Draining Engine Oil vs Extracting Engine Oil

Passat TDI Oil Change
Plastic oil pan MK7 GTI

Plastic Oil Pan?

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of the oil extractor that I bought. I mainly bought it because someone at Volkswagen thought it would be a good idea to use a PLASTIC oil pan on the new MK7 GTI. It’s too early to know if a plastic oil pan is a good idea or not, but let’s shelf that for now.

When I posted the picture, it brought up a good point. Is extracting oil better, worse, or the same as draining it from the drain plug.

Before we talk about the Pros and Cons of these methods. Let’s be sure to define each.

  • Draining Engine Oil
    This is the process where a plug is removed that the oil drains out the bottom.
  • Extracting Engine Oil
    This is where a device is used to suck the oil out. For this discussion, let’s assume we are pulling oil out through the dip stick funnel.

When most folks think of an oil change, they think of draining the oil. Up until a few months ago, that is how I did every service. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of DRAINING oil first


  • It is fast.
    We are letting gravity do the work for us. On a hot engine you will get most of the engine oil out in about 5 minutes.
  • You MAY get more oil out.
    I say you MAY because that is not a guarantee you will get more oil out
  • You can do other things while the oil drains.
    I usually pull wheel caps off while I drain the engine oil
  • It is a more traditional way to change oil


  • It can be messy
    You basically need to be sure you hit the target of the drain pan
  • You have to raise the car up.
    You need to have the car high enough to access the drain plug
  • Risk oil pan damage
    May oil pans are made of soft metal, or plastic, each time a drain plug is removed, the potential for damage is there.

    Passat TDI Oil Change

    Extracting engine oil

Let’s look a little deeper into the Pros and Cons of extracting engine oil


  • Clean
    All of the oil is pulled in to a container. Mine has a spout to make pouring easier
  • No need to raise the car
    This is great when putting the car in the air is not easy.
  • No worry about drain plug damage
    A you can see I am concerned about the long term on these plastic pans.


  • Noisy
    Mine is fairly loud
  • Need air supply
    With most of these extractors, you need a good supply of compressed air, or you have to manually pump the oil
  • You may not get all the oil out
    I have found that mine does not get all the oil out of some engines.
  • It may take more time
    On a cold engine, my extractor takes forever to pull oil  out.

There are a few other points that I want to bring up about using an extractor. They may or may not be cons. It is more like just thoughts. Just because you don’t need to put the car in the air to drain the oil, doesn’t mean you don’t put the car in the air. You may still need to access the filter from the bottom. It is also important to put the car up in the air to do an inspection.

There is also the idea that debris in the engine oil will settle to the bottom. When a drain plug is removed, that will be the first to come out. This sounds like a good theory. But the oil filter will hold most of the debris. The oil is changed HOT. This means the debris doesn’t really have time to settle. Plus no matter what you do , there is still oil left in the engine. Heck there is still oil left in the pan.

Mityvac 7300

This is the extractor that I use

Conclusion, which is better?
Well, like most good questions, the answer is “it depends”. For me, extracting the oil on a TDI that comes in to wait is perfect. The filter is on the top, the extractor gets all the way down to the bottom, and the oil is hot.

I can tell you that on a 2.0 FSI, there is is no point to use an extractor. I still have to put the car in the air to access the oil filter. It would be a waste of time to extract the oil, then lift the car to replace the filter.

Your thoughts
What do you think? Is draining better? Do you get more oil out? Does a 1/2 of a cup left in the engine really matter? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

60 replies
  1. Pat ~ The Muscle Car Guy
    Pat ~ The Muscle Car Guy says:

    I can see how a car that you can reach the filter from the top, it would be nice. Plus I have usually had to change oil outside, so a nice breeze can make hitting the pan even more of a challenge than that suspension/frame piece you thought it would miss.

    With the plastic pan, is there a metal insert that the plug threads into? If not, who thought that was a good idea?

  2. Doug
    Doug says:

    My only thing with this is it still only pays.4 and there is no extra time for extracting it pluse like you said you still have to lift it to do a inspection

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      That is true Doug. You know as well as anyone about getting as much done in that .4 time. For me it really depends on the car. If I can avoid taking off an EOS or Beetle Convt. belly pan, I am all in!

  3. David Summers
    David Summers says:

    I’ve not seen one of these extractors in action. How long does it take and why not use one with a longer hose to extract the oil while the car is being lifted for the courtesy inspection and access to some filters? And what makes it loud? Using the venturi effect?

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      The extended hose is a good idea. I think you may loose some suction with a hose that is too long. I believe that it does use venturi vacuum. That is what makes it loud. And to be fair, it is not CRAZY loud. Quieter than most air impact guns. For me it is just a constant “SSSSHHHHHHHHH” while working on the car.

