Car ownership is mostly about maintenance work such as monitoring your engine oil to keep things running smoothly. With different types of motor oil available out there, it can sometimes be confusing to use them.
For instance, you might have mixed regular and synthetic motor oil while refilling your tank. Imagine your car just got its oil changed with synthetic oil. While driving, you noticed that your gas is almost empty.
You stopped over at the nearest gasoline station to refuel, but only regular oil is available at the moment. Left with no choice, you refilled your tank with regular oil. Now, what happens to your engine?
Difference Between Synthetic and Regular Oil
Generally, engine oils are made from base oil, additives, and other ingredients. With the same ingredients, they are compatible and remain effective when mixed.
The American Petroleum Industry compels every engine oil brand in the US to produce compatible formulations. On the other hand, the only difference in these motor oils is the oil refining method used.
Regular oil is less refined than synthetic and can cause more sludge on the engine while building up gunk down the road. It is also more affordable than synthetic motor oil.
Synthetic oil is a bit more expensive than conventional motor oil, but it has fewer impurities that help keep engines better lubricated and cleaner. For example, Pennzoil synthetic motor oil is much purer because it doesn’t contain crude oil. Instead, it’s made from natural gas and the first of its kind.
Remember that mixing regular and synthetic oil can dilute the original quality of premium synthetic oil. In addition, it can cause a need to change your motor oil earlier than your usual schedule.
Even though engine oils are formulated using the same ingredients, they may contain different additives and chemical properties. If you mix different engine oils, it can change the quality of your oil and reduce its efficiency.
As a result, the performance of your engine is affected due to mixed motor oils with different additives, detergents, and chemical properties. The best way is to religiously follow the oil change interval and oil type recommended in your manual.
More importantly, make sure to consult your car care partner to ensure your engine is in perfect condition. Review your manual from time to time so that you exactly know the viscosity grade your vehicle needs for optimum performance.
Mixing Synthetic Oil with Regular Oil
Mobil Oil advised car owners that it’s okay to mix motor oils, especially when you know how to properly do it. One of the most common fears that drivers think when mixing oils is that gel will form from the mix of chemicals.
Experts say that there’s nothing bad will happen such as that notion because motor oils are typically compatible with other brands. Many oils contain synthetic and natural oils.
Therefore, if your engine is running low on motor oil, there’s no reason to be afraid of adding one or two quarts of synthetic engine oil if you’re currently using regular oil and vice versa. No need to worry about getting an oil change just to refill your engine with “pure” oil.
Synthetic lubricants are growing in popularity nowadays. Many people keep their oils at clean and safe levels to prevent engine failure. They often top off engine oil in the middle of their oil change schedules, which often leads to the mixing of engine oil types.
Normally, casual oil top-offs are okay but regular oil changes are always better in keeping your engine efficient and running smoothly. However, if you need to fill up your motor oil, make sure to use a similar oil type that you’ve already used in your car to maintain its benefits.
Don’t forget to check your manufacturer’s guide to see your service schedule and other motor oil requirements. You can visit your local auto shop to have all these services done for you in case you don’t have time or are not sure of what to do exactly.
Here are some good reasons for mixing synthetic and regular engine oils:
- Semi-synthetic and full synthetic motor oils are made of regular oil, making them compatible with each other.
- There are no unwanted components formed when mixing different types of engine oils.
- No more seal leaking or high consumption of oil when you switch between mineral and synthetic oil as experienced before.
- Quick oil changes when temperature fluctuations are experienced due to extreme weather conditions, especially during colder months.
Engine oils are generally miscible. There’s nothing to be concerned about when you decide to mix one oil with another oil because they easily blend and create a solution.
You can even use one liter of 5W30 and mix it with 5W40 without any negative effects on your engine. However, it’s always a good thing to use one type of oil until you choose to drain your vehicle and get a top-off.
Experts recommend topping off the vehicle with motor oils that contain different grades in case you run low somewhere far from the station or the engine oil you’re using becomes unavailable.
Keep in mind that it’s not advisable to mix different oil brands with incompatible additives and other components. Make it a habit to check your manufacturer’s guide for specific information regarding the exact type of motor oil you can use for your vehicle.
Watch this video about mixing synthetic and regular motor oils:
Potential Drawbacks of Mixing Motor Oil
While mixing regular and synthetic motor oil is generally okay, there are possible negative effects when mixing different types of engine oils. First of all, it’s not recommended for car owners to habitually mix oils since there are different additives contained by motor oils.
The additives may interact with the mixture and destabilize the quality of the oil. In other words, you may negate or reduce the chemical properties of these additives in the motor oils.
If you’re using expensive synthetic engine oil, you could reduce or lose all the benefits of the oil. Therefore, mixing special synthetic oil and regular oil may require oil change earlier than your normal schedule.
An important reminder, for high-performance engines, mixing oils may reduce the efficiency of the additives. While this may not cause damage to your engine, it will not improve its performance.
