Engine Servicing

How Long Does An Oil Change Take?

add oil to the engine

How long Do oil changes take?

A typical engine oil change can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to complete, depending on which option you choose.

There are a few options available when it comes to getting the oil changed in your vehicle. You can leave your vehicle in to a garage to get it changed and this can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a full day. If you decide to change it yourself then you should be able to complete the job in an hour or less.

When it comes to an oil change service there are several factors to consider both in terms of time as well as costs when it comes to making the best choice. In this article, I'll run through each oil change option and explain what's involved in changing the oil yourself.

What Are The Different Oil Change Options And How Long do They Take?

Changing the engine oil is one of the most frequent and easiest maintenance tasks on any car. It's also a popular project among DIY enthusiasts. If you are reading this article and never tried doing it before, then you may be wondering is it worth the effort.

Let’s start by exploring the different options available to you from the fastest to the slowest. 

1. Oil Change at an Express Service Garage

Probably the fastest and arguably the most efficient way of doing an oil change is going to a 'Quick Lube Shop'.

Depending on the franchise, these “express shops” often offer you the option to remain inside the car during  the process.

From beginning to end an oil change at an express oil change shop usually only takes around 15 minutes.

From a cost perspective, "quick lube" shops are also the cheapest service option available. However, they are not always the best option.

The speedy service offered by express shops is usually possible thanks to a special machine that literally sucks the engine oil through the dipstick tube.

They don’t unscrew the oil pan plug, nor have to wait for the oil to drain. The operator uses the machine to extract the old oil, replaces the oil filter, and pours in the new oil.

That’s all there is to it. Unfortunately, this usually isn't the best way to do an oil change. Depending on engine design you can leave too much “old” oil in the vehicle, that simply can’t be accessed by the pump.

There is also a chance that debris and sludge won't be sufficiently removed and will remain in the oil pan sump. This is not ideal, and can cause problems with your engine if allowed to build up.

Oil change service speed ★★★★★

Service Cost ★★

After Service Warranty ★★

2. Non Franchised General Repair Shop Oil Change

One of the most common places to get an engine oil service done is by your local mechanic at a mechanics repair shop.

This type of service can take from 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the shop and how busy it is.

Some repair shops allocate several bays for “express services”, which in most cases are oil changes. You may think that waiting 45 minutes is not too much when compared with "quick lube" shops. Just remember that this time does not include waiting times, and you'll probably need to leave your car with the shop for a few hours.

From a cost standpoint, this service is more expensive too. Although considering it's a more thorough oil change, in most cases, the difference is definitely worth it.

Oil change service speed ★★★

Service Cost ★★★

After Service Warranty ★★★★★

3. Car Dealership Oil Change

Getting your car or truck serviced at a dealership is not the best choice for everyone. Depending on the age of your car and whether it is out of warranty or not, will heavily influence your decision.

how long does an oil change take

A dealership oil change is arguably the most expensive option of all. Time is another issue too. The oil change itself takes around 30-45 minutes, but chances are you'll  have to leave your car with them for most of the day. You may also be waiting a few weeks for an appointment, depending on where you live or what kind of car you drive.

However, going to a dealership can be the safer option

Sometimes mistakes happen, even during an oil change. Humans are prone to error. Accidents such as a tool falling into the engine during oil filling, an incorrectly tightened oil pan plug, using the wrong grade oil, a loose oil filter, not adding the correct amount of oil, the list goes on and on. 

These things can happen not only at dealerships but at any oil change shop. The difference is that, in most cases, dealerships will be better equipped to take full responsibility for any errors. Also, you are more likely to find an experienced master technician at a dealership that is fully trained to sort out any problems with your exact car model.

Oil change service speed

Service Cost ★★★★★

After Service Warranty ★★★★★

4. The Cheapest Option - Change The Engine Oil Yourself

The favourite option for DIY enthusiasts is getting their hands dirty. Changing the oil yourself can save you a lot of money as you only have to pay for the materials (oil and oil filter). 

So what else do you need to keep in mind?

diy engine oil change

From a time perspective, the oil change can about 1 hour, depending on your experience level.

The quality of the service is also linked to your expertise. If you know what are you doing, you can easily change the engine oil like a professional. It's a fairly straightforward job, with very few specialised tools needed.

The biggest drawback to changing the oil yourself is that you are on your own. Depending on your skills and knowledge, if things go wrong you may need to call in a professional mechanic to assist you.

