synthetic oil when you could harness the best of the best? We scouted the market for you, and here are our choicest picks.

Here are the top synthetic motor oils of 2022

Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil: Top pick

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It’s pretty difficult to expect anything short of excellence from America’s first motor oil brand, isn’t it?

Valvoline prides itself on being the original motor oil, and it’s pretty difficult to dispute this claim. How do you beat 150 years of product evolution? You can’t!

Valvoline offers 25% better protection from dirt and sludge, 40% anti-wear properties, advanced protection against friction while maximizing engine life. Shakespeare said no perfection is absolute; he obviously didn’t use Valvoline for his carriages. 

Pros

  • It resists oil breakdown

  • It has exceptional protective features even at extreme temperatures

  • It minimizes expensive repairs

  • Better protection from dirt and sludge

Cons

  • Price is on the higher side

Amazons Basics Full Synthetic Motor Oil: Best value for money

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Word on the streets is that this is the motor oil Jeff Bezos himself uses for his expensive wheels.

We're not so sure about that, but we know that Amazon Basics is a reliable name with reasonably priced products. This synthetic motor oil will ensure that your vehicle always operates at 100% efficiency even if you overwork it 8-10 hours daily.

You’re probably thinking, “But Amazon doesn't manufacture anything. Since when did they manufacture synthetic oil?” Well, you're right. The real producer of this oil is Warren Distribution (same for most synthetic oils). However, they're unique in that they must follow Amazon's recipes. In simple terms, Amazon employs Warren Distribution to produce their synthetic oils following their own recipe. 

Pros

  • They’re API-certified

  • Prevents the accumulation of dirt that can cause rust and corrosion

  • High resistance to viscosity and thermal breakdown

Cons

  • The packaging isn’t clear, so you don't know how much oil you’ve poured

Castor Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil: Most recommended

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If you know anything about engine oils, you’ll probably agree that Castor is first-class!

How else do you explain complete engine protection at one go for 10,000 miles? Why else do you think most car manufacturers recommend them? It’s top-tier stuff!

Why do castor-oiled cars always feel brand new? You have the ingenious titanium technology to thank for that. The oil quite literally changes in its physical properties when under pressure. This is why it is over 200% more resistant to viscosity breakdown than its contemporaries.

Pros

  • Decreases engine deposit formation, therefore, maximizing engine response

  • It is API-certified

  • It reduces metal-to-metal contact even at high driving speeds

  • It protects the engine for the entire drain interval

Cons

  • Some reports say it gets dirty quicker and might require change more often

Mobil 1 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil: Most innovative

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If it’s what arguably 70% of synthetic motor oil users use, then it must be worth it.

Probably herd behavior isn’t as bad as motivational speakers make it seem, after all. So what exactly is the hype about? What's so good that makes it NASCAR’s official motor oil?

Mobil 1 is designed to deliver outstanding engine protection for up to 10 000 miles between oil changes. Unlike its conventional wannabes, it has uniform synthetic oil molecules that seamlessly reduce friction to insignificant levels - driving shouldn’t be a herculean task. It keeps your engine clean and somehow incredibly minimizes fuel consumption too!

Pros

  • Has timing chain wear protection to keep your engine clean

  • Extends engine life by preventing sludge buildup

  • Protects the engine for up to 10,000 miles

  • Suitable for turbocharged gasoline direct-injected (TGDI) engines

Cons

  • Some containers leak oil

Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil: Most eco-friendly

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Unlike other oils that we’ve reviewed—and most synthetic oils, for that matter—Pennzoil is made from natural gas, not crude oil. In fact,

it was the first-ever motor oil made from natural gas. What exactly these guys did and how they did it is beyond the scope of this conversation, but hey, it worked!

It’s why they guarantee a mouth-gaping 500,000 miles, cause fewer emissions and keep your engine pistons cleaner. They offer unsurpassed wear protection and excellent performance even in extreme temperatures. 

Pros

  • It is derived from natural gas

  • It prevents low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI)

  • It is excellent for unpaved roads and dusty conditions

  • Provides unbeatable engine protection

  • 500,000-mile guarantee

Cons

  • Not suitable for TGDI engines

Synthetic motor oil buying guide

You’ve gone through our best picks but still haven’t quite seen what the fuss is all about? Allow us to spell it out clearly for you: Synthetic motor oils are the best option if premium vehicle maintenance is your top priority, regardless of your car manual. They are the most highly refined engine oils your money can buy, formed through complex petrochemical processes to ensure that they have the exact molecular qualities needed for a specific application.

