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Engine Oils

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Weighing up the different engine oil types

Many of us know that feeling of walking into the auto parts store, heading for the oils section, and feeling overwhelmed with the huge range of products on offer.

Firstly, you're in that section in the first place because effective lubrication is crucial to the operation of an engine and all of its metal moving parts. It guards against wear and serves a crucial cooling and cleaning function.

But while the range of oils might seem almost infinite, they can actually be put into three main categories: mineral-based, semi-synthetic and fully synthetic.

So let's take a look at all three and explore the pros and cons.

Mineral-based

Oils based on minerals - or petroleum crude oil extracted from beneath the earth's surface - have been lubricating our engines for over 100 years.

The biggest pros are that mineral-based oils are the cheapest and they're suitable for a huge range of engines.

But while the processing of refining oil is effective, it's not perfectly pure. Mineral-based oils, therefore, need changing regularly, and their scope for handling the demands of higher performance engines is limited.

Semi-synthetic

As the name suggests, semi-synthetic oils are where mineral-based oils meet the other end of the extreme in the form of fully man-made (or synthetic) lubricants.

So, semi-synthetic is a blend of a natural oil with a synthetic, meaning you get a mix of the affordability and versatility of a conventional product mixed in with a range of the many performance benefits of synthetic oils.

Fully synthetic oils

Finally, synthetic oils are where the concept of traditional engine lubricants meet the marvels of modern-day science. Because it's made in a lab with human labour and expertise rather than in the ground by Mother Nature, it's more expensive, but the advantages of synthetic oils are almost endless.

They can withstand much higher temperatures, they contain no unwanted molecules or impurities, they can be customised by the chemist for a huge range of applications, they last longer, they offer greater protection - and the list of pros goes on.

Your choice

So when it comes to choosing the right engine oil, remember that there's no wrong decision: it's just about matching what you need with the engine you're going to rev.

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