Do I really need to change my oil? How often do I need to change my oil? With the modern cars we have today, there is so much information out there even the Professional Mechanics don’t all agree! We have lights that say Change Now!! Information centers that give percentages or miles till due… So how do you really know? Well we reached out to Ryan Schlichting of BG Prouducts to see if we could get some answers ourselves. The guys at B&B Automotive took samples of oils when they came in for changes. All mileages and types of oil were documented and Ryan stepped in with his friction tester.
The friction tester is a electric motor driven bearing with an oil sump. You load the bearing and measure how much force it takes to stop the bearing. The force is measured in ftlbs of torque.
First sample was a conventional oil with 3000 miles on the change. Machine fired up and it locked down at 15ftlbs.
Next sample was again a conventional oil with 5000 miles on the change. To my surprise it was not that much different. Locked up at 12ftlbs.
Sample 3 moved us into the synthetics. Synthetics are becoming very popular these days, so I was interested in seeing if there really was a big difference. This sample had 4000 miles on it and locked up at 20ftlbs. Better than both conventional oils.
Nest was a synthetic oil with 6000 miles on it. It stopped at 16-17ftlbs, still better than the conventional.
This next test left this Automotive Technician scratching his head!! Synthetic oil with 12000 miles on it!! (something B&B and this guy personally would never recommend!) Surprisingly locked up at 35ftlbs on the first test and made 40 the next!! How could this be???
Neil Armstrong once said “In much of society research means to investigate something you don’t understand.” Sooo this guy decided to dig a little deeper. After some phone calls to the owners of the cars and some questioning it turns out driving habits of the cars were very different. The synthetic change with 4000 miles never leaves the city limits, while the Volvo with 12000 miles is never in town during the week! Part of the reason it was “past due” according to the owner. Hmm…So driving habits make a difference…
All research needs a base line, so back to the friction machine with new oils. We sampled Napa Synthetic, Mobil Synthetic and Mobil conventional oils all of the same weight. The conventional oil locked up at 65ftlbs. Quite a contrast to the used oils. We also noticed a significant difference in the sound during testing. It was much quieter.
The Napa synthetic locked up at 75ftlbs. Not much different, but interesting though, the noise was much quieter than the conventional new oil.
Last test was the Mobil Synthetic and it was impressive. Not only was there very little noise, but it would not lock up!! Wore my arm out trying!!
So what did we learn? There are differences in oils and synthetics do out perform the conventional oils. All the oils broke down with use. The new conventional oil did very well when new,so if your car does not call for synthetic and you want to use conventional I would make sure it is changed regularly. I think the big thing we learned is driving habits are more important than miles.
In conclusion, If you do a fair bit of highway driving you can probably stretch your miles a bit more than if you stay in town. I think the most important thing is to talk to your Mechanic about your driving habits and set up a good maintenance schedule that will get you the most value out of your car or truck.