How Long Does An Oil Change Take? Are There Ways to Speed it Up?

Oil is the most crucial part of keeping a car’s engine running.  Even though gas powers the car, oil keeps the parts that make your car move functioning correctly.  Having your car’s oil changed regularly is a necessity and an often overlooked facet of car ownership.

Many people take for granted that their engine runs, and if there are no warning lights lit up on display, they believe they’re fine.   Others don’t want to pay the price of regular oil changes, are “too busy” to do it themselves, or can’t make room in the schedule to have it done for them.

Mechanic wearing gloves changing the oil of a vehicle, and pouring new ones into a funnel

This is a mistake. An oil change doesn’t take very long, even in the worst of worse case scenarios. Taking just an hour out of your schedule every few months to do this will keep your car running smoothly and efficiently.

This is one part of owning a car that isn’t a pain, and there are ways to make sure changing your car’s oil continues to be a quick and painless experience.

Why Should I Change my Car’s Oil?

Oil is a lubricant.  Even the simplest car engines endure quite a bit of heat and stress as each component moves.  Oil is what keeps each part moving quietly, smoothly, and efficiently.

Fresh oil ensures peak fuel efficiency, decreased heat caused by the engine, and proper filtration of unwanted dirt and particulates.  The less an engine has to work, the more efficient and cost-effective it will be.

This is especially true in an older vehicle.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that cars 5-16 years old tended to cost about $151 more in maintenance per year than a car less than five years old. (Note: For best results with older vehicles, you should consider using a product from our search for the best high mileage oil.)

You don’t have to become part of that statistic, and a regular oil change can help reduce that cost.

As oil gets used up, and as time goes by, it breaks down, becomes dirty, and becomes less efficient.  All this can contribute to engine damage.  Moving parts like the pistons can warp because of the decrease in lubrication and consequent heat and friction produced.

Older cars usually need more frequent oil changes.  Extreme driving conditions such as frequent stop-and-go commutes and unusually cold or warm climates also affect how often you will need to change your oil.

Regardless of a car’s age, changing the oil on a regular basis could prevent significant damage to your engine and its components.  Taking the time to change your oil regularly will keep your engine from any major damage and save you the cost of major repairs down the road.

How Long Should it Take to Change the Oil in my Car?

There are quite a few factors that affect the time it takes to change the oil in your car.  Depending on the factors you encounter, it will generally take between 15 and 60 minutes from start to finish.

Here are some of the factors that will affect the time it takes to change the oil in your car.

DIY vs. Shop Work

What is the best place to get an oil change? You could do it yourself, or you could take your car to a shop. Which is better? This is the biggest question when considering the amount of time it will take to complete an oil change.

If you change your car’s oil yourself, it will never depend on anybody else’s schedule and will always depend on the factors which you create.  Car care centers have to deal with other customers, higher priority repairs, and busy times throughout the day while you don’t.

Planning a time to take your car to a shop could save you time and hassle, but taking your car in at a busy time of day will keep you there longer than you need to be.

Taking your car for an oil change on a weekday morning is the best time to ensure a quick trip.

The decision to take your car somewhere or do it yourself will be based solely on your wants, needs, and abilities.

Expertise

Expertise makes a big difference.

It makes sense that somebody who changes car oil on a daily basis would be able to do it faster than somebody who doesn’t.  Even if you regularly change the oil yourself, you may only be doing it every 3-6 months or 3000 to 7500 miles.

The people who work at your local car care center are experts.  Unless you also work there, you are not.  If changing the oil is something you do on a regular basis, it will be a faster process.

Low Priority VS High Priority

An oil change at a shop is usually a low priority. Places like Jiffy Lube specialize in oil changes and minor repairs, and there is usually a bay set aside specifically to do oil changes.

Taking your car to a larger car care center or a dealership will usually take longer because customers go there for larger repairs and full services.

Employees are on a schedule, and larger shops have to prioritize work to keep everything moving efficiently.

