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Should You Use Synthetic Oil in Your F-150?

F150 Synthetic OilIt’s time to change the oil in your F-150. You’re standing in the oil aisle of the parts store down the street, just staring at all of the different-colored bottles and wide-ranging numbers. Which one do you choose?

To get a better grasp of what works best in your Ford, let’s take a brief look at some of the revisions made from the 1997 model year to now.

The Engines

For 1997, Ford majorly redesigned the F-150 for the first time since 1980. Rounder styling, more interior space and an all-new engine lineup were the 10th generation’s hallmarks.

A 4.2-liter OHV Essex V6 replaced the 4.9-liter OVH I6, while the Triton 4.6- and 5.4-liter SOHC V8s replaced the 5.0- and 5.8-liter OVH versions. Those three engines continued as the choices through the 11th generation (2004–08).

In 2009 Ford dropped the 4.2-liter V6 due to the closure of the Essex plant in Windsor, Ontario. Two versions of the 4.6 liter (two- and three-valve variants) and the three-valve 5.4 remained.
FoMoCo got busy again for the 2011 lineup (beginning of the 12th generation) and offered an all-new selection of powerplants. Six cylinders returned with the base 3.7 and optional direct-injection 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. Both V8s were replaced — the 4.6 was bumped by the 5.0, and the 5.4 gave way to a 6.2.

What Ford Recommends

Ford advised, and was shipping vehicles from the factory with, SAE 5W-30 motor oil in the majority of their engines since the 1990s. Then in January 2002, Ford issued a Technical Service Bulletin now recommending the use of SAE 5W-20 instead of SAE 5W-30 motor oil. The 4.2-liter V6, 4.6-liter V8 and 5.4-liter V8 from 1997 to 2002 were all listed as vehicles to be serviced with the new recommendation. It was “an improved formulation to improve fuel economy.” From 2002 onward Ford recommended SAE 5W-20 in almost all of their engines (4.2-liter to the 6.2-liter); the exception being the 3.5-liter EcoBoost. They recommend SAE 5W-30 for the direct-injection six cylinder.

Ford advocates multigrade oil usage rather than single grade due to its wider temperature operating range.

5W-20 Recommended
5W-20 Recommended
5W-20 Recommended
5W-30 Recommended
19974.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
19984.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
19994.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20004.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20014.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20024.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20034.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20044.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20054.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20064.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20074.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20084.2-liter V64.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20094.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20104.6-liter V85.4-liter V8
20113.7-liter V65.0-liter V86.2-liter V83.5-liter EcoBoost V6
20123.7-liter V65.0-liter V86.2-liter V83.5-liter EcoBoost V6
20133.7-liter V65.0-liter V86.2-liter V83.5-liter EcoBoost V6

What is synthetic oil?

Now that we know the factory’s preferred grade, what’s the difference between the quart of oil that costs $5 and the quart that costs $10?

The difference in price between the different oils comes primarily from the synthesis procedure. Synthetic oil is not refined from whole crude oil like conventional motor oil is. Synthetic is distilled, purified and broken down into its basic molecules. It contains ingredients that are artificially created and added to the petroleum base.

During the process to create synthetic oil the hydrocarbon molecules become uniform in size, shape and weight. This allows the oil to provide superior chemical and mechanical properties when compared with conventional motor oil. Better wear protection, resistance to oxidation and thermal breakdown, and decreased evaporative losses are some of the benefits synthetic oil brings to your engine. All of it adds up to increased horsepower, improved gas mileage and smoother engine operation. Conventional vs Synthetic Oil

Should you use synthetic oil in your engine?

Simply put, it is a superior product. The only detractor is price, but that can be mitigated by the extended service intervals. Many vehicles don’t need an oil change for 10,000 or 15,000 miles.

Early commercially available synthetic oils garnered a reputation for ruining seals and causing leaks, but that just doesn’t happen by switching between the oils. Synthetic oil is 100% compatible with modern automotive gasket and seals. If the engine leaks with synthetic, it will leak with conventional.

What about synthetic blends?

There was also a myth that convention and synthetic oils should never be mixed, but synthetic blends have been in use since 1966 when the French lubricant company Motul introduced the first one. There was a fear that to switch back and forth, the engine would need to be completely flushed. Synthetic oil is compatible with conventional oil and synthetic blends.

Ford’s own Motorcraft brand is a synthetic blend. It’s what came new in your truck (2003 model year and later), but they aren’t the only ones that will work. Typical blends have no more than 30% synthetic oil mixed with the standard base. The blend is a compromise between conventional oil’s price and full synthetic’s performance.

Always double check what your specific owner’s manual states, and make sure the bottle you pour in meets or exceeds the vehicle’s correct specifications.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ramon Pineda #

    some body Tell me what oil I used for my Ford F/150 4.2 2008 182000 miles and run great all ,great motor runs perfect tell me what grade tiknes and brand

    April 23, 2013
  2. 5w20 havoline change oil every 6500 miles. I wouldnt dare go 10000 miles on engine synthetic or not.

    August 6, 2013
  3. vic brown #

    can a 2000 Ford f150 v6 be changed over to a v8

    June 26, 2014
    • Jason Lancaster #

      Vic – Technically, yes. You could replace a V6 in a 2000 F150 with either the 5.4L or 4.6L V8…the truck is compatible with either.

      HOWEVER, as a practical matter, it’s just not done. In addition the engine parts, you’ll need a bunch of wiring that probably isn’t installed in your truck, a new ECU, etc., etc.

      If you had another F150 with a V8 you could pull all the parts out of, you could just do a swap. Of course, you could also just sell the V6 and drive the V8 instead. :)

      June 26, 2014
  4. vic brown #

    if so what year engine

    June 26, 2014
  5. Steve hasher #

    I use Mobil 1 5-30 in my 4.0 I change every 15,000 miles like it’s sez I have 405,000 still runs great if it’s good for nascar it’s good for me

    July 21, 2014
    • QA #

      Nascar engines get an oil change after every race and oil analysis as well. What’s good for nascar and what’s good for us is apples and oranges different.

      August 6, 2014
  6. Larry #

    I have a 2007 f150 xl 4.6l. It has 199750 on it. Used the synthetic blend from day one. Especially when going over 5000 miles in between. Picking up a 2012 this week will use full synthetic for monitoring system which vehicle is equipped with. Built Ford Tough!

    August 11, 2014
  7. Norman tucker #

    05 f150 ext cab 4.6 v8 165000 royal purple 5w20 , also usebthete rear diff fuild and tanny also slicker then fresh cow shit on a hot day

    August 24, 2014
  8. Larry Ingram #

    I have a 2013 F-150 Ecoboost . What weight synthetic oil can I use when I decide to switch over? It uses 5-30 conventional oil.

    I ran Amsoil in my F-250 diesel and changed oil at 20,000 miles. At the 10,000 mile interval I changed the oil filter and did an oil analysis with great reports. Can I do this with my 150?

    September 19, 2014

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