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There’s something special about doing an oil change on your truck engine yourself. In an age where vehicles are becoming evermore complex, it’s something that most folks can do at home. Although, having a mechanic do it can often be more convenient. But if you do opt to do a DIY oil change, how do you know if you need synthetic oil?

What is synthetic oil?

Synthetic oil is essentially chemically modified petroleum components instead of whole crude oil. Sure, crude oil is used as a base, but it is distilled and then modified. It was first developed in the 1960s, and now it is often the standard lubricant used in modern vehicles. 

Auto manufacturers use synthetic oil to improve engine performance and efficiency. Its main advantage over non-synthetic oil is the fact that it is less likely to form sludge. And that can really impact the performance of your truck engine.

How do you know if you need synthetic oil?

If your truck’s engine is turbocharged, it likely calls for synthetic oil. In general, most modern pickups will use some kind of synthetic. It’s just what the vehicles of today come from the factory with. Although this kind of oil is often more expensive, it can add to your peace of mind. 

A Ford F-250 drives through some mud, it could need an oil change soon.
Ford F-250 Super Duty | Mark Elias via Getty Images

If you’ve purchased a new pickup truck in recent years, you have probably noticed that the time between oil change intervals has increased. Some manufacturers claim that you can go 15,000 miles without an oil change. 

Personally, I still feel uncomfortable going 5,000 miles without an oil change. And if you do truck stuff with your pickup, such as towing, you probably feel the same. 

A shop where you can get an oil change for your truck.
Mr. Lube service center | Roberto Machado Noa via Getty Images

Going too long without an oil change can cause some serious engine damage. To me, I think there’s legitimate cost-benefit to having oil changes performed on a semi-regular basis. That way, you know everything is functioning as it should. 

How do you know when your truck needs an oil change?

The best way to determine when your pickup needs an oil change is to consult your owner’s manual. The brand that built your truck designed it to operate under certain conditions. And it is best to adhere to that routine maintenance plan. 

Of course, it is possible that you might need an oil change sooner than expected. Signs of that can include a decrease in fuel economy or if you notice that your oil is low. 

A truck is getting an oil change, could synthetic oil be better than regular?
Truck oil change | Pia Bayer via Getty Images

According to, synthetic oil will probably cost you more than non-synthetic oil. But shelling out that extra cash for your truck engine could come with some legitimate benefits. For starters, synthetic oil will last longer. And you should see better overall performance, including the potential for improved fuel economy.

Your mileage may vary with that, but for the most part, it seems like on a modern truck, synthetic is the way to go. If you drive an old truck that uses traditional engine oil, I’d recommend consulting with a mechanic before making a switch.

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