An oil change is an important preventative maintenance task for anyone with a car and usually takes around 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Factors like the oil change process, where you get it done, and whether you’re doing it yourself can also affect the amount of time it takes.
An oil change may seem inconvenient, but it’s an essential part of owning a car. Whether you own it for the thrill, the convenience, or as a way to make money, maintenance matters a lot. If a car is in great shape, it can perform well and get you where you need to go. And if it’s not, it can absolutely ruin your day.
Any vehicle expert will tell you to handle vehicle faults as soon as the signs are apparent. When it comes to fixes, oil changes are among the most common for vehicles.
Signs that you need an oil change
There are telltale signs when something’s wrong with a car, and the best way to keep it in good shape is to simply listen. Otherwise, you might be at the insurance office soon enough trying to compensate for an accident or other damage.
1. Weird engine noises
Engine oil acts as a lubricant for your engine parts and ensures the engine gears work correctly. Once the engine’s oil is no longer functional, its parts start grinding against each other, producing friction and a lot of unusual noises.
Grinding or knocking sounds are common indicators that your vehicle is due for an oil change. In some extreme cases, you could even hear your engine roar — and not in an exciting way. Because of the possible resulting damage, you’ll want to get your oil changed as quickly as possible.
2. A burning smell
Naturally, the only thing car owners may want to smell is a car air freshener. When a burning smell pollutes that fresh air, then there’s something wrong.
Apart from lubrication, oil also regulates the engine’s temperature. Stale oil makes the engine overheat and causes a smell. In some cases, a burning smell could also indicate an oil leak. In either situation, take your vehicle to be inspected as soon as you can.
3. A change in oil consistency
While some indicators of an oil problem are easily smelled or heard, others aren’t. Fortunately, it’s easy to perform a visual diagnostic test for oil. To do this:
- Wait for the engine to cool and pop the hood;
- Pull the engine’s dipstick from its oil reservoir;
- Clean the dipstick with a paper towel; and then
- Put the dipstick back in the reservoir and take it out again to see the consistency of the oil.
If the oil is translucent (with a yellow-like color), then it’s fine. However, if the oil appears grainy and thick, then it may contain dirt, sludge, and particles. This is a strong indicator that you need to get your oil changed.
4. A low oil level
While checking for oil consistency, be sure to check for oil levels as well. Most car dipsticks have indicators that can tell what the oil level is. These indicators show if the oil is too low, too high, or just right.
Depending on when your car’s model year, you may also have an automatic indicator that alerts you when your oil level is low.
5. Blinking dashboard lights
Many cars come with specific lights on their dashboards that indicate when they need to get an oil change. Your check engine light is one such indicator. Note that the light could also be calling your attention to other engine issues that may still warrant a trip to the mechanic.
How long does an oil change take?
Typically, an oil change lasts anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes depending on where and how you do it.
The do-it-yourself (DIY) process tends to take much longer — especially if you’re a new car owner who doesn’t handle regular oil changes. Mechanics are more experienced and can save you time or prevent future accidents.
Here’s what to expect from technicians during an oil change:
- Around 5 minutes to raise the vehicle and remove the oil plug.
- Between 15 and 20 minutes to drain the old oil.
- Usually between 5 to 10 minutes to replace the oil filter.
- Around 5 minutes to put in the new oil filter and motor oil.
- About 5 minutes to replace the oil plug and lower the vehicle.
Where to get your oil changed
For people who would rather not do their own oil change, there are two options available. You can visit either a lube shop with mechanics or a car dealership.
- Quick lube shop. The most common option to get your oil changed is a quick lube shop. You can find them pretty much anywhere and speak with experienced mechanics. It’s faster and more convenient than other options especially if you find yourself stranded on the road or in an unfamiliar place.
- Dealership. You can also get your oil changed at a dealership that caters to your vehicle brand. Since dealers are more specialized, they’ll more likely understand your car parts. You might also have a warranty with them and end up paying less.
You can also visit a repair shop to get an oil change. However, repair shops may take a little longer to finish this process. While a quick lube location specializes in changing oil, repair shops conduct other diagnostic checks — like checking your tire pressure and coolant levels — in addition to oil changes.
Why are oil changes important?
Vehicle experts and mechanics will tell you that oil changes are critical. Here’s why:
1. Fresh oil results in better engine performance
Motor parts tend to move a lot, which causes friction and produces heat. More oil ensures proper lubrication, which helps these moving parts to work smoothly. Reduced friction means reduced heat — a benefit for your engine.
