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Is synthetic engine oil worth the extra cost?

Most Prairie retailers say they see a surge in demand for synthetic engine oils in the fall, at a time when producers are preparing tractors and equipment for cold weather operation through the winter.

“That is a very smart thing to do in a cold environment,” says Harry Hazen, North American marketing manager for Chevron. “There is definitely an improved flow with a synthetic. Synthetic oil has an inherently wider temperature range. It flows better in cold temperatures and maintains its viscosity at higher temperatures as well.”

Those improved flow characteristics offer better engine protection that can’t be matched by conventional, mineral-based oils. But it comes at a higher price. Despite that, is it the best choice for summer use, too?

It does offer some fuel economy gains all year round, and it can cope with extended oil change intervals. But in ag applications pushing oil change limits may not be advisable no matter what is in an engine crankcase.

“In an extreme cold environment synthetics make sense,” Hazen says. “And if you’re looking to do something with really extending drains pretty far out there, which I wouldn’t recommend for the ag environment, then that would be the two key advantages of a synthetic.”

“A synthetic oil is superior to a conventional oil,” he continues. “And what a farmer has to weigh is the benefits of that versus the costs. A synthetic will generally cost three or four times more than a premium (conventional) product. And premium products are really very good.”

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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