Thursday, June 29, 2006

Synthetic Vs. Conventional Motor Oil

Your Engine, Your Baby: Synthetic or Conventional Oil
By Michael Walker

One central argument between car enthusiasts and on Internet car forums alike is what oil is better for your car, synthetic or conventional. Before synthetic oils became available for regular automobiles, the argument centered solely on brand types and weight. But now, with the advent of these synthetics all over the market, what is truly the best choice for your engine? Let’s explore both of these worlds to find out.

Conventional oil is rated according to a SAE system. This scale is used so that you know what type of oil is best for your car given the environmental conditions (temperature, city driving, etc.) of where you live. The first number, for example on 10W30 motor oil, is 10 followed by a “W”. This “W” indicates that the number before it is the viscosity rating of the oil. The lower this number, the better the oil is for colder climates. The higher the number, the better it is for hotter driving conditions.

Synthetic oils, on the other hand (before their commercial release) were used in many military vehicles and fighter jets. Airlines also use synthetics in their engines. The synthetic oil has been designed not to break down as quickly and can tolerate extremities in temperature and weather (hot to cold).

One of the major differences between conventional and synthetic oils is that synthetics are treated with more additives that protect your engine for a longer amount of time before you have to change it. And, while we don’t want to get into all the molecular chemistry involved in the making of these oils, we should mention that they also last longer in hotter conditions and won’t “gel” in colder ones, like conventional oil. In other words, synthetics have more additives, which greatly protect the car from viscosity breakdown. They are designed to withstand temperature extremes. It may be safe to say that extreme driving conditions call for the use of synthetics.

On the financial side of the matter, synthetics cost a whole lot more; up to three or four times as much as regular conventional oil. But, the wonderful thing is that you don’t have to change your oil every 3,000 miles; recommended with conventional oil use. In fact, you may not have to change it until well after 25,000 and up to 50,000 miles as long as the oil filter is changed every 10,000 miles. So, the cost at first might scare consumers away, but the long-term benefits of synthetic oil use are substantial.

However, you will still have to be responsible for your car’s maintenance check-up every 3,000 miles or so. With regular oil-changes, you are automatically checking over the car for other problems (or if you don’t an inspection mechanic does). It might help you find a problem that could be dealt with, that could’ve gone unchecked. Also, you’ll want to check the synthetic oil every now and then to be sure that it isn’t contaminated and/or that there isn’t any moisture build-up.

With normal everyday driving, perhaps conventional oils work best for you. You aren’t driving in extreme conditions and you swear allegiance to regular oil. That may be fine. Synthetic oil cannot really offer you anything that conventional oil cannot under normal operating conditions. However, the definition of extreme driving states that if you do a lot of short driving (two to twenty miles) daily, it’s hard on your car. And, specialists agree that this constitutes extreme driving due to the faster breakdown of the structure of conventional oil.

Another major reason that many are choosing the synthetic route is that it contains fewer impurities; impurities that can cause your engine harm, perhaps to the point of premature engine wear. With conventional oil, there’s no way to totally rid, filter or clean the impurities from the natural elements. That’s another reason why synthetic oils do not have to be changed as much even in extreme driving conditions.

You’ll want to be careful; however, if you do decide that you want to give synthetic oils a try. If you’ve been driving your 1983 Ford Thunderbird for years using 10W30, you may not want to switch using your conventional oil brand.

Conventional oils have solvents that stick to gaskets and seals and often cause them to swell a certain way. These gaskets and seals have been used to the same oil for years and the switch to any other type of oil (whether it is to a different conventional oil brand, or an upgrade to a synthetic) may be harmful. The oil you change (or upgrade to) will also have solvents and additives, different from the original. So in other terms, the changing of oils could result in oil leaks and/or a once small oil leak becoming bigger due to the reaction the seals and gaskets will have to the change (not because of the oil itself). If you think that this might be the case for you (i.e. if you have an older car using conventional oil), it’s recommended that you not try synthetic oil until you have an engine (or new car) with relatively virgin gaskets and seals that will be able to acclimate much more easily to the chemical changes of the newer type of oil.

It’s easy to see that that fanfare for one or the other is an argument that has really been explored. It’s best for you to decide what will fit your personal needs. If you have an older car, you may want to wait until you upgrade. However, if you have a newer car, the benefits of synthetic oils are easily seen. Again, it’s solely dependent upon you and the conditions where you drive. Synthetics are shown to provide their best protection above 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people do not drive their cars this hot. However, many do drive in cities, where driving times are considered to be more of a “stop-and-go” nature, which may be considered “extreme” in many circumstances. When the time comes for you to make a decision, at least you’ll be informed of the differences of each. And, until that time, no matter what, keep up that automotive pride!

