Oil Changes: Where to Go, How Much, and How Long Does It Take?
Oil changes are one of those crucial car maintenance tasks that can be easily overlooked.
Maybe because cars today are so sophisticated, we tend to think they don’t need any oversight from us. Or maybe it’s just one of those to-dos that’s easy to put off until the situation in your engine gets dire. Either way, it can’t be overstated how important it is to keep your car’s engine properly lubricated with regular oil changes.
Let’s discuss why oil changes are so vital to your car’s health, when is the right time to get an oil change, where you can get one performed by a professional, and how much you can expect to pay, and whether it’s a good idea to do it yourself.
5 reasons why oil changes are so important for your car
- Engine lubrication: Open the hood of your car and have a look. Even to the un-mechanical eye you can see a mind-boggling number of moving parts – pistons, valves, etc. – all working together to make your car perform properly. These parts need lubrication to prevent the engine from wearing down.
- Prevents overheating: If your engine’s moving parts are not sufficiently lubricated, you will get unwarranted friction, which is a catalyst for overheating and costly engine failure.
- Removes particles and grime: When you pour out new oil, you will see it is somewhat clear and transparent. That changes over time with use. The oil becomes sludge-like and it picks up debris. You don’t want this – you want the oil in your engine as clean as possible for the car’s best performance and your engine’s overall health.
- Better fuel mileage: Sufficient oil changes keep your engine humming smoothly because the less your engine needs to work, the less fuel it will need to consume.
- Keep the warranty valid: If you are negligent about regular oil changes, you could risk losing warranty coverage for your vehicle. In other words, a warranty could be void if you fail to perform basic car maintenance tasks such as an oil change.
How do I know when my oil needs to be changed?
It’s probably the most common question about oil changes: how do you know when it’s time to get one? You don’t want to be too early, like changing brand new oil, and you certainly don’t want to be too late – a seized up engine can be catastrophic. Here are some oil change guideposts to help you know when the time is right.
- Check your manual: most vehicle owners’ manuals suggest intervals of when the car needs maintenance such as an oil change. Usually, it will be mileage milestones like when you reach 10,000 or 15,000 kilometres on the odometer.
- Take note of the type of oil used: Your manufacturer will list a range of oils that can be used (5W-30, 10W-30, etc.) Your car can use either regular conventional motor oil or synthetic motor oil. The latter is man-made and designed to improve vehicle performance with cleaner compounds. Synthetic oil requires less changing and maintenance, and it will typically cost more than regular.
- Follow a schedule: You should be changing your oil according to the manufacturer's suggested maintenance schedule. If you bring your car to a maintenance professional, there’s a good chance they left a friendly reminder near or on your windshield detailing when you are due back for another change.
- Keep maintenance records: After getting an oil change, we don’t think about it anymore, so keep a record of your oil change visits. It can be easy to forget when you got that last one. Plus, those maintenance records are important for warranty validation purposes and for maintaining your vehicle’s resale value.
- Check oil levels: Between scheduled oil changes, you can keep an eye on your oil levels by checking the dipstick under the hood and topping it up if it falls below optimal levels. If the oil looks really dark or muddy in texture, it might be time for a change. Consult your owner’s manual to find out what type of oil you should be using.
Popular oil change services in Canada
It shouldn’t be difficult to find a professional oil change provider. Pretty much any business that deals in automotive maintenance can offer the service. The better question might be how fast and convenient do you want the experience? A mechanic at a dealership, for example, might not get to your car for some time, while an oil change chain like Mr. Lube will service your car as soon as you pull in.
It’s also helpful to know that for regular maintenance tasks like an oil change, your car usually doesn't need to be serviced at your dealership to keep the warranty valid. Just make sure that your maintenance records get updated.
Here are some of the most popular oil change services available across Canada:
With over 180 service stations, you won’t have trouble finding a Mr. Lube anywhere in Canada. It is one of the most popular oil change providers in the country partially because it’s a homegrown success story, having opened its first store in Edmonton in 1976. Today, Mr. Lube offers oil changes, tire services, tire sales and more. A key to Mr. Lube’s success is its “warranty-approved service,” which means they precisely follow the service intervals and product specifications your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends for the exact make, model and year of your car.
Another seemingly ubiquitous provider of oil change services, Jiffy Lube is a quick in-and-out oil change franchise with over 135 service centres in Canada, where it is owned by Shell Canada Products. Jiffy’s history goes back to the late 70s when the company pioneered the drive-thru service bay, which filled the gap for a decreasing amount of full-service gas stations. The company also takes credit for the window cling reminder sticker that helps drivers keep track of their oil change intervals.
Not strictly known for oil changes, Midas offers total car care services. The “Auto Service Experts” offer more complex car maintenance, such as brake repairs, mufflers & exhaust, tires, steering, car batteries – pretty much anything you need done under the hood. The company was started over 60 years ago as a neighbourhood auto repair centre. Today, there are 2,100 stores, including almost 150 locations in Canada.
Speedy Auto Service
Another Canadian-owned franchise, Speedy is a total car care service provider that can also do oil changes. Speedy started out as a Speedy Muffler King in 1956 and transitioned to Speedy Auto Service in 1993. Today, it is the second-largest auto repair chain in the country, offering services such as muffler replacement, brakes, shock absorbers, struts and suspension repairs, tires, road safety inspections and vehicle maintenance services.
How much is an oil change?
There is no single answer to how much an oil change will cost because there are many variables to consider. What kind of oil your car requires, regular or synthetic for example, will determine the price. If you are getting an oil change with synthetic, you can expect to pay upwards of $85. For regular, it might be half that. Again, it all depends on the service provider, your car, where you live, what additional services you might need, and more.
How to change your car’s oil in 10 steps
Topping up your oil is an easy, straightforward task that anyone can do at the gas station. Changing your oil, on the other hand, requires much more effort, time, tools, and understanding of how the process works. For those who are thinking about getting their hands dirty, here’s a basic step-by-step guide to give you an idea of the time/effort involved.
- Check your owners’ manual to locate what type of oil you need and how much you will need.
- Assemble your tools – you will need a wrench, oil filter wrench, oil drain pan, funnel, gloves, jack stands or ramp (something to assist you in getting under the vehicle).
- Prepare your car by turning it off and letting it cool. Then get under the car using a jack stand and proper safety stands. (Always follow proper safety procedures when accessing the underside of your car and performing an oil change.)
- Find your oil drain plug and remove it with a wrench while your oil pan is underneath to catch the old oil. This is when things will get messy.
- Drain the oil completely, with the oil filter cap in the engine removed for quicker drainage.
- Once the oil is drained, replace the oil drain plug and tighten it back up with your wrench. It’s a good idea to clean the plug while you have it removed.
- Remove the oil filter and drain it into your pan. Clean the area around the filter before replacing it with a new filter.
- Add new oil, pouring it (with a funnel) into the engine’s oil container.
- Replace the oil cap and turn on your engine for about 60 seconds.
- Check the oil level using your dipstick. The oil level should reach the upper hole or hashmark on your dipstick.
When you have successfully completed these oil change steps, be sure to keep a record of the activity in your maintenance books.
How long does an oil change take?
When deciding on whether to change the oil yourself or bring it to a professional, check to see if you have the right tools and workspace at home to properly do the job. You will need an area where things can get messy, like your own garage driveway, because spilled oil is practically inevitable. If you’re doing it for the first time, you can expect to spend over an hour changing the oil. Less if you are experienced. Compare that with taking it to a professional, which could take as little as 15 minutes in and out.