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Help me pick an oil, should I/how should I switch to synthetic


Patrologia

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I’m driving an ‘04 with the 3.0 Vulcan, and I do not know it’s history. I don’t see any evidence of any significant leaks (well, not oil leaks anyway...). It has about 160k on it. The truck doesn’t get driven all that much, definitely not a daily driver, so oil change intervals will probably be long by the calendar, but not overly long in miles. Maybe over 5k but nowhere near 10.
should I run a high mileage? I do on another vehicle, but that’s because I know it has a gasket leak and I want to slow that down.
My inclination is to go with a synthetic, but I’m worried about the changeover and loosening up too much sludge that might have built up all at once. Would a semi-synthetic be better for this?
Are there brands that these engines seem to like better?
 


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Dirtman

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Take the pcv valve off and stick your finger in the hole. Is there big black chunks in there? No? Then your fine running synthetic. If the engine is bad enough that using synthetic oil would be loosening enough sludge to actually cause a problem, you need a new engine anyway.

The process to switch to synthetic is fairly straightforward. Remove old oil. Insert new oil.

That being said the 3.0 is not a complex or tight tolerance engine. It can run fine on conventional oil so just buy whatever is on sale. Changing the oil regularly matters alot more than what type of oil you use. I do believe the factory specs 5w30 semi synthetic for that year though.

High mileage oil doesn't do a whole lot in my opinion but it doesn't hurt either. Yea it can slow down a minor leak but its no miracle.
 

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If you plan on keeping the truck for awhile, don't let those oil change intervals go too long. I usually change mine every 6 months (give or take a few weeks), every April and October, before hot weather and before cold weather. (Once in my younger years I had put it off, then it got real cold out and I hated changing the oil in 20 degree weather, lesson learned.)

I would personally not go above 6 thousand miles unless they are ALL highway. Driving around town is different than highway cruising.

You should be fine running synthetic, but it may not be needed. If it makes you feel better, go ahead.

There are plenty of deals and rebates on oil nowadays where a diy oil change with a name brand oil and filter would cost you less than 20 bucks. I can get Pennzoil platinum for about 25 bucks for a 5 qt jug at walmart, then sometimes a $10 rebate on top of that.
 

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:iamwithstupid:

Taking alot of short trips around town is actually considered severe service. Oil change intervals should be alot more frequent when doing that.
 

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You can catch Motorcraft synthetic blend 5W30 on sale at Wally World for less then $20 a jug. Also grab a Motorcraft filter while you're there for less then $4 last time I bought a few. Should be all you ever need.
 

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Watch amazon as well. I get 5 quart jugs of Pennzoil ultra platinum for less than 20 bucks when its on sale, sometimes there's even a rebate with it. Motorcraft filters are always dirt cheap too.
 

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I use primarily Motorcraft, Valvoline and Mobil would work for me, too. The only engine I ever saw sludged up that I knew had been maintained ran Oilzum so I won't use it. One of our local police departments used to have the town mechanic service the cruisers and he used Amalie. They'd complain about oil use so we changed the oil with Motorcraft and verified the dipstick was accurate, then they'd run it and bring it back to check the level. It never dropped until they serviced it with Amalie again. So we repeated the consumption test with Motorcraft and proved it didn't burn good oil. I won't buy Pennzoil because they own Jiffy Lube. Motorcraft, Purolator, and Wix filters are all good, Wix makes the Car Quest, Advanced, and Napa filters. Fram is junk and the ones Jiffy Lube uses aren't as good as Fram.
The oil needs to be changed at least twice a year regardless of mileage, Ford's new 1 year/10,000 mile interval was created by the marketing dept, not engineers.
 

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Take the pcv valve off and stick your finger in the hole. Is there big black chunks in there? No? Then your fine running synthetic. If the engine is bad enough that using synthetic oil would be loosening enough sludge to actually cause a problem, you need a new engine anyway.
Thanks for this advice, I will do this.
I do believe the factory specs 5w30 semi synthetic for that year though.
I don't actually have the manual, but I looked at a pdf of it and believe that it specs 5w20 for the 3.0, and 5w30 for the 4.0 only, and I didn't see anything stating synthetic for either. Did I miss something (entirely possible), or was it just a mis-recollection? My own inclination is to go with 5w30, so I'll happily take confirmation, but if I should go with 20 I'll do that.

:iamwithstupid:

Taking alot of short trips around town is actually considered severe service. Oil change intervals should be alot more frequent when doing that.
This is a point I hadn't fully realized, but makes very good sense. Will synthetics hold up enough better under "severe service" to justify their use, or do such low mileage changes suggest going with an inexpensive (but still decent quality) conventional oil?

