As someone who's spent years in the dealership waiting rooms, maintaining a fleet of vehicles and sometimes doing my own oil changes, I've been asked countless times: "How fast can an oil change be done?"
The answer isn't as straightforward as you might think.
You might be lured into the 10-minute oil changes and the promises they make. Or you are sitting in the dealership waiting room for over an hour and pushing 2 hours.
Here is the honest truth.
The time it takes to change your oil can vary depending on several factors, including the type of vehicle you have and the oil you're using. Book time for a BMW M3 is 1-2 hours to drain the oil from the engine properly. (Ridiculous, I know)
However, I have been able to change the oil in about 10 minutes in real life. Read on to learn my secret weapon on how to accomplish this.
While this might sound extreme, I've been on both sides of the spectrum, getting most of the oil out versus getting every last drop out.
The average time for an oil change in a standard passenger vehicle is typically around 30 to 45 minutes. This is verified by the estimated time that JiffyLube reports as 20 to 45 mins.
ESTIMATED TIME TABLE - Reason - Time Intervals Cost
- Indie Shop
- Express Oil or Quick Lube Shop
- DIY at Home - Ramps
- DIY at Home - Extractor (secret weapon)
However, if you're driving a high-performance or luxury vehicle, it could take longer, As mentioned previously.
The type of oil you're using can also affect the time it takes. The most important thing is to ensure your vehicle is at operating temperature so the old oil can drain out smoothly.
But remember, an oil change isn't just about speed. It's about doing the job right.
Cutting corners to save time can lead to costly repairs down the road. For example:
- Installing the wrong drain plug
- Use a universal rubber washer instead of a copper crush washer
- Using the wrong size or spec oil filter
- Using the wrong oil type or viscosity of engine oil
So, while it's good to know how fast an oil change can be done, it's more important to ensure it's done properly to avoid engine damage or oil leaks.
Factors Affecting the Speed of an Oil Change
Everyone understands the value of timeliness when it comes to car maintenance.
Time is money, and the service center will book you for at least 1 hour typically. This differs from the express oil shops that advertise 10 or 15-minute oil changes.
Gravity Drain vs Extracting Oil
Technically, the oil change is about 15- 20 minutes using a gravity drain method.
The gravity drain method is when the oil is drained from the drain plug. In contrast, the other method is extracting the old oil from the dipstick.
I have used both methods and now use the top extraction for my oil changes. It's easier, faster, and less messy. I can extract the oil in about 10 minutes and be ready to refill immediately afterward.
Dealerships don't make a lot of revenue from oil changes, per my conversation with my service advisor from BMW. However, for the price I pay, the dealership does wash the car before it's returned to me.
No matter who changes your oil, it's crucial to consider factors such as the mechanic's expertise, the oil filter you're using, and specific tools that influence an oil change's speed, as mentioned above.
Experience and Efficiency of the Technician
An experienced professional mechanic can perform an oil change swiftly and effectively for a standard passenger vehicle with a rule of thumb speed of 30 to 45 minutes.
Experienced technicians will also be able to address any bigger issues like over-torqued drain plugs or oil filters.
With years under their belt in oil change service, they are familiar with potential issues and obstacles with a typical oil change. In addition to checking oil levels and other fluid levels correctly, they can also check your tire pressure and a visual check of your brakes and suspension.
Type of Oil Filter Used and Location
The type of oil filter used plays a significant part in the duration of the oil change process.
In addition, the location of the oil filter will make it a piece of cake or the bane of your existence if you cannot easily reach the oil filter to remove it. This is due to limited access, skid plates, or poor engineering.
Location of Oil Filters
For example, my Audi's oil filter is under the lower control arm and will always spill if the oil is not emptied from the drain beforehand. I typically clean up using brake cleaner, but reaching out is a hassle.
If multiple engine components are in the way, you are in a world of hurt.
On the other hand, my brother's Honda Accord is easy to reach behind the passenger wheel. My BMW and Benz have an oil filter at the top of the engine, making it super easy.
It really depends on the engineering behind how the vehicle was designed.
Conventional wisdom states that quality filters can streamline the oil change process, keeping your engine clean. In contrast, a substandard oil filter might not fit correctly or securely in the oil filter housing.
Using the Right Tools
Having the right equipment makes quick work of the oil change process and ensures it's done properly. Let's take a closer look:
- Jack Stands - Used to elevate the vehicle, it can make accessing the oil filter and drain plug less strenuous, making for a more efficient oil change process. Be sure the right rating for the heavy loads is based on the weight of your vehicle. Safety is the #1 priority when working on any vehicle.
- Vehicle Ramps - A favorable alternative to jack stands, vehicle ramps provide a steady and secure rise to your vehicle, easing oil-change intervals. I use ramps over jackstands since it's quicker to drive up the ramps versus jacking up the car on stands.
- Extractor - An oil extractor can make your oil change faster and cleaner. This tool can extract practically all the oil from your engine without getting under the vehicle or physically removing the drain plug.
- Gravity Flow Oil Change - This traditional oil change method is time-tested, but it could be faster. However, it's a reliable way to get a complete oil change and helps ensure a thorough service. This is the most common method if you have a lift or auto shop.
The time investment in proper oil change service is rewarded with smoother rides, better performance, and a vehicle's longevity.
