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How Long Does an Oil Change Take? When to Do it

Oil lubricates the parts that comprise the engine. Regular oil changes protect the engine and extend it's running life.

There are varying factors that affect the length of time it takes to change the oil in your car.

How Long Does an Oil Change Take?

Do-it-yourself oil changes usually take anywhere between 30 – 60 minutes, depending on the competency of the 'changer' and the tools and equipment available.

Professionals can get the job done in as little as 15-minutes and the longest you should be expected to wait is 45-minutes.

The fastest turn-around time is made possible by using a dedicated oil-change shop that specializes in quick changes where the driver doesn't need to leave the car.

45-minutes is the estimated time a mechanic at a dealer or repair shop will quote. However, they will also tend to check all of the other levels at the same time.

It probably won't take the full 45-minutes but they err on the side of caution to prevent irritated customers from waiting around.

Why Change Engine Oil?

draining engine oil

Engines have multiple moving metal components that need to remain properly lubricated to avoid component damage due to friction.

Even the highest-quality engine oil will degrade over time and produce contaminants. Contaminants can come in the form of dirt, dust, and debris from the engine and environment to compromise the integrity of the oil and prevent it from doing its job.

Maintenance

Pistons, valves, and other moving parts of an engine move at incredible speeds. This creates heat and friction and also causes them to degrade if not correctly lubricated. When poor engine oil isn't addresses, it can result in ever-increasing repair costs.

Cooling

Engine oil acts as a cooling agent. The friction that is created by the moving parts will eventually overheat and cause unnecessary damage if the oil isn't clean and kept at an adequate fill level.

Removes Dirt and Debris

Old oil will degrade over time and turn to sludge. This is lethal to engines and costly to remove. Regular oil and filter changes ensures this doesn't happen as properly eliminating and filtering particles protects the engine.

Poor quality oil lets dirt attack the engine resulting in corrosion. This decreases the life of the engine and some of its components.

MPG

Poor engine lubrication will decrease the number of miles per gallon of gas. Good, clean oil can improve gas consumption by 2%, admittedly not a huge amount.

Improved Life Span

Poor-quality oil not only affects fuel economy, but it also has a direct effect on the power and performance of the vehicle. The extra demands that poorly lubricated components have placed on them shortens their life expectancy.

Increased Value

Vehicles that have a proven record of regular oil and filter changes are known to hold their value and increase sale/trade-in value.

How Often Should Engine Oil be Changed

There are many conflicting opinions as to how long a car can run between oil changes, however, the definitive answer lies in the owner's handbook. The manufacturer will recommend the appropriate time or distance between oil changes and also the grade of engine oil that's best suited for vehicle.

For many years it was believed that changing the oil every 3000-miles or every 3-months (whichever came first) was the best advice. However, there have been large strides and improvements in both engines and oils in more recent years.

Nowadays, cars can run for at least 5,000-miles on one oil rotation. Some models can comfortably drive for 10,000 miles before the oil becomes less effective.

Older cars may need more regular oil changes as engine components age and deteriorate.

How to Perform an Oil Change

drain plug removal

This is a guide to each process involved in changing the oil in a car and an estimation of the length of time it should take to achieve each step.

If you have driven to a workshop you may need to let the oil cool for a while, similarly, if the car has been stationary for some time, you may need to run the engine to warm the oil. Cold oil will not drain readily.

Safely jack the car up and ensure you have the equipment to hand.

  1. Locate and open the drain plug – 2-minutes
  2. Drain the oil into an old tub – 10-minutes (continue with the next 4-steps concurrently as the oil drains)
  3. Remove the filter cap -4-minutes (possibly longer on newer cars)
  4. Remove the old filter cartridge and seals – 2-minutes
  5. Fit the new filter and seals – 3-minutes
  6. Screw the filter cap back in place – 2-minutes
  7. Reset the maintenance required light on the dash – Usually takes a few minutes
  8. Replace the drain plug bolt and a new washer – 2-minutes
  9. Refill with the recommended oil (owner's manual) – 4-minutes

Motor parts stores may try to sell you an engine oil additive to improve the fuel economy and performance of your car. Instead, look for a higher grade oil instead as it contains everything your car needs to perform to the best of its ability.