      If the oil is hot, it does the job pretty quick 10 minutes maybe. I use that time to get my parts for the service I am doing.

  4. Scott
    Scott says:

    On my C240 Mercedes when doing an oil change at home means car on ramps and drain plug at the lower portion of drain pan.
    Using the extractor was an easy way to get oil into a container for disposal at recycler. The Topsider extractor is a compact low metal container that is easy to place in trunk and haul.
    Even after extracting – and this is a preferred (I believe ) Mercedes method for oil changes – I always got an ounce or two of oil when pulling the oil-pan drain plug. This car was some nearly eight-quarts of oil.

      • Bryan K.
        Bryan K. says:

        It still has a dipstick tube. The dipstick is just optional. You can purchase the dipstick from the dealer (stupid I know).

        I’ve been extracting the oil using mityvac in my shop for years. I do a lot of W203 Mercs with the M112 motor.

  5. Marty
    Marty says:

    I find oil changes to be a perfect time to look at the underside of the car. There is a lot to be said for knowing that is grease dripping out of the CV boot joints or there is a small stream of dried coolant from the decaying plastic coolant flange that a VAG bean counter thought was a good idea, too.

  6. Myron Ursua
    Myron Ursua says:

    Sounds like Volkswagen is figuring out ways to shave weight. My overall opinion if you’re charging the customer for an oil change & inspection still need to hoist up the vehicle. I rather drain the oil using gravity & inspect the vehicle a tire could be punctured never know. using plastic oil pans BAD IDEA!!! One puncture while driving engine is history. Unless the engine shuts off due to low oil pressure. I can imagine the cost for a new oil pan you can weld up a steel one. Especially the ride height of the vehicle jumping the curb Oh boy! At least put a skid plate scrapes happens. Customers won’t be happy to pay for a new plastic oil pan

      • Surjit
        Surjit says:

        We have been using plastic oil pans (material called smc) for years on 12 and 14 litre engines for years without issue. Diesel engines producing 1800 ft pounds torque produce a lot of vibration and thermal stresses. The pans and plastic valve covers can last the life of the vehicle which can easily exceed 1 million miles. As for hitting the pan on something in the road that could happen on aluminum or steel pans as well. The drain plug bosses are really hard to damage unless you go full primate and over torque them which would be human error. Modern materials are lighter and very strong compared to the stuff we are used to!

  7. Brad
    Brad says:

    I work parts at a small VW dealer, and we have three techs. Only one of the three use the oil extractor (the others use it, but very rarely), and he hooks it up and turns around to play on his phone. He is the only tech that rarely brings an estimate into the parts department, and has many comebacks. I think the pros and cons of an oil extractor all depends on the person using it. While tech A might use it to knock out a walk in oil change, while doing a DSG service. Tech B uses it to be lazy, and never even lifts the car.

    • Joseph
      Joseph says:

      Being a first generation Smart for two owner, oil pan doesn’t come with an oil drain nut. I have two options, one is to fit an aftermarket oil pan with oil drain nut or weld one on mine. Other option is to extract the engine oil. That’s what I am doing. If done right, with the right oil temperature and the tube properly inserted, I think it’s nearly as good as draining using gravity.

  8. Dan
    Dan says:

    Don’t know if VW’s come equipped from the factory, but if there is a magnetic drain-plug [my 97 GMC had one] you cannot clean it or see if there’s coming trouble [larger bits on the magnet].

  9. Dwight
    Dwight says:

    Between me and my kids we have 3 Hondas, 2 Acuras, and an E250BTC diesel MBZ. I have an extractor. It works great on the V6 Hondas and Acuras because the filter is accessible right behind the right front wheel. Cock the wheel full right and the filter is easily spun off and on again without lifting the car. The extractor pulls out the expected number of quarts/liters. The Accord is a 4 cylinder and the filter and drain plug are not easily accessible without lifting the car so I don’t bother using the extractor.
    I got the extractor after performing the B service on the MBZ and realized there is a large under body panel with 6-8 screws that must be removed to access the drain plug. A real pain, particularly when the filter is top mounted and easily accessible. On the next change however using the extractor I was only able to remove 3 liters with the extractor. I don’t know why. Possibly the tubing hung up on something before reaching the bottom of the pan, or the fact I didn’t loosen the filter before extracting the fluid could have been the problem. I simply refilled it with just 3 liters, when it should have taken 6. If anyone out there has encountered a similar problem I would like to hear from you. Thanks.

    • pan
      pan says:

      Dwigt, its normal for some mercedes. It has no related that you didn’t remove filter before or not but MB crank in some model is complicate, the tube can’t go far to extract all of the oil. Because of this, you need to do old style oil extract by remove the nut under your engine. Mine car C180 M274 engine got the same thing as your.

