Imagine you’ve just walked in on two auto enthusiasts mid-argument, of all things, about motor oil. One one side, there’s me, ModBargains President/Co-Founder Ron, and the other guy is Gus, a former employee and a guy-in-the-know when it comes to oil. Well, let’s just say we had a difference of opinion. This is how Gus made me change my mind about oil – and the real-world difference the right oil can make for your motor.
As long as I change my oil regularly, then I am doing great on my maintenance- and by using the oil it says to use, I’m doing more than other people are doing to take care of their cars! – Ron
No, dude, not all oil is the same. Sure, changing it regularly is good. But it’s not all the same stuff. – Gus
Yeah, but my car [Porsche 996 Turbo] says to use Mobil 1 European Blend in it, which I do. I don’t think you’re right, Gus… I mean, how can the manufacturer be wrong? It even says “Use Mobil 1” on the inside of the boot lid! – Ron
I am telling you, there are differences. It doesn’t matter if you had a BMW and it says to use Castrol, or a Ford calling for Motorcraft. Every oil company is in bed with certain manufacturers. BMW with Castrol, Porsche and Mercedes are buddies with Mobil, Ferrari loves Shell… Ever notice that the race teams aren’t using those oils in their racecars? There are reasons that race teams use different oils, I promise you, there are differences between oils. –Gus
Well, I find that pretty hard to believe—I am going to look into it for myself.
It seemed like a nothing conversation, but like all car guys, you hear something, and it nags at you. I had to know what Gus meant by differences. I’m the type of guy that likes to read and understand the technical aspects of what’s going on, so what Gus had said opened the door to a flood of questions and research, which I had to do first hand. Was I really buying the manufacturers propaganda?
Like most car guys, I grew up believing that the lifeblood of our cars was regular oil changes. Every 3,000 miles, right? But how much do we actually understand that? While it’s still true that you should change your oil at regular intervals, with advances in oil technology and today’s sophisticated engines, the 3000 mile rule doesn’t apply the same way in this day and age.
I started looking at the oil I was using – the Manufacturers recommended Oil, How did it hold up?
On my Porsche 996TT, the recommended oil is Mobil 1 European blend- it’s specified right there in the engine bay, and heck, there’s even a full page picture of it in the owner’s manual. I was reminded of what Gus had said about the automakers and oil brands being “in cahoots”. I thought about that a bit more, and come to think of it, when I had a BMW, it had Castrol branding all over the place. Gus was definitely onto something here, but I wasn’t totally convinced yet, and so I decided to try using what the car specified first.
So when it came time for my Porsche‘s first oil change, I went around looking for the recommended oil, the Mobil 1 European Blend – it cost me $11 a quart at local chain auto shop (by the way, Motul is about $10.50 – $.50 cheaper, making this very economical). It’s worth noting that my Porsche, like most European cars, has a large sump and takes over 8 quarts.
I changed my oil with Mobil 1 European blend exactly like the manual specified, and I figure, “OK, I should be good until the next oil change.” I should probably mention that I change my oil at 3500mi any way, rather than what the manual specifies, because old habits die hard.
So here I am, cruising along, thinking everything’s great. Well, on my Porsche 996, there is a digital meter that lets me monitor the oil level in real time while I am driving, so when I am at a red light, I like check the oil level from time to time – since the function’s there, why not, right?
Well, at just 1500 miles, I was down 2 bars – that’s still a good amount of oil left, so no cause for alarm, but then when I checked again at 2000 miles, my oil level had dropped from 2 bars short of full, down to just 5 bars left!
“I am burning oil! I’m using what the manufacturer suggested! What the heck am I doing wrong?”
I had seen this type of oil consumption problem with my old S2000 in the past, and I always would check the dip stick as a habit. On the upside, a few of my friends had warned me about oil consumption before buying the Porsche. Well, thank you Porsche, for at least making it convenient to check it on the fly.
