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Discussion Starter #1
Ok, I've read lots of stuff. Most people who use synthetic oil and of course those who manufacture synthetic oil claim that it is better, get better mpg, engine lasts until 2525, etc. But the controlled studies (few) have not proven that out to be true.

I'm going to call it a wash--at least for the sake of simplicity and argument. I'm not going to keep my car for more than 6-7 years and about 120K miles anyway--what do I care how long it lasts for the next guy! :wink:

Ok, cost is definately a factor against synthetic, but not a major factor for me if there's something to show it's better than dino in some way (as I said, other than the claims I mention above)

So, what I've kinda narrowed it down to is this:

Is synthetic more enviromentally friendly, really, than dino oil. Sure, dino is non-renewable, but what is synth made from, what pollutants are made in it's production, what happens when it's disposed of, etc.

If someone can show me or convince me that it's the most enviro-friendly choice I'm going to switch to that. Otherwise, I think I'm sticking with el-cheapo dino oil.
--evan
 

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I'm a fan of synthetics, just because I've used them for a long time with no problems. Synthetics are good in hot-running engines because the flash-points are considerably higher than dino oil. They are also good in extremely cold climates because the low-temp flowabilty is much better. However, if you don't meet any of the criteria above, dino might be just fine. The 1NZ-FXE engine in the Prius seems to be a cool runner. I drove mine about 20 miles and then put it up on the ramps to change the oil, figuring it was hot, and runs out of the engine better that way. Well, it wasn't hot at all! Couldn't believe it when I could let it run over my hand with no discomfort at all. I think that is an indication of an extremely well-built engine with minimal friction. Since I live in an area that sees a lot of cold temps in the winter, I'm sticking to the Mobil 1, but if I was in a milder area, I just might not bother with this engine. In the long run, I don't think the oil matters as much as following the recommended change interval.
As far as any ecological differences, I don't know of any. Everyone should re-cycle their used oil. I might pose the ecology question on http://www.bobistheoilguy.com this weekend and see if any of the more well-versed people there have an opinion.
 

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Evan,

I too have been curious about the benefits of Synthetic oil. Here is a quick summary of what I have learned so far. I don't claim to be an expert in this area so if I have blooped anywhere, perhaps someone else can (gently) set me right.

Here is what I believe the story to be:

Conventional mineral oil is made essentially by getting some crude oil and removing from it the compounds that you don't want. Synthetic oil is made by getting some ingredients and putting them through a chemical reaction. I have not discovered where the ingredients come from, but it could be that they are obtained from crude oil in the same way that mineral oil is. Anyway, the result is that synthetic oil is purer than mineral oil. This is good, because it is the impurities in oil that cause most of the trouble.

Synthetic oil contains smaller amounts of non-combustable minerals than mineral oil does. It leaves behind less ash when it is burnt, which reduces the amount of crusty deposits that form in the combustion chamber from the small amount of oil which escapes past the piston rings and gets burnt.

Synthetic oil also contains less wax than mineral oil does. Consequently the viscosity does not increase as much at low temperatures, so the viscosity rating can be wider (eg. 0W-30 rather than 5W-30). It is not necessary to use as much viscosity-modifying additive to achieve a given viscosity rating. This is one of the things which makes it possible to increase the working lifetime of synthetic oil, or alternatively to use it in a more demanding environment.

I have discovered a few things that seem surprising.

Firstly, the primary reason that oil deteriorates in an engine is not high temperature but high pressure. In particular, the pressure that the oil experiences as it passes between the cams and the valve lifters can be several tens of thousands of pounds per square inch. This causes the large molecules in the oil to break apart into small pieces which don't behave very well (they can contribute to the formation of sludge).

Secondly, the colour of the oil is not a particularly good guide to it's condition. All modern oils (mineral or synthetic) are designed to hold soot in suspension, so that the oil continues to work effectively long after it has turned dark. If it weren't for this, we would still be changing the oil at 500 mile intervals.

Finally, there are claims that synthetic oil of a given viscosity rating gives lower frictional losses than mineral oil of the same rating. I do not understand how this can happen, but several Prius owners have observed fuel economy improvements of several percentage points after changing from mineral oil to synthetic.

My conclusion is that mineral oil is perfectly adequate for a Prius, provided that you can obtain the 5W-30 viscosity rating. However, if you really want to pamper your Prius or you want one or two MPG improvement in economy, synthetic oil is worth a try.

Regards,
Julian.

