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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The intention of this thread is to raise awareness on the benefits of true synthetic oils, and to attempt to some degree to teach a bit of history, a bit of background, and a bit technical information regarding lubrication for those who would like to expand their knowledge without spending as much time as I did doing so. Since I know a lot of you start snoozing the moment I talk about oil, this article is written for those who don't consider themselves to be oil-literate.

"Synthetic" Base Stocks
Base Stock: The base fluid, usually a refined petroleum fraction or a selected synthetic material, into which additives are blended to produce finished lubricants.

Group 3
In the early 1999, Castrol began to produce a Group 3 oil and called it a "synthetic." Mobil 1 challenged this base stock as a basis for a "synthetic" oil, and in an argument that played out before the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, Castrol won. Over the next 10 years, we would see companies one by one switching to group 3 base stocks for their "synthetic" labeled oils. The reason? Cost. At the end of the day, the bean counters at Big Oil will win the argument. Group 3 oils are far cheaper to produce than the alternatives. Group 3 oils are refined using the similar processing techniques to group 2 conventional oils. The difference is that these techniques are improved to further purify the oil.

Group 4 and 5
Group 4 and 5 oils, usually comprised of PAOs, Esters, Aromatics, and other synthesized compounds, are where synthetic oils got their claim to fame. Group 4 oils are what Mobil 1 pitched to GM in the early 90s and what GM required in the ZR1 Corvette at the time. Group 4 are what all companies up till 1999 produced as a synthetic lubricant. It was expensive ($8-$10 a quart), but it was effective. Every good thing you've heard about synthetic oil came from these base stocks.

So, what's the difference (Short Version)?
1. True synthetics will have a lower rate of oil consumption. This will reduce valve, piston, and combustion chamber deposits, and will result in better fuel economy and better reliability. Over time, deposits lead to poor valve seats, burned valves, and scored piston walls. A lower rate of oil consumption also leads to fewer emissions and a cleaner exhaust.

2. True synthetics provide better wear protection.

3. True synthetics will reduce operating temperatures, which is crucial for turbocharged applications. Reduced operating temperatures improve gasket life and reduce maintenance costs.

4. True synthetics last longer, both in miles and in time, and allow the engine to stay cleaner.

5. True synthetics flow better cold, which improves the engine's ability to start in severe cold, improves fuel economy in cold starts, and improves cold start protection.

6. True synthetics will protect better and resist breaking down under extreme heat conditions present in turbocharged and high compression engines.

7. True synthetics are chemically formulated as superior base stocks, allowing them to use additives to enhance their performance, whereas group 3 petroleum base stocks rely heavily on additives to bandaid its shortcomings.

8. True synthetics offer better fuel economy.


So, what's the difference (Long Version)?
I don't consider a group 3 oil to be truly synthetic regardless of what the BBB ruled. Here are a few areas of significance.

1. Volatility. True synthetics in a 5W-30 viscosity will have a significantly lower volatility. In a test where oil is heated for an extended period of time, a Group 4 synthetic will lose 6-8% of its volume while a Group 3 oil will lose 10-15% of its volume. A better volatility rating means your vehicle consumes less oil, especially during severe conditions.

2. Film Strength. Petroleum based motor oils have a film strength limited to less than 6,000 PSI. By comparison, Group 4 PAO base stocks have a film strength of over 300,000 PSI. It is not unusual for an engine builder to pull a crankshaft out of a race car and find that machining marks still on the bearings, indicating that the bearings and crank never touched.

3. Heat Transfer. Group 4/5 PAO/Ester base stocks have the very desirable trait of being able to significantly reduce engine operating temperatures. This is due to their small molecules and natural turbulent flow pattern that "scoops" heat away from hot engine parts. Of particular interest to this discussion is our 1.4L Turbo motor, which features an oil and water cooled turbo (in environments that can exceed 700F), and piston cooling jets. The cooler you can keep the turbo, the longer it will last.