You also need to consider how you are going to dispose of the used oil. Don't be tempted to pour it down the drain, it must be disposed of safely in your local recycling centre.

Some modern vehicles use special oil filter wrenches, so make sure you do your research before starting. You may also need an OBD II reader for resetting the change oil service light. 

Overall, changing the oil yourself can be the best option and with a bit of practice can also be the quickest too.

Oil change service speed - Depends on experience

Service Cost - You only need to pay for oil and filters

After Service Warranty - depends on experience

How To Change The Oil In Your Car Yourself

To change the oil in your car yourself, you will need a few basic garage tools as follows:

  1. Suitable hydraulic/bottle jack and axle stands.
  2. Ratchet wrench to remove and the drain bung
  3. Torque wrench for refitting the oil sump bung and oil filter canister (if fitted)
  4. Oil filter wrench to change the oil filter
  5. Oil drain pan or basin to catch the oil

You will also need a new oil filter, a new drain bung (or new drain bung washer) and suitable engine oil.

It's vital that you choose the correct oil for your engine. Always refer to the vehicle handbook for the exact specification and volume needed. If you need some help choosing a synthetic oil, check out my reviews of what I think are the best synthetic engine oils available.

Changing the engine oil involves jacking up your vehicle. This can be dangerous of not done properly. If you are not comfortable doing this, or have zero experience working on cars then I highly recommend getting a qualified mechanic to do it for you. 

Before you start, take the car for a short drive to heat up the oil so it easier to drain from the engine.

Step 1: Carefully raise the front of the car using a suitable jack. Support the weight of the car using at least two axle stands that are capable or bearing the weight of the car.

Step 2: Open the hood and locate and remove the oil filler cap. This will help to drain the oil quicker from the engine.

Step 3: Position the oil drain pan under the oil sump of the engine and slowly remove the drain bung. Be careful not to touch the underside of the engine or the oil as it will be very hot. Try not to drop the bung in the oil pan when removed!

remove the drain bung

Take care removing the drain bung

Step 4: While the oil is draining from the engine, remove the oil filter. On some cars the oil filter will be located on the underside or back of the engine and may be hard to access. If you are lucky, the oil filter will be at the top of the engine and will be easy to remove.

Step 5: Fit the new oil filter. If it is a spin on metal filter, don't forget to lubricate the seal with a small amount of old oil to create a good seal. Don't over-tighten it, usually it's enough to tighten by hand. If your car uses a paper filter, then replace the seals on the filter canister. Refit and tighten it to the manufacturers specification (the correct torque is usually printed on the lid of the canister)

Changing oil filter

Some oil filters are located under the engine

Step 6: Now refit the oil sump bung. You may need to replace it if it's old or the head is worn. You should always replace the washer bung if it's a copper washer, usually a new one will be included with the oil filter. Don't over-tighten the oil sump bung (you should always torque it to avoid mishaps)

Step 7: Using a clean funnel, add the correct amount of new engine oil to the engine. Be sure not to add too much as this can be just as bad for the engine as not adding enough.

Step 8: Replace the oil filler cap and double check that everything is tightened up and back where it should be.

Step 9: Make sure the car is in neutral gear and start the engine, leaving it to idle for a few minutes. 

Step 10: Shut off the engine and check the oil filter, sump bung and oil filler cap for leaks. If there are any, recheck that you have tightened the sump nut and filter properly.

Step 11: Dip the oil to ensure that the correct amount has been added. You will probably need to top it up by a small amount. Half way between the minimum and maximum levels on the dip stick is where you want it to be.

Step 12: To finish, refit any under body covers to the engine. Carefully remove the axle stands and lower the vehicle to the ground. Refit plastic covers to the top of the engine and close the hood.

About the author

Matt Taylor

Matt Taylor

Hey, I'm Matt, founder of themotorguy.com

I've been a car fanatic all of my life. As a youngster, I loved nothing more than taking things apart and rebuilding them. I would also spend my weekends helping my dad with all sorts of car maintenance jobs.
For the past decade I've been a keen amateur mechanic with a love of classic BMW's. Over the years I've learned lots about car maintenance, car detailing and troubleshooting common engine problems.
It's my goal to share my knowledge with fellow amateur car fanatics around the world, and to help people to diagnose and fix their own cars.
If you have any questions please contact me, I'd love to hear your feedback and suggestions!