Understanding Doubt

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Os Guinness, in his thought-provoking book, “In Two Minds,” begins his discussion of the problem of doubt by stating trust is the foundation of all relationships. We wonder whom we can trust and how we can be sure of it?

Those of us who grew up in the ’60s were taught to trust no one, especially authority figures. However, this creates a problem. By doubting everyone and everything, we might never be able to develop a firm belief in anything.

Selling Synthetics

There are several areas where people in the industry have struggled because of questions or confusion they have about synthetic motor oils. Understanding the way doubt works can improve our effectiveness when selling synthetics. Doubts can be legitimate but are usually formed from a lack of information. Honest doubters are not helped by criticism. They need a sympathetic ear, and when we understand where they’re coming from we can offer solutions.

Here are a few areas where doubt creates a lack of confidence with regard to switching to synthetic motor oils and some solutions to those concerns:

1. Seal compatibility isn’t the concern it once was, but it’s still a frequent question from those who are new to synthetics. It would be foolhardy for lubricant manufacturers to build products that are incompatible with seals. The composition of seals presents problems that both petroleum oils and synthetics have had to overcome. They are made from elastomers and are inherently difficult to standardize. Ultimately, it’s the additive mix in oil that counts. Additives to control seal swell, shrinkage and hardening are required, whether it be a synthetic or petroleum product being produced.

2. Some people are concerned about synthetics being compatible with petroleum. In truth, the synthesized hydrocarbons, polyalphaolefins, diesters and other materials forming base stocks of high-quality name-brand synthetics are fully compatible with petroleum oils. In the old days, some companies used incompatible ingredients causing quality synlubes to suffer a bum rap. Fortunately, those days are long gone.

3. Some people are afraid synthetic oils are too thin to stay in the engine. We respond by noting for a lubricant to be classified in any SAE grade (0W-20, 10W-40, etc.) it has to meet certain guidelines with regard to viscosity. For example, it makes no difference whether it’s 10W-40 petroleum or 10W-40 synthetic, at -13 F (-25 C) and 212 F (100 C) the oil has to maintain a standardized viscosity or it can’t be rated SAE 10W-40.

4. Some people have been concerned synthetics aren’t good for catalytic converters and oxygen sensors. In truth, synthetic oils have a lower volatility and release fewer emissions. Both synthetic and petroleum base oils are similar compounds in this regard, and neither is damaging to catalytic converters or oxygen sensors. It is actually the additives that can become a problem. Because synthetic oils are less volatile, less of the harmful additive compounds make it to the exhaust. If anything, because engines tend to run cleaner with synthetics, sensors and emission control systems run more efficiently and with less contamination.

5. Some people are concerned about voiding their warranties. This is an unfounded fear. Major engine manufacturers specifically recommend the use of synthetic lubricants. In fact, increasing numbers of high-performance cars are arriving on showroom floors with synthetic motor oils as factory fill.

New vehicle warranties are based upon the use of oils meeting specific API service classifications. Synthetic lubricants that meet current API service requirements are perfectly suited for use in any vehicle without affecting the validity of the new car warranty.

6. Some people believe synthetics are too expensive. This is because many people are unaware of the benefits of synthetics. One way to address this is to have point-of-purchase literature. Ask your customers to read the literature with a red Sharpie in hand. Have them mark anything they have questions about. This simple technique will lead them into the literature and teach them the benefits of synthetic motor oil like better fuel economy, reduced engine wear and greater vehicle reliability. The benefits far offset initial price differences.  

Doubt is not a crime. It is simply a signal that information is lacking. The key to overcoming doubt is education. When good information is provided and people choose not to believe, that is a different matter.

This article provides answers to a few places where trivial doubts might be undermining acceptance. The more informed we become, the better we are able to reassure others.

ED NEWMAN is the advertising manager for AMSOIL INC., an independent manufacturer of synthetic lubricants. He’s been writing articles about synthetic oil since 1986. He can be contacted at enewman@amsoil.com. For more information, visit: www.amsoil.com

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