4. Oxidation. Oxidation is an oil's tendency to react to oxygen and sludge. We have time-based oxidation, where an oil will oxidize due to its exposure to air over a period of time, and thermo-oxidation, where an oil will oxidize under extreme heat (re: turbo and piston cooling jets). Group 4/5 oils have an incredible resistance to oxidation. What this means for you is that your oil can stay in your crank case longer, and even under extreme conditions, it won't sludge and leave deposits all around your engine. This is a great portion of why AMSOIL guarantees a 25,000 mile normal service drain interval. By comparison, group 3 oils rely on anti-oxidants to extend the service life of the base stock, with the side effect that the anti-oxidants will deplete over time.

5. Cold flow characteristics. Group 4/5 oils have superior cold flow characteristics compared to Group 3 oils. The difference is enormous at temperatures under -20F, where the wax content in group 3 petroleum oils will begin to crystallize and solidify. Better cold flow characteristics means better fuel economy and better cold start protection. Even with heavy processing methods, Group 3 oils still don't compete.

6. Viscosity stability. All oils get thinner when they get hotter, and thicker when they get cooler. A group 4/5 oil maintains its viscosity under high temperatures far better than a group 3 oil, which again is very important in turbo applications. This is an area where no amount of additives, refining, or processing will bring a group 3 oil even close.

7. Additive packages. Petroleum based oils (i.e. Group 3 "synthetic" oils) need additive package chemicals to address its shortcomings. The presence of contaminants in these oils must be addressed in the additive package, so the additive package ends up being a bandaid. This departs from the superior chemistry that comprises that of true synthetic Group 4 oil base stocks, which begin life analytically clean and devoid of contaminants that petroleum based motor oils are hampered with. Consequently, the additive package in a true Group 4/5 synthetic can be used to enhance the performance of the motor oil instead of trying to put a bandaid on its shortcomings. To make matters worse for Group 3 oils, additives generally increase volatility.

8. Fuel economy. Because a Group 4/5 is comprised of small molecules that are all the same size, the oil is has far lower coefficient of friction (technically traction coefficient) than a group 3 oil with molecules of varying sizes. This reduces operating friction and consequently improves fuel economy. As a secondary benefit, this again reduces operating temperatures. MachineryLubrication.com describes the science behind the fuel economy improvement through reduced friction:
Molecular size is also key to one of the synthetic lubricants' operational virtues - its traction coefficient or internal fluid friction (resistance). Traction coefficient is the shearing or tangential force required to move a load, divided by the load. The coefficient number expresses the ease with which the lubricant film is sheared.

Compared to mineral oil molecules, synthetic lubricants, for example, have up to a 30 percent advantage over mineral oils for traction coefficient. This means the force needed to move a load is less, which means less horsepower to do the work.

Finishing Thoughts
So, why is this in the Vendor section of the forum? While this applies to any brand of oil, the list of companies that still sell a true (group 4/5) synthetic is getting smaller every year. AMSOIL's Signature Series is one of the few remaining 30-weight oils formulated with true synthetic base stocks. Until group 3 oils match group 4/5 base stocks for performance across all metrics, I will not consider them true synthetics. They are simply labeled as such for marketing purposes. In an industry full of Big Oil sell-outs, this article was written to remind people of the reason why synthetics were created in the first place and shed some light on petroleum oils that have been masquerading as "synthetics." Use extreme caution before allowing the anonymous disinformationists that work for competing Big Oil companies to confuse the truth about motor oil on the internet. I've run into far too many people in recent years that have tried to convince me that the differences outlined above don't exist. Ironically, those were the same people who 10-15 years ago were trying to convince everyone that they did exist. Like Group 2 conventional lubricants, Group 3 lubricants may be "good enough", but they are hardly optimal or the best.

Resources
Synthetic Oil: Rx For Long Engine Life, by Curt Scott - GETAHELMET.COM
2014_08 - August 2014 - LNG
March 2013 - Test Results for AP
Petroleum Quality Institute of America
Forums
http://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/1290/synthetic-conventional-oils
 

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Its sad that the court didn't understand what their ruling would do to the consumer & the effect it would have on the quality of true "synthetics".

