Featured image for "Best Synthetic Motor Oil" blog post. Changing oil.

Best Synthetic Motor Oil

Choosing the correct motor oil is critical to ensuring an engine’s longevity, reliability, and efficiency. Convincing vehicle owners and equipment owners to buy an appropriate, well-made oil is advantageous to them as well as the manufacturer. The motor oil market now is one of the most confusing mainstream markets for the average consumer to navigate. How do you know if you need an oil that will meet the api sn requirements? You’ve heard that synthetic oil is one way to protect your car, but how do you know which is the best synthetic motor oil?

Orange car engine.
A car enthusiast has options in regards to motor oil. Choosing the correct engine oil is critical to ensuring an engine’s efficiency, reliability, and longevity.

Motor oils — Why to Be Picky

Oil is the lifeblood of an engine. Without the thin, protective film of oil between them, even the best motor will quickly have its moving parts reduced to a frozen, broken state. Motor oil between engine parts decreases friction between them, preventing binding and wearing excessively. Without the thin film of oil between the parts, there is direct metal to metal contact, resulting in immediate wear of the internal components.

Not all engine oils are created the same. Some of this is due to intent. Not all engines or parts work well with the same oils, and not all oils work well in all environments. An aircraft engineer designing a jet engine will use an oil different from that selected by a driver with a gasoline engine in Alaska, where temperatures can drop low enough in the winter to reduce the viscosity of some oils below the point they are useful.

Not all engine oils are created the same, and some of this is not due to intent, but lack of commitment of the manufacturer to quality. It is critical to choose a well-made oil and oil filter for protection against engine wear, temperature extremes, and corrosion.

When you buy a chainsaw, you will likely spend a few 100 dollars to get one that will work well. I prefer the quality craftsmanship associated with certain brands. I use Echo saws for their cost-effective commercial grade offerings, their reputation for quality, and my years of experience indicate that they have well-earned that reputation. My vehicles are usually Toyota for the same reason. Extreme durability and reliability. Today I want to introduce you to AMSOIL — the equivalent name in quality motor oils.

I do pay, and if you follow my advice you will pay a small up front premium for better quality tools and vehicles. You will also pay for premium quality products to maintain them. This especially includes oil. Many who know how thrifty I am are surprised to learn that I pay for full synthetic oil changes for my vehicles and that I purchase full synthetic oils even for my small engines. Car owners I know using this synthetic oil appreciated the cost decrease and the fact that it meets the performance requirements of nearly every engine on the road.

It is no wonder if you understand the long-term costs of not buying the best full synthetic oils. Cheap oils can lead to premature engine wear, corrosion, sludge and other deposit formation, decreased fuel economy, and increased failure to cold crank an engine to life. I believe that the superiority of a well-made lubricant more than justifies the expense. Investing in the best synthetic motor oil will reap dividends.

That said, I will not be expecting you to take my word for it. Many respected authorities agree on the point. I will cite some of them, and hope that they and I go a long way in convincing you to protect your equipment with the right products.

History of Motor oils

Motor oils started with steam engines. Dr. John Ellis is credited with inventing the first serious motor oil. It was much better than previous oils that were made from mixtures of animal fats, vegetable fats, and petroleum. Animal fats and vegetable fats contain reactive compounds that promote oxidation, pitting metals and causing steels in particular to rust and wear.

Dr. Ellis’ oil was made from only petroleum, and maintained a high enough viscosity at engine operating temperatures to work well. (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Motor_oil)

Invention is the critical first step to developing any new product or technology. The second, third, fourth, and eleven-thousandth is to improve it. Amid many minor improvements, widely-used products will often undergo extreme advances. Consider antibiotics — while penicillin was and is a useful drug, it is no longer the first choice for most infections.

Oil refinery.
Conventional motor oil is derived from crude oil, which needs to be processed in order to get the base stocks needed to blend engine oils.

Lubricating oils made a huge leap forward by using petroleum-only formulations under Dr. John Ellis, leading to the development of specific motor oils. So too did motor oils leap forward with the development of synthetics.