Even if you go to Jiffy Lube or a quick service station, people may not call ahead for appointments.  When it gets busy, a brake job takes priority over a simple oil change.

Car Size

The larger the car, the longer the process.

It would make sense that a larger vehicle with a larger engine would take more oil than a smaller one.  Draining the oil in any car is generally the longest portion of an oil change.

According to Ford’s technical specifications, the smallest of their cars, the Ford Fiesta, requires between 4.3 and 4.5 quarts of oil.  The Ford F150 pickup with the V8 engine option requires as much as 7.7 quarts of oil.

The bolt that is removed to drain the oil isn’t very large.  It usually takes about 15 minutes for an average car to fully drain.

A truck that requires more oil than an average car may take up to 25 or 30 minutes to fully drain.

Car Make And Model

The make and model of your car can factor into the process. Many cars today are pretty straightforward when it comes to oil changes, but there are exceptions.

Much of this has to do with ease of access to drain the oil and replace the filter.

Since each car is different, it’s best to consult your car’s owner’s manual to see where the oil filter is, where the drain point is, and how easy it will be to access everything you need.

If the filter is in a hard to reach area or it takes a more specialized tool to unscrew the filter or plug, it may be faster and easier to take it to a shop.

Another potential time-consuming factor has to do with the aerodynamics of your vehicle.

If there are panels underneath your car to create better airflow, you may need to remove them so you can access your oil pan.

Previous Oil Changes

Any previous oil change your car had makes a big difference.

Oil wears out, and the longer the time between changes, the more potential there is for the oil change to be more difficult.  This applies particularly to the draining process.

Old, used oil becomes thicker as it picks up particulates through its lifespan.  Dirt and microscopic pieces from the engine get caught up in the oil, and it becomes less effective.

Not only can this cause added wear on the engine components, but it may also cost you some extra time during your next oil change.

You should always consult your owner’s manual as to how long the car should go between oil changes, but the older the oil, the longer it will take to drain.

How Can I Make The Oil Change Process A Faster One?

Spending a little time planning your oil change now can save you a lot of time down the road.  Here’s how you can speed up the process to ensure that your next oil change will be as quick and efficient as it can be.

Schedule

Schedule your next oil change.

Scheduling your next oil change at your favorite service center or dealership is simple and effective.  Most places have an online scheduling page that allows you to set up an appointment right from your laptop or phone.

Making an appointment doesn’t always guarantee that your car will be ready to go in 15 minutes, but it does give the technicians a set time to work on it.

On top of that, many places don’t provide “first come, first serve” service anyway.

Off-Peak Hours

Go to a service shop at non-peak hours.

If going to Jiffy Lube or another “first come, first serve” shop, go on a weekday morning.  Lunchtime, late afternoon, and weekends are usually busier times for the shop because more people are off work.

Taking your lunch break early or going into work later in the morning may be a slight inconvenience, but taking only 30 minutes off work in the morning could turn out better than waiting at the shop for an hour and a half during your lunch break.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you are going to change the oil yourself, practice. Once you start doing it yourself, keep doing it so that it becomes easier with time.

If it’s your first time, ask a friend to help you or watch a YouTube video to guide you through the process.

Education

Educate yourself. The owner’s manual isn’t provided with the car for no reason.

It may be boring, but it’s the key to success and the key to not ruining your vehicle.

Putting the wrong oil in your car could prove detrimental to the engine and may wind up costing thousands of dollars in damage.

How Long Does It Take To Prepare For An Oil Change?

Preparation for an oil change can take anywhere from 1-15 minutes.

You will, of course, have to buy the fresh oil and new filter, but this will only cost you up to about $50 for a top grade oil.  Additives are not usually recommended or needed.

If your car is warmed up, all you need to do is take the time to jack up the car, using stands to hold it in position at the desired height.   Alternatively, you can use a lift, if you have one, or tire ramps to access the underside of the vehicle.