I don't disagree with anything you have said, Just wanted to point out GM still recommends Mobil 1 in the 2014+ corvette. From the 2014 corvette owners manual see section 10-14 "selecting the right engine oil". Mentions Dexos 1 approved but also says recommends Mobil 1 5W-30. Also mentions for track/competitive driving to use mobil 1 15-50W oil & in extreme cold(-29C/-20F) to use 0-30W oil.

I have my dealer change my oil with mobil 1, the part number listed on my receipt is: 89021614. If you look it up it comes back to a 55 gallon drum of GM performance Mobil 1, the same thing they use in the corvette. I'm not going to keep my car forever & certainly hope oil good enough for a corvette is good enough for my cruze.

I'm sure I will have no oil related issues in the next 1-2years(around the time I plan to trade my current cruze).
 

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Its sad that the court didn't understand what their ruling would do to the consumer & the effect it would have on the quality of true "synthetics".

I don't disagree with anything you have said, Just wanted to point out GM still recommends Mobil 1 in the 2014+ corvette. From the 2014 corvette owners manual see section 10-14 "selecting the right engine oil". Mentions Dexos 1 approved but also says recommends Mobil 1 5W-30. Also mentions for track/competitive driving to use mobil 1 15-50W oil & in extreme cold(-29C/-20F) to use 0-30W oil.

I have my dealer change my oil with mobil 1, the part number listed on my receipt is: 89021614. If you look it up it comes back to a 55 gallon drum of GM performance Mobil 1, the same thing they use in the corvette. I'm not going to keep my car forever & certainly hope oil good enough for a corvette is good enough for my cruze.

I'm sure I will have no oil related issues in the next 1-2years(around the time I plan to trade my current cruze).
How many miles are you running the oil?
 

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With all due respect some can view "synthetic oil" as wasteful.

1. Additional cost for the "advertisement" of synthetic which no one besides the manufacturer really knows the true base stock. The perception is that it's better, but the nearest evidence of proof is oil analysis results that may be unreliable, due to error, or misinterpretation of the results.

2. Longevity of late model vehicle engine related mechanical systems has increased, for many reasons, closer tolerances, electronic engine management, and improved materials to name a few. Even cheap dino oils have improved and providing they meet the API service ratings. (starburst, and doughnut) provide sufficient protection for the life of the vehicle when changed at the proper intervals.


Case study: I drove my 1997 Saturn SL2 to 337k miles. I used the cheapest oil I could find on sale as long as it contained the above mentioned API ratings. I followed the normal service interval as outlined for oil changes. I finally scraped the car because it became a money pit for nickel and dime repairs from other misc repairs. The engine surpassed the vehicle's life.

I pulled the engine and disassembled it out of curiosity. Overall the internals looked very well for the mileage.

Now having said that, I currently use a "popular synthetic oil". Not because I buy into any hype, but I want to see for myself any increased wear protection.
 

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With all due respect some can view "synthetic oil" as wasteful.
GM recommends Dexos 1 approved oil for the gas cruze(actually all 2010+ GM cars), which means at a minimum everyone should be running a synthetic blend these days. From another thread on here the dexos 2 Oil GM is using in the diesel cruze is a full synthetic oil made by mobil.

I can't see any reason anyone would want to run conventional oil these days, as the dexos blends can be had for around the same price as conventional oil.
 

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Aren’t most oils the same?

Nope.
Just like any other product you buy, they are built for profit at a certain price. Some will use cheaper ingredients so they can sell for less.


Conventional oil vs. Synthetic oil isn't about which is "better"; it's about which lasts longer, in relation to cost.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
With all due respect some can view "synthetic oil" as wasteful.

1. Additional cost for the "advertisement" of synthetic which no one besides the manufacturer really knows the true base stock. The perception is that it's better, but the nearest evidence of proof is oil analysis results that may be unreliable, due to error, or misinterpretation of the results.

