AAA Touts Benefits of Synthetic Oil

June 6, 2017 by Paul Ausick

Americans are wary of claims from automakers and mechanics regarding the kind of motor oil to use in their vehicles. Some two-thirds do not trust repair facilities, fearing that recommended services may be unnecessary.

According to AAA, however, one thing U.S. drivers can be confident of is a recommendation to use synthetic (sometimes called “full synthetic”) oil. The association found that synthetic oil outperformed conventional oil by an average of 50% in a recent, independent evaluation when motorists follow the factory-recommended oil change schedule.

The additional cost to switch from a conventional oil to a synthetic will cost about $5 more per month, according to AAA. The average cost of a conventional oil change is $38 for five quarts of oil, compared to a cost of $70 for switching to synthetic oil.

AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair, John Nielsen, said:

With its superior resistance to deterioration, AAA’s findings indicate that synthetic oil is particularly beneficial to newer vehicles with turbo-charged engines and for vehicles that frequently drive in stop-and-go traffic, tow heavy loads or operate in extreme hot or cold conditions. … It’s understandable that drivers may be skeptical of any service that is nearly twice the cost of the alternative. While a manufacturer-approved conventional oil will not harm a vehicle’s engine, the extra $30 per oil change could actually save money in the long run by protecting critical engine components over time.

In its survey, AAA found that 30% of U.S. drivers use conventional oil, 45% use synthetic oil, and the remaining 25% have no idea what kind of oil is in their vehicle. Some 44% either do not believe that synthetic oil is better for their vehicle (17%) or don’t know which type of oil is better (27%).

AAA’s engine oil research focused on eight industry-standard ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) tests to evaluate the quality of both synthetic and conventional engine oils in terms of shear stability, deposit formation, volatility, cold-temperature pumpability, oxidation resistance and oxidation-induced rheological changes.

The full report from AAA is available here and the Association has also published a fact sheet for those of us who prefer to skip the technical details.