Synthetic vs Mineral Oil Lubricants: All you Need to Know

Synthetic vs Mineral Oil Lubricants: All you Need to Know

Have you gotten into an argument over which grease or oil is the best? Don’t be ashamed, it is quite common.

Until recently there was a club, that no one talked about, where there were underground fights by people disagreeing about which oil or grease is the best. Ok—oil discussions don’t get that heated, but it is an important topic, and it is a topic littered with misinformation.

So today we are going to answer the whole synthetic motor oil vs mineral oil question, so you don’t have to break the first rule of buying an oil or grease. (If you don’t know the first rule is: Buy the right oil or grease, buy what you need)

It’s all About Marketing!

The oil industry is no different from the clothing industry. Thousands of companies compete for your business by differentiating their products from the competition, hoping to highlight the right benefits to convince you their product is right.

So, you need to stop, look past the marketing, and buy what you need. Let’s find out what you need!

What is Synthetic Based Oil and Grease and When Do You Need It?

Synthetic oils and greases are not necessarily a “new” technology, but they are new to a lot of people so first let us explain what a synthetic oil means.

Synthetic vs Mineral Engine Oil Lubricants

Synthetic oils and greases are highly refined mineral or crude oils that go through an additional chemical refinement to alter their structure.

Let’s break that down. If you looked at refined crude oil under the world’s most powerful microscope you would see the molecular structure (the molecules that make up the oil) and the molecules (think of them as round balls) would be all different sizes. It would be like looking at a collection of basketballs, soccer balls, softballs, golf balls and baseballs—all different sizes.

If you looked at a highly refined, chemically altered synthetic oil under a microscope all the molecules would be the same size—only golf balls.

What Does Molecular Size Have to Do With Synthetic Oil Being Good or Bad?

The molecular size in oil does have a direct connection to a lot of different lubricating properties. Small, consistent molecule size creates an advantage in the following areas.

  1. Better low temperatures and high temperature protection. Having the same molecular size means less extreme changes in low and high temperatures.

  2. Thinner fluid films. The fluid film is the protective layer left on a metal surface by oil or grease. The thinner the film the less drag created, therefore, synthetic products can slightly help reduce power consumption

  3. Excellent high-speed fluid films. Because the molecules in synthetic oils are small and consistent, they perform well at high speeds by dissipating heat and reducing drag.

  4. A small, consistent molecular structure gives the oil a low friction coefficient, meaning friction is reduced along with power requirements. Low friction coefficient=easily glides past one another. An example of something with a high friction coefficient would be rubber, which is why it is used on shoe soles and allows you to walk without slipping.

After reading the benefits you may think that everyone should be using natural oil over synthetic oils and greases, but here are some of the disadvantages:

  1. Because of small molecular size and extremely thin fluid films synthetic oils are more likely to cause leaks.

  2. Synthetic oils are not completely compatible with most hydrocarbon-based additives. WAIT — what does this mean? In any grease or oil, additives are added to enhance pressure, temperature, stability, friction reduction, and wear protection. Additives are petroleum based and therefore they mix perfectly with mineral engine oils, however, they don’t mix and bond well with the modified structure of synthetic products. Therefore, many mineral oils can outperform synthetics when the right additives are used.

  3. It is expensive to produce synthetic engine oils and the cost doesn’t always justify the performance. Many synthetics are outperformed by high-quality mineral oils and greases that have robust additive packages.

  4. Whether a product is semi synthetic oil or mineral oil does not indicate water resistance or corrosion resistance. Water resistance is determined by the thickener and additives in the oil or grease and is not affected by the synthetic or mineral properties of a product.

Facts vs Perception

So far how do fully synthetic oil compare to mineral oil products? Are your preconceptions aligning with the facts? Most people believe that mineral oils are inferior to synthetics, but that is not the case. In fact, in most heavy-duty applications like construction or mining equipment mineral oil is preferred.

Why do passenger car manufacturers recommend synthetic engine oil? The main reason OEM auto manufacturers recommend synthetics is fuel economy. Synthetic engine oil is thinner than mineral oil and gives a vehicle slightly better fuel economy, which is important to consumers and the marketing of a vehicle.

Can You Boost the Performance of Mineral Oil vs Synthetic Oil With Additives?

Yes, you can boost the performance of oils with aftermarket additives, but you must make sure they are compatible with the oil you are using. One of the few additives that are compatible with both synthetic and mineral oils is AirTec Micro Ceramic Oil Additive.

Less frequent oil changes in engine parts

AirTec’s Micro Ceramic Oil additive is designed to further reduce wear, friction, and running noise, but the best part is that it is completely compatible with all engine oils! Plus, it can help improve fuel economy and reduce oil consumption!

Which Should I Choose: Synthetic Oils and Grease or Mineral Oils and Grease?

Here is a streamlined process to help you select the right product between mineral oil vs synthetic oil:

  1. Check the owner’s manual or OEM recommendation

  2. Synthetic products for ultra-fast-moving parts

  3. Mineral oil-based products for high-pressure situations.

  4. Check test data for water resistance, not whether a product is synthetic or mineral oil based.

  5. Check out high-performance additives like AirTec Micro Ceramic Oil to enhance the performance of any oil you may be using.

If you follow those helpful guidelines, you should be well on your way to selecting the right product for your application. And as always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at or 833-366-6377.


Wesley Kolbe

At the helm of AET Systems, Wesley Kolbe merges tradition with innovation to provide top-quality lubricants and unmatched service, ensuring every client's machinery runs at its best.