As with many modern products, the practical use and refinement of motor oils from conventional into synthetic has its roots in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s. The German military suffered in Russia because conventional petroleum oils freeze at too low a temperature, and engines will not start with frozen oil. Synthetic oils and semi-synthetic oils were born because of a need for oils that would not freeze and would still work at the extreme hot temperatures generated inside a running engine (up to 4500 Fahrenheit!). Synthetic oils proved to be an excellent choice.

Tank in snow.
Synthetic oils first appeared during World War 2 out of extreme necessity because conventional lubricants used in the German military equipment would freeze during low temperatures.

This improvement process was finalized by Lieutenant Colonel Al Amatuzio, a squadron commander in the Minnesota Air National Guard. He knew firsthand as a pilot of America’s first fighter jet (the F-80 Shooting Star) that synthetics outperform any others. Synthetics are the only oils that can be used in supersonic jets.

After seeing how fully synthetic oils could survive extreme temperatures, altitudes, and for extended durations of time, and stay cleaner and still work well, he decided to bring these traits to the automobile. He founded the company known as AMSOIL. AMSOIL brand oil was the first fully synthetic motor oil specifically designed for the automobile market. Time and time again, AMSOIL continues to prove itself to be the best synthetic motor oil.

What Motor Oils Do For An Engine

To understand why synthetics are better than conventional oils for many applications, we need to understand some motor oil key features.

First, the basic purpose of a motor oil: To provide lubrication and wear protection. Oils spread thinly across surfaces in the engine, ensuring a non-metal layer between metal surfaces. Without oil, there is far more metal to metal contact, leading to rapid wearing. With oil, metal surfaces come into much less contact and last much, much longer. Metal to metal contact also leads to friction, increasing heat, speeding wear, and reshaping parts very quickly. Oils smooth this movement and decrease friction and its negative effects.

Some oils do this better than others. In many modern engines, parts fit together very tightly, having close tolerances (gaps between the parts). This has led to recommendations by many manufacturers that only synthetic oils be used in their car engines. Synthetic oils are more slick and spread more evenly and thinly across surfaces, leading to covering moving parts more effectively compared to conventional oil. Whether you’re driving a hybrid or a turbocharged diesel, the process of creating a synthetic oil is more controlled and reduces frictional wear on gasoline engines and diesel engines better than even high mileage motor oils.

If your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends a full synthetic oil, using a nonsynthetic may void any warranties. It is good to keep in mind that a manufacturer may require a very specific brand – even if another oil outperforms the suggested one, it might be worth using the manufacturer suggested to ensure you don’t void your warranty.

Jet planes.
The founder of AMSOIL synthetic lubricants. Lt. Cl. Al Amatuzio, realized that synthetics are the only oils used in supersonic jets. He surmised that synthetics would be perfect for automobiles, thus he created the first API certified synthetic engine oil.

Conventional oils do not perform as well as synthetics in extreme temperatures. Conventional oil breaks down faster in heat, and thickens more quickly in cold. Both lead to increased wear and tear on the engine and decreased engine performance.

Oil breakdown occurs over time. Conventional oils still have many impurities left in them from the distillation process. This “junk” can lead to early oil breakdown, sludge formation. It makes it harder for the oil to “float” the tiny particles that break off the metal parts of the running engine. Even the best oil filters can’t filter all particulates, and it’s critical that an oil be able to “float” these particles for as extended a time as possible. If it cannot they will lead to corrosion and sludge formation.

Why is this? It is all in how the oils are made. What makes synthetics so much better than conventional oils?

Conventional oils are produced directly from the petroleum distillation process. They are distilled off from crude petroleum and, with comparatively little processing, sold as motor oil. They have distillate impurities and relatively homogeneous (same-sized) molecules. Conventional motor oils tend to change viscosity (thickness) unfavorably based on heat, cold, age, and wear more than an oil with molecules that are many different sizes and shapes.

If an oil with molecules of many sizes and shapes let us resist and reduce the negative effects of high and low temperatures, we would have to make it. Synthesize it. Make the molecules directly, or purify them and mix them with intent. That is exactly what happens with synthetic oils. The very molecules from which they are made, and the additives in them, are all specifically selected and blended to avoid the negatives and capture the positives of oil characteristics.