My advice? Simply put, you will get better with time. So, let's adhere to best practices, stay safe, and avoid problems in the future in the rearview mirror.
Fastest Methods for Oil Change
The fastest method, based on my experience, is doing the oil change yourself with an extractor. (10 mins to extract and 5 mins to refill) I suggest this if you are willing to take some time to do so and enjoy the work.
Otherwise, take it to a local indie shop specializing in your make and model.
Indie shops are typically priced 20% to 30% less than dealerships. But it really depends on what suits your lifestyle best.
Dealerships are good to use if you are under warranty, as you have the peace of mind that everything is done to the manufacturer's specifications. It will be on records that you keep up with regular maintenance as well.
Changing your vehicle's oil quickly and efficiently is a task that demands both knowledge and skill.
However, it becomes simpler if you know certain techniques and best practices.
Common Problems During an Oil Change
Broken Drain Plug
If you're unfortunate enough to deal with a broken drain plug during an oil change, it can be a slow process to remedy. But having the right tools is key.
For this, a universal oil filter wrench or an oil socket set could be a mechanic's best friend. With these, I've found that the task can be handled more efficiently without damaging the drain plug or housing, requiring a time-consuming repair. Also, use a 6-point socket instead of a 12-point socket to avoid stripping or slipping when removing the plug.
Over Torqued Drain Plug
An overtightened or overtightened drain plug is another common issue extending the time needed for an oil change. It's important to observe the rule of thumb about the torque level for different vehicles.
Use a breaker bar and NOT AN IMPACT GUN to remove the drain plug. You do not want the bolt to snap in the oil pan. If that happens, you must drill out the bolt and possibly retap the threads.
Having a torque wrench is almost a necessity to avoid this issue. Be sure to tighten to the manufacturer's torque specs.
Incorrect Oil Filter
Using an incorrect oil filter can lead to a range of engine problems and make the oil change process longer. Low-quality filters can impede oil flow and cause bigger issues.
Stick to high-quality, OE vehicle-specific filters to ensure a fast, effective oil change. You can purchase at your local automotive store or Amazon for easy delivery.
Sludge buildup is among the most challenging situations during your oil change service.
It can considerably extend the oil change time since it involves extensive cleaning. There are engine flushes like the BG Dynamic Engine Cleaner, but that requires considerable time from an authorized BG dealer. It consists of 3 steps.
Remember, regular maintenance services at a service center would ensure your engine is sludge-free, thus saving time during oil changes.
An oil leak can significantly slow down the process. It is a more serious issue that can hinder the oil change operation and might call for a professional mechanic's help. But there's a way to handle it faster.
If the leak is minor, using a Liqui-Moly Oil Saver or a high mileage oil can help reduce the weeping. If the leak is more than weeping, take it to the service center for fixing.
As always, prioritize the job done properly over the minutes saved. Ultimately, a hasty oil change could lead to costly repairs, creating more hassle than it's worth.
Oil Change from an Auto Shop or DIYer at Home
When deciding how quickly an oil change can be done, a significant factor to consider is choosing between an auto shop or going the DIYer (Do It Yourself) route. Crucially, your choice can also have a substantial impact on the cost.
Cost for a Shop like Valvoline
Consider a service center like Valvoline. With a reputation for high-speed, efficient service, the company holds a strong position in the 'quick lube' market. Their comprehensive oil change service generally covers the following:
- Emptying of old motor oil
- Installing a new oil filter
- Refilling the engine with fresh oil
The price varies based on oil type and vehicle model. You're looking at roughly $40 to $90, but a premium vehicle or synthetic oil could push the cost upwards of $100.
The rule of thumb? Factor in the value of your time. You might end up waiting around at a shop, but professional mechanics have the right tools to expedite the process. They'll handle your fluid levels service intervals and keep your engine clean.
Cost for DIY - Do It Yourself
Should you decide to take the DIY route, keeping in mind your oil filter, oil level, and fluid levels is crucial. What are the costs here?
- Motor oil will set you back around $20-50
- A quality oil filter will be in the range of $5-15
- Plus, any tools, ramps, or jack stands required to get the work done
Remember to factor in the cost of your time. Changing your oil without the equipment or experience of a professional mechanic is not an instant process; typically, it takes an hour and a half on ramps but can be as little as 20 minutes with an extractor.
Regardless of your path, adhering to oil-change intervals is a best practice for keeping any vehicle's engine clean and running efficiently.
Final Thoughts on How Long Oil Changes Should Take to Complete
The speed of an oil change isn't a one-size-fits-all answer.
Your vehicle type, choice of oil, and whether you're going DIY or professional all play a part.
On average, you're looking at 30 to 45 minutes for a service technician to change a standard vehicle at an express oil change. But remember, it's not all about speed. Quality and precision are crucial to avoid future repair costs.
Having the right tools, using top-notch filters, and following best practices can streamline the process and extend your vehicle's lifespan. This is true if you get your oil service from your local dealership.
Regular check-ups on fluid levels and sticking to service intervals are key.
DIY can be a cheaper route, but it demands careful attention to detail and safety.
Above all, regular maintenance is the secret to preserving your vehicle's lifespan and dodging hefty repair bills. Consumer Reports suggest that you check your oil once a month.