Most machinery operators believe that synthetic oils offer a number of benefits above and beyond other oils, including increased engine efficiency and a lower cost, but is there any truth in this matter, and if so, when should a synthetic lubricant be used?
Firstly, those people who say that synthetic oils are extremely beneficial are bang on the money. Synthetic oils tend to reduce the amount of friction and heat produced by machinery, which means that machines see less wear and tear and fewer breakdowns.
This, in turn, leads to a number of savings in terms of repair and breakdown costs and increased efficiency, but you can only really benefit from these if you are using synthetic oils in the right circumstances.
When synthetic oils are and aren’t a good idea
It is generally not a good idea to start using mineral oil in engines or machinery which has only ever used mineral oil in the past, and which has been in operation for a very high number of hours.
This is because suddenly changing to a synthetic oil could cause the machinery’s natural detergent action to remove varnish and soot left behind by the natural mineral oil it has been using, and this can lead to an increase in the amount of oil the machinery uses, as well as causing the wall thickness of cylinders to reduce. If this happens, the oil could bypass the piston rings and burn in the cylinder head.
Older machinery may not be able to handle synthetic oils either because they can cause shrinking in seals and elastomers, which can lead to oil leaks.
Frequent stops and starts
However, synthetic oils are the ideal choice for use in machinery that is stopped and started a lot as it will help to extend its life. This is also the case for machinery that operates at a very high temperature, as synthetic oils tend to degrade at a slower rate than mineral oil and will require fewer oil changes.
If you buy a new vehicle or piece of machinery, you should definitely think about using a synthetic oil from the beginning of its life as this will increase the life of your engine significantly over its life if mineral oil is used.
As you can see, both synthetic and mineral oils have their place, but when you are able to use synthetic oils you can save a lot of money by doing so, and extend the life of your machinery significantly to boot.