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Layman's Guide to Synthetic Oil

Choose what you would like to know more about from the list below

The 3000 mile Oil Change Conspiracy

Motor Oil Additives...Who needs them?

Synthetics: The Auto Industry's Best-Kept Secret ..... Revealed!

Do You Change Your Oil When the Dipstick is...?

The Components of Lubricants

How Important is Your Oil Filter?

The History of Synthetic Lubricants

Do I need to use AfterMarket Additives?

Ten Myths of Synthetic Lubricants

FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

The History of Synthetic Lubricants

During the mid 1960's and early 1970's here were two main companies that led the development, testing and release of synthetic motor oils for automobile engines to be sold via the retail market. These two companies are AMSOIL INC. and Mobil Oil Corp. AMSOIL INC. developed the first synthetic motor oil to meet API service requirements for automobile engines and also has been authorized to register and use "The First in Synthetics" as an official trademark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. The first can of AMSOIL 10W-40 appeared on the market in 1972. Mobil synthetic appeared on the market in 1975. The technology for Mobil's product was based on a variation of their "XRN 1669" synthetic motor oil, which they had been testing for several years prior to its release. Although, both products were far superior to petroleum oil, widespread use and acceptance of these new breed of lubricants was relatively slow in the beginning.

As a side note to the previous description, you may have at one time or another heard Mobil advertised as being the first company to develop and release a synthetic motor oil for automobile engines. The historical facts are that AMSOIL INC. was the first to develop and market an API rated synthetic motor oil for automobile engines, but Mobil was the first to nationally market their new synthetic motor oil. AMSOIL was nationally marketed right after Mobil began nationally marketing their new oil.

Other major oil companies were extremely slow to follow and rather than develop synthetic lubricants of their own for use in automobile engines via the retail market, they generally tried to discredit the benefits of synthetic motor oils to consumers for about the next 15-20 years. When the public could no longer be convinced that petroleum oil was a better choice and the demand for synthetic motor oils was rising quickly, other oil companies developed their own "revolutionary" formulation of synthetic motor oil for automobile engines and started advertising the exact same benefits that they were previously not promoting. Note that many of these companies did have laboratory and field experience with synthetic formulations and many also had synthetics available that were used in specialized industrial, diesel, jet and military applications, but nothing you could go buy at your local auto parts store.

Regardless, the lead that AMSOIL, as well as Mobil, had on the competition was a large one and the other oil companies played "catch-up" but to date, have still not released a synthetic lubricant for retail sale in automobile engines that matches the performance of AMSOIL. Note that although I have my personal preferences, I am not recommending one product over the other in this book. I am simply stating facts and data as referenced by historical documentation and laboratory tests. There are major performance differences between AMSOIL's and Mobil's synthetic oil, which are detailed in AMSOIL vs. Mobil1 section of this website.

Also, note that the reason I am focusing on these two companies is because they were the innovators of synthetic motor oil for widespread automobile engine use via the retail market. The other major oil companies were about 15-20 years behind in bringing synthetic motor oils to the retail market. By the mid 1990's mostly all of the major oil companies offered synthetic motor oil in addition to their petroleum oil products. They did so finally when (in my opinion) they realized that their profits were going to be negatively affected if they didn't release a synthetic of their own. The synthetics that they released and which are on the market today, when tested according to ASTM test procedures and specifications, do not even come close to matching the performance of AMSOIL.

Mobil also does fairly well in certain test parameters, but you have to look at the comparison data and the differences become apparent. Other companies marketing synthetics do, however, have very convincing and catchy ad campaigns and slogans. Don't be fooled; ask to see the ASTM test results and data for specific parameters which are covered in the Lubricant Testing section of this website. There are only a few companies that publish these results, but still I recommend you contact their technical department or customer service department and request to see the data. If they can't supply the technical data, as tested by ASTM certified independent laboratories, then I would be highly suspect of their claims. Additionally, if you desire you can take samples of any oil and submit it to a certified ASTM test lab for analysis. It will be somewhat costly to run all the tests, but it certainly can be done.

The results of Mobil's testing are documented in SAE Paper 750376 by Mobil Research and Development Corp, from 1975. The paper is entitled "An Engine Oil Formulated for Optimized Engine Performance". This paper was presented at the February 1975 SAE Automotive Engineering Congress and Exposition, Detroit, Michigan. The conclusions from this paper are as follows (note that this 1975 data is still perfectly valid today):

Lubricant reformulation can help modern engine performance in a number of important areas. A light viscosity engine oil has been formulated utilizing a combination of specific synthesized base stock materials. This lubricant, XRN 1669, has been shown to provide performance superior to premium quality SAE 10W-40 mineral oils in the following areas:

a. Engine Cleanliness

b. Fuel Economy

c. Oil Economy

d. Cold Starting Capability

e. Intake System Cleanliness

f. Shear Stability

g. Thermal/Oxidative Stability

Excellent wear protection, at least equivalent to that of premium quality SAE 10W-40 mineral oils, was provided by XRN 1669, while an ashless, non-phosphorus engine oil, meeting API SE wear requirements gave high wear in a laboratory test, as well as in a field evaluation.

Engine oils formulated with this mixed base stock system are completely compatible with mineral oils and have no deterious effects on elastomeric seals commonly used in automotive engines.

Exhaust emission levels and octane number requirement increase were found to be independent of engine oil sulfated ash content and base stock material for the lubricants tested and driving conditions employed.

It is important to recognize that AMSOIL INC. developed the first synthetic motor oil in the world to meet API service requirements. Lieutenant Colonel Albert J. Amatuzio, President and CEO of AMSOIL INC., had ample opportunity to witness synthetic lubricants in action as a jet fighter squadron commander. Synthetic oils were, and still are, used exclusively in jet engines because of their extraordinary performance characteristics to reduce friction and wear on engine components, their ability to function dependably at severe hot and cold temperature extremes and their ability to withstand rigorous and lengthy engine operation without chemical breakdown.

Al Amatuzio recognized that these same benefits would prove invaluable in automobile engines and he went on to formulate the first synthetic motor oil in the world to meet API service requirements. The release of his new and revolutionary synthetic motor oil in 1972 outperformed every other oil on the market and signaled the birth of an entire industry. Al Amatuzio was officially recognized for his outstanding developments by Lubricants World Magazine in a Feb. 1994 when he was inducted into The Lubricants World Hall of Fame. Amatuzio is credited with pioneering synthetic motor oil for use in automobile engines.

The exact same benefits that are listed above are just as important today as they were in the early days of synthetics and are still a major benefit of synthetic lubricants. Petroleum oil cannot even come close to comparing to the benefits provided by a premium quality synthetic lubricant.

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John Reed
Independent AMSOIL Dealer
343 Main Street
Cadiz, KY 42211



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