The oil change: it’s one of those car maintenance jobs that we’ve all heard of. Whether or not we know much about the technical side of it, however, is another story. What equipment do you need? What are they various steps? How long does it take to get an oil change? We’re going to answer as much as we can in today’s article.
Quick Answer: How Long Does an Oil Change Take?
Getting an oil change is a relatively simply procedure and should only take a trained professional a maximum of 45 minutes to complete. A really experienced hand could have it done in 30 minutes. A really good mechanic will change the oil, and then inspect the engine to ensure everything looks to be in full working order. A few minutes of inspection can reveal that all things are well with your fluid levels, filters and other components in the engine bay.
Where to go for your change
You can easily find mechanics in any town that will be able to change your oil. This is also one of the services that you can now get done via a mobile car repair to make things more convenient. While we tend to be wary of certain 'mobile services', like the mobile car inspection, an oil change is simple enough to be a perfect option for a mobile option.
While most people can take their vehicles to pretty much anywhere to get an oil change. However, if you have higher end vehicles, like a BMW it can be better to go to a specialty shop. Our BMW service guide lays out some of the reasoning, but your BMW oil changes could benefit from someone who know the European models. Foreign cars, and specifically European ones, are incredible performance machines but tend to take more TLC to keep in shape.
The last option is to take your vehicle to the dealership. Some people who buy through a dealer vs. private seller can get deals on future service intervals. So make sure to check if the dealer you used offers any kind of promotion where you can get free servicing before going elsewhere. If you don't, the local mechanics are typically cheaper than dealers so avoid them when possible to save money.
What Happens During an Oil Change?
Let’s take a period of 40 minutes and say that this is when your oil change will happen. What exactly does your mechanic do during that time? Below is a summary of how an oil change takes place.
Step 1: Lifting
The first thing a mechanic needs to do is get your car safely high enough so that they can work comfortably underneath it. For this, they’ll likely use a lift, but a smaller outfit might make do with a ramp or simple jack stands. Once under there, they remove the plastic protective undertray to gain access to the oil pan. At this stage, they’ll normally inspect for any signs of oil or other leaks.
Step 2: Draining
Next, the mechanic will take a large receptacle, perhaps an oil drain pan, or a simply five-gallon bucket and drain the current oil into it. The oil pan has a drain plug that can be twisted off. Not having a container ready would mean they’re just unscrewing a cap to then leave an almighty mess on the ground. The draining process usually takes up to 5 minutes or so, but ultimately it depends on the size of your car and the amount of oil you use.
Step 3: The Filter
After draining, there is another spot that has some oil remaining, and that’s the filter. The mechanic will first loosen the filter to allow any excess oil to run out and down into the receptacle. Before putting new oil into the engine, they’ll also install a fresh oil filter for you to ensure all traces of the old oil have been purged from the vehicle.
Step 4: Restore the Drain Plug and Filter
Once all the dirty old oil has been drained, the mechanic will restore the drain plug. If your car uses a washer behind the plug, then they may also have changed this washer. You can ask your mechanic about this next time you have an oil change, or simply check your manual to see if your car’s oil pan has this feature.
Next, they’ll oil up the new filter’s gasket and restore the new filter to its proper location. Your new system will now be ready to receive new oil.
Step 5: Fill it Up
After this, the mechanic will restore the protective undertray and lower the car back down to ground level for the next stage. They’ll pop open the hood and remove the engine’s oil cap. Next, they’ll pour in enough of whatever engine oil type you need to match your manufacturer’s specifications.
After filling up, the mechanic will likely wait a few minutes to let the new oil settle properly in the pan. Once they believe that is done, they’ll check the dipstick to ensure that the new oil is sitting at the proper level.
Step 6: Final Checks
Finally, the mechanic will start your car and let it warm up. As it does, they will inspect the vehicle area for any signs of oil leaks. If there are none, then the job is done and your car will be returned to you.
In the end the answer to “how long does an oil change take?” depends entirely on the efficiency of your mechanic. A time of 30-45 minutes is par for the course, according to the experts, but that could be shorter if your mechanic is quick on their feet, or if your car is a lot smaller and draining time is shorter.
How Often Do You Need an Oil Change?
You should be setting aside these 30-45 minutes for yourself to get an oil change every 5,000-12,000. I know, quite a big range there, but the real number depends on how old your car is. The older vehicles that run on fully non-synthetic suggest a change around 3,000-5,000 miles. Newer cars, however, tend to use full-synthetic or synthetic mix motor oil that can last up to 15,000 miles with no servicing of any kind required. That’s a real game-changer for car owners. We go into depth regarding how many miles you get per change in our Nissan oil change and BMW oil change articles.
For cars using regular engine oil, however, the number is around 3,000. If, on the other hand, you do have a newer car that makes use of more modern lubricants, then you can expect to go between 5,000 and 7,500 miles without needing an oil change. The best policy is to check the dipstick at 3,000 miles and see the situation.
If after 3,000 miles, the oil condition on your dipstick is good --- smooth, glossy, somewhat transparent and free from any grainy or sludgy deposits --- then you don’t need a change just yet. You could then check the dipstick every 500-1000 miles to be sure. You could also wait for the warning light to appear on your dash, but visual checks are always a good idea. Anything that helps broaden the knowledge you have of your own car is great.
Why Does Synthetic Oil Last Longer?
The simple answer to this question is that synthetic oil is a purer product than conventional engine oil. All these oil products are processed, but synthetic is more heavily and finely so. It’s made from a blend of different oils, which together produce a substance greater than the sum of its parts. The purity of the synthetic oil is much better for the engine, and results in a vastly reduced build up of grit and other impurities that cause you to need an oil change in the first place.
The process of changing synthetic oil remains the same, however. The oil may last longer, but the changing of it will still take that same window of 30-45 minutes.
Conclusion: 30-45 Minutes is a Short Time – Don’t Skip It
When you consider that all you have to do is set aside an hour or so of your time every 3,000; 5,000; 7,500 or even 15,000 miles, an oil change can’t seem like such a big deal. It’s easy to get it done, but the results of not getting it done on time can be quite catastrophic. Your engine requires the lubrication that only good engine oil can provide. You’ll skip an oil change at your own peril! It's best practice to keep track of your services with receipts so that when you go to sell your car, you have a good history to show prospective buyers.
If you are selling your car privately without all the hassle, you can check out Topmarq, where you can easily list your car with engaging listings provided by their vehicle experts. Just go to the sell your car page to submit a vehicle for reveiw.
Looking to show off your newly serviced car?