How Long To Let Oil Drain

Changing the oil is a simple task that most vehicle owners can perform themselves with the right tools and proper guidance. If this is your first time changing your own oil, you might be wondering how long you should let the oil drain from the engine before putting the drain plug back in and proceeding with the process. After all, getting rid of all the old oil is important. For your convenience, we did the research to bring you the answer.

You should let the oil drain for at least five minutes after removing the oil pan drain plug or until the oil flow becomes a light trickle. But if possible, you should wait until oil is no longer dripping from the oil pan to proceed with the process.

If you still have some questions about draining oil from your engine, don't worry. In this post, we'll discuss the topic at length. We'll also talk about whether you should wait for the oil to completely stop dripping, whether you should let the oil drain overnight, how long it takes for engine oil to settle after an oil change, and much more. Without further ado, let's get into it!

Mechanic draining engine oil from a car for an oil change at an auto shop - How Long To Let Oil Drain

How Long To Let Engine Oil Drain

Drain the old oil from the engine through the drain plug. Changing the oil in a car engine.

The industry standard for allowing engine oil to drain is five minutes or until the oil is barely dripping from the oil pan.

Depending on the engine size (and thus the amount of oil in the engine), the flow of oil might become a light trickle or stop altogether before five minutes have elapsed, but five minutes is still the general standard. 

Should I Wait For Oil To Stop Dripping?

With that said, it's preferable to wait until the flow of oil completely stops to proceed with the process. If you're able to wait this long, it will ensure that all of the old oil is out of the engine. 

This is beneficial because it means more debris is being expelled from the engine. What's more, if all of the oil is able to drain, you can rest easy knowing that your engine won't inadvertently end up being overfilled after you add the fresh oil.

Can I Leave Oil Draining Overnight?

If you're one to err on the side of caution with all things car maintenance, you might feel inclined to let the oil drain overnight to ensure that every last drop has the chance to drip out. However, this really isn't necessary, and depending on your particular vehicle, it could cause the oil pump to become unprimed. 

In addition to this potential issue, the other danger is possibly forgetting that the engine doesn't have oil the following morning and accidentally starting it, as this can quickly cause catastrophic engine damage. 

If you still decide to let the oil drain overnight, don't forget to finish the job the next day before starting the engine.

Is It Best To Change The Engine Oil When It's Hot Or Cold?

Repair of an old car. Car engine repair.

Another thing to consider when it comes to changing your engine oil is the oil temperature. 

It's preferable to change your oil when the oil is warmer. When engine oil gets warm, it becomes less viscous (thinner). This will expedite the draining process, and it will help ensure that more oil drains from the engine.

With that said, it's important to note that caution should be taken here. It's preferable to change the oil when it's warm, not hot.

Keep in mind that engine oil can get upwards of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. To avoid being burned during the job, give the engine a while to cool down a bit before getting started if the engine has been running for quite some time. You want the oil somewhat warm to help it drain; you don't want it scalding hot.

What Is The Torque for The Oil Drain Plug?

Ensuring that the oil drain plug is tightened to the appropriate torque specification is an often overlooked detail of the oil change process.

Depending on the material of the oil drain pan, the drain plug should be torqued down to 20-30 pound-feet of torque. If your oil pan is made of aluminum, aim for closer to 20 pound-feet of torque. If your oil pan isn't made of aluminum, aim for 25-30 pound-feet of torque.

Most people forgo the torque wrench and instead opt to guesstimate with a wrench or socket, but using a torque wrench is preferable in the interest of precision. After all, the drain plug is the only thing preventing the oil from leaking out, so the more precise you can be, the better. 

Click here to see this torque wrench on Amazon.

How Long Does It Take For Engine Oil To Settle After Oil Change?

Pouring oil to car engine, close up

It's never a bad idea to check the oil dipstick following an oil change. To ensure a good reading, give the fresh oil a few minutes to make its way down to the sump.

However, it's worth noting that the dipstick method should only be used as a general confirmation; the primary method of ensuring the engine is filled with the correct amount of oil is to ensure the correct amount goes into the filler port in accordance with the manufacturer's guidance. 

Can I drive my car right after an oil change?

There's no danger in driving your car right after an oil change. After all, cars are driven from oil change shops immediately following an oil change all the time.

Again, if you're one to err on the side of caution with automotive maintenance, you might consider waiting at least a minute or so after pouring the fresh oil into the engine to start driving just to be sure enough oil has dripped down into the sump. But this really isn't necessary. 

What Happens If You Run Your Car With Low Oil?

Oil is the lifeblood of a vehicle's engine. It serves all kinds of purposes, but in the short term, engine oil's primary job is to provide much-needed lubrication to the engine's components.

Without enough oil, the moving parts inside the engine will create too much friction (and thus, heat), with the immediate ramification being significant damage that will ultimately result in the engine seizing up.

What does a car sound like when it runs out of oil?

An engine that is low on oil will make loud grinding, clunking, and knocking sounds. In other words, it will be apparent that something is severely wrong with the engine.

How long can a car go without an oil change?

Mechanic draining engine oil from a car for an oil change at an auto shop

How long a car can go without an oil change largely depends on the car's age and the type of oil being used (and these two things generally go hand in hand). 

It's also important to note that oil change frequency should also be based on driving conditions. Vehicles that see frequent stop-and-go traffic will need more frequent oil changes than vehicles that are primarily driven on the highway.

Thus, there's no clear-cut figure here but rather a range. 

Older vehicles generally use conventional engine oil which doesn't last as long as synthetic engine oil. If you drive an older vehicle that uses conventional engine oil, you should have the engine oil changed every 3,000-5,000 miles or every 3-6 months, whichever comes first. 

Newer vehicles generally use synthetic engine oil which lasts significantly longer than conventional oil. If you drive a modern vehicle that uses synthetic engine oil, you should have the oil changed every 7,500-10,000 miles or every 12 months, whichever comes first. 

It's also worth noting that many modern vehicles have an oil life indicator that uses all kinds of factors—engine temperature, driving behavior, idle time, engine strain, etc.—to let the vehicle owner know when it's time to change the oil.

In Closing

We hope this guide has given you the information you need to ensure a successful oil change. Allowing the old oil to fully drain is an important part of the process that shouldn't be overlooked. Remember, it's preferable to change the oil when it's warm, not scalding hot. Good luck!

Before you go, be sure to take a look at these related guides:

Does Car Engine Oil Expire?

8 Engine Oil Additives that Stop Burning Oil

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