Is Synthetic Oil Better for Turbocharged Engines?

by Richard Rowe

The debate over conventional vs. synthetic oil is heated in almost all aspects of the automotive universe, but is fairly settled where turbocharged engines are concerned.

Conventional vs. Synthetic

Synthetic oil is made by singling out the individual molecules that make oil slippery, and reassembling the lubricant without any of the conventional oil's contaminants.


Conventional oil contains a number of paraffin waxes, carbon molecules and additives that break down at high temperature and turn into sludge.

Oil Cooking

The oil in turbochargers come in very close contact with red-hot exhaust components, and cooks a little more each time it goes through the turbo, getting thicker as the miles go by.

Oil Drain-Back

Oil sludge collects in the turbo's drain line, preventing elimination of hot oil and causing turbo overheating.


Synthetic oil maintains its lubricity (slipperiness) longer than conventional oils under high-temperature conditions. This is especially important to turbochargers with their tight bearing clearances, high component speeds and heat-induced metal expansion.


Synthetic oils are almost always required by modern turbo-car manufacturers. Failure to use it will void the warranty.

About the Author

Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.

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