PS. Whichever type of oil you decide to use, I have never seen any evidence that it is necessary to change it more often than the 7500 mile interval that Toyota recommend. Indeed, in the UK (where I live) the Toyota recommended interval is 10000 miles, so 7500 probably includes a bit of safety margin.
 

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Thanks Evan, Jerry, and Julian. These posts are very informative! I switched from dino to Castrol Syntec after the 15K maintenance, but I also replaced my tires at about the same time so I can't say what accounts for the mileage hit I took (c. 3 mpg). I suppose it's even possible that the Syntec mitigated the effect of the new, non-LRR tires? OTOH, mileage in my '02 * dramatically* improves with highway driving, but most of my trips are short ones in town---the worst for mpg.

FYI Jerry, I once read somewhere that it's not a good idea for human skin to come into contact with used motor oil. Something about the Big "C", I think. Thought I would pass that along. Maybe the doctor can comment?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Henry said:
FYI Jerry, I once read somewhere that it's not a good idea for human skin to come into contact with used motor oil. Something about the Big "C", I think. Thought I would pass that along. Maybe the doctor can comment?
Sounds a bit suspect to me. Hard to imagine casual contact causing any major problems. And, how many mechanics are there out there that have almost constant daily contact with used oil? I've certainly never heard anything of epidemic rates of XYZ type of cancer in that group of workers...and believe me, we would if it existed.

That said, I'm sure that oil contains something that could be a proven carcinogen. But, I'll bet that 1 hour in the sun without sunscreen is a lot riskier as far as cancer goes than a splash of Penzoil 10W-40!

Finally, how on earth would you prove such a connection? I got skin cancer on my hand, then I remember that once, while changing my oil 10 years ago some of it ran over that same hand! That's gotta be proof, right? Well, again, how much time did that same hand spend with sun exposure, or nicotine exposure if you're a smoker, etc...just no way to control for the multitude of variables with such an obscure exposure.
--evan
 

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Thanks, Doc---that's good enough for me. After 37.5K I plan to do my own oil changes, just like the old days with my '70 Dodge Dart, so my hands are no strangers to motor oil!
 

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The only problem I have seen with synthetic is that it doesn't give an indication that it's burning - i.e. it has passed faulty or worn piston rings and is burning inside the cylinder. You won't know until you see a large change in oil level or the three-way catalytic converter gets clogged and kills your engine.

Some of your may recall that the '04 Prius uses lower tension rings to improve efficiency - they used dyno-juice from the factory with this set up so that's what I'm sticking with.
 

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Thanks to everyone for all the info. I'm undecided as to whether or not I'll switch to synthetic. I plan on snooping around for more details, but one question I have (and this will show my ignorance on the subject) is this: If you do try synthetic is there any reason why you couldn't/shouldn't switch back to regular oil?
Moo :)
 

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Switching back is not a problem. In earlier times at the start of synthetic oil use (1970's) there could sometimes be a problem because of a lack , in the synthetics, of a seal conditioning agent, and seals would start to leak. This was addressed and there are no issues with that now.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
From the Priuschat.com website where I asked a similar question within a different thread:
********************************************************

All articles were found using Google on the main Priuschat page - http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=n ... nvironment

http://www.ired.com/news/lieberman/010708.htm

Synthetic Motor Oils May Be Good For Your Pocketbook, Car, And Environment
Stuart Lieberman, Esq., [email protected]


Should you use synthetic motor oil in your car? Environmentally speaking, the answer is easy. You should use synthetic oil because it considerably reduces the amount of dirty waste oil that needs to be disposed of. Dirty waste oil has often ended up in landfills or underground waste oil tanks, and leaks from these places have caused soil and groundwater pollution all over the country.

Also, synthetic motor oil is not made from oil. This means that using synthetic motor oil reduces the amount of drilling and refining that needs to take place. Both activities have also added to our nation's pollution problem. So environmentally speaking, synthetic oil seems more appealing.

But, it costs a lot more than regular oil. And, synthetic motor oil may or may not be recommended by your automobile manufacturer. You would not want to use a product that is not recommended by your automobile manufacturer because doing so may alter your rights under your vehicle warranty. Don't do anything until you look into this issue.

That having been said, synthetic motor oil has been on the market for many years now and a lot of people are convinced that it is the right choice for them. It certainly has undergone extensive field testing. For example, when Mobil developed its Mobil 1 product, the company did high-mileage tests in two Oldsmobiles. The cars were placed on a treadmill and run for 200,000 miles. At the end of the treadmill test, the cars' engines were torn down and found to be in perfect condition. The cars were also reported to be much thinner.

