How Much Does an Oil Change Cost?

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Since it’s a relatively inexpensive chore, oil changing, if not forgone, is always left on the last minute.

Oil is like the blood of a full metal body – your car. It serves as a lubrication of the engine’s parts, therefore reducing friction. 

It also acts as a coolant and prevents the metal surfaces of the engine from rusting. All in all, the efficacy and mileage of your car depends on this seemingly small thing.

Given its importance, why would you want to spend more on an engine repair when you can be cost-effective and prevent the problem by just changing your oil regularly.

Dripping oil illustration
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Oil Change Costs on Some Major Chains

The cost of an oil change varies according to the car type, shop, location, and the kind of oil to be used. It usually ranges from $20 to $140 on shops including the filter change, labor, and other additional maintenance services.

Some of the chains below offer discounts and other special offers when you book their service online.

ShopPrice Range
Express Oil Change$27 – $70
Firestone$20 – $90
Goodyear$19 – $70
Jiffy Lube$30 – $110
Midas$34 – $80
Mr. Tire$15 – $60
Pep Boys$25 – $80
Valvoline$40 – $90
Walmart$20 – $90
Your Mechanic$25 – $140

You can save more money if you can do it yourself. Before going to an auto-parts store or doing it on your own, it’s important to read the car’s manual for information about the type and weight of oil to be used.

The final price of the service usually depends on the type of oil that you will be using. There are four general motor oil types; conventional, synthetic, synthetic blend, and high mileage.

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Different Types of Car Oil

An engine oil’s job is to make the engine run smoother but why are there a lot of oils on the market? You might think that all of them are the same but each is designed specifically depending on your car’s needs. Choosing the correct oil for your car can make or break your car’s engine.

  • Conventional Oil

This is the most common and the cheapest of all the oils. It is basically derived from crude oil or oils that are pumped through the ground and has gone through a refining process.

This kind of oil is the standard for many vehicles. Even in its simplicity, it gets the job done. Late model cars that have low to average mileage and simple engine design mostly use conventional oil.

It is also recommended for drivers that have regular driving styles. Conventional oils usually take more time to warm up and become thick over time. It can also be formulated in a range of viscosity grades and quality levels.

  • Synthetic Oil

Having a synthetic oil change costs twice the conventional. Performance wise, it is better than conventional oils; hence double the price.

Since synthetics go through a chemically engineered process and are formulated with higher performing additives, their molecules have fewer impurities and have better composition than the conventional.

It is ideal for vehicles with high-tech engines. If you drive on extreme conditions- cold winters, hot summers with heavy hauling and towing, this oil is for you.

Synthetics have lower volatility and produce less resistance in the engine that gives it more horsepower. More horsepower by reducing the engines drag results to less use of gas. They can also prevent the sludge build-up and can last three times longer than conventional oil.

  • Synthetic Blend

Synthetic blends or semi-synthetics are a mixture of synthetic and conventional oil. These are made to provide more protection for heavy loads in higher temperatures that makes them perfect for SUV drivers. Blends also offer more resistance to oxidation.

If you are thinking of transitioning from conventional to synthetic, having a synthetic blend first makes it easier. It offers almost the same performance and benefits of synthetic oils but with a slightly lower price. It’s like having the best of both worlds.

  • High Mileage

High mileage oils are for older cars or even some new cars with higher odometer – usually more than 75,000 miles. Old cars usually have hardened crankshaft seals that make them prone to leaks. These oils restore the tiny holes and pores as they flow since they are made with seal conditioners.

The high viscosity components of these oils also help seal piston-to-cylinder clearances resulting in better performance and engine smoothness. Furthermore, they reduce an oil burn-off and smoke emission that are usually common in older engines.

Oil changing

When Should You Get Your Oil Changed?

Car owners usually follow the old 3000-mile rule before getting their oil changed. Some will consult their handbook for the recommended schedule.

When should you really get your oil changed? The answer depends on what kind of car you use, your driving habits, and the type of oil in your car.

Newer cars can last longer without frequent oil changes than old cars. However, climate and driving speeds should also be taken into consideration.

If you spend most of your time in the middle of a 2-hour traffic with extreme weather conditions, you should consider changing your oil more often. High-revving track runs and heavyweight towing can affect the engine and oil too.