    • Steve Davis
      Steve Davis says:

      Yes I tried the Topsider Oil Extractor purchase on Amazon at $50. No matter how many times I tried, I could only remove 2 quarts. It would suck out 2 qts. I would drain into a container. Pump up the unit again, but could get NO MORE oil. Only 2 quarts out of 4.2 quarts with a normal drain and fill. My car is a 2009 Hyundai Elantra 2009 SE.

  10. Des
    Des says:

    Extractors are great if you are driving the car a ton, or track it once in a while, and only change the filter every other time. I do my oil every two months, which seems excessive, but it’s just a paranoia I have.

  11. john
    john says:

    i put a lot of klm on the car in a year. i like the elc pump because i can do a quick oil change in the dead of winter 10 min tops. i use a high klm oil filter,and change that out every 10,000 klm.
    coming from the trade, i find this cost saving and easy.

  12. Dave
    Dave says:

    The main use of these is for equipment that you can’t access the drain plug or can’t get a catch can underneath. Boat tranny, engine, generator, etc.

  13. Kent
    Kent says:

    Audi A4 B7 2.0T Quattro. The extractor method works for me. I hate crawling under the car and removing the belly pan (pain) and getting oil dripped on me (also a pain) so I rigged up an extractor using a small electric vacuum pump and a 2 gallon drop-out can. The engine has a fairly straight dipstick tube so it easy to snake a 1/4 inch plastic tube down to the floor of the oil pan. Just to verify, I removed the oil pan plug after extraction and virtually no oil came out, oh maybe a drop or two, so I feel confident I’m getting all the oil out of the pan. As for the filter, this engine uses a cartridge filter arrangement. I use a Baum Tools BT40057 drain tool and hook up the extractor to that to draw oil from the filter housing. Takes just a minute or two. I then unscrew the filter housing from above. Tip: surround the filter housing with a medium size plastic bag then unscrew the filter housing and drop the housing and cartridge into the bag. Lift the bag up and out of the engine bay. No mess. My entire oil change is done from above. No jacks, jack-stands or ramps. Kent.

  14. Ash
    Ash says:

    I say the more one can do for yourself on your car, the more bucks in your pocket. There are very nifty pumps out there to extract the oil also one can make your own using stuff lying around in your home etc.
    just check Youtube out for ideas.

  15. Robert
    Robert says:

    …Just thinking outside the box…

    Don’t change the oil. Instead, change the filter and add the oil to top off the volume lost by consumption and filter entrapment.
    This method would be best applied to syn-oil, I think.

    What is oil doing? 3 things: It is cooling the cylinders. It is allowing the rings to slide along the cylinder wall minimizing wear. It is carrying away the exhaust particles after combustion.

    These particles are adhering to the side of the cylinders. The scrapping ring pulls the particles down into the oil stream and the filtration traps the soot.
    ‘Oil’ is used because of its viscosity and temperature tolerance. A different liquid, under a different name would ‘do’ the same thing, provided it has the same properties of viscosity and temperature range. The filter is the key.

    Please, no angry responses… I’m just trying to think this through. #oilcompaniesarerich

    • JEFF S.
      JEFF S. says:

      I do exactly what you say. I use syn oil and at 5,000 miles I install a new oil filter and top off the oil. Then at 10,000 miles I do a complete oil and filter change. Now if you had a bypass filter installed you could go thousands of miles longer.
      The big rig guys have been extending oil life with by pass filter systems for years. Oil additive packages break down over time, so I will not go any longer than my car maker says on oil changes, but I am sure I could. An oil change with syn oil and filter cost me $35 (takes me about 30 minutes) once per year, so I do not see that as needing to be done less often.

    • Craig
      Craig says:

      On synthetic oils or oils designed for prolonged use this May possibly work BUT even the synthetic manufacturers like Shaffer recommend periodic testing of the oil to be sure it hasn’t picked up badness than can predict an impending failure. Short of dissecting the oil filter you have no way of telling how much debris there is in it. So you would have no means of knowing you have a mechanical failure on the way. This is why some manufacturers use or used magnetic oil plugs. Also oil can still break down and pick up fuel contamination over time which synthetics just withstand the process better. Remember it costs less to do a rebuild or even do a swap then to buy a new engine without a usable core because a hard part let go and took the block and or heads with it.
      Sincerely Craig

  16. JEFF S.
    JEFF S. says:

    I just purchased a 2006 Jetta GLI from my daughter for $1,500, with 134,000 miles. She told me she had to replace the oil pan ($250), because of someone cross threading the drain plug, (“IDIOTS”). I have always done all my oil changes on over 25 cars in 43 years of driving, since age 18. I have seen on VW forums where the use of the incorrect drain plug has created leaks and other problems. Have you checked out Aeroquip Quick Drain oil pan couplings sold by Summit? The thing I like is the fact that you need a second coupling piece to open the drain valve. For each additional car all you need is the part that goes on the oil pan.