Then, the company purchased a BMW 325i and tested it for one million miles. After four years of treadmilling 24 hours a day, often at 85 miles an hour, the engine was taken apart. From this, Mobil learned that its synthetic oil really worked.

Synthetic oils are chemically created just for the purpose of operating automobiles and other engines under real life conditions. This is contrasted with conventional oil, which is at first dirty and has to be refined to serve its purpose. Chemicals are added to conventional oil so as to bolster its natural capabilities. But synthetic oil does not have to be "bolstered," it is manufactured to specifications developed with long term, hot engine use in mind.

And cars are running hotter and hotter. New engines often run hotter than 240 F. Many synthetic oils are chemically engineered to ensure that they continue to function for an extended period under these operating conditions.

Conventional oils tend to not operate as efficiently, for an extended period, under these extreme conditions.

Synthetic oils are capable of providing dependable, long-lasting performance and protection that helps equipment last longer. Many synthetic oils last three times longer than conventional oils. This results in both convenience and savings for do-it-yourselfers, and much less oil that needs to be disposed.

Synthetic oils may also improve fuel econcomy because they have a higher "lubricity" than conventional lubes. This means they provide more lubrication protection, and as a result, there is less friction on moving parts, less heat and less wear. There are also some resulting fuel savings. Finally, these man made oils don't just work well in the heat. While many petroleum oils thicken at temperatures of 25 F, many synthetic oils continue to function at 50 degrees below zero - and sometimes even colder. This allows for more reliable winter starting and faster lubrication for your car's engine parts. Once again, this temperature benefit also provides better fuel economy.

What makes sense for you? If your auto manufacturer's warranty permits the use of synthetic oils, you might want to try them out. While the initial oil change cost will be higher, in the long run, this change may benefit your pocketbook and the environment.

http://www.amsoil.com/articlespr/articleenviro.htm

Synthetic Oils, The Environment
And Your Quick Lube Operation

by Ed Newman
AMSOIL Marketing & Advertising Coordinator

This article appeared in National Oil & Lube News

Are synthetic motor oils safer for the environment than conventional petroleum motor oils?
Environmental issues are far more complex than any brief overview can present. We can begin, however, by recognizing that the Green Movement is not a fad. Environment has grown in importance as a contemporary business issue and will continue growing for a long time.
Jacquelyn Ottman, in her book Green Marketing, states that used motor oil is the largest single source of pollution in our nation's waterways.
A website for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection notes that Pennsylvania Do-It-Yourselfers dispose of 11 million gallons of used oil a year. The authors of this website state that only 14 percent is re-cycled and the rest, 9.5 million gallons, is dumped, either into sewers, on the ground or into the trash. Extrapolate this out and you are looking at some awesomely large numbers nationally.
This is all the more startling when you consider that one quart of oil can create a two-acre sized oil slick, and a gallon of oil can foul a million gallons of freshwater, a year's supply for fifty people.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't always trust statistics. Unless they make sense to me somehow, I tend to be a skeptic. Even so, it is not likely that the figures are arbitrarily pulled from thin air. Yet even if nationally less than half of all D-I-Yers improperly dispose, that is still a huge volume of used motor oil being slopped around.

GREEN MARKETING

Let's combine these two ideas. Premise one: Quick lubes handle used motor oil more responsibly than D-I-Yers. Premise two: The general public is increasingly concerned about environmental issues.
From where I sit, the logical combination of these two premises is this: Quick lube operators are in a position to market themselves as heroes in the battle to preserve our environment. As re-cyclers of used motor oil, we are part of the solution rather than the problem.
In point of fact, Green Consumers may well be your best customers. They are educated, affluent and influential.... and devoted, once they know you are committed to their values.
A recent Gallup survey discovered that 94 percent of all consumers prefer to do business with companies that demonstrate that they care about the environment. Almost 80 percent said they would pay more for environmentally friendly products. In other words it would appear that going Green, and promoting this commitment, can be a profitable marketing strategy.

YES, BUT...

From an environmental point of view, quick lubes have a PR problem. Quick lubes are part of the oil industry, which has a negative perception in many people's minds. The oil and gas industries are perceived by 70 percent of all consumers as environmentally careless. Only the chemical industry has a worse rating, by one percent.
For this reason, it is imperative that we develop an environmental perspective and make a commitment in the direction of Green. The perception is wrong, but we need to find ways to let our local public know it.
Environmental marketing is a market segment poised for growth, says Dave Newport, publisher of Environment 21, a small business marketing magazine. "In a good economy, consumers are making more values-based buying decisions."