Over time, this gives us oils that outperform conventional or semi-synthetic oils in low and high temperatures. They work better for extended periods of time, and work well even when the filter does not catch every particulate. Without a doubt the best synthetic motor oil will outperform a conventional engine oil.

Advent of Full synthetic motor oils

As mentioned, AMSOIL was the first company that brought synthetic oils to the market. They have not lost their touch since!

In an industry dominated by global oil companies, AMSOIL is unique as a family-owned, independently manufactured, all-American product. Rather than wowing people with global marketing or expensive commercials, they focus on direct marketing to shops and engine builders. They appeal to people who will immediately value the product and sell it for them on reputation.

Other companies followed the trail AMSOIL blazed with their AMSOIL signature series synthetic motor oils, but they have not yet developed a better product. Some drivers might be willing to buy AMSOIL because they like the narrative of using an American-engineered American oil developed by an American who piloted the US F-80 Shooting Star, America’s first jet fighter, and whose family continues to ensure the products are developed in America, blended in America, and packaged for final sale in America.

Or you might be like me and come from the Sho-Me State — or just plain want to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your dollar. One of the benefits of a free economy is that many measures of quality exist for major consumer products. Oils are no exception. The same tests are used for the most conventional motor oils to the most advanced full synthetic motor oils.

Why Buy Synthetic?

As stated, don’t just take it from me, or from AMSOIL. Synthetics are better.

According to Ford, GM, Toyota, Jaguar, and Porsche, vehicles with engines designed to take advantage of synthetic oils can go anywhere from 10,000-15,000 miles between oil changes, rather than the 3,000-5,000 recommended to your grandfather when he was using conventional oil. This long term engine protection between changes should go a long way in convincing the average buyer who gets their oil changed every 3,000 miles that the synthetic advantage more than justifies the price. Your change interval with the best synthetic oil products is 3-5 times as long as with a common conventional oil.

Corvette engine.
A quality synthetic motor oil will last 3 to 5 times longer than a conventional motor oil.

Big oil companies will also tout the advantages of full synthetic oil. What they will not tell you is that their full synthetics are not — fully synthetic, that is. Only oils marketed as 100 percent synthetic are truly 100 percent synthetic. You’ll notice that the oil of choice to demonstrate quality in many videos by independent mechanics online is AMSOIL. The AMSOIL oil depicted in this video is a true, 100% performance synthetic motor oil, and it’s compared to other major brands now owned by international corporations.

Consumer Reports is a consumer protection/information organization that my family has trusted to guide our appliance, vehicle, tire, and insurance purchases for years. For decades they have been known as a source of unbiased, advertisement and sponsorship free source of consumer purchase data. They also recommend synthetic oils.

Many racing teams endorse the use of high performance synthetic oil. They are formulated to ensure optimal fuel consumption for vehicles with or without turbochargers.

My father and grandfather taught me to buy used cars, pay cash, and drive them into the ground. Our family tends to have far more high mileage vehicles than the average consumer. They also taught me to use high quality coolant and high mileage synthetic motor oil to extend life on high mileage motors. I have driven a Buick Century almost 300,000 miles on synthetic oil — and never had problems with oil leakage or lubrication-related issues. I currently have other high-mileage vehicles. My minivan is over 250,000 miles, my farm truck (consistently used to tow loads of a few tons or more) is over 220,000 miles, and my coupe is almost 300,000 miles. All are Toyotas, and all use 100% synthetic high mileage or high performance motor oils. None have ever had any issues, and all run on par with the manufacturer’s stated fuel efficiency rating or at a better fuel efficiency rating despite their age.

This is anecdotal even if the anecdotes are from companies that build cars, protect consumers, race cars, and drive cars brutally and for far longer than the average American consumer. Fortunately, science also spells a clear picture.