What are conventional oils?

Conventional oils, like synthetic oils, are crude oil products that lubricate your car engine; but that’s just as far as their similarities go. They are nowhere close to providing the same overall engine performance and protection that synthetics give. Not even by a long shot. Because they are made from a natural process, conventional oils contain many impurities with natural inconsistencies at the molecular level.

It is probably easiest to think of conventional oils as synthetic oils—only with less chemical stability, easy acidification and oxidation, and shorter-lasting time with increased disintegration.

Synthetic vs. conventional: An unfair fight

Here’s why and how synthetic oils have a solid edge over their conventional counterparts.

Durex, but for car engines

Engine parts are in constant contact with each other, moving at incredible speeds. But for the protective yet lubricating barrier of engine oils, these components will wear and break down in record time. In essence, resistance to wear and tear hinges directly on the potency and durability of your engine oil.

Synthetic oils generally retain their protection properties for way longer times than conventional oils. Some reports even say that synthetic oils, when renewed at recommended intervals, can keep your engine parts in excellent condition for up to 250,000 miles.

Best for different temperatures

Usually, oil only begins circulating relevant engine parts upon ignition. Before then, it simply settles. Conventional engine oils typically take more time to circulate post-ignition. This delay is even worse in the winter because of the increased oil viscosity. In automobiles, for instances like this, time is of the essence. Considering that synthetic oils are engineered to flow quickly even at freezing temperatures, it’s easy to see why they’re by far the better choice.

Heat resistance

Generally, in hot and arid climes, engine oils tend to evaporate and disintegrate faster, exposing engine parts to tear and wear. Synthetic oils, however, are engineered to work at optimal efficiency not only when the weather is insanely hot and when you need your vehicle for heavy-duty like towing or hauling.

Prevents and cures dirt accumulation

Conventional engine oils tend to form sludge as they circulate through the engine and pick up deposits. Synthetic oils, however, resist the formation of sludge because they are very highly refined. In the rare case that they do accumulate dirt, a simple oil change purges the engine of whatever.

API certifications and what they mean

Have you ever held up a keg of synthetic motor oil before and felt stupid for not understanding anything all those alien codes mean? You're not alone. 

Most of the things you don't understand are likely API certifications. We'll help you make sense of the common ones you're likely to encounter, but first, what exactly does API mean? 

API is short for American Petroleum Institute. Amongst other many duties, they are charged with certifying oil grades. They define the performance standard of engine oil relative to the years of engine manufacture. 

For example, SN is code for vehicles manufactured after 2010; SM for cars manufactured between 2002-2009; SJ for vehicles manufactured before 2001. The higher the letter, the more recent the technology of the oil. For example, more recent oils (SN, for example) can be used for older vehicles (SJ, SM). 

These formats are for the more common gasoline vehicles. For diesel-powered vehicles, API certifications follow formats like CC, CF, CD, etc. 

These API grades are different in terms of lubrication, oil film, and other characteristics. For example, API SL is better in engine cleaning; API SP is better suited for preventing LSPIs or 'super knocks' that arise from ignited air-fuel mixtures, and API SM ensures better valve train wear protection. 

Synthetic Motor Oil FAQs 

Q: What do most synthetic oils contain? 

A: Zinc, phosphorus, and molybdenum are the major constituents of synthetic oils. The major difference in API gradings is in the relative proportions of each constituent. 

Q: Is there any relation between API grading and oil viscosity? 

A: No, there isn't. The viscous property of synthetic oil is exclusive of its API grading. 

Q: How often should I change my car oil? 

A: It is advised to change every 7,500 to 15,000 miles. 

Q: Are synthetic motor oils expensive?

A: Hoping this would be one of the rare occurrences where you get premium value for a relatively low price? Even a genie might break a sweat trying to pull this one-off. Without mincing words, synthetic motor oils are expensive, especially relative to alternative oils. Hold your breath, though. You’ll decide whether or not they’re worth it once we’re done showing you how much value your hard-earned dollars will give you.

Q: Are there any disadvantages to synthetic oils? 

A: Synthetic oils are more expensive than conventional oils. They also cause increased fuel consumption at highway speeds.

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