When is it Appropriate to Use a Synthetic Oil?
When I hear this question posed in lubrication training classes, it really drives me crazy. Why? Let me count the ways…
First, the question presumes that the word “synthetic” is synonymous with a higher level of performance. It’s like asking, “When is it OK to upgrade lubricant quality?” It’s like asking “How good is good enough?” Though well intentioned, it paints far too simplistic a picture, panders to misguided beliefs and obfuscates the more fundamental issue. A better question would be, “When is it appropriate to upgrade lubricant quality?”
If you believe as I do that a lubricant is a critical reliability component and not a commodity, then you are probably a results-oriented person like me. In my world, lubricant quality only has relevance in respect to how it performs in the equipment it lubricates.
Assuming a correlation between purchase price and performance, the final selection criteria regarding a lubricant upgrade should hinge on whether the lubricant provides value-added performance that exceeds its premium price. It’s that simple. The value can be in the form of extended oil drains, maintenance savings, improved reliability or energy savings.
Synthetic oils may or may not outperform their mineral oil counterparts, as lubricants derive much of their performance from their additive chemistry. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge proponent of formulating with synthetic base oils. But additives contribute in these same areas and provide other much-needed properties unattainable from any base oil. Therefore, a well-formulated mineral oil might often outperform another synthetic oil.
To get the right answer we have to start with the right questions. How about asking, “Why would anyone NOT want to upgrade lubricant quality, if the value of the upgrade greatly exceeded the lubricant’s premium cost?” If you know the answer to this question, Royal Purple would like to hear from you. Chances are, you’re our kind of people.
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