Keep in mind that a fully synthetic oil needs to have the entire oil made of synthetic components. Many oils labeled “synthetic base oil”, “high mileage synthetic oil”, “fully synthetic base oil”, “premium synthetic motor oil”, “synthetic diesel oil”, “high performance synthetic motor oil”, or “synthetic base oil” may not actually have fully synthetic components.

One critical measure of the wear oil can add to an engine is cold crank viscosity and thermal performance. This is a direct measure of how much an oil gums up your engine before the engine starts and warms the oil up. In third party testing, the best motor oil available is again synthetic. Out of all synthetics tested at – 30 degrees Celsius, AMSOIL’s 100% synthetic proves the best choice for those looking to ease the strain on a cold-start engine even in the coldest of cold weather conditions. You want an efficient oil that lubricates well and prevents sludge build even when the engine cools.

Another important measure is engine deposit formation. In a test of many oils, again, 100% synthetics take the lead, and AMSOIL is one of the best. AMSOIL is an excellent choice for those looking for a cleaner engine.

Many oils have been extensively tested for wear protection characteristics as well. In looking for an extended performance synthetic oil to provide the maximum amount of engine protection, it’s useful to look at a test that measure wear under extreme conditions. The four-ball wear test uses extreme heat and rotational stress to determine the wear characteristics of many oils, including full synthetic formulas. In this test of preventing metal to metal contact and associated wear, AMSOIL signature series motor oils took first place.

In the interest of continuing to prove their product’s superiority, AMSOIL was the first American company to apply the Noack volatility test to their motor oil. It tests how much oil vaporizes under heat. The more oil that vaporizes, the thicker and gummier it gets. Of all oil brands tested, as you may guess by now, AMSOIL won.

Most synthetic oils meet or exceed API standards and performance requirements. These standards, put into place by the American Petroleum Institute, govern the minimums a motor oil needs to reach to serve the consumer well and safely.

AMSOIL is no exception, meeting or exceeding all API standards. In all critical engine operating factors AMSOIL is the best synthetic motor oil.

Oils: Understanding Oil Weights and What’s Right For Your Engine

Red engine.
AMSOIL Signature Series Motor Oil is the perfect match for high horsepower engines.

Modern engine oils are “weighted” using a two number system. The first number is usually 0-25 and followed by a “w” for “winter” and then another number, 16-60. Examples will look like this:

5w20

5w30

While you may hear these read as “five weight 20” or “five weight thirty”, the “w” actually means “winter.”

The numbers refer to the oil’s viscosity. The more viscous, or thicker the oil, the more it will slow movement of parts, especially small parts like bearings or controls.

The lower the number on the left of the w, the less viscous (less “thick”) the oil is at lower temperatures.

The higher the number on the right of the w, the more viscous the oil is at higher temperatures.

So if we discuss the “best 0w20 synthetic oil” or “best 5w30 synthetic oil” or “best 5w20 synthetic oil”, the lower the winter number (left number), the better the oil avoids thickening at the lower temperature. The higher the summer number (right number), the better the oil stays thicker at higher temperatures. Both are good, as low temperatures can lead to an oil so thick that the engine will not start or run well. High temperatures can lead to an oil thinning so badly it cannot reliably coat the insides of the engine.

The best way to determine what your vehicle or equipment needs in terms of oil weight is simple: Consult the manufacturer. A manufacturer will design an engine with certain tolerances. If the tolerances are extremely tight, a thinner oil will be needed and a thick oil will increase the work the engine has to do beyond the design parameters. This will drastically reduce engine life.

Blue and white engine.
To maximize fuel economy in 21st Century V8 engines, OEMs are moving towards lighter viscosities and synthetics are the only choice that can deliver the correct protection for such lightweight oils.

Conversely, if tolerances are purposefully made loose and an oil that is too “light” weight is used, then the oil will not coat the inside of the engine correctly and early wear will drastically reduce its functional life.

Regardless of the weight required, the previous discussions of oil quality still hold. A 100 percent synthetic 5w20 will outperform a full synthetic (that is not) 5w20 or a conventional 5w20. Same for a 0w30 or 5w30.