  17. VegasDude
    VegasDude says:

    I never really looked at these until my new car.. A 124 Spider.. It has a belly pan with 8 freakin bolts.. Uh Uh… Aint Happenin… Oil Filter is easy access from topside, just unplug a sensor cable in the way… It is AWESOME !!!.. Run engine 5 minutes.. to mix the crud INTO the oil.. then drain.. DAMN.. Wish I’d bought one YEARS AGO…. MY 2 Corvair show cars, and my ’68 Sprite’s Oil filters are right in your face.. SO that’s good too.. Now.. My , 01 BULLITT GT, 31k miles, with the 4.6.. No access to Oil Filter topside, and tube only goes half down the dipstick.. there’s a sharp bend or something… BUT.. I just SOLD IT !! AND for $1500 less than I paid for it in 2008.. ANY future car MUST have top accessible Filter for me now !!

  18. aquamahn
    aquamahn says:

    Works great, and you can add a little clean oil once all is drained and then remove that to before filling up. Being a BMW owner where the filter is easy to reach and on top ,this method is a no brainer. Unfortunately now they are making cars without dip sticks ,using electronics to give you the level indication on your console screen , now what do i do ! Will try and see if i can extract via the “oil add” cap!

  19. Darboy55
    Darboy55 says:

    Well for many years I worked on boats and PWC’s. Oil extraction in most cases is the only way to change oil. However, I have always believed that draining was the best way to change oil in a car. And still believe that however as our humble mechanic points out there are multiple benefits to extraction. So here is my point. My wife has a 2018 VW Passat with a 2.0. Filter is on top so no reason to raise the car to remove oil filter and to drain the oil I have to remove / work around the air deflector. That was a real pain on her 2002 Passat with the V6. So in this case we extract the oil. To Mr. Humble’s point, if you have crawl under the vehicle to change the filter, drain it. If the filter is on top, extract it.

  20. BenzW205
    BenzW205 says:

    It is maybe an easier way to do it, but I still believe that draining is better, because it is how it is designed to be done.

  21. BenzW205
    BenzW205 says:


    it seems that the official procedure from Benz for any C-class W205 since 2014 is vacuum/extract from the top, can you confirm ?

    My feeling is that this procedure is not as good as draining, but Benz engineers cannot be totally dumb ? what do you think ?

    But still, I think that if oil has never been drained in my car, I should at least once try to go where they will drain it to change it.

    Thank you for your ideas.

  22. Steve
    Steve says:

    I’m generally please with my extractor pump, I get 100psi on my compressor, but it is slow as I”m usually doing it when its 45 degrees out. However I am unable to get the last 2 quarts out. The tube is bottoming out (or FEELS like it is) against SOMETHING – but obviously not the bottom of the oil pan. The guide wire and tube are being diverted somewhere in the block is my guess, I cant imagine to where or how. These are twin Volve-Pento 5.0L Gi engines (305’s) and there is no way to get to the drain plugs in my boat’s engine compartment.

    If anyone has run into this and resolved it PLEASE reach me, I’m very frustrated with this. I’m only changing the filters and 3 quarts of oil every year instead of 5-6 quarts (each engine).

  23. Rocky Raccoon
    Rocky Raccoon says:

    Just bought a 2014 TDI and changed oil by draining just to see what was in it. On my previous three Benz, I used an extractor exclusively. In the Benz case, there is no need to stick a secondary tube down the dipstick tube. I simply sealed to the top of the dipstick tube and pumped up the MityVac extractor. It gave me the whole 8 quarts. I intend trying this on my next TDI oil change and will report back.

    On a car with topside filter access it does not make sense to do anything else. You can carpet your garage in white shag. A once/year undercar inspection is all that is missing.

  24. Rich
    Rich says:

    Why is there no system for draining the oil from above the engine bay? (At least I haven’t found one)
    I’m thinking of something like a Fumoto valve but with a remote operator that can be operated from top side. Combined with an appropriately located oil filter relo kit you might only need to push your drain pain into position then do everything else from a standing position.

  25. Adam
    Adam says:

    I just wish I could do top side extraction on my cars. For some reason there is something that prevents me from getting to the bottom of the pan in my Chevy. I live in an area with cold winters and don’t have a garage or even concrete so the idea of not needing to get on the ground for oil changes in February sounded good… wish I could find a way to make it work. Best I have is a Fumoto valve (the one a hose clips on) attached to the extractor and suck it out the drain plug, that way at least I don’t have the mess of the drain pan.

  26. Hamza
    Hamza says:

    Here is my question, I am not a professional mechanic.
    When draining the oil through the drain plug, I believe it also helps drop all the little wear and tear from the internal parts of the engine, however, if you extract it using the pump, I believe that stