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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Synthetic breakdown

Synthetic lubricants 
 Synthetic- syn·thet·ic
adjective: (of a substance) made by chemical synthesis, esp. to imitate a natural product.
"synthetic rubber" or “synthetic oil”
 Just because it says synthetic doesn't make it better. 
News flash: sometimes labeling can be just for sales hype- I know this revolting revelation took you by surprise, but in this case, its alarmingly funny. 

Since its inception, automatic transmission fluid had to be specifically made to accommodate the needs of an automatic transmission, and in doing so, also made a good power steering fluid as well. Brake fluid had to be custom engineered to do its job properly because all of the natural fluids failed miserably in one way or another. These fluids were created and blended, were always a synthetic, yet are now labeled as synthetic.  When you look at the price of these products, you would think that the companies making this stuff were offering us something new and exciting! Synthetics have been around for years, just now the psych majors in the advertising departments have another catchphrase to work with.

That being said... I use primarily synthetic fluids and filters in all my machines. Dinosaur oils get used around my place for hinges, that’s about it. Good synthetic oils vary from swamp sludge oils in one very important way: they are designed, engineered and blended from the first drop to the last to perform a specific task and do it superbly. Every molecule is created specifically and has a unique role to play. Each component is added in just the correct proportion to create a final product. Nothing ends up in synthetic fluids that are not wanted or intended to be there. 
In synthetic oil manufacture, there is no filtering involved to remove water, acids, various dirt or clay, not to mention fossilized stegosaurus brain, rotted ferns and other stuff that comes up out of the ground with the oil we want. It is much easier in some ways, once the process is up and going, to engineer a quality oil from small base units like natural gas, than it is to filter out the crud we don't want from underground tar-mud.  

Synthetic filter media is much the same. Those same simple base units are responsible for the ability to build fine filter threads of very consistent diameter and composition. These threads get felted into gauze media capable of flowing large quantities of fluid, while trapping tiny particles as they pass through it. The finely regulated size of the molecules and threads combined with the ability to attach polar charges and chemical 'hooks' to those threads make for filters that have no equal.  

The best of the synthetic oils have a few things in common. They Have a lower coefficient of friction (are slipperier); will maintain viscosity and film strength at far higher temperatures while being more pumpable when cold; are tougher against chemical attack and protection of the metal of the same chemical attacks; coat and stick to the metal parts with a stronger bond than standard oils; will not vaporize or volatilize out the PCV system... I know there are more benefits, but those qualities alone with an engineered high quality filter are more than enough to make for extra long oil change intervals and better protection over the life of the oil. I joke about it, but in all seriousness, the oil that I drain out of my truck after 20k miles is better than what some are pouring in their engines. See the March 25th 2014 MW article on oils for more info.  

Synthetics are not all created equal. The quality of a product comes from the willingness of the manufacturer to really listen to demanding clients needs and actively work to meet those challenging criteria. The best of the best rise to the top as cream does in milk. I encourage you to check 3rd party test results and get back to me about what your research says. Or search YouTube for racing videos and tough truck contests and see who's oil more racers use than any other- look at the stickers and decals on the race rigs. 

A good synthetic oil/ filter manufacturer should guarantee the usability of their product for many times the 3000 mile standard. Any oil that claims its a synthetic, but still has a 3000 mile recommended oil change interval is not a good quality synthetic oil (ya spose?). The filters/ oils I use are guaranteed for 25,000 miles, and can be run longer if oil analysis says its still good. A friend has had this same company's oil in his engine for 3 years and over 40,000 miles and the oil still looks, feels, smells, and behaves new. Granted, the oil I use is more than twice as expensive than most other synthetics, but if its lifespan is 8x greater, I still save 75% on oil change costs, and I get the best possible engine protection with less waste and lower labor costs. Ummm... Wait... You mean I win, I win, I win and I win? I knew there was a reason I did that. 

  From a strictly environmental standpoint a good synthetic oil is better than what gets pumped out of the ground for a few reasons.
  1) After use, synthetic oil is easier to filter, clean and recycle to the same standards as what went into the bottle because it is fundamentally homogeneous. Molecularly speaking, it is simpler to remove contaminants from and make new oil again.  
2) Because each engine uses 1/4 or less of the oil over its lifetime as it would on standard dinosaur oil, the total volume of waste as well as the storage, transport, and treatment of that waste oil stream are all reduced by more than 75%.  
3) Engines last longer, thus, replacement costs in terms of resources and energy are paid out over more miles of driving and therefore lowering overall cost per mile. 

  Good quality, specific use lubricants are finally available to our machines. We really should make use of the fact that long term engine health and longevity truly do come in a bottle Til next time...

1 comment:

John Grotenhuis said...

So what brand(s) do you recommend? When are you going to start selling them? Where can I get them until then?


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