The key difference between mineral and synthetic oil is that mineral oil has natural components whereas synthetic oil contains synthetic molecules.
The similarity between mineral oil and synthetic oil is that we can use both as automotive engine oil. However, their composition, properties, prices and some other parameters are different. Automotive lubrication is a very important aspect to keep the engine healthy. Therefore, when choosing the right oil for your vehicle, there are a few things you need to consider. If you can understand what their differences are, then it is easy to choose between two according to your need.
What is Mineral Oil?
Mineral oil is a byproduct from petroleum distillation. It is a colourless, transparent, odourless liquid having a mixture of simple alkanes. These alkanes are in the range of C-15 to C 40. We can produce mineral oil in large scale, hence available anywhere for a very low cost.
The number of uses from mineral oil is numerous, so it is good to have a bottle of mineral oil in the household. Their usage is expanding to many areas like an automotive lubricant, cosmetics, hygienic products, cleaning and maintaining, food, medicine, etc. Although there are many usages of mineral oils, some doubts are there we need to consider with the safety of using it.
Some petroleum derivatives may contain carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic compounds, so there is a doubt, whether mineral oil is also containing these. But mineral oil that we use for cosmetics or in medicine has high purity, so no need to worry about carcinogenic compounds. Moreover, people have different opinions on mineral oil related to skin ageing and cause acne; therefore they encourage quitting using cosmetics with mineral oil. Moreover, people use mineral oil largely as a lubricant in vehicles, and there are advantages and disadvantages of using it.
What is Synthetic Oil?
Synthetic oil contains chemical compounds that are artificially made. We can use it as a lubricant. Therefore, by adding synthetic molecules, which are not present in natural crude oils, it increases the lubricant nature of synthetic oil.
Scientists designed these synthetic molecules with uniform size and chemistry to reduce the friction, thus to give the optimum lubricant effect. Further, they have superior chemical and physical properties. AMSOIL Inc. first came up with synthetic oil, and they used this as a lubricant to meet API service requirements. Synthetic oil became more popular due to its ability to function on extreme temperatures (hot or cold) and to withstand long and vigorous engine operation without any problem, thus have high stability.
Other than these, there are many advantages in synthetic oil. For instance, resistance to oxidation and thermal breakdown, decreased evaporative loss, longer engine life, extended drain intervals, thus environmentally friendly and low oil waste, etc. However, there are few disadvantages of it like, high price, decomposing in some chemical environments, cannot use in automotive rotary engines, etc.
What is the Difference Between Mineral and Synthetic Oil?
Mineral oil is a distillation product of petroleum, especially one used as a lubricant, moisturizer, or laxative while synthetic oil is a lubricant consisting of chemical compounds that are artificially made. Therefore, the key difference between mineral and synthetic oil is that mineral oil has natural components whereas synthetic oil contains synthetic molecules. Moreover, the source of mineral oil is crude oil while synthetic oil is a man-made product. Furthermore, an important difference between mineral and synthetic oil is that the mineral oil has comparatively inferior lubrication ability whereas synthetic oil superior lubrication compared to mineral oil.
Below is an infographic on difference between mineral and synthetic oil that presents the differences as a side by side comparison.
Summary – Mineral vs Synthetic Oil
Both mineral oil and synthetic oil are useful as lubricant oils, but there are some differences between them. The key difference between mineral and synthetic oil is that mineral oil has natural components whereas synthetic oil contains synthetic molecules.
1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Mineral Oil.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 23 Nov. 2018. Available here
2. “Synthetic Oil.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Nov. 2018. Available here