ARE SYNLUBES GREENER?

Well, no and yes. It depends. There are really two ways to reduce pollution. One is called recycling. A second means is source reduction.
When it comes to recycling, synthetics are pretty much the same as petroleum. You can't dump used synthetic motor oil in the ground any more than you can petroleum. About a year ago I read an article that indicated synthetics are less polluting than petroleum by a small degree, but it was marginal. Both classes of used motor oil must be taken to re-cycle centers for re-processing.
Source reduction is where synthetics demonstrate their clearest advantage...if you believe in extended drain intervals. If you do not accept the notion of extended drain intervals, then source reduction is likewise a non-issue.
Companies promoting extended drain intervals are quick to point out that the amount of used motor oil can be reduced significantly. There is also an immense reduction in the amount of discarded packaging material.
There is another environmentally friendly feature offered by synthetics. Due to their lower volatility, synthetics do not boil off or vaporize as much as petroleum motor oils, which can lose up to 20 percent of their mass in the high heat conditions of the internal combustion engine. Synthetics lose from four to ten percent. The benefit is clear in the reduction of make-up oil required because vehicles use less oil, however, the emissions factor may be marginal due to the nature of catalytic converters and other components in the dispersion of these vapors.

MISCELLANEOUS ACTION ITEMS

Due to space considerations I'll close with a number of miscellaneous actions for your consideration.

1. Use your local library to find good books on environmental marketing. Jacquelyn Ottman's Green Marketing is one of many excellent volumes on this topic.

2. Make signage that says, "We Re-Cycle 100% of our Oil and Filters." or a sign that says "Bring Your Used Oil and Filters Here." When D-I-Yers bring their used oil and filters, ask, "Have you greased your fittings lately?" or "Would you like a free 10-point check-up?"

3. Consider carrying an extended drain synthetic motor oil for that niche consumer who is wholly dedicated to environmentally friendly lifestyle choices.

4. Use propylene glycol based antifreeze instead of the ethylene glycol antifreeze. Highly toxic, less than one-half cup of ethylene glycol antifreeze is a lethal dose for the average-sized human. Lesser amounts can cause serious kidney damage and central nervous system depression. What's worse, when spilled on driveways and roadsides its sweet smell and taste attracts wildlife and makes it more likely to be consumed.

5. Perform an Enviro-Audit. Examine every facet of your operation for ways to improve the environmental impact of your business.

SUMMARY

Government regulations and rising consumer awareness continue to drive the push for environmental improvements in the auto industry. Quick lube operators do not need to wait for government intervention in order to perform earth friendly car care.
To quote Dave Newport again, "In most sectors of the economy, there are market opportunities for smart businesses that seek to make a good living in a better world."
While the environmental issue is not a hot button motivator for many Americans, there is a growing percentage of consumers who make Green a pre-eminent factor in their decision making. Some are so Green, in fact, that they won't use cars at all because they pollute. Most own vehicles and show favor to businesses that share their values. These may well become your most loyal customers.

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Hey, Doc---

"At the end of the treadmill tests...the cars were also reported to be much thinner."

LOL! Did they do a stress EKG on them as well? Mmm, on second thought, guess there was no need of that, since they were autopsied....

Henry
 

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Oil viscosity and fuel economy

Julian said:
Finally, there are claims that synthetic oil of a given viscosity rating gives lower frictional losses than mineral oil of the same rating. I do not understand how this can happen, but several Prius owners have observed fuel economy improvements of several percentage points after changing from mineral oil to synthetic.
If the synthetic oil is Mobil 1, be aware that (in the US anyway), Mobil 1 5W-30 (and 10W-30 and 0W-30) are formulated on the thin side of the SAE 30 range. The SAE 30 range is 9.3 to 12.5 cSt at 100 degrees C; Mobil 1 5W-30 is 9.7. Most other common brands of 5W-30 (synthetic or conventional) oil range from 10.4 to 11.0, while some marketed for use in diesel engines and "high mileage" engines range from 11.0 to 12.0. So switching to Mobil 5W-30 may improve fuel economy simply because it is thinner than some other 5W-30 oil that was used before.

You can find these viscosities on the motor oil company web sites.
 

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It is a pretty well agreed upon "fact" that synthetics reduce friction as compared to dino-oil. This will result in increased fuel economy. A good question is: will it increase fuel economy sufficiently to offset the increased cost, i.e. will the net result be more or less cost per operating mile over the life of the car (or for the first 120,000 miles for Evan.)