If the engine heats up due to low oil, it will eventually break down. This leads to a bigger financial burden, especially if you leased the car.
2. More lubrication leads to better gas mileage
Apart from the good it does your engine, an oil change also benefits your bottom line. One of the least-known benefits of an oil change is better gas mileage, which allows you to save money on gas in the long run.
The friction resulting from old, bad oil makes the engine work more under strain. As a result, it requires more gas than normal. A well-lubricated engine can go farther on less gas.
3. Clean oil can reduce hazardous emissions
Vehicular emissions are among the biggest causes of environmental pollution. Bad oil creates hazardous contaminants that can negatively impact the environment. A regular oil change keeps your engine in good health and reduces the risk of these dangerous emissions.
How often should you change your oil?
A general rule of thumb states that an oil change should happen once every 3,000 miles a vehicle travels. A lot of mechanics use this as a benchmark. While this is a good oil change interval, it might not necessarily be an accurate count. It’s also not a rule that needs to be followed explicitly.
According to a guide from AAA, most modern cars need oil changes after 5,000 to 7,000 miles. Cars that run on synthetic oil can run for up to 15,000 miles before the next oil change. The number of miles between changes depends on several elements, including:
- The type of oil. Synthetic oils are denser and more efficient, and they usually work for much longer without needing to be changed.
- The car’s model and age. Older cars have older engines, which naturally wear and require more frequent oil changes. Newer models don’t need as many changes to function properly.
- Driving conditions. Some people make short trips daily and leave their vehicles parked long enough for the engine to cool down. In these cases, the engines can stay lubricated for longer. The reverse is the case for those who use their cars a lot and do a lot of driving daily.
Factors like the weather, exposure to dust, and load can also affect the car’s operation and, by extension, how frequently oil changes are necessary.
Why does an oil change take so long?
The process takes this long because the old oil needs to be drained before the new one is put in.
How long can you go without an oil change?
Most cars can go 5,000 to 7,000 miles before an oil change is necessary. However, the distance traveled, weather conditions, and specific make and model of your vehicle may impact when exactly you need to change your oil.
How much should an oil change cost?
A typical oil change (including a filter change) costs between $35 and $75. However, this range increases to between $65 and $125 if your car requires synthetic oil, which may be necessary for high mileage vehicles. Of course, this price may be higher if you have a luxury or antique style car that requires special attention.
Can you drive a car with zero (0) oil life?
No, we don’t recommend driving a car with no oil life. Not only could your car spew harmful pollutants, but you’ll likely also damage your car’s engine.
How long can I drive with low oil?
Generally, you have about 500 miles to drive when your car is low on oil. However, the exact mileage depends on your car’s size, the current weather, and what you have in your car. If you need to know immediately, check your owner’s manual for more information.
- An oil change is vital to your car’s health and should be taken seriously.
- Typically, an oil change takes between 30 to 45 minutes for a mechanic to complete. If you try a DIY approach, an oil change may take longer.
- The best way to know how often to change your oil is to check your manufacturer’s recommendations.
- When driving, keep an eye out for your check engine light — as well as strange engine noises or burning smells — that could indicate an oil problem.
View Article Sources
- How Often Should You Change Engine Oil — AAA
- Managing, Reusing, and Recycling Used Oil — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- ETC Extended Oil Change Intervals — Department of Toxic Substances Control
- How Much Should You Pay for a Car Diagnostic Test? — SuperMoney
- Used Car Checklist: Check For This When Buying a Used Car? — SuperMoney
- Can I Insure a Car Not in My Name? — SuperMoney
- Average Cost of a Car Accident: How to Pay for It All — SuperMoney
- Lease a Car With No Credit or Bad Credit — SuperMoney
- How To Get The Best Deal On A Used Car — The Super Guide — SuperMoney
- Should I Buy a New or Used Car? — SuperMoney
- How Much Does It Cost To Wrap a Car — 2022 Update — SuperMoney
- Six Interesting Ways To Make Money With Your Car — SuperMoney
- Ultimate Guide to Luxury and Exotic Car Loans — SuperMoney
- What’s The Total Cost of Owning a Car — SuperMoney
- 2020 Auto Loan Industry Study — SuperMoney
- OneMain Financial Car Purchase Loans — SuperMoney