So now I know I have a problem, I need to know what’s going on, and so I cruise over to the 6speedonline forums to talk to a few other enthusiasts. I login to 6speedonline and start reading – and what do I find? The guys on the board are experiencing the same oil consumption issue that I am. Everyone on the forum is jumping off the Mobil 1 Euro ship and switching to other oils. I was left sitting there thinking, “…but the manufacturer recommends this oil! So if what the manufacturer’s recommended oil isn’t good enough, what is?“
The research began. I started digging around online, perusing forums, and start talking to other shops in the area — and some race teams. After consulting quite a few of these guys for their recommendations and picking the brains of a few race shops, the consensus, almost unwaveringly, I discovered that Motul oil is what the race shops had switched to using. These racers/mechanics mentioned that after hard race sessions, when they would dump the oil, using Motul, they would find almost no metal shavings in the oil – and they’d always find shavings with the other brands they tried before. These guys talked at length about the smoother revs and increased performance and why they switched over. One particular story had me especially intrigued – the world challenge CTS-V had 80,000 Miles on its original motor, nearly every mile of which was racing. That may not sound impressive to the average person, but to put this into perspective, the typical “Race” engine usually needs to be rebuilt every few races. To have 80,000 miles on your “RACE” motor is unheard of.
So began my conversation with Motul as a new supplier, and the education started. First question that I still needed to answer was, “Why not use the oil the manufacturer recommends?”
As it turns out, every vehicle manufacturer has their own certification, BMW (LL-01), Porsche (A40), Audi/VW (502 00/505 00), Mercedes (229.5/226.5) ETC . With different requirements and standards for certification, certain oil manufacturers pay the automakers millions of dollars to be the ‘Approved oil of choice’ for their brand of autos, but that doesn’t mean other oils can’t be used. As long as the oil you are using meets the certification standard, that means that have passed the tests needed to be considered “approved for use with” that particular vehicle.
Which led me to the next question.
If some of the oils on the market have the approval #, are those oils then pretty much the same?
No! Having the certification just means they have satisfied the minimum requirements to pass the certification (as in the case with the Mobil 1 for my car, or Castrol in the BMW and so on). In other words, it’s like getting a C- in at school. While yes, you TECHNICALLY passed, just barely, but the score is nothing to brag about – kind of like a pass/fail class at college, you get the stamp even if you weren’t the best in class. Just as in the school example with A-C, the different grades of Oil Quality have 3 “passing” levels as well.
Next question, so isn’t all Synthetic Oil the same?
Yes and NO, the key difference that takes it from a C grade to an A, or a tier 3 to a tier 1, are the detergents added to the oil. Motul’s blend of detergents added to its oil formulations is considered the highest tier possible, giving it that A rating – whereas the more common store brands, while also synthetic, score a C, if they even meet the certification requirements. That’s the critical difference between these different brands and that difference in quality is what you are paying for.
So, to recap, what does this all mean? Here are the reasons why I switched to Motul.
Longer Oil life
Dramatically reduced friction means reduction or elimination of shavings present in oil
Smoother Engine Operation
Smoother Exhaust Note
Quieter at Idle
Engine pulls more smoothly throughout the rev band and car pulls harder
More Horsepower [From 300V Motul Line] (this is a topic of some controversy, so we’ll save that for another time)
#1 Reason – Protect Your Motor From Wear
So in conclusion, Gus helped in changing my mind and proved me wrong. Not all oil is the same, and you’re not married to the brand of oil recommended by the manufacturer.
I switched the oil on my Porsche over for the Porsche it’s recommended 8100 for example, I did go for a 300V(an ester based oil product… more on that another time), and even added the Motul brand to our selection here at ModBargains, so that we can offer the same quality oils that I would – and now do – use in my own vehicles. After 3500 miles, well my oil level did not drop a bar! (Checked it a ton of times as that mileage was coming to it, thinking I might prove Gus wrong) I had finally put a stop to the oil consumption, I’d call that a success!
Having not consumed any oil for 3500mi, I could tell that there were some discernible benefits, definitely not just the usual ‘placebo effect’ – there actually was something different about the motor – the tone and revs were noticeably different than they were beforehand, and it revved more smoothly, and more than that, it feels like it has more power (full disclosure: it does make more power on Motul, but again, we’ll save that controversy for later).
So, when it comes time for your next oil change, check your oil level – how much has it dropped? Check out the drain pan – do you see metal shavings in the pan or on the magnetic drain plug? Switching to Motul can help curtail the oil consumption and reduce or eliminate the presence of metal shavings almost completely. Consider how much you actually know about the oil you’re pouring into your sump before you put it in. All true synthetic oils are going to be on the expensive side, and it’s worth noting once again that Motul 8100 is the same price as Mobil 1 European Blend, meaning it’s more economical than you think to make the switch.
Thanks for reading, and we hope that you’ve got something to consider before your next oil change.
Due for an oil change right now? ModBargains’ install shop, ModAuto, offers oil change services for performance vehicles and we have Motul available in stock.
Make your appointment today! Call 714-582-3330
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Story by Ron Hay
Edited by Nicholas Gregson