Synthetic base oil is formulated by removing the impurities integral to the regular base oil. Typically, synthetic motor oils have high-quality, special additives for better engine performance.
The bottom line is that synthetic and regular oils are made of compatible components. The only difference is that the ingredients or additives in synthetic engine oils are of higher quality than regular types.
So how do you manage the risk of mixing oils?
It’s critical to manage the potential disadvantages of mixed lubricants. The high-performance engine oils today are made with specific additives to provide balanced performance.
They also contain carefully selected base stocks to meet the requirements of a vehicle in terms of lubrication. When oils are mixed, the balance is upset for most conditions.
Mechanical problems can lead to a shorter lifespan and reduced performance of engines. In other cases, problems that may arise are more catastrophic than usual.
Mixing oils can be detrimental to your vehicle and your wallet. If you’re not sure how it works, it’s better not to mix different motor oils. If a problem occurs accidentally, make sure to address it immediately.
Some experts you can ask for help are additive suppliers, lubricant manufacturers, and independent consultants in your local area. Actions taken when there are problems depend on the type of lubricant used, the relative concentration of the oils, total volume, and end-use application.
It’s important to understand how oils are formulated to know why some mixed lubricants are okay but others aren’t. Additives and base stocks are the main ingredients of motor oils. Base stocks are the oily component, used for chemical and physical properties essential in the formulation.
The factors considered in choosing base stocks include biodegradability, fire resistance, water miscibility, oxidation stability, and viscosity. They contain the power in the hydrodynamic application, remove debris and heat from wear and friction, eliminate contaminants, and improve engine performance.
Mineral base stocks are highly refined, heavy distillate, low-wax substances of crude oil. Generally, they are low-cost and good solvents that work well with most additives. Base stocks are available in different levels of viscosity and are compatible with various seal materials.
When it comes to incompatibility, some motor oils are made with dispersants that may attack certain fluorocarbon seals. If the oil is contaminated by other oils that contain ester base stocks, it may swell the seals unacceptably. For instance, EP gear oil can crumple silicone seals.
The following are some important details you need to consider in managing mixed motor oils:
- Lubrication application.
- Identity of the oils in the mixture including brand name and manufacturer.
- The volume of the components in the mixture.
- Less severe application or other lubricated parts where the mixed oils are used.
- Location of the mixture such as gearboxes or bulk tank.
- Mixed oil storage and final disposition to be determined.
Using these details, you can successfully manage the mixture of motor oils and prevent damage or problems in the engine. This can also help minimize downtime while determining solutions to handle the oil mixture.
According to Consumer Reports, synthetic oil can resist oil breakdown which means it can last longer than regular oil. In addition, it can withstand higher temperatures and help prevent buildup on the engine.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens When You Mix Synthetic and Regular Oil?
The most common assumption that car owners have when mixing conventional and synthetic oil is that it will damage their engines. Well, there’s no cited issue with mixing these oil types nor will it damage the engine. The only problem is that it can reduce the performance of your engine.
How Is Regular Oil Different From Synthetic Oil?
Tradition, conventional or regular oil is made with crude oil derived from hydrocarbons that undergo multiple processes to achieve the final product which is car oil. Synthetic oil, on the other hand, is made with petroleum-based based oils and powder additives. The main difference between these two types of motor oil is the base oil quality and refinement level they get throughout the process.
Can Regular Oil and Synthetic Oil Be Mixed?
Mixed oils are available in the market. These oils can be combined without any damage to the engine. Manufacturers mix regular and synthetic oil to create high-performance motor oil with cheaper pricing compared to full synthetic oil. However, it’s better to buy mixed oil than mixing them on your own because manufacturers can ensure the additives combines are compatible.
Can You Switch From Normal Oil to Synthetic Oil?
Switching from regular oil to synthetic oil doesn’t have any adverse effects on the vehicle. Manufacturers ensure that these types of motor oil have similar properties to avoid issues such as gasket leaks which were a common problem in older cars. Besides, when you buy a pre-owned vehicle, it’s sometimes impossible to know what type of oil was used by the previous owner.
When Did Synthetic Oil First Become Available?
In the 1920s, synthetic oils were first developed. However, they did not become popular until World War II when there was a crude oil shortage and Germany needed to find an alternative. AMSOIL introduced the first synthetic engine oil to the market in 1972. Later, modern aerospace technologies demanded higher-performing lubricants, making synthetic oil known around the world.
What Are the Advantages of Using Synthetic Motor Oil?
Synthetic oil is better than regular oil for so many reasons including its better protection against engine wear. It also contains fewer impurities that prevent engine sludge and gunk buildup. During extreme temperatures, synthetic oil can flow better than conventional oil with more consistent viscosity.
More importantly, it has better resistance to engine breakdown in the long run so you can save money and time from expensive car repairs.