How to identify synthetic motor oil

Written by melissa lowery
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How to identify synthetic motor oil
Colour and consistency can help identify synthetic oils. (antique oil can image by studio vision 1 from

Synthetic motor oils are petroleum based and contain additives not found in crude oil products, such as standard motor oil. Synthetic oils mimic the processes of crude oil products while containing less contaminants. Synthetic oils offer a higher performance rating and keep the engine lubricated longer between automobile oil changes when compared with standard motor oil. The simplest method of identifying synthetic motor oil lies within the packaging labels. Identifying unlabeled or used synthetic motor oils relies on its appearance and consistency.

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Things you need

  • Clean plastic containers

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  1. 1

    Read the packaging labels. According to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, all products available for purchase are required to be properly identified with usage indications, instructions, warnings and active ingredients.

  2. 2

    Pour a small amount into the clean, plastic container. The container should be clean of any substances and entirely dry to avoid dangerous contamination. If the oil is used, allow it to completely cool before handling the oil.

  3. 3

    Check the oil's consistency as you pour it into the container. If unused, synthetic oils are thin with the consistency similar to whole milk; standard motor oils are thicker with a honey-like consistency. Used synthetic motor oils will remain thin; used crude based motor oils double in viscosity.

  4. 4

    Look at the oil's colour. Clean synthetic oils are toffee coloured, and used synthetic oils are a darker brown. Both are translucent. Unused crude oils are a translucent brown but deepen to a black colour that resembles tar when used.

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