The key is to know a quality brand and oil you can trust, then choose the weight your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends. Here is a list of common automobile oil weights from AMSOIL:

Signature series 0W-20 Synthetic motor oil

Signature series 0W-40 Synthetic motor oil

Signature series 5W-20 Synthetic motor oil

Signature series 0W-30 Synthetic motor oil

Signature series 5W-30 Synthetic motor oil

Signature series 10W-30 Synthetic motor oil

Signature series 5W-50 Synthetic motor oil

Let us take a minute to compare this to conventional motor oil. If we look at a store brand conventional oil, we can find prices that are much, much lower than the $13.30 that AMSOIL charges for a quart of their Signature series, like $2.88 per quart.

However, conventional oils are rated for 3,000 miles between changes. AMSOIL signature series synthetic motor oils are rated for a staggering 25,000 miles between changes, and as discussed above, provide better protection over that 25,000 miles than a cheap oil does over 3,000.

To get the same mileage out of a cheap oil, you have to buy it more than eight times, meaning you will spend over $23.04 for each quart your engine requires over 25,000 miles. In the same time you’d spend $13.30 on AMSOIL signature series — and require 7 fewer oil changes to get superior engine protection!

Let us look at this on my truck, a 2011 Toyota Tundra. It requires 8.5 quarts of oil.

If I change the oil in that truck with cheap, conventional oil, I will spend the following over 25,000 miles:

8.5 quarts × $2.88 × 8 oil changes = $195.84

If I use AMSOIL signature series synthetic motor oil, I’ll spend the following over 25,000 miles:

8.5 quarts × $13.30 × 1 oil change = $113.05

The difference? $82.79 less spent for the best rated synthetic oil, best overall lubrication and wear prevention, and the longest oil change intervals available for North american vehicles. This oil improves fuel economy, offers superior corrosion protection, and goes a long way to meet the requirements of anyone looking for a synthetic oil that is suitable for use in any engine they are seeking to protect. The most economical oil is not the one with the cheapest price tag, but the one that delivers superior fuel economy, extended drain intervals & maximum engine protection. AMSOIL delivers all these benefits and more thus making it the best synthetic motor oil.

Filters — What They Do and When To Change Them

An oil filter is critical to the health of your engine oil, just as oil is critical to the health of your engine. As we have seen, full synthetic motor oil is no longer something reserved solely for jets. Given that we can go more than eight times as long between changes, it is a good idea to make the investment in similarly high performance filters. While the best synthetic oil products can float particulates better than conventional oils, it is best to remove the contaminants and particulates entirely. This is the job of a filter.

Car with red engine.
Whether you drive a family SUV or an exotic sports car, 100% synthetic motor oils provide the maximum protection for engines.

The cheapest conventional oils are not equipped to protect your vehicle well for extended periods. Similarly, cheap conventional filters are not equipped to protect your oil well for extended periods.

As you may guess, AMSOIL is one of the foremost manufacturers of quality oil filters. They provably claim 99 percent particulate filtration at 20 microns. Most other manufacturers also claim 99% particulate filtration — but at 30 or 40 microns, meaning they allow particles nearly double the size through where an AMSOIL filter will not.

Like their oils, AMSOIL Ea filters are rated for 25,000 miles of normal driving, or 15,000 miles of severe operation (towing, off-roading, etc). They cost $14-$30, compared to store brand filters that cost $3-$4. Remember — you will be replacing the filter eight times if you follow the recommendation that you change your filter with each oil change. How does this break down over 25,000 miles?

AMSOIL filter: $14-30

Cheap Store Brand Filter: $3-4 × 8 changes = $24-$32

Again, on top of the immediate savings, you go from a cheap filter that just meets specifications to a filter with better protection and better oil flow. Even the best motor oil will flow poorly in a poorly designed filter.

A filter designed for good flow parameters decreases the amount of work your engine has to do. It protects your oil pump, and eases cold starting at low temperature extremes by ensuring even cold oil can flow through it freely.

Combining AMSOIL EA oil filters together with the best synthetic motor oils from AMSOIL provides synergistic benefits.

