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How Very Cold Temperature Affects Petroleum-Based and Synthetic Motor Oils?


Very low temperature during winter can significantly affect the inner working of your car. As fluid, motor oil will be affected by very low temperature as well. In general, synthetic oil will be less likely to thicken up during very cold weather and it is likely to stay fluid. When motor oil becomes thicker, this situation may wreak havoc on the performance and inner working of the engine. Petroleum-based oil contains different chemical composition, compared to the synthetic one. As an example, petroleum motor oil contains paraffin, which is a type of wax. When the temperature is very low, the paraffin component will enter the solid phase. This will make the petroleum oil thicker, because paraffin is evenly distributed.

Additives will need to be added to the petroleum-based oil and this will prevent paraffin from solidifying. However, in areas where the temperature gets very low, these additives will become used up quite easily. This will make it harder to start the engine during cold weather; also the engine will wear out faster. In general, you need to replace petroleum motor oil more frequently during low temperature. On the other hand, synthetic oils don’t have paraffin. So, there’s no need to use additive to prevent the solidification of paraffin. Even without the use of additive, synthetic oil flow more smoothly during very low temperature. Petroleum motor oils have point points at around -35 degrees Fahrenheit. Even without the use of additive, the pour point of synthetic motor oil is at around -50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another problem with very low temperature is the rate of condensation. Because the initial engine temperature is very low during winter, it will take longer to get the engine warm enough. So, the engine is not capable of eliminating condensation quick enough. This is a problem if you drive short distance often. If the engine only becomes warm and not hot enough, condensation will build up inside the engine. The combination of water, motor oil and warm/hot temperature will result in the production of acid. This will accelerate the corrosion of the engine from the inside. Modern motor oils usually have additives that prevent the creation of acids, but again these additives will slowly deplete. However, the rate of acid production is lower with synthetic oils, due to the chemical composition.

So, if you are using petroleum motor oils, it may be necessary to change it faster than usual during very cold weather. It’s better to use synthetic oil that’s designed for very cold weather. It usually has a stronger additive that prevents the formation of acid. Whatever happens, you should prevent the motor oil from degrading significantly. If the motor oil has lost some of its lubricating and protective properties due to the very cold weather, the engine could be degraded faster. So, if you are living in very hot or very cold climate, it is a good idea to replace the motor oil faster than usual. The obvious benefits of synthetic oil have contributed to its popularity and the decline of petroleum-based motor oil products.


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