In the world of oils and lubricants, it’s probably the most common question bandied around – if full synthetic oil exists, then what is the difference from 100% synthetic oil?

To understand the misconceptions of these terms – inclusive also, of the ever-confusing semi synthetic oil blends – we first must skip back to how oil is made to begin with.

Engine oil is essentially made from two key elements. Engine oil starts with a “base stock” which essentially serves as the bulk of the oil. This can either be made from mineral oil (based from crude oil dug out of the ground) that has been refined into usable oil, or formulated from synthetic compounds into a lubricating fluid with the same viscosity as mineral oil.

These base stocks are then enhanced with additives and detergents that take an engine oil’s capability from simple lubrication and allow it to cling to the surfaces of your engine. In doing so, as the oil flows through your engine, is also works by cleaning and protecting it from wear, oxidation, corrosion and the build-up of harmful sludge and deposits. When combined, these oils and additives are made to operate at the very high temperatures and pressures that arise in your engine, and vary in viscosity (the ease of how freely it flows) as your engine warms up.

While that all sounds simple enough, many oil companies have simply added confusing marketing spins to their oil namesakes, which serve no real indicative purpose of what the base oil is comprised of. And here-in lies the source of much confusion.

The main problem with oils is that there is no actual regulation for what comprises an oil, or what is required of an oil, for it to be classed “Full-Synthetic”.

Fact is, in many cases, oils claimed to be fully synthetic are often made by highly refining and synthesising mineral oils to achieve a higher degree of purity than would otherwise have been achievable. Other times they may also be made using a large degree of actual synthetic oil, but are still not essentially “Full” synthetic by any means. They would more appropriately still be semi-synthetic oils.

As you can imagine, it pays to check with the oil manufacturer on what the base stocks of their Fully Synthetic Oil are actually made of. A lot of the time, you’ll be quite surprised to learn that they are actually not fully synthetic oils at all in nature, only by marketing name.

With the benefit of the doubt – it could well be 100% synthetic oil… but it could also be 90%, or 60%, or even 2%. In short, fully synthetic oil is a marketing term that in no way defines the quantity of synthetic content.

In order to make higher quality oils, high-performance oil companies will essentially develop molecules from scratch, which are then synthesised and produced free of any mineral or crude oils.

By doing this, the greatest advances in automotive oils are made, as new compounds and molecules are developed that are capable of greater lubrication, greater protection and higher resistance to pressure. This also means that companies can control the quality of every drop of oil in your bottle, as opposed to having to refine the quality of mineral base oils.

And the best part is, there is no escaping this 100% Synthetic terminology with fancy or confusing marketing terms. If it is so-called such, it must be 100% Fully Synthetic by regulation.

When you see the words 100% Synthetic on a bottle, such as in Motul’s H-Tech, 8100 and 300V ranges, that means that EVERY SINGLE DROP of oil in your bottle is a synthetically produced compound, mixed with fully synthetic additives. Guaranteed.

Many Synthetic Technology oils are made entirely of the aforementioned crude oils that have been synthesised into higher purity oils as mentioned prior, they’re just more honestly labelled.

Once mineral oils, synthesised mineral oils and synthetic base stocks are mixed into different blends, this is where the terms “Semi-Synthetic” and “Synthetic Technology” come into play. Synthetic blend oils come with a wide degree of these labels, and generally they consist of some form of mineral oil that has been enhanced with Synthetic base stocks.

Nowadays, the terms 'semi-synthetic', and 'synthetic base', are overused. These terms are also not regulated and therefore only a few drops of a synthetic base oil can be added to a mineral base oil to make it a “semi-synthetic”. Obviously the performance and protection of such a lubricant will be more like a mineral product than a synthetic product. Motul only uses one term for its semi synthetic technology – Technosynthese.

Motul's Technosynthese® lubricants are made from a very special blend of different synthetic base oils which can also include esters and mineral base oils for optimising performance, whilst considering market price implications. Many Technosynthese® lubricants can achieve the most demanding and stringent OEM approvals, which is a testament of their performance and quality.

There’s so much confusion when it comes to oil, but by doing your research and investing in a trusted brand such as Motul, you can avoid the marketing spin that comes with a great deal of engine oils.

Look for 100% synthetic on the label, and do your research when considering investing in a full or semi-synthetic oil.

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