In the know: What’s the difference between mineral, semi-synthetic, and synthetic engine oils?

Oil refill

Picture this: it’s time for your car’s scheduled maintenance service and you need to change the engine oil. The thing is, you’re faced with the decision of picking which kind of motor oil to use on your vehicle. Will you go for mineral, semi-synthetic, or synthetic?


  • How many varieties of engine oil are sold in the market?

    There are currently three general varieties of engine oil on the market: mineral, semi-synthetic, and synthetic.
  • Which of these oils are more expensive?

    Due to its nature, synthetic oils are the most expensive while mineral oils are among the cheapest.
  • While experienced drivers can easily pick out an engine oil as if they’re just buying groceries, first-time car owners might find this bit to be tricky. That said, we’re breaking down the differences between these lubes so you can decide which one is the best for your ride.

    Car oil

    Mineral engine oil

    Mineral engine oils are the most common engine lubricants on the market. Not only are they compatible with most vehicles but they’re also the most affordable. That’s because they’re basically treated petroleum oils. Natural contaminants and hydrocarbons are removed from the crude petroleum oil allowing its final product to perform over a broad temperature spectrum.

    These types of oils are ideal for general commuting conditions as they tend to be thicker than semi-synthetic and full-synthetic fluids.

    If you plan to use mineral engine oil, keep in mind that because of its viscosity and crude nature, you will have to change the oil every 3,000km.

    Semi-synthetic engine oil

    Semi-synthetics are made by blending mineral oil with synthetic elements that improve its efficacy. Typically, the synthetic components that are added work to achieve a blend that maintains the ideal consistency that would allow the engine to perform at both low and high temperatures.

    Those who use semi-synthetic oils might have to pay more but will gain the benefit of having longer change oil intervals as these lubes last up to around 5,000km.

    Synthetic engine oil

    Fully synthetic engine oils have been engineered down to the last molecule. They are the purest engine lube on the market, and so they are the most expensive.

    Synthetic engine oils are free from impurities and their molecules are more uniform in structure. That said, they can perform even under the most demanding conditions and are used in the field of motorsports or those constantly put their engines in high-stress situations.

    These types of engine oils even have enhanced detergent properties that help combat corrosion and carbon deposits which keep your engine clean.

    Bottom line

    Choosing the right engine oil depends on various factors like the age of your vehicle, how you use it, and of course, your budget. Out of the three, the most popular choice for car owners, especially here in the Philippines, is semi-synthetic. It gives car owners the right balance in terms of price and performance.

    Photos from ZigWheels

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