Using performance products to enhance that truck, wagon or sport-compact can be rewarding, or a total waste of the aspiring tuner’s hard-earned cash, depending on the level of knowledge at hand.
Your writer was an aspiring tuner not so long ago. Ditto his many friends, fellow racers and colleagues. Some nights, I still have dates on which I get intimate with my Toyota MR2’s oily bits.
Like most, over the years, I’ve wasted a pile of cash on stuff that offered little return on my investment. One of them was expensive synthetic motor oil.
Back in the day, my young, inexperienced brain once managed to convince itself that my 1993 Nissan 240SX was about the fastest, highest-performing thing ever to ride four wheels. And marketing folks at oil companies managed to convince me that if I didn’t use synthetic oil in my engine, it would sludge up with guck, perform embarrassingly, and blow up like a frog sucking on a cherry bomb shortly thereafter.
As a result, I spent about 3 times the cash on synthetic oil at every oil change. I bought the special (and twice as expensive) synthetic oil filter while I was at it. I even bought a special ‘synthetic blend’ oil designed for ‘High RPM’ engines – or so the bottle said.
All of this was a waste.
Synthetic oil has benefits. Some folks use it to extend the distance between oil changes. Others feel it’s better in cold climates. Many drive cars that require synthetic oil (check your owner’s manual). These include the Porsche 911, the Nissan GT-R, the BMW M3 and the Dodge Viper.
All of these are high-performance cars that will, probably, visit a track somewhat regularly. While there, their high-performance engines will hit redline every few seconds, experience lengthy periods of high-RPM driving, and generate a sustained level of heat and stress that can start to break a regular oil down.
Cars and engines like these are why synthetic oil exists.
It’s important to understand the following: a car driven on the street won’t generate a level of sustained heat and stress anywhere close to that generated by track driving. Even the most aggressive street driving won’t begin breaking down a standard motor oil, let alone a synthetic oil costing way more.
Today, my Toyota MR2 happily runs Castrol GTX conventional engine oil at every change. I’ve done a few track days and drag-race days with it, too. No issues. It runs strongly and reliably, all day long. I change my oil by the time 5,000 kilometres rolls around, don’t worry about sludge, and save the extra cash for coffees and gasoline.
Besides, oil sludge is not caused by not using synthetic oil. It’s caused, almost exclusively, by neglect, skipping oil changes, and driving habits that don’t allow the engine to get nice and hot every once in a while.
So, got a high-performance engine? Race your car? Synthetic oil might be the way to go. But, if you’re driving a normal car on the street and using synthetic oil mainly because you think the regular stuff will make your engine turn into soup, do your homework and make sure you’re not wasting your money.