What Are the Risks of Switching to Synthetic Oil in Older Cars?

The automotive community continues to debate whether switching to synthetic oil in older cars is beneficial or risky. In general, synthetic motor oil offers owners of newer cars, trucks, and SUVs multiple benefits, from extending component life to reducing cost of routine maintenance. If you have heard about the benefits of synthetic motor oil in vehicles, you may be inclined to switch. However, there are some risks you should be aware of if you own an older vehicle.

What is Synthetic Oil?

Before you consider making changing oil from conventional to synthetic, you should understand the differences between them. Regular or conventional oil such as Mobil 1 is made from crude oil and refined through a process that thins the viscosity of the oil to desired levels. Conventional oils may contain additives including zinc or ZDDP that help reduce cylinder wash problems common with conventional oils.

Synthetic oil like Mobil 1 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil is created through a man-made process. It often starts as an extract or byproduct of crude oil, but then goes through much more refinement. Each manufacturer has their own method to combine it with other materials, chemicals, and additives to achieve the desired results.

Synthetic oil offers several advantages of conventional oil. It copes better with temperature changes and does a better job of effectively lubricating various components in the engine. It also provides more stability in cold temperatures and is more effective at cleaning out dust and debris from the engine. Synthetic oils can also be better formulated for specific uses, such as in high performance or high mileage engines. What's more, some manufacturers claim that using synthetic oil increases the intervals between oil changes.

Is Synthetic Oil Safe in Vehicles?

In the past, warnings were given about switching to synthetic oil because it could harm the engine. The reason for this was that many synthetic oils contained esters, which are organic compounds mixed with alcohol. This combination was often hard on seals in the engine, and would cause them to wear down and start to leak.

Synthetic oil technology has improved over the years, and most cars on the road today should be able to use either synthetic or regular oil, so long as the proper weight is used. In fact, some new cars require synthetic oil. However, one exception is with older vehicles, especially those with high mileage. The seals in those engines may not be able to handle the additives in synthetic oil. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible to switch to synthetic in an older car.

Tips for Using Synthetic Oils in Older Models

When using the term “older” to refer to cars, it means those manufactured before 1990 or so. The risk with these models is that the seals, gaskets, and other components often aren’t as tight as with newer models. Because synthetic oil does a better job of cleaning out sludge, it could remove deposits that are acting as seals. This could result in leaks that cause the engine to burn oil and require you to monitor your oil levels and replace it more often. If you don't, you risk damaging the engine or other components.

It’s not accurate to say that you should never use synthetic oil in an older car. In fact, Mobil 1 High Mileage is a synthetic oil designed specifically for high-mileage cars. If the car has been maintained and is in excellent running condition, the synthetic oil may protect the vehicle and prolong its life. Also, anytime you change from conventional oil to synthetic oil, always make sure to change the oil filter with every oil change.

Signs of Problems with Synthetic Oil in Older Cars

If you decide to switch to synthetic oil for your older car, talk to a professional technician first. They may want to check over your vehicle and make any necessary repairs or replacements before making the switch. This will help protect your older model vehicle and ensure its long life and continued performance.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(25,283)

Rating Summary
23,843
903
199
95
243
23,843
903
199
95
243

James

25 years of experience
57 reviews
James
25 years of experience
Land Rover Discovery Sport L4-2.0L Turbo - Oil Change - Antioch, Tennessee
James was very respectful of my property. He was friendly abd very knowledgeable about his work and my truck. He even told me things I didn't know about my truck..He used the exact product for my truck..I would recommend James to family and friends.
Jeep Liberty - Oil Change - Nashville, Tennessee
Knowledgeable, and will let you know exactly everything you need. Great experience with him today and would recommend to anyone!

Patrick

33 years of experience
1412 reviews
Patrick
33 years of experience
Kia Soul L4-2.0L - Oil Change - Austin, Texas
Patrick always communicates. I appreciate his work. Efficiency and quality  A+ I trust his suggestions always. Booking now the next items to be repaired
Chevrolet Suburban - Oil Change - Austin, Texas
Shows up on time. He is patient in listening and answering questions. He has always done a great job.

Kenneth

20 years of experience
777 reviews
Kenneth
20 years of experience
Land Rover Range Rover V8-5.0L Turbo - Oil Change - Marina Del Rey, California
Arrived early, very professional, Extremely knowledgeable! X military service member so you just know he’s dedicated to his profession. As we chatted for a few minutes he shared with me that he’s writing a book and he’s almost completed about automobiles making it more simple for the consumer.

Luke

17 years of experience
159 reviews
Luke
17 years of experience
Honda CR-V L4-2.4L - Oil Change - Austin, Texas
Super fast, friendly and efficient. Also he made sure my dash read my oil percentage correctly so I will know when to get another oil change. Thanks Luke!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

The Risks of a Cheap Oil Change
Quick lube shops promise cheap, fast oil changes; their secret is skimping on low quality oil and unskilled labor.
The #1 Guide to Oil Change Coupon Codes (Updated 12/2020)
The most extensive guide for navigating oil change coupons and discounts.
What are the Best Nationwide Oil Change Service Centers?
Top oil change and maintenance chains in the U.S.

Related questions

No leak, still losing tons of oil
It is typical for vehicles with higher mileage to use or burn some oil due to normal wear and tear, however it is abnormal for a vehicle with twenty thousand miles on it to burn through quarts of oil between...
I have water in my oil and need to fix the problem.
This problem is not an easily fixed problem. I would not recommend driving the car any more until a qualified technician can determine the problem. Water in the oil is a sign that you may have a blown head gasket...
Oil change from regular oil to synthetic oil
Using the synthetic oil will not harm your motor or seals in any way as long as the oil weight is the same as recommended by manufacturer. You can keep using this oil until next oil change where you can...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com