About the Author
Michael Walker is a freelance author providing tips and hints on engine related topics such as JDM motors, used import engines and engine swaps. His articles are a valuable source of information for the auto enthusiast.

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Learn more about Amsoil synthetic motor oil.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hybrid Cars

In his book "The Electric Car: Development and Future of Battery, Hybrid and Fuel-Cell Cars", author Michael H. Westbrook starts with the electric car and follows its history and development up to the hybrid vehicles of today. While it is slanted a bit towards the technical side and lacks insofar as future expectations of electric and hybrid vehicles are concerned, it is a solid base for understanding electric and hybrid vehicles.

Monday, June 19, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History

A brief review of: "Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History" AUTHORS: Curtis D. Anderson, Judy Anderson
Review written by Donovan Baldwin

In their book, "Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History", authors Curtis Anderson and Judy Anderson have collaborated to provide an illustrated history of electric cars, and their cousin, the hybrid car. Curtis D. Anderson is a research analyst, while Judy Anderson is a Reference Librarian at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon.

The quest for an efficient, non-polluting vehicle has an interesting history.

However, the history of the electric car is longer and more involved than you might think. In "Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History", the reader will learn more than just history.

The authors cover not only the companies that built them, but the environmental, political, marketing, and public reception of these types of vehicles.

Recommended read: "Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History"

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hybrid Cars: Fuel Economy

Copyright © Donovan Baldwin

The term that really applies is HEV, which stands for hybrid electric vehicle. These are the most fuel efficient vehicles available for most of us.

While actual configuration may vary due to the design intentions of the manufacturer, they generally combine a small (by regular vehicle standards) gasoline engine with an electric motor.

While the gasoline engine does most of the locomotion at highway speeds, when less fuel is required, it also is available to provide the extra power that the electric motor cannot provide or sustain for long.

The electric battery/motor combination can start the car moving in some instances, maintain systems without the gasoline motor having to idle at stops such as lights and in drive thrus, and can assist the gasoline motor as it propels the hybrid vehicle down the road. Not only is fuel being saved while the electric motor is maintaining vehicle systems in what would normally be idling situations, but this means that less pollution is being emitted into the air, usually within the confines of our most polluted areas...our cities.

During the rolling of the vehicle, particularly in coasting situations, the battery which provides the electric motor with power is recharged. When braking at slower speeds (in-town, stop-and-go), regenerative braking is generally used to stop the car rather than the brakes themselves. In regenerative braking, the electric motor actually changes is polarity, becoming a electric generator which recharges the battery. This change from motor to generator creates a reverse torque which is used to slow and stop the vehicle. At highway speeds, normal braking occurs.

At times, the charge within the battery may dip below the needed level, and at these times, the small gasoline engine automatically comes on to recharge the battery.

Even with hybrids, however, there are different vehicle types to meet the needs of the consumer. There are hybrid SUVs, Trucks, and small and mid-size sedans such as the Toyota Prius, which is one of the most fuel efficient hybrid vehicles available, getting on average about 50 MPG. Larger hybrid vehicles, such as SUVs and Trucks, tend to provide fuel economy in a relative sense. The fuel economy of these larger hybrid vehicles tends to roughly equal a gasoline powered sedan.


Donovan Baldwin is a Dallas area writer. A graduate of the University Of West Florida (1973) with a BA in accounting, he is a member of Mensa and has held several managerial positions. After retiring from the U. S. Army in 1995, he became interested in internet marketing and developed various online businesses. He has been writing poetry, articles, and essays for over 40 years, and now frequently publishes articles on his own websites and for use by other webmasters. He has blogs on the subjects of weight loss and health, hybrid cars and alternative fuels, and internet marketing and related business topics.


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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My New Toyota Prius Update

My wife and I bought a new Toyota Prius just a few days more than a month ago. You can read the story of how we got it by clicking on any Toyota Prius link in this message. As you can see from reading the story, getting the car was a hassle...solved by a lovely lady named Michael (yes, Michael) Ruiz at Texas Toyota of Grapevine, Texas.

Anyway, we have put over 3,000 miles on the car in the 39 days we have had it, including a trip to Atlanta and Pensacola. I took it in to Texas Toyota of Grapevine for the first 3,000 mile oil change, and they paid for it.

We went by yesterday to pick up our plates (Dallas County is sloooooowwwww), and the ever lovely Ms. Michael Ruiz (her father wanted a boy) had them wash the car and fill the tank with gas (I think that was about 7 or 8 gallons) for free.

