What’s the Difference Between High Mileage Oil vs Standard Oil?

Standard oil, or conventional oil, was, as the name suggests, the standard motor oil for decades until the introduction of synthetic oil blends. Today, standard oil is typically recommended only for older, high-mileage cars. High-mileage oil, an alternative to standard oil, refers to blends of synthetic and conventional oil with additives to protect worn seals and reduce leaks. So which should you use if you have a high-mileage car? Here, we’ll discuss the merits of conventional vs. high-mileage oil and when to use high-mileage oil.

What is Standard Oil? 

Conventional oil is refined from crude oil. Standard oil has been available since 1866, when John Eliis founded the Continuous Oil Refining Company. Ellis initially hoped to prove crude oil had healing properties, but this quickly proved to be a dead end. Eliis did, however, realize crude oil could lubricate machinery.

Due to its natural origins, standard oil molecules differ in size and shape. This variation, coupled with naturally occurring impurities, gives the oil a high viscosity, causing it to thicken in cold temperatures and encouraging the gradual accumulation of contaminants. As contaminants and debris build up in conventional oil, they limit the oil’s ability to lubricate engine parts and can damage engine components. 

Synthetic motor oil has largely replaced standard oil in most vehicle engines. Synthetic oil has a more consistent molecular size and significantly fewer contaminants. As a result, synthetic oil resists sludge formation and is recommended by most vehicle manufacturers for oil changes

Benefits of Using Standard Oil

Despite the shift to synthetic oil, conventional oil still has benefits. Standard oil costs slightly less than synthetic oils and  synthetic/conventional oil blends, although the need for more frequent standard oil changes reduces overall savings. More importantly, pre-2000 vehicle engines were designed to work with conventional oil’s lubrication levels.

Standard oil also offers some protection for high-mileage vehicles. Because conventional oil is thicker than synthetic oil, it flows slower, allowing for more contact time with older engine components.  

How Long Does Conventional Oil Last? 

Different sources have widely differing estimates for how long conventional oil lasts. You can find online sources insisting on anywhere from 3,000 to 7,500 miles. Follow the oil change recommendations in your vehicle owner’s manual for the best results. 

Your driving habits impact how long standard oil lasts. Drivers who typically take trips shorter than ten miles at a time will need more frequent oil changes, as at these distances, the oil cannot get hot enough to remove condensation. Starting your car in cold conditions also shortens conventional oil’s service life, and older cars may need more frequent oil changes due to their age. 

On the other hand, driving more than 20 miles a day on freeways allows standard oil to heat up and perform better, reducing the need for oil changes outside of your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended schedule.

What is High Mileage Oil? 

High-mileage oil describes a synthetic/standard oil blend designed for vehicles with over 75,000 miles on their odometers. It contains additives to reduce sludge,  slow viscosity breakdown, and varnish deposits. Such oils also include seal conditioners to reduce oil leaks. Seal conditioners cause gaskets, seals, and o-rings to swell, reducing leakage and even stopping minor oil leaks. 

What is Considered High Mileage? 

Consult your owner’s manual to discover what your vehicle manufacturer considers high mileage. As noted above, 75,000 miles is typically regarded as high mileage, but this number varies depending on your vehicle and driving habits. Factors include:

  • Highway driving typically involves longer distances than city driving but puts less strain on your engine. Vehicles driving primarily in city environments may require high-mileage oil before reaching the 75,000-mile mark. 
  • Regular maintenance and oil changes help extend your vehicle’s working life. 
  • The type of fuel and oil used by your vehicle impacts how well engine components resist wear and tear. 

Are There Downsides to Using High Mileage Oil? 

High-mileage oil helps keep older car engines properly lubricated and prolongs engine life, but it’s not for every vehicle. Vehicles with low mileage will not see any appreciable benefit if they switch from the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended oil to a high-mileage oil. 

It should also be noted that not every high-mileage car needs high-mileage oil. Older vehicles that are well-maintained and operating well can continue using the oil recommended by their manufacturer. Problems such as loss of power, strange engine noises, and blow-by indicate mechanical problems that need to be addressed with physical repairs and will not be resolved with a switch to high-mileage oils.

A high-mileage oil is most beneficial if your old vehicle burns oil excessively or experiences frequent minor oil leaks. It can be a cost-efficient solution to more costly engine work. 

Used correctly, high-mileage oil slows engine wear and tear, allowing you to extend your vehicle’s life. Drop by your local Grease Monkey service center for your next oil change and ask our technicians if high-mileage oil is right for your vehicle. Don’t forget to make your next oil change more affordable with our online oil change coupons!

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