If you are like most ATV or side-by-side riders, you take great pride in your machine. Therefore, you probably maintain your ATV on a regular basis. The most basic type of ATV maintenance that makes an impact in your engine’s performance is changing the oil. When it comes to oil, there are two main types: synthetic oil and petroleum-based oil. Which is best? Well, there are lots of pros and cons to each. So, let’s break it down and compare synthetic and petroleum oil.

The Basics of ATV Oil

Oil is refined from natural elements. How these elements are refined and combined determines the overall composition of the oil. Natural oil is made from mineral or petroleum lubricants. These lubricants are refined and sold as is (mostly).


Synthetic lubricants are formulated in a laboratory and contain a mixture of oil and other elements. Why is there a need for synthetic oil? The answer is simple: petroleum oil quickly breaks down in extreme temperatures, rendering engine components vulnerable. Without the proper lubrication, engine parts would burn up.


Synthetic oils hold up better in high temperatures because they do not break down as easily under high heat. Synthetic oil is manufactured without many of the chemical compositions that contribute to oil oxidation and sludge buildup. Also, synthetic oil is less likely to catch on fire because it does not contain sulfur, wax, or other materials that could ignite under exposure to extreme temperatures.

Cold Starts

Synthetic oil provides superior protection for engines in cold weather. Synthetic oil has a low viscosity, so it doesn’t thicken up easily in freezing temperatures. Conversely, petroleum oil has a high viscosity, so it thickens more in cold weather.


This causes the engine to start at a slower rate with more difficulty. Engine experts suggest that much of the wear and tear that an engine experiences during startup is because of thick oil.

Does Your ATV Actually Need Synthetic Oil?

It depends. If you live in the Northern U.S. where temperatures can get really low, and you drive your ATV during the winter, you may want to opt for synthetic oil since it has a lower viscosity.


You also need to consider that your ATV or side-by-side engines run at higher RPMs. Therefore, the engine needs a synthetic oil that will maintain its lubricant properties instead of breaking down under heat and performance stress.


Last, when using synthetic oil, you’ll discover that you don’t have to change the oil as much since synthetic oil maintains its properties longer than petroleum oil. The oil is less likely to get as dirty as petroleum oil. This makes it more ideal for riding your ATV on dusty trails. Regardless of what type of oil you use, you should still change the oil according to your CFMOTO manufacturer owner’s manual.

Visit a CFMOTO Dealer Today for Your Next ATV

If you are looking for the perfect ATV for all your off-road needs, choose CFMOTO USA. We offer a wide range of ATVs that can handle adventure you want to go on. To find out more about our all-terrain products, visit a CFMOTO dealership near you.