Reader Question: Bennies of Using Synthetic?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Rob asks: My wife took my car in for an oil change and they put Valvoline advanced full synthetic 0W20 in my 2012 Honda Accord. Does this reduce the need for warm up times (if necessary at all)? Finally, since the price of an oil change is similar to an inner city mortgage, can I hope to get more miles from it? Your thoughts on miles?

My reply: Synthetic oil has a number of advantages; it flows much better when the engine is cold (and it’s very cold outside) and offers more protection when the engine is very hot (or being run very hard).

Modern car engines – generally, anything made within the past 25 years – don’t require “warming up,” per se. But synthetics will often give you a noticeably easier start-up in very cold weather and you will likely get a wear and tear benefit (that is, less of it).

The other benefit you get from using a synthetic is longer intervals between changes; this offsets some of the higher cost of using synthetic. Your Honda’s owner manual should have service recommendations in re this.

Be sure to use – or specify –  a good quality oil filter to go with the synthetic. I prefer Wix and Mobil1.

Never go cheap on filters!

Also: Make sure they filled your Honda’s engine (and didn’t overfill it). Also, that they tightened the drain plug! Never assume all’s okay when it comes to oil change service; this work is often done hurriedly by “technicians” who aren’t trained mechanics.

. . .

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  1. Check the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation for that engine, in that model year car. Sometimes the specify an API spec and viscocity, like Service SH, 10W30, sometimes a manufacturer’s unique spec like VW 505.01 with no viscocity spec. If you look up the manufacturer’s spec sheet for that spec number, it will usually list specific manufacturers products and viscosities (VW 505.01, Mobil 1 0W40 will meet it, for example, along with a couple dozen others). The manufacturer nowadays may try to follow a manufacturer’s spec (like GM’s Dexos), or just the petroleum industry specs (Service SH, for example), or make up their own, it all depends on what sort of characteristic mix they need from the oil. Scuff resistance? Varnish and deposits? Cold flow? Etc. So, follow the manufacturer’s spec, and if that means synthetic (it does for VW 505.01, as an example, no “dinolube” can meet the spec), then synthetic it is. If the spec can be met with a standard lube base stock, however…it gets a bit murkier IMHO.

    Will a synthetic lube oil perform better than a standard oil in an engine specified for standard oil? Most likely yes, but it takes a used oil analysis or two to find out how much better.

    One datapoint only…I have used Shell Rotella T6 5W40 in Nissans, Toyotas, and VW’s in place of both the VW specified oil, the Japanese specified 5W30, 10W40, and 10W30 oils, and had excellent results for a couple years. Good cold flow, and most importantly here in Texas, low varnish and viscocity improver break-down with heat and wear. Nice ‘n clean valve covers after a year or so of use. This oil is a “Heavy-Duty” oil (means it’s primarily for Diesels), so YMMV.

  2. WIX and Mobil1 filters are supposedly the best you can get. As eric said, don’t go cheap on those.
    You might check some oil sites or your owners club website for honda accords to find out the oil weight. Some engines are tuned to a specific oil weight (the second number) and pumps and pipes are manufactured for oil at a certain viscosity. Example: A mid 2000’s car is probably looking for a 10w30 or 5w30 style oil. Putting a thinner 0w20 oil may have some small side effects as the oil pump is designed for a specific weight when the car was manufactured. Again, the Honda manual will tell you what oil weight, then just get that oil in synthetic.

    Joe-Blow-Min-Wage oil change place worker is not a goto source for this information by the way.


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