Oil changes and tire rotations are the number one maintenance task to perform on your vehicle. These tasks add years of life to your vehicle’s engine and tire.

But how long should an oil change and tire rotation take? if you bring it into a shop, the tasks take about 30 minutes all together. If you do it yourself, it will take about 1 hour. The majority of time is spent on moving around the tires from hub to hub.

Oil changes and tire rotations are important because they can make a car last well beyond its life expectancy. Most vehicles you see with over 200k miles have had routine maintenance done religiously. In this article, we’ll cover the tools you need to save time, why the tasks take the amount of time they do, and the items that can possibly take more time than expected.

As a former Jiffy Lube employee, oil changes were the first task I specialized in. On a busy Saturday, we completed about 50 oil changes. Jiffy Lube is the exception in terms of time. The time saved with Jiffy Lube is why you pay so much. But as I progressed in my career, I started doing oil changes and tire rotations for a major retail chain. Since then, I’ve learned different tricks of the trade to help save time.

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Tools

The tools mentioned in this section will save you time whether you do one oil change a month, or ten in a day. They will also aid in tire maintenance.They are built specifically to make the job easier, which in turn saves you time.

Tool Notes
⅜ Ratchet ⅜ is the perfect size ratchet you need to get the right amount of leverage. Preferably, a long handled ⅜ ratchet if you can.
⅜ Ratchet Socket Set The ratchet set should range from 8mm to 21mm to make sure you have the right size for your drain plug. For most cases, metric sized sockets will fit on the drain plug.
Oil Filter Claw Many old-school guys are fans of the oil filter wrenches, but a claw is quicker. Just attach it to your ⅜ ratchet, and rotate the filter off. The claw fits all size oil filters because it’s self adjusting.
Wire Brush When you take your tires off, you should clean the hubs to avoid issues down the road. Use the wire brush to remove dust and rust from the hub.
½ inch 19 to 21mm Flip Socket Flip sockets are two sockets in one. And the 19 to 21 flip socket is able to remove the majority of lugnuts.
½ inch Ratchet You’ll need a ½ ratchet to get enough torqu to remove the lugnuts
Funnel Quickly add oil with a funnel..
Drain Plug Pro Magnetic Remover This item saves a lot of hassle and clean up, increasing the speed at which you can complete the job.

Time

The majority of time spent for a tire rotation/oil change job is spent on the tires. If you have 4 lugnuts on each tire, you need to remove 16 lugnuts. Some mechanics like to do all the lugs at once, while others prefer doing 8, rotating the passenger side of tires, then doing another 8 and rotating the driver side.

One way really isn’t quicker than the other, it's just a matter of preference. And once you remove the lugs, you have to take the tires off, and put them in their new position.

What a lot of guys will do is start to drain the oil, and while the oil is draining, start the tire rotation process. If you really want to take care of your car, while the tires are off, peek at the brakes, and clean the hubs with a wire brush.

This negates any issues of the tire that’s being rotated in the position mating with the flat surface of the hub.

Draining the oil, in terms of time, varies from mechanic to mechanic. Some mechanics will let their oil drain for 45 minutes. Other’s let it drain for about 30 seconds. The schools of thought on this are beyond the scope of the article, but on average, the oil is done draining when almost no oil is exiting the drain.

As well, the filter can take some time if it’s hidden away in the engine compartment. If the filter is easily accessible, you can expect to spend around 5 minutes removing and replacing the filter. If it’s difficult to access, expect to spend 10 - 15 minutes servicing the filter.

Adding the oil can be cumbersome without a funnel. That means you have to pour the oil into the block very slowly so you don’t get oil all over the engine bay. With a funnel, you can pour as fast as gravity lets you. Expect to spend 45 seconds with a funnel, and 5 minutes without.

Caveats

The main causes of spending extra time on oil changes and tire rotations lie within German Imported cars. Expect to spend an extra hour when you change the oil on these vehicles.

There are a couple pain points when servicing these vehicles. For example, on lot’s of Mercedes Benz’s, they have a protective panel that covers the drain plug. Sometimes the panels are fastened by 15 different screws, all of which you have to remove.

And to boot, they are torx screws which can be an issue. Taking the panel down, then reinstalling it, along with all the other screws will add extra time. As well, the tires are usually mounted in a fashion that makes re-installing them difficult, since you have to screw in the tire to the hub.

Servicing the oil filter can also be a pain, since they are engineered to only be serviced at a dealership, with dealership tools. And German Imports take a lot of oil, usually around 7-8 quarts, so you’ll have to add on time to drain the oil and fill it back up.

Other issues that can arise stem from large trucks, like Ford E-350’s. They usually have around 8 lugnuts per tire. And the lugnuts are attached to a very long stud, making more opportunity for issues like broken studs. As well, the tires on large trucks are quite heavy, so it can require some physical stamina to endure the tire rotation process on large trucks.

The next time you go to a shop, and are waiting for an oil change, see how long you’ve been there. Usually you pay around .2 of an hour for a mechanic's time during an oil change. And tack on 0.3 for the tire rotation.

All together you’re paying for a half an hour of the mechanic's time. If you’re sitting there waiting for more than that, you can blame shop management. In my humble opinion, waiting more than an hour for an oil change and tire rotation is unacceptable. It’s one of the main reasons driver’s don’t service their vehicles regularly.

And as much as we’d love to take your money on fixing cars with issues related to poor maintenance, we’d much rather spend our time performing maintenance tasks over a long period of time.

About THE AUTHOR

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks has been servicing vehicles since 2012. After completing the automotive studies program at Camden County College, he was awarded an Associates's Degree in Applied Science. His first job was a lube-tech at Jiffy Lube, and is currently an independent B-Technician servicing vehicles for the United States Postal Service. Christopher is ASE certified and loves rebuilding engines.

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