How Long Does an Oil Change Take?

Wondering how long an oil change should take? We break it down for you, and talk about the various factors that affect the oil change time.

Oil Change Time

Getting an oil change is one of the most important car maintenance tasks you can focus on. It’s going to happen more frequently than any other service and might be the most critical. How long does an oil change take, whether you do it yourself or take it to a shop?

In this guide, we look at how much time you should prepare for. We also examine what factors alter the time it takes. 

How Long Does An Oil Change Take?

The average oil change will take between 20 and 45 minutes. During the oil change, the drain plug must be removed and the oil drained out into a pan. A new oil filter is installed and when the oil has been drained, the drain plug is put back in place and the fresh oil is added.

For the majority of the oil change, it’s just a matter of waiting for it all to drain. If you take your car to a dealership, the technician will perform some further inspections during this time. If you perform your own oil change, you can also choose to do something else during this time. 

Factors Affecting Oil Change Time

1. Person Changing the Oil

The amount of time you spend getting your oil changed will be dramatically affected by who is doing the work. If you are doing it yourself, you must factor in the equipment you have and your expertise. On average, it could take you thirty minutes or more to get the oil change completed. 

On the other hand, a quick lube shop is going to be the fastest. These locations have the equipment to get your vehicle in and out as fast as possible. The oil change is performed and the car is back out the door.

Sometimes, the longest option is to visit your local car dealership service center. While the oil change itself doesn’t take longer, the technicians provide other services at the same time. With these additional inspections, you have more peace of mind about the work provided, but your time waiting will be longer. Still, over the past few years, more dealerships have opened Express Lanes for faster oil change service. 

2. Vehicle Type/Accessibility

Each type of vehicle must be evaluated for accessibility because some are easier to work on than others. For the majority of cars, the drain plug and filter are simple to get to, but that’s not the case with all of them. 

Most shops can get to the drain plug and filter quickly, but you could have more trouble doing it in your home garage. Sometimes, filters also need to be removed or installed with special tools. All of these factors affect the time. 

Additionally, if you are doing the work at home, you have to drag out the jack and jack stands to get under some vehicles safely. This process takes time too. 

3. Engine Size

Additionally, you need to think about how large the engine is that is being drained and filled. The more oil it holds, the longer it will take to remove the contaminated oil and refill it with fresh oil.

If you have a four-cylinder or a V6 engine, it probably holds about five quarts of oil. However, diesel motors can hold a lot more. There are a few Cummins and PowerStroke engines that will hold up to 15 quarts of oil. In this case, it could easily take double the time to drain and refill the system than a standard car. Not only that, but the oil change service is going to cost more too. 

RELATED: Do I Have To Use the Manufacturer’s Oil? (Why You Should)

4. Wait Time

If you perform your own oil change, you don’t need to wait for anyone else. When you are ready to drain the oil and refill the engine, you can get to it right away.

However, when you visit a lube or dealership, you will have to wait for other customers that are before you. If you show up at a first come first served type of location, you could have a longer wait than you planned on. 

READ MORE: How to Remove a Stripped Oil Drain Plug (& Repair the Oil Pan Hole)

Quick Lube vs. Service Center: Where to Get an Oil Change?

If you don’t want to do your own oil change, you have two main options. You can visit the quick lube shop or a service center, whether it is at the dealership or it’s independent. With either option, there are some advantages and disadvantages that need to be discussed. 

Let’s start by looking at the quick lube shop. This is going to be your fastest option because it’s all this location does. The system operates like clockwork, moving one car after the next. However, this quick operation leaves time for nothing else to be accomplished. The technicians aren’t going to provide an inspection or look at anything else on the vehicle. 

You also might not find the best brand oil filter or oil recommended by the automaker. While you will pay about the same as a typical repair shop, you have nothing extra to show for it. Plus, the technicians can be entry-level. They don’t need special certifications, which is why some people find their drain plug stripped or the wrong filter used. 

When you take your vehicle to the dealership or service center, other tasks might be performed as part of the appointment. For example, most dealerships also check the wiper blades, battery, tires and lights during the oil change. These are all complimentary checks but do add some extra time to the service. Additionally, these shops are going to have qualified technicians and usually use brand-name parts, even OEM from the automaker, if you visit the dealership.

RELATED: OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts: Differences (& Which is Better?)

If you are in a hurry, you might choose to visit the local lube, which is fine in a pinch. But overall, it’s better to trust your vehicle to the professionals at the dealership or independent service center. 

How Often Should You Get an Oil Change?

There are numerous factors involved in figuring out how often an oil change is needed. Most vehicles are going to get an oil change every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. If you are driving an older vehicle using conventional oil, you will probably want to get an oil change every 3,000 miles. There are also other times that more frequent oil changes should occur, such as:

  • If you only drive short distances. This would equate to five miles at a time in normal temperatures or ten miles in colder temperatures because the engine never gets heated up fully.
  • The vehicle is used heavily to tow or haul cargo.
  • You drive on muddy, sandy, dusty and rough rides.
  • You spend a lot of time driving in stop-and-go traffic. 

Today’s modern vehicle doesn’t need an oil change so frequently. If you are driving a newer vehicle in normal conditions and you use synthetic or synthetic blend oil, you shouldn’t change the oil more frequently than every 5,000 miles. In many cases, the car could even go 7,500 to 10,000 miles between oil changes. If you aren’t sure, it’s best to read the service manual or talk to your local mechanic.

RELATED: How Much Does an Oil Change Cost?