Timings may vary when over-tightened caps and filters prove difficult to loosen.

Lots of modern European cars have different layouts that make it more awkward to locate and remove the plugs.

Does Engine Size Matter?

It most certainly does. Larger vehicles tend to have bigger engines. Not only do they take longer to drain, but they also take longer to fill with oil.

The Ford Fusion takes around 10-15 minutes to drain and needs 4.2qts of oil to fill. The oil of a new model needs to be changed annually or at 10,000 miles, whichever comes first.

The Ford F150 on the other hand has a huge V8 engine that holds up to 7.7qts of oil and takes around half an hour to drain. Recommended oil change time is every 6-months or at 7,500 miles.

How to Dispose of Used Motor Oil

Used motor oil is considered toxic waste and therefore needs to be disposed of correctly and safely.

In most countries throughout the world, it is illegal to throw contaminated oil in the garbage or down a drain.

Several places will accept used oil and recycle or re-purpose it safely.

How to Store Used Engine Oil

A strong plastic or metal 1-gallon container is sufficient provided it has a tight-fitting cap.

We recommending storing the original jug to return the used oil to.

  • Do not use milk containers, the plastic isn't durable enough.
  • Never use containers that previously held household chemicals or other auto-fluids.
  • Don't mix the oil with solvents, paints, antifreeze, or differential oil.

Ensure the oil has had sufficient cooling time. It should take around 10-minutes but consider leaving it for longer if the ambient temperature is high.

Don't risk the plastic container melting or bursting if the oil is still too warm.

Place layers of newspapers or cardboard on the ground to catch and absorb any overspill. If there is a garage available, consider using the floor in there, away from drains.

Use a funnel to pour the oil through, and seal the cap as tight as possible when complete.

How to Test if Engine Oil is Contaminated

checking dipstick

Get the dipstick from beneath the hood of the car and wipe it clean. Dip it into the used clean and wipe it off using a CLEAN, WHITE CLOTH. Check for signs of contaminants:

  1. If the residue on the cloth is dark brown or black, has lots of sediment in it, and a sludgy appearance, it is highly contaminated and toxic. Seal it immediately and store it somewhere safe until you can dispose of it.
  2. If it is mid-brown and translucent and has bits of sediment and sludge, it is mildly contaminated and should be disposed of.
  3. If it is the color of honey, clear, transparent, and greasy, the oil is still of good quality and should be easier to dispose of.

Where to Dispose of Used Engine Oil

Many places will accept old oil if it is still of reasonable quality or only slightly contaminated.

The Local Recycling Center

Enter your postcode on Earth911.com for your closest center. They will accept good-quality oil and sometimes mildly-contaminated oil too.

motor oil recycling location

Toxic Waste Disposal Center

The safest place to dispose of used oil of any condition. Your municipality will have details of your local center.

Motor Oil Suppliers

In some states, it is a legal requirement for suppliers to share details of collection sites.

Gas Stations

They sometimes offer free oil recycling services, others charge a small fee, dependant on the quantity of oil.

Oil Energy

Many businesses recycle used oil for heat. Donating used oil helps you out and provides them with free heat.

A quick internet search should put you into contact with the relevant companies, although they will require the oil to be in good condition.

Consider investing in a large 5-8 gallon drum to store greater amounts and reduce the number of visits you might need to make.

This is a practical disposal idea that can make a small profit for garages should they decide to sell their oil.

Final Thoughts

Your car will only perform as well as the oil you give it and the frequency at which you change it.

Take care of all cars, but a little extra care of older models, they will reward you with longevity, reliability, and hopefully no astronomical garage bills.

Richard Reed
I've been a General Manager of a moving company and I've also been a Professional Mover for over 30 years. I've driven flat beds, reefers, dropdecks, moving vans, heavy machinery, etc. In my time as a Mover I've driven over 1,000,000 safe miles. My days of moving and driving truck are past me but The Vehicle Lab allows me to share the knowledge I've gained over the past 40 years.
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