You can catch Motorcraft synthetic blend 5W30 on sale at Wally World for less then $20 a jug. Also grab a Motorcraft filter while you're there for less then $4 last time I bought a few. Should be all you ever need.
Watch amazon as well. I get 5 quart jugs of Pennzoil ultra platinum for less than 20 bucks when its on sale, sometimes there's even a rebate with it. Motorcraft filters are always dirt cheap too.
Walmart is almost always my oil source, even though it is almost the only thing I buy there. Still hard for me to understand how they beat everybody's prices by so much. I realize volume, but it would seem like an auto parts store would have enough locations to buy in the same sort of volume. Whatever. As long as they keep selling it, I'll keep buying it. I will start watching Amazon though, never shopped oil there.
 

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Synthetic oil is pretty much superior in every way, however the issue with short trips is that there is always moisture in the air that condenses and mixes with the oil when you start the engine. When you take a short trip the engine doesn't have time to fully burn it off so that water, fuel, and other crankcase contaminants are constantly being added to the oil. Using synthetic doesn't change this. The only thing that will combat this is diligent oil changes.

That being said, synthetic oil is really not that expensive these days. Like mentioned you can get 5 quarts of synthetic oil and a good filter for about 20 bucks. You really won't save a whole lot using conventional. I like to use synthetic in all my cars and I do my oil changes every 6 motnhs or 3,000 miles (whichever comes first) though I'm pretty anal about oil lol. It's really just personal choice, especially with a 3.0. Again, it's not a very sophisticated engine and will be just as happy with conventional oil. Buy whatever is on sale, change it on a good schedule and that engine should last at least another 150,000 miles...
 
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Oh and unless your in some insane climate like the middle of Death Valley or driving around in Antarctica stick with the weight specified in your owners manual. I "think" its 5w30 for your truck but you should double check.

That and change the PCV often. Every 10k or so. A bad PCV valve will cause your oil to break down sooner as it won't be able to properly vent the combustion gasses that get passed the rings (blowby). All engines have blowby and it needs to be evaluated from the crankcase or you will develop oil leaks and oil contamination.

PCV valves only cost a couple bucks and are too often overlooked as part of routine maintenance.
 

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By 2000 the 4.0 was the only engine Ford hadn't respeced to 5W20, because the tensioners didn't like the thin stuff.

I generally agree with the advice to stick with whatever the manual calls for, but the 3.0 Vulcan is an old design going way back to the days when 10W-30 was considered thin. 5W20 will get you a bit better fuel economy. 5W30 will get you a bit longer life. Anything yellow, slippery, and with an SAE rating on it will keep the engine going just about forever though.
 

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Walmart Super Tech is decent oil and their synthetic is as cheap as you'll find. I've run Super Tech in a lot of cars for many years, Because it's cheap I can afford to use synthetic, buy better filters and change it more often. It's not appropriate on some modern engines with specific requirements like on my Fiat 1.4 Turbo, but it's fine on a 3.0 Vulcan.
 

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If you decide to change to synthetic, be sure to get the "high mileage" version (especially if you use Mobil 1) because the high mileage oil has more seal conditioners, which will help prevent new leaks starting. I've put regular Mobil 1 in older engines which then developed leaks, but that has not happened with the high mileage variant.

For severe duty, such as the op's short trips, a synthetic oil is much better. Because of its consistent molecule size of the base stock, there is significantly less reaction with combustion byproducts. That is why synthetics can have longer oil change intervals. I've run lots of 10k intervals on Mobil 1 and have excellent Blackstone reports on them, so I have no problem running that interval, but I drive longer trips than the op, so your results may vary.

I agree that Walmart synthetic is a decent oil and pretty cheap as oils go nowadays. However, Motorcraft semi-synthetic is a very good oil for about the same money, so that is a strong contender as well. Ford specs 7500 mile oci on their semi-synthetic and I have good Blackstone reports from doing that as well. In fact, I once bought a Mark 8 that was only driven by the proverbial little old couple around town, and it had a significant piston rattle when cold due to stuck rings. One oil change with Motorcraft semi-synthetic loosened up those rings so the rattle was gone.

I only use Motorcraft or Mobil 1 now and Motorcraft filters.
 

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Watch amazon as well. I get 5 quart jugs of Pennzoil ultra platinum for less than 20 bucks when its on sale, sometimes there's even a rebate with it. Motorcraft filters are always dirt cheap too.
I sometimes get oil shipped to me, but i am more hesitant since the last oil shipment i received was leaking, and the just left it on my front porch, making a bit of a mess. Fortunately I caught it before the entire 5 qt bottle leaked out. The money I saved was not worth the hassle of the cleanup. If you watch sales locally, they will usually be pretty close. Also, check out Home Depot. I was in there recently when they had some oil on clearance. I got 6 quarts of conventional Quaker State for $1 a quart, and 5 quarts of Pennzoil Platinum for $2 a quart. It is nice to have the quart containers so that if you ever had to add some oil, you are not juggling a 5 quart jug.
 

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I'd consider $1 a quart for Quaker State and $2 for anything Pennzoil makes to be overpaying.
Napa often offers a good price on 5 quarts of their synthetic and one of their silver or gold oil filters which are both good Wix products.
 


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