Cost saving strategies using synthetic oil

Samuel P. Lamerato
Superintendent of Motor Pool
City of Troy, Michigan

The City of Troy, Michigan has switched its entire Police and City Hall fleet (approximately 150 vehicles) to synthetic oil.

In the past, all marked and unmarked police vehicles would come in monthly for an oil change, lube, and safety check. As a test, in 1993 we switched two marked Chevrolet Caprice vehicles over to 100 percent synthetic engine oil and extended their drain intervals to 20,000 miles, with a new oil filter installed at 10,000 miles. The vehicles are still scheduled to come in for a monthly safety inspection (tires, brakes, suspension, lights, etc.), but the oil is not drained, only a sample is taken.

When the two test vehicles reached 70,000 miles, the City of Troy technicians removed the oil pans and also removed the main and rod bearings to check for wear, using the plastic gauge test. The bearings showed very little wear. The same procedure was performed on two marked cars, same year, make and model, using petroleum oil. The wear on the two vehicles with petroleum oil, changed monthly at about 2,500-3,000 miles, showed slightly more wear in the plastic gauge test. The test results were well within specifications in both cases.

Currently the city is using all Ford Crown Victorias in its Police fleet. With the help of oil analysis, we are able to extend our oil changes to 18,000-20,000 miles, with a new filter installed at 9,000-10,000 miles. We are currently using synthetic engine, transmission, and rear differential oil in all vehicles serviced out of the City Hall facility, approximately 150 vehicles (Police, Fire, Engineering, Assessing and Parks), with plans to change the remaining fleet of 250 vehicles at our main garage to synthetic oil soon. Within the past year, all the Fire apparatus have been switched to 100 percent engine, transmission, and rear differential oil. Extended drain intervals occur every 6 months to 24 months, with a new oil filter installed at the 12-month interval. Oil samples are taken to assure drain intervals are timed correctly.

Savings have been noticed due to the decrease in the number of oil filters and quarts of oil purchased and disposed of. Labor time to complete a preventive maintenance (A or B) on a vehicle has been reduced, allowing up to 50 percent more vehicles to be serviced each day. To date, we have not had to rebuild an engine or transmission with the new extended oil change intervals.

It is very important to research the different types of synthetic oil available and to work very closely with a reputable oil analysis company and to set the correct drain intervals for the different types of equipment you may own.

Questions regarding this cost saving strategy can be directed to Samuel P. Lamerato at (248) 680-7288 or at