Oil keeps the engine running smoothly by reducing the accumulation of heat, varnish, and other carbons. Over time, it gets thicker because of some contaminants until it turns into a sludge that clogs the engines.

Dirty oil makes the engine work harder so it burns more gas while covering less distance. Remember that oil becomes less effective as it ages.

What Happens During an Oil Change?

  1. First, the mechanic will check the condition and level of your oil using the dipstick. The dipstick has marks that will indicate the right amount of oil that you should have. Checking its condition will also show how dirty the oil has been and if it is indeed time for an oil change.
  2. Next, the oil pan will be removed and so the old oil can be drained.
  3. The old oil filter will also be replaced with a new, lubricated one. This step is vital because an old and oil-drowned filter can no longer do its function well.
  4. Lastly, the oil pan will be reattached and the engine will finally be refilled with the right type of oil.

If you think you can handle the gritty but easy process of oil changing, you can probably do it on your own. Not only will you learn more about your car, you’d also save a couple of bucks. You can check out the complete DIY tutorial about oil changing as you read on.

All About Oil Additives

Although there are generally four types of oil, they still have different components and additives that help enhance the performance of the engine. Most motor oils include the following additives:

  • For Chemical Breakdown Control

Antioxidants: Prevent and slow down the oxidation of oil resulting in less formation of deposits. They help clean the engine and prolong the life of the oil.

Detergents: Not the one that you’d use for your laundry but they basically have the same function. They keep the surfaces that usually overheat clean by removing and preventing solid deposits, rusts, and corrosion.

Pour-Point Depressants: Oil contains wax particles that build up in low temperatures. These depressants prevent it from happening so the motor oil can flow readily without working the engines too much.

Rust and Corrosion Inhibitors: Acids and moisture damage the metal parts of an engine over time. Inhibitors serve as a protective film over these parts to prevent corrosion and rust.

  • For Viscosity and Lubricity

Friction Modifiers: Contain graphite, molybdenum, and other compounds that help reduce friction in the engine under high temperatures and heavy loads. They help maximize fuel economy.

Viscosity-Index Improvers: We all know that oil has a tendency to become thin when exposed to high temperatures. These improvers prevent that from happening – helping the oil function when the temperature rises.

Anti-Wear Agents: They have zinc and phosphorous compounds that help protect parts of the engine that are prone to damage when in high temperatures. They act like a lubricating layer on metal surfaces.

  • For Contaminant Control

Dispersants: Disperse and hold the solid contaminants. They absorb and keep the solid particles so they wouldn’t form into a sludge or acid that may damage the engine.

Foam Inhibitors: When the crankshaft beats through the oil, it produces foams and bubbles. Oil foams don’t coat metal parts of the engine. These inhibitors break them down and keep them from forming.

Oil Specifications

  • Oil Grade or Viscosity Rating

Motor oil thins at high temperature and thickens at low. The oil’s grade is shown as two numbers with “w” that stands for “Winter” in between. Its viscosity or the oil’s resistance to flow and how thin it is depend on these numbers. The first number indicates its resistance to cold temperature while the second indicates the resistance to thinning at 100ºC.

  • API and ACEA

Oil bottles should contain these two API (American Petroleum Institute) and ACEA (Association des Constructeurs Europeens d’Automobiles) labels as they indicate the oil’s performance and application categories.

“S” stands for petrol cars and “C” is for diesel. Other letters and numbers stand for the specification they meet as well as their viscosity.

Car Oil Filters

What good does a clean oil make when your oil filter is substandard? Poor quality filters can also affect the oil’s life as well as the performance of your engine.

The car’s manufacturer manual indicates the oil change intervals; therefore you must have a filter that’s rated to go along with the miles indicated on it. Oil filters cost ranges from $3 to $14, depending on the type of your vehicle, the filter’s size, and quality.

Filters are designed to catch harmful products and keep dirt from circulating around the engine. Always make sure that your filter corresponds to the type of oil that you use.

When purchasing a filter, always consider its beta ratio or its efficiency, collapse/burst pressure, cold weather performance, the quantity of particles that can be restrained, and the gasket quality.

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Author Bio

Benjamin E Jerew

Benjamin E Jerew

Benjamin graduated with an Associate’s in Applied Sciences (AAS) degree in Automotive Technology and has worked as an ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician.
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