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Synthetic Oil Vs. Mineral Engine Oil


While our NetLube and Mobil oil product guide apps provide specific uses for each product, what are the overarching benefits of  synthetic oil over conventional alternatives? Oil refinement exists on a spectrum from your basic mineral oil, to semi-synthetic and right up to fully synthetic high performance racing oils. The terminology implies one is man-made and the other all natural, but both types start out as crude oil. Some say that’s where the similarities start and end.Lubricant technology is always evolving. As mixes become more refined and the options available expand, figuring out the optimal engine oil for your fleet may not seem as simple as it once was.

Synthetic oilProtecting your assets

Selecting oils to suit your engine type and usage can directly impact your total cost of ownership, particularly across a large fleet. For a multi-vehicle fleet, lubricants influence the overall cost of keeping your vehicles running in terms of vehicle life expectancy, maintenance schedules, fuel economy and vehicle downtime.

Mineral Oil

Often referred to as conventional engine oil, mineral oil has been on the market for over 100 years. A range of irregular molecules are present in conventional oils, many of which are not beneficial to the lubrication process. These impurities cause the lubricant to flow poorly in cold temperatures and produce by-products which reduce lubrication, efficiency and wear resistance.

At start-up, mineral oils take longer to circulate in an engine. This induces friction between dry parts of the engine which reduces engine life. If you’re using your vehicle for long-haul trucking, mineral oils take longer to warm-up and can move sluggishly, further reducing efficiency.

At face value, price point is the key area where mineral oils have an apparent advantage. The lower refinement levels mean it consistently sits at a lower price per litre than a synthetic alternative. However, the lack of refinement leads to increased dirt buildup and poor performance in extreme temperatures. Over time, mineral oils add to the total cost of ownership of the vehicle in terms of maintenance, vehicle down time, fuel economy and vehicle life.


Synthetic oil:

Synthetic oil is engine oil that’s been further refined, distilled, purified and broken down through a process of chemical engineering. You can think of this refinement as ‘tidying up the molecules’. This increases the oil purity and, at a molecular level, tailors the lubricant’s construction to accommodate the increased strains placed on modern engines. Depending on the specific product and intended end use, additives are then included for an additional boost.

Mobil Delvac synthetic diesel lubricant was first developed in the 1950’s, to give truckers a more efficient alternative to mineral oil. Since then, constant tweaks and refinements in synthetic oils have led to our focus on providing real-time product guides such as the  Mobil product guide app.

Synthetics offer protection across a broader operating temperature range. They are more robust, have low-temperature pump-ability and improved stability at high temperatures. Synthetic oils are quick to warm up so get your engine running at peak performance for a larger portion of your journey, reducing total cost of ownership through improved fuel economy. By lubricating components more effectively during cold start-ups, synthetic oils also minimise overall wear and tear. Synthetic lubricants resist thinning at elevated temperatures and maintain a more consistent viscosity.

Synthetic oils reduce oil wastage through minimising both waste oil and evaporative loss. A cleaner product means fewer emissions, reducing the negative environmental impact of your fleet. This also makes for fewer oil changes and less downtime - ultimately saving you time and money that exceeds the cost savings from a cheaper alternative.

Synthetic lubricants enable extended drain intervals, again reducing overall oil consumption and waste oil. While petroleum motor oil manufacturers suggest oil changes at 3,000 mile intervals, synthetic oils provide engine protection for anywhere from 7,500 miles to 50,000 miles per year.

Similar to the difference between 91 and 95 petrol, some cars need a more refined oil to ensure a smooth-running machine. As a general rule of thumb, any vehicle made within the last ten years should be serviced with a synthetic oil. Newer engines are not as resilient against the build-up of sludge that comes with a less refined option. The base stocks from which synthetic lubricants are made feature uniform and smooth molecular structures which ensure low friction therefore extending machine life.

While mineral oil can save you money in the short term, a large fleet switching to synthetic oils can eclipse these savings through the increased efficiency and reduced frequency required for full servicing. Choosing mineral oil is like using a brick phone when smart phones have become the norm - it’s not necessarily going to stop you making a call, there are just better alternatives available.