Many automakers require owners to use synthetic motor oil in their cars’ 
engines. This is because synthetic oil has some advantages over conventional 
motor oil. It’s designed to be more effective at:

    Resisting break-down, and thus lasts longer than mineral oil
    Withstanding high temperatures
    Flowing in cold temperatures, thus reducing engine wear during frigid 

However, synthetic motor oil can cost two to four times as much as regular oil. 
So unless your owner's manual specifies synthetic, you don’t need it. But 
Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic says there are some situations where synthetic 
oil’s resistance to breakdown can help prolong the life of an engine.

If you make lots of short trips, standard motor oil may never get warm enough 
to burn off moisture and impurities. That could hasten the breakdown of 
conventional oil. Also, if you live in a region with very cold winters or very 
hot summers, or if you use your vehicle for towing or hauling heavy material, 
synthetic oil won’t break down as quickly. While synthetic generally holds up 
better and can serve for more miles, it is important to not extend oil changes 
beyond the time interval recommended by the manufacturer—typically six months 
or a year.

Another good use for synthetic oil is as a salve for older engines prone to 
sludge buildup. This gunky residue can block oil passages and lead to a quick 
death of an engine. In the early 2000s, several engines from Chrysler, Toyota, 
and Volkswagen, among others, were especially prone to sludge buildup. This 
sludge forms when oil breaks down. Synthetic oil would be beneficial in those 
engines, as it is less likely to form troublesome sludge.

Using synthetic in these situations will prolong your oil life and require 
fewer changes. That’s a major benefit to the environment, as used motor oil is 
a major source of toxic waste in water. Your pocketbook will also thank you.

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