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Synthetic Oils


Synthetic lubricants are produced from chemical synthesis rather than from the refinement of existing petroleum or vegetable oil. These oils are generally superior to petroleum (mineral) lubricants in most circumstances.

Synthetic oil performs better than mineral oils in the following respects:

  • Better Oxidation stability or resistance
  • Better viscosity index
  • Much lower pour point, as low as -46C, (-50D)
  • Lower coefficient of friction

The advantages of using synthetic oils are more notable at either very low or very high temperatures. Good oxidation stability coupled with a lower coefficient of friction permit operation at higher temperatures.  The better the viscosity index and lower pour point permit operation at lower temperatures.

The major drawback to using synthetic oil is the initial cost, which are (3) three times higher than mineral based oils. However, the initial premium is usually recovered over the life of the product, which are about (3) three times longer than conventional mineral based oils. A point to be made here is, the higher cost of synthetic oil makes it inadvisable to use if your motor is burning oil or is your engine systems are leaking oil.

Plant Engineering Magazine advises in its Exclusive Guide to Synthetic lubricants, which is revised every three years, provides information on selecting and applying these lubricants. Factors to consider when selecting synthetic oil are:

  • Pour and Flash Points – (Fluid & Fire)
  • Demulsibility – (Mixing)
  • Lubricity – (Slick)
  • Rust & Corrosion Protection (Likes water)
  • Thermal and Oxidation Stability ( Burn Up)
  • Antiwear Properties (Resistance)
  • Seal, Paint, and Other Oils Compatibility (mixes well with others)
  • Compliance With Testing and Standards Requirements

It is important to note that synthetic oils are as different from each other as mineral oils are. There overall performance and applicability to any specific situation depends on the quality of the synthetic base-oil and additive package, and synthetic oils are not necessarily interchangeable.

Cost Effectiveness of Synthetic Oil In RV Engines

This section is strictly for doing a simple cost effectiveness analysis of using synthetic oil in your RV engine. You make the final decision whether or not you think it is worth it.

For our first model, let’s perform the oil change in the Tiffin RV engine ourselves.

Amount of Synthetic Oil Req’d  - 24quarts. So, 24quarts X $5.00 per qt. = $120.00 (5 gal. bucket $105)

(Your engine may vary in oil pan capacity)

24 qts x $5.00 per qt. =


1-3 Filters =


Cost =


Due to the fact we have synthetic oil in our engine, our oil change cycles have been extended from 12K miles to 30K, however the caveat is that some engine manufacturers require an oil analysis be performed at regular intervals (12K miles) before allowing extended oil change cycles. This analysis usually costs approx. $20. So if we extend the change cycles to 30K it will cost additionally $40. So now we are at $190. For every 30,000 miles driven.

So if we keep the Tiffin RV until 100,000 miles it will cost us approximately $627.00 for oil changes.

For our second model let’s take it outside to a Flying J for service:

PM Service =


Plus additional charge for synthetic oil (24 qts x $2.36 per qt. =


Cost =


So, the difference between doing it yourself and having it done amounts to a savings of around $70.00 each time you change the oil. So it would cost approximately $850.00 for every 100,000 miles drive our Tiffin RV. This is a savings of $230.00 over 100,000 miles. Most of us only drive our RV approx. 10K miles or less so the savings between changing it yourself versus. having someone do it for you will be spread out over a 10 yr. period (plus or minus). Remember, one still has to have an oil analysis performed before extending the recommended oil change cycle.

Bottom Line for Synthetic Oil in the Crankcase – If we drive our Tiffin RV Product 100,000 miles, using synthetic oil, it will cost us between $627.00 - $850.00 for oil and filter changes.

Let’s now use the same example data but use regular mineral or motor oil instead of Synthetic Oil for our oil changes.

24 qts. x $2.00 per qt. =


1-3 Filters =


Cost =


Our oil change cycles are now every 11,500 miles or 7 changes in 100,000 miles.

So $80.00 x 7 changes = $560.00 total for oil changes during the 100K miles. Oil analysis is not required as the manufacturer's oil change cycles have not been exceeded.

If we decide to have someone else do our oil changes for us, such as Flying J, then the cost is $139.99 per change.

So $139.99 x 7 changes for 100K will cost approx. = $970.00

Bottom Line for mineral oil in the Crankcase – If we drive our Tiffin RV Product 100,00 miles using regular Rotella or Delo oil, it will cost us between $560.00 and $970.00 Depending on whether or not we do it ourselves or have someone else perform this task.

So far we have developed the following for 100,000 mile of driving it will cost us for oil and filter changes:

Synthetic Oil (DIY) =


Rotella/Delo (DIY) =


Difference =


Synthetic Oil (Flying J) =


Rotella/Delo (Flying J) =


Difference =


You be the judge. Is it worth the additional money for the benefits derived? Keeping in mind, your engine gets twice the changes of fresh clean oil during the 100K miles driven.

Secondly – Do you expect to drive your Tiffin RV Product 100,000 miles before selling or trading it off?

Third - Most diesel engines will run 150-300K miles before any major repairs are necessary.


Submitted by Submitted by Mike Sundberg - 2/11/06

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