What Is an Oil Extractor Pump and Do I Need One?

Updated: May 11, 2023

An oil extractor pump makes doing your own oil changes a breeze. No more crawling under the car, and no more hot oil on your hands or face.

When I bought my 2014 Subaru Impreza, I feared I had to stop doing something I’d done for years — change my own oil. The car sits so low to the ground there isn’t enough clearance to crawl under it and open the oil drain plug. But now that I know about oil extractor pumps, I’m back in business.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t do my own oil changes because I like messing with hot oil, or because I think I’m saving a lot of money. After you figure in the price of new oil and a filter, which you have to buy anyway, the cost of an oil change at a shop is minimal.

The main motivation is time. Doing the change myself takes about 10 minutes, a lot shorter than my one- or two-hour drive to the service center.

Because the filter is mounted on top of the engine, which is becoming more commonplace, the oil change procedure is virtually mess-free. The same wouldn’t be true if the filter were mounted underneath, which is standard on older cars.

If you have to crawl under the car to unscrew the filter, you might as well unscrew the drain plug while you’re there, so you might consider an oil extractor pump an unnecessary expense. But if you have a newer car with a top-mounted filter, this simple tool is definitely worth a look.

What Is an Oil Extractor Pump?

Basically, it’s a siphon pump. It consists of a narrow tube that fits into the dipstick opening in the crankcase. A pump creates a vacuum to pull the oil out.

Many units also come with a reservoir to hold the oil until you can dispose of it safely. Most reservoirs hold six to eight quarts, making them suitable for changing the oil of most light-duty trucks and passenger vehicles.

How Does an Oil Extractor Pump Work?

Most hardware stores carry inexpensive siphon devices for transferring gasoline or kerosene from one place to another. They consist of a plastic bulb and two tubes.

One tube goes into the fuel source, and the other deposits the fuel into another container. When you squeeze the bulb and release it, you create negative pressure that sucks the fuel out of the reservoir and feeds it to the destination.

An oil extractor works in the same way. But because oil is heavier and more viscous than fuel, the pump needs to provide more force than possible with a plastic bulb. If the oil extractor has its own reservoir, it only needs one tube. But if it doesn’t, it needs two, just like a fuel pump.

Types of Oil Extractors

You have your choice of three types:

  • Manual: The least expensive type, this extractor features a hand pump. It may be similar to a bicycle pump, or more like the plunger on a syringe. If it’s the bicycle-type, you usually have to pump it several times to start the oil flowing. If it has a plunger, you simply pull that back to draw the fuel into the syringe-like reservoir.
  • Electric: These may have a 12-volt plug you insert into the vehicle’s auxiliary power outlet, or alligator clips that connect directly to the battery. Either way, when you turn it on, the pump does all the work. Electric oil extractors usually don’t have reservoirs, so they are more compact than manual ones.
  • Pneumatic: This type must be connected to a compressor to work. When compressed air circulates through the device, it creates the suction that pulls oil out of the crankcase. Some dual-function oil extractor pumps can be operated manually or with compressed air.

Who Needs an Oil Extractor Pump?

Mechanics who change oil multiple times a day stand to benefit most from an oil extractor pump because it eliminates the need to get under the vehicle, saving time. And a pump with a reservoir makes it that much easier to transfer old oil to barrels for recycling.

DIY mechanics can also benefit for the same reasons. By making the job easier and faster, an oil pump does for auto mechanics what a nail gun does for framing carpenters. You can do oil changes and framing carpentry without specialty tools, but it takes more time and effort, and it’s a lot less convenient.

How To Use an Oil Extractor Pump

Oil flows more easily when it’s hot, so run the car engine until it reaches a temperature between 104 and 140 degrees before using an oil extractor.

  1. Remove the dipstick from the engine block.
  2. Plug an electric extractor pump into the vehicle’s 12-volt auxiliary power outlet or a wall outlet, or connect it directly to the battery. If you have a hydraulic pump, connect it to a compressor air line. If you have a fluid extractor with a plunger, push the plunger in all the way.
  3. Get a container to hold the old oil if the pump doesn’t have a reservoir. Direct the outlet tube on the pump to this container.
  4. Insert the oil extractor tube into the dipstick opening and push it in as far as it will go.
  5. Turn on the pump or start pumping manually. Keep the pump going until oil stops flowing.
  6. Extract the tube from the engine block, replace the dipstick and dispose of the old oil.

Good Oil Extractor Pumps for DIYers


The Four Uncles Oil Changer come with a manual pump, and can also be connected to a compressor. This model features a 6.5-liter reservoir and four extension tubes to reach to the bottom of the engine. It’s a good all-round extractor for a reasonable price.


The EonLion Oil Change Pump Extractor is a compact, inexpensive unit that connects to the vehicle battery. Because of its small size, it’s easy to store. It doesn’t have a reservoir so you’ll need a container to hold the drained oil.