2. Longevity of late model vehicle engine related mechanical systems has increased, for many reasons, closer tolerances, electronic engine management, and improved materials to name a few. Even cheap dino oils have improved and providing they meet the API service ratings. (starburst, and doughnut) provide sufficient protection for the life of the vehicle when changed at the proper intervals.


Case study: I drove my 1997 Saturn SL2 to 337k miles. I used the cheapest oil I could find on sale as long as it contained the above mentioned API ratings. I followed the normal service interval as outlined for oil changes. I finally scraped the car because it became a money pit for nickel and dime repairs from other misc repairs. The engine surpassed the vehicle's life.

I pulled the engine and disassembled it out of curiosity. Overall the internals looked very well for the mileage.

Now having said that, I currently use a "popular synthetic oil". Not because I buy into any hype, but I want to see for myself any increased wear protection.
I have in many other posts across this forum noted that the vast majority of the industry has sold out to a group 3 base stock. This article however was intended to be simple and easy to read, not technical. When comparing 5W-30, any oil with a volatility of about 10% or above is a group 3. The PQI America resource chart I posted will have those numbers for all popular "synthetic" oils. You can ignore Pennzoil and Quaker State as they switched to a group 3 in Q1 of this year. If you'll notice, there are none left.

Oil analysis is not designed to show oil quality, but wear patterns and oil condition. That notion has been distorted by our "friends" on a certain nameless lubrication forum.

Your key word is "at the proper intervals." We have learned from GM that those intervals mean "as long as it lasts through the 100k mile warranty." While our engine technology has improved, so has our requirement for higher quality oils. Then we introduce expensive components such as turbos, which rely almost entirely on oil for longevity. In late model Mazdas and Subarus, we still find common failures under 100k. I've long given up on the notion that a vehicle becomes unreliable after 100k miles. I find that unacceptable. I find 200k miles unacceptable in fact. I find it unacceptable at that mileage for the vehicle to lose any power or fuel economy as well.

As for the Saturn, one of the biggest benefits to a true synthetic is the extended life and intervals. Cost becomes irrelevant when you can go at least 5x on a change of oil. When the oil is used to its designed potential, it goes from being wasteful to being very economical and environmentally friendly.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Its sad that the court didn't understand what their ruling would do to the consumer & the effect it would have on the quality of true "synthetics".

I don't disagree with anything you have said, Just wanted to point out GM still recommends Mobil 1 in the 2014+ corvette. From the 2014 corvette owners manual see section 10-14 "selecting the right engine oil". Mentions Dexos 1 approved but also says recommends Mobil 1 5W-30. Also mentions for track/competitive driving to use mobil 1 15-50W oil & in extreme cold(-29C/-20F) to use 0-30W oil.

I have my dealer change my oil with mobil 1, the part number listed on my receipt is: 89021614. If you look it up it comes back to a 55 gallon drum of GM performance Mobil 1, the same thing they use in the corvette. I'm not going to keep my car forever & certainly hope oil good enough for a corvette is good enough for my cruze.

I'm sure I will have no oil related issues in the next 1-2years(around the time I plan to trade my current cruze).
It is worth noting that not all synthetic labeled products made by big oil conglomerates are group 3 based. Exxon-Mobil for example has for quite some time been the largest producer of PAO base stocks. Once you deviate from the standardized comparison of the 5W-30 viscosity, you need to do additional research to determine the base stock. This is especially true of 20 weight oils.

The ZR1 is certainly a fast car but by no means is it a high tech motor. It is a small block chevy with basic lubrication requirements and in the world of forced induction, an unimpressive power per displacement ratio. If you want to make a comparison, bring in something like a Ferrari 430, or a high horsepower turbocharged motor. Root blowers don't produce nearly the same heat levels.
 

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" As for the Saturn, one of the biggest benefits to a true synthetic is the extended life and intervals. Cost becomes irrelevant when you can go at least 5x on a change of oil. "

Agreed, however filtration becomes more the concern. Microns are microns, but oil exposed to the combustion process that long gets scary.

