The synthetic oil industry is poised to slowly take the place of most non-synthetic mineral-based oils. This could become a problem for some manufacturing companies however as a recent international study revealed that only 42% of manufacturing companies have all the correct procedures in place to manage lubricants effectively. A full 63% believe they don't conduct staff training on lubricants as regularly as they should.
Let's take a look at what synthetic oils actually are, some of the reasons for their use, and where we might be headed from here.
What Are Synthetic Oils?
Synthetic oils are oils that contain fewer impurities and have strong additives, making them longer lasting than more conventional mineral-based oils. Since these oils are slower to break down and retain their viscosity for longer, vehicles can go for longer between oil changes. This helps to offset the higher cost of the synthetic oil itself.
There are two types of synthetic oils: fully synthetic oil and blended synthetic oils which still contain more conventional oil types.
Why Are Synthetic Oils Being Used?
There are three main reasons why synthetic oils are being so thoroughly phased into the auto industry. The first is the number of smaller displacement engines on the market today. These turbocharged engines tend to run much hotter and so need synthetic oil, which maintains its viscosity for longer at higher temperatures, to run effectively.
The second reason is the CAFE fuel mandates. Many OEMs began to adopt synthetic oil as a way to increase the overall average fuel economy. This helped their portfolios meet those fuel economy mandates.
The last piece of the puzzle is the government regulations on tailpipe emissions. It takes less energy to move a thinner, lighter viscosity oil through an engine, resulting in fewer emissions.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It looks like synthetic oils are certainly here to stay. There is a potential risk, however, in the longer oil drain intervals they offer. These longer intervals could mean missing any signs of abnormal wear that may point to more extensive -- and expensive -- issues.
Barring this, synthetic oils have more than earned their place in most garages and manufacturing plants. While the higher up-front cost is still a consideration, the longer wear, lower emissions, and overall reliability are quickly making up for it.