On our trip we averaged around 55 MPG, and in daily driving around Dallas, we are averaging just under 50 MPG...around 49.6, actually. Don't forget, by the way that these figures don't count the times the car automatically shuts off the engine at stoplights, in drive-thrus, etc. when your car would normally be idling, so we are actually getting just a little better than what the figures tell us.

We are pleased with the performance and fuel economy of our new Toyota Prius.

We also cannot say enough good things about Michael Ruiz and the other folks at Texas Toyota of Grapevine.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Renewable Energy: Upcoming Events

Renewable Energy


When: June 23-25, 2006
Where: Custer, WI
What: Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair - three-day festival is the world's largest venue to learn about renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living.


When: August 19-20, 2006
Where: Solar Living Center - Hopland, CA
What: SolFest® - 11th Annual Event: Each SolFest event has continued to host many well-known speakers and experts in the fields of renewable energy, social responsibility and sustainable living, solidifying SolFest's reputation as the premier event of its kind.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Alternative Fuels: Biodiesel

Copyright © Donovan Baldwin

You may have heard of biodiesel (or even biowillie), but for those who don't know much about it, we will get to an explanation of it in a moment. I just wanted to start with a small list of the benefits of using biodiesel.


Requires no special delivery equipment and can use existing infrastructure.

Can be used in present diesel engines without modification

Reduces carbon dioxide emissions from 15% to over 75% over petroleum diesel, based on the biodiesel blend.

Emits fewer air pollutants in general.

It is a completely renewable fuel.

Reduces dependence on foreign oil.

It is safer to handle, store and transport than petrolem diesel.


Biodiesel is a renewable diesel fuel which can be made from waste products such as vegetable oils and animal fats, or even from vegetable matter, such as corn, which is specifically intended to produce it. While not often used as "neat" or pure biodiesel, also known as B100, blends of up to 20% are common and can be used in most diesel powered equipment with no modification at all. There are some engines, built since 1994, which can use B100. It should be mentioned, however, that experts recommend that users check with their engine manufacturers to see if there might be a conflict or problem. There is still some uncertainty about how the use of biodiesel fuel, particularly B100, may affect the life of the engine.

As pointed out in the section on benefits (above), biodiesel fuel reduces air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.


Three great things about biodiesel fuel is that it is renewable, biodegradeable, and non-toxic. Biodiesel is the name given to acid methyl esters intended for use as fuel. Another product formed during the production of biodiesel is glycerol, which is widely used in cosmetics. Slightly over half of the production resources can use any fat or oil, including recycled cooking grease. The remaining producers primarily uses vegetable oils. Due mainly to cost considerations, soy oil is the prime source for most commercial production. It is estimated that approximately 5% of on-road biodiesel could be produced from all sources under optimum conditions.


Biodiesel is in wide use among such entities as the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy, and Agriculture. Many school districts, municipal transit authorities, national parks, public utility companies, and garbage and recycling companies also use the fuel. It is also becoming more popular among trucking companies, truck owners, and farmers thanks in part to the efforts of country singer Willie Nelson, who now has his own brand known as BioWillie.

At the time this article is being written, there is a tax incentive offered as a federal tax credit. This incentive is mainly being taken by producers who are passing it on to consumers in the form of a price reduction at the pump. The USDA estimates this incentive will bring production of biodiesel to at least 124 million gallons per year. Other factors, such as costs of petroleum sources could cause an even higher production.


Fleet owners have found that it is not particularly difficult to set up their own biodiesel fueling facilities. While there are some practical considerations which might need to be overcome, fleet owners are finding that it offers some rewards economically as well as in terms of safety and responsibility as this fuel is, and is seen by the community as, being ecologically sensible.

Some of the business and government entities happy with their biodiesel refit are: L. L. Bean, the U. S. Military, and Cranmore Mountain Resort in New Hampshire. Of particular interest was that Yellowstone National Park confirmed in their study of the feasibility of using biodiesel fueled trucks that park bears did not seem to be particularly attracted to vehicles fueled by this food-based diesel product.

While commercial availability is growing and more stations and truck stops are adding biodiesel, it can still be difficult to locate, particularly for the traveler. The federal government offers a Biodiesel Locator service at its Alternative Fuel Data Center ( ), and there is a BioWillie Locator as well ( ).


Donovan Baldwin is a Dallas area writer. A graduate of the University Of West Florida (1973) with a BA in accounting, he is a member of Mensa and has held several managerial positions. After retiring from the U. S. Army in 1995, he became interested in internet marketing and developed various online businesses. He has been writing poetry, articles, and essays for over 40 years, and now frequently publishes articles on his own websites and for use by other webmasters. He has blogs on the subjects of weight loss and health, hybrid cars and alternative fuels, and internet marketing and related business topics.


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