Before we can define what is the best synthetic motor oil we should first clarify exactly what synthetic oil is.

When motorists consider changing to synthetic motor oil, they may be well aware of many of its attributes, but they often want to know first of all exactly “what is synthetic motor oil”?

Below, we’ll explore:

  • How synthetic motor oil is made
  • The different types of synthetic oil basestocks
  • And how it differs from synthetic blend and conventional engine oil

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What is Synthetic Motor Oil Exactly?

Conventional base oils are derived from crude oil and contain numerous impurities and have a widely varying molecular structure in terms of size and shape. The impurities and varying molecule structure hinders conventional oil’s lubricating properties.

Synthetic motor oil however, is made from base oils that are custom-made in the laboratory to have very specific characteristics. They can be formulated to have very precise properties that are vastly superior to conventional base oils as they:

  • Contain no impurities
  • And have a very uniform molecular structure

Since the attributes of synthetic motor oil can be engineered, it is widely considered to be the ultimate lubricant in all operating conditions.

What Types of Base Synthetic Oils Are There?

There are three different types of synthetic base oils and some synthetic oils can contain more than one of these basestock types.

Group III Synthetic Oil

Group III base oils start their life as crude oils (otherwise known as conventional or mineral base oils). A chemical process removes waxes and impurities from the base oil and refines it to a point where the molecular structure is uniform. This means that the molecules are of similar size and shape which improves the lubricating properties of the motor oil. The end product is vastly superior to conventional oil. This purified base oil has:

  • Better cold weather properties
  • Uniform molecular structure to deliver lower friction
  • And the ability to maintain viscosity in hot operating conditions

As Group III base oils are derived from what is essentially a highly refined crude oil, they were met with some controversy as they became widely marketed as“synthetic motor oil”. Purists refused to consider Group III-based oils as synthetic motor oil. Today’s Group III base oils offer performance characteristics that rival traditional synthetic bases and it is projected that future processes will actually make Group III base oils the superior synthetic option.

Group IV Synthetic Motor Oil

Group IV is a basestock made from polyalphaolefin or “PAO”. PAO is derived from ethylene and unlike Group III base oils that start out as crude oil, PAO in designed and manufactured in a completely man-made process. As the outcome of this process can be tightly controlled, PAO’s can be designed to have very specific properties and uniform molecular structure. PAO’s beneficial characteristics as synthetic motor oil include:

  • Very low pour points
  • High temperature volatility resistance
  • And overall stability across a very wide temperature range

These attributes and the fact that PAO is formulated in a lab, makes it easy to see why purists consider PAO-based synthetic oils to be “100% synthetic” and the best synthetic motor oil in the truest sense of the term.

Group V Synthetic Oil

In the synthetic motor oil realm, Group V synthetic oil is generally derived from esters. Much like Group IV’s PAO, Group V base oils are developed in the lab and can be chemically engineered to have specific characteristics. Group V base oils are known for their:

  • Inherent detergency
  • And ability to withstand high temperatures

Due to the high cost of Group V base oils, they are rarely the predominant basestock in synthetic motor oil formulations. They are often added to Group III or Group IV oils to bolster their thermal stability and detergency.

Are All Three Groups “100% Synthetic Oil”?

At one time only Group IV and V (or a combination thereof) could be called 100% synthetic and considered some of the best synthetic motor oils. Today many Group III motor oils are marketed as 100% synthetic motor oil as well. As mentioned, many traditionalists would not consider a Group III based oil to be true 100% synthetic. But as technology has progressed, the performance capabilities of predominantly group III oils leave nothing to be desired.

What are Synthetic Blend Motor Oils?

Semi-synthetic or synthetic blend motor oil is a combination of conventional oil and synthetic oil. Although it may be assumed that synthetic blend motor oils are half conventional oil and half synthetic oil, in reality they contain a maximum of 30% synthetic oil and some brands contain as little as 20% synthetic oil.

AMSOIL Makes One of the Best Synthetic Motor Oils

Many of today’s synthetic motor oils use a combination of the aforementioned base oil groups. Regardless of base oil group, a robust additive package is almost as important as the base oil. Additives perform duties like:

  • Control wear
  • Prevent deposit formation
  • Neutralize acids
  • Prevent foaming

Quality base oils, coupled with a generous and well-designed additive package make the best synthetic motor oils. They trump brands that use upper tier base stocks and then cheap-out on the additive package.

Oil Depot is a licensed Amsoil Dealer so of course we are partial to and consider AMSOIL Synthetic Motor Oil to be, the best synthetic motor oil on the market as they use quality base oils and stout additive packages that are designed to maximize service intervals.

For more information about AMSOIL synthetic motor oil or to get help finding the best synthetic motor oil for your needs please:

Call Toll Free 1-800-748-5781
Email:Synthetic Motor Oil Sales