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Engine oil - what types of oils are there?

Is it metal or artificial?

Engine oil evolved from a simple lubricant to a high-tech liquid. At the same time, the number of types and specifications of oil has increased significantly. Mr. Oliver Kuhn, Vice President, Lube Oil Laboratory, LIQUI MOLY, provides more clarity and explains what really matters.

What types of oils are there?

Oliver Kuhn: Motor oils can be roughly divided into two categories: mineral oil and synthetic oil. Mineral oils over time are becoming less and less important to cars because they are not as strong. Modern engines require more oil potential than old engines. Only synthetic oils can meet these requirements.

Does this mean that synthetic oils are the best?

Oliver Kuhn: Yes, but you can also mix mineral oil with synthetic oil. These synthetic oils play a smaller role in the market because the performance here is not high enough due to the mineral content.

This explanation seems complicated. But at least all synthetic oils are the same?

Oliver Kuhn: Unfortunately also not. There are two different ways of making synthetic oils. In the first method, the essential oil contents of PAO (Poly Alpha Olivine) are obtained. This is the traditional synthetic oil that appeared on the market in the 1970s.

It is very chemically pure and therefore very strong, but it is also very expensive to manufacture. In the other type, the oil is produced by liquid cracking (partial distillation), which is why these oils are also called HC oils (TS) in technical terms.

HC (TS) oils are more recent and appeared in the 1990s. These oils today offer the best possible performance for all modern engines.

Is it better to use PAO or HCO oil?

Oliver Kuhn: Such a choice does not exist often. Almost all oil development today is based on HC oils. Many oil specifications can only be met with HC (TS) oils.

How can I know the type of synthetic oil?

Oliver Kuhn: This is not easy at all, because there are no standardized terms here. In the United States, for example, both PAO and HC oils can be described as fully synthetic, but in Germany only PAO oils are described as fully synthetic

This is why our HC oils are called "synthesis technology." Other oil manufacturers use terms like “100% synthetic” or “synthetic blend,” from which it is unclear what they are intended for.

Oliver Kuhn: Exactly but the question here is, what kind of synthetic oil is it? Actually drivers and auto workshops don't matter. The question does not revolve around what kind of oil should be better.

The key issue is that the oil meets the specifications that the automaker determines for its model. This is found in the car manual, or you can use our free oil guide on the internet at

If the specifications are correct, it does not matter whether it is PAO oil or HC oil?

Oliver Kuhn: That's right. In any case, this adds an increasing importance to additive packages. Today they are the most important component of motor oil content in addition to the actual oil. H

M who make up a large part of the performance of the engine oil. In some very modern engine oils, the actual oil is nothing more than a liquid carrier for the added packages.

So why are there always discussions about who is the best synthetic oil?

Oliver Kuhn: This is an echo from the past. When the first HC oils appeared 30 years ago, the difference in quality compared to PAO oils was greater. But that was long ago. No expert will have such discussion these days.