Professional AMSOIL Oil changes

Perhaps you are not a racer. Maybe you don’t own performance engines or normally worry about synthetic engine oil. Perhaps you are not a farmer, or a rancher, or someone who enjoys working on engines — or perhaps you are, and you are just short on time.

Nissan engine.
By utilizing a high performance synthetic motor oil such as AMSOIL’s, you can limit the frequency of visiting your local mechanic due to the oil’s extended drain capabilities.

How can you take advantage of saving money and maintenance costs on your vehicle by getting a 100 percent synthetic oil change?

Changing your own motor oil now is not terribly difficult, and it saves you the cost of paying someone else doing it. There are numerous good guides online. One of the best ways to find a guide for your vehicle is to type your vehicle make, model, and year into YouTube with the search phrase “oil change DIY”. So for my Tundra:

Toyota Tundra 2011 Oil change DIY

This pulls up a video on how to change the oil as the first result.

A downside to doing it yourself is ensuring safe disposal of the used oil and filter. It is not good for the environment just to drain used motor oil in your yard, and is not legal in many jurisdictions. If you are like me, you may work in metals and refine it yourself to use it as a fuel in a forge or for other purposes. If you do not, you will need to find a local repository to recycle it.

Used motor oil can be recycled to clean motor oil. It is cheaper and easier to make clean, serviceable motor oil from dirty motor oil than it is to make it from crude oil. This protects the environment twice — once from dirty oil dumping (which kills helpful animals and plants), and once from needing to use crude to make fresh motor oil.

Many auto care facilities will accept oil for recycling at no cost to you. Call around and find a place — take care of the air, water, plants, and animals around you and keep costs low for your next oil change!

Remember to choose the best synthetic motor oil for maximum benefits. That choice needs to be AMSOIL.

Environmental Concerns

One of the best things about modern man is our ability to use data and information to understand the world and how we interact with it.

Toyota engine.
AMSOIL became an environmental trailblazer when they championed the 25,000 mile drain interval many years before it became common practice with OEMs.

Oils are no different. We can use simple math to realize that long change intervals directly equate to lower carbon footprints, lower cost, and are one of the best investments ecologically as well as financially. Note that this does not take into account the decreased emissions of an engine running on the best synthetic oils instead of lower rated synthetic oils or conventional oil.

My Tundra takes 8.5 quarts of oil. If I use conventional oils, I have to have eight changes every 25,000 miles to keep my engine safe.

That’s 68 quarts of oil.

If I use AMSOIL signature series, I use 8.5 quarts over that 25,000 miles. This product is an easy candidate for the best motor oil on the market, and certainly one of the best motor oil for the money.

That is almost 60 fewer quarts of oil that have to be recycled.

On top of being an all-American, family-owned company, AMSOIL is environmentally conscious. They are third-party audited as ISO 14001:2004 compliant, meaning they take steps to reduce environmental impact in every part of their business.

Lower cost to you? Check.

Better for the part of the environment you call your backyard? Check.

Better for the environment as a whole? Check.

It is like LED bulbs. You, as a consumer, don’t have to trade any quality or comfort for a lower cost. You pay less in total and get more.

The best synthetic motor oil, AMSOIL, delivers real protection not only for your car but also the environment.

Wrap-Up

Red Mustang.
AMSOIL’s SAE 5W40 Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil is the perfect choice for modern day muscle cars.

We have discussed the history, purpose, function, and some of the considerations on the use of performance motor oils. Nearly all north american passenger cars are rated for full synthetics, and so are most European make vehicles. I hope the information I present helps you make a useful choice for your vehicle. I believe and have directly experienced that premium synthetic oils offer drivers lower overall costs, better short and long term engine performance, require less labor, and are far more environmentally sensible.

You can’t go wrong using a higher quality oil. Many are available, and all synthetics are a step up from conventional oils. The antioxidants, rust resistance, protection from sludge and deposits, superior extreme heat protection, cold temperature protection, and extra detergents more than justifies that price paid up front.

Hopefully this post was able to articulate the fact that the best synthetic motor oil is made by AMSOIL!

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