If the car is cold, you will need to turn it on to warm up the oil.  This allows the oil to drain at its best and can take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes.

If you have been driving your car, you may need to let it cool down before allowing the hot oil to drain.

Beyond that, you will simply need to assemble your tools.  Once that is done, the process is simple and should take between 15 and 60 minutes based on your skill level, familiarity with the process, and make and model of your car.

What Does The Process Look Like, And How Much Time Should Each Step Take?

The first step in changing the oil is to locate the drain bolt. The time it takes to unscrew the bolt can be as little as a few seconds.  If the drain bolt is in a hard-to-reach area or you need to remove undercarriage panels, this may take as long as 5 minutes.

Once the bolt gets unscrewed, you will need to wait for the oil to drain into the disposal carton you have chosen. This is the longest part of the process and will depend on how much oil the car can hold.

The amount and age of the oil will affect how long it takes to drain the car, but generally, this should take anywhere from 10-30 minutes.

Replacing the drain bolt and oil filter usually takes between 2 and 5 minutes. The ease of access to the filter, the age of the car, and the position of the oil filter on the engine all contribute to the time it will take for this step.

The last step in the process is to refill your car’s engine oil with your manufacturer’s recommended oil type. This usually doesn’t take more than 5 minutes.

It’s always a good idea to use a funnel when refilling the oil.   Spilled oil can cause smoke from the heat produced by the engine.   Not using a funnel will also take more time.  A precise pour requires a steady hand whereas a funnel speeds up the process.

Any Other Tips And Tricks You Have For Me?

Consistency matters in car maintenance.

Because oil is so essential to the proper function of your car, be consistent with when, how, and with which oil you use in your car.  This will make the changing process easier and will set you up to save time in the future.

If you try to change the oil yourself, and you don’t feel comfortable continuing to do it, take your car to a shop next time.  It can be easier, less time consuming, and even just as expensive if you know where to take your car.

Get to know your car.  The more familiar you are with the vehicle you drive, the easier it will be to navigate its components.

Identifying things like the oil pan, drain bolt, and oil dipstick ahead of time will make it easier on yourself when it does come time to change your oil by yourself.

Remember to check the oil level of the car after an oil change to make sure it’s filled all the way. For more guidance on this, check our article on how much oil a car needs.

It’s also helpful to check for leaks by turning the car on when you are done to make sure you won’t be refilling the oil again next week.

Finally, be sure to use a quality oil that will lubricate and protect your cars engine as best as possible. We have many recommendations in our guide to the best synthetic oils, and also how to enhance any engine oils performance in our guide to the best oil additives.

Wrapping It Up

There are so many excuses you could make to put off that next repair or reschedule your next car service.  Your car’s next oil change should never be included in that excuse.

Oil is the lifeblood of the car, and it’s quite easy to perform an oil change.

It doesn’t have to take that much time either.  If you are consistent, plan ahead of time, and know what you need, the whole process can take as little as 15 or 20 minutes.

Even if an oil change takes 30 minutes or longer, it is well worth it as it could increase the longevity of your car and prevent major issues down the road.

If you aren’t comfortable changing the oil yourself, consider having your local car care center handle it for you instead.  It won’t take too long, and you can rest assured that your car will remain in the best shape possible.

Shawn Furman

I've had a passion for cars since 8 years old, and been a subscriber to Auto Week magazine since my 10th birthday. Ever since I turned old enough to drive, I have driven as many vehicles as possible, while teaching myself how to perform maintenance and upgrade work on every vehicle I've owned. For the past 10 years, I've been honing my skills as a vehicle hobbyist, in recent years also enjoying writing car reviews, opinion articles, vehicle how-tos, car-buying guides, and even provide individual consultations for those who need car-buying advice. In addition to writing for Vehicle Scene, I currently write for Autolist, and also own and operate my own vehicle blog website, The Unlimited Driver.

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