I'm also aware some warranty their oil, but it makes you wonder the fact that the warranty exists may or may not back the product. How many people will ever "qualify" to make a claim, and or does the engine typically have a XXXXXX service life anyhow?

Who knows?
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
" As for the Saturn, one of the biggest benefits to a true synthetic is the extended life and intervals. Cost becomes irrelevant when you can go at least 5x on a change of oil. "

Agreed, however filtration becomes more the concern. Microns are microns, but oil exposed to the combustion process that long gets scary.

I'm also aware some warranty their oil, but it makes you wonder the fact that the warranty exists may or may not back the product. How many people will ever "qualify" to make a claim, and or does the engine typically have a XXXXXX service life anyhow?

Who knows?
Filtration is not really concern at 15,000 miles. Filtration may be a concern at 30,000 miles, at which point bypass filtration becomes recommended. Total insolubles usually aren't high enough even in Diesel engines to warrant a consequential increase in viscosity until you get past 12,500 miles. On that note, filters should get replaced every ~7500 miles on most cars, although the Cruze can go up to 10,000 miles on one filter.

It's not scary when you understand the process. That's not to sound condescending. The combustion process releases acidity into the combustion chamber. I will only speak for our SSO, and the reason why they guarantee 15k miles severe service or 25k miles normal service is because the detergent package is superior. As noted previously, a true synthetic can use additives to enhance the oil instead of bandaid it. The only oils that come remotely close to AMSOIL's TBN of 12.8 are Mobil 1 and Castrol Edge, both of which rely on Mg-based dispersants to raise the TBN. For gasoline use, this results in a higher total acidity at the end of the oil's life cycle, which is why I stress that gasoline engines should be using exclusively Ca-based detergents. In that comparison, it is rare for a synthetic to exceed a TBN of 9.0. With such a strong detergent package, the oil is more than capable of neutralizing acidity for the duration of the advertised interval.

I have in my analysis experience discovered that total acidity is just as important as TBN. Unfortunately, not all companies test for it. As for the warranty, they've honored it before. Contingency for warranty is that your car is stock and that you recognize severe vs. normal service intervals, and that the vehicle didn't start using AMSOIL with over 100k miles already on it, for obvious reasons.
 

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When the oil is used to its designed potential, it goes from being wasteful to being very economical and environmentally friendly.
Bingo.

The issue is, maintenance requirements for warranties dictate that oils are changed much more often, and that the oils used have certain industry approvals. As long as you're stuck serving the warranty, your options are limited.

Once free of the warranty restrictions, the educated consumer can define their own maintenance plan. An oil like Amsoil SSO makes a lot of sense for most people since it would only require yearly changes. The added up front cost of the oil means nothing at that point since most people will be avoiding at least one additional oil change every year.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Bingo.

The issue is, maintenance requirements for warranties dictate that oils are changed much more often, and that the oils used have certain industry approvals. As long as you're stuck serving the warranty, your options are limited.

Once free of the warranty restrictions, the educated consumer can define their own maintenance plan. An oil like Amsoil SSO makes a lot of sense for most people since it would only require yearly changes. The added up front cost of the oil means nothing at that point since most people will be avoiding at least one additional oil change every year.
That may be the case in Canada, but in the US, your warranty is not contingent on the oil you use or its drain interval thanks to Magnuson-Moss. A dealer can only deny your warranty if at the time of failure, the oil is tested and proven to be the cause of the failure. That is irregardless of your drain interval or oil. Consider that dealers have repaired under warranty vehicles that have sludged to all **** under the OE oil with "forgetful" drivers going 12k+ miles and you'll get an idea of just how likely they are to blame the oil for any failure.

On the flipside, if at the time of failure the oil is tested and determined to be the cause of the failure, and you used it in accordance with AMSOIL's recommendations of 15k miles or 1 year, whichever comes first, then AMSOIL will be repairing your vehicle and replacing the oil.
 
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