For the GREENS, is it greener to drive with synthetics? Good questions were posed regarding the environmental impact of manufacturing synthetic lubricants. You could find yourself in the position of getting lower fuel costs while actually paying more overall and poluting more. I don't think sufficinet info has been presented to know.

If you aren't particularly green and don't go beyond lip service to environmental sensitivity and just want the best $ deal for yourself, there still isn't enough info presented here to choose appropriately to support your goal of decreased operating cost.

Regarding the environmental impact of oil packaging: Once upon a time quarts of oil came in cardboard cylinders with metal ends. Highly recycleable and disposable and not made from petrochemicals like the last-for-a-jilliion-years-in-the-landfill plastic containers.

If you buy your oil in gallon containers you will reduce, somewhat, the plastics burden. Oil keeps well. If you buy in larger containers, say 5 gal or 15 gal or larger containers you impact the environment significantly less. Some of us out here in the sticks buy by our commonly used products in up to 50 gal drum sizes. Clearly not fer everyone but everyone could probably handle a 5 gal container and certainly gallon containers.

For convenience I refill some of the plastic quart containers over and over till the cheap made threads wear out. This lets me conveniently add oil to small engines, top off a vehicle or...

If the environment is an actual concern and not just a topic of converstaion, i.e. ecological conservation NOT ecological conversation, then buying oil in larger containers is as if not more likely to help the environment than wether you use dino or synthetic oil.

I think it was Evan who said he would like to see evidence that one or the other were clearly superior in environmental impact and he would do the right thing (something like that) I heartily agree with his sentiment. If one or the other were significantly better, I'd go that way for sure but none of the GREEN groups have offered much guidance.

About the big C and motor oil. The packaging is labeled as there being a demonstrated risk. Some folks walk across the street all the time without looking either way and survive, but that doesn't make it a safe practice.
I have had a lot of hot dirty oil all over my hands and up to my elbos but I have been trying to cut back. Not every old guy who changed brakeshoes, when they were asbestos, dropped dead right away with lung cancer but inhaling asbestos is still a bad idea. A cavalier attitude toward avoidable contact with carcinogens is not bravery. Getting a drop of oil on your hand is not cause for a trip to the emergency decontamination station either.

I'm old enough to recall when mechanics were called mechanics and not technicians and they didn't wear latex or other plastic gloves. It isn't just a cleanliness thing. These days they are taught that way, and for a reason.

:D Pat :D
 

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I don't routinely come in contact with motor oil, but when you remove the drain plug it is kind of unavoidable. Sometimes physical contact with an item reveals info you otherwise might just take for granted in a given situation- ie. the temp of the oil. We have come a long way in reducing contact in all areas with dangerous materials. I worked with asbestos insulation products in the 1970s in the foundry industry. I haven't had any ill effects and don't anticipate any after all these years. Some people are just more susceptable and they need the protection.

I do plan to buy a Fumoto valve to make the oil changes easier and less messy.

Regarding the plastic bottles that the oil comes in. They are all coded '2', which is easily recycled. I am thankful that recycling is available in our mostly rural township. It should be available to EVERYONE.
 

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Right on, Jerry.

In the boating world, lots of oil drain plugs are not available to mere mortals and we used a suction tube down through the dipstick hole to remove the old oil. On cars, I have used a racheting box end wrench (for convenience) to remove oil plugs and just let them drop into the cachment vessel. You then recover the plug later with a pair of pliers or whatever and let it drain then wipe it off. This avoids getting burned by really hot oil or getting it all over you like I used to do when I (for no good reason) screwed the plug out the last few turns with my fingers and did not drop the plug, even when it was way too hot for comfort.

With all this care and "advanced" technique all it takes is for a gust of wind to hit and you have oil on you, the floor, and wherever. I have included a 9 ft wide 8 ft high roll-up garage doon in the design of my new (mostly wood working but multi purpose) shop so that I can bring vehicles inside to work on them in an air conditioned environment. That will at least solve the gust of wind problem. Now if I could just design out my personal foibles like being clumsy!

I have determined the (highly subjective) temp of oil (and drain plug) with my finger all too many times and it wasn't always a nice feeling. I can't imagine what of significance the subjective feeling of the oil would reveal. To be meaningful you'd have to control many factors just prior to draining the oil. If it is in fact a good data point for you, then you could stick a thermometer in a sample and get an accurate non-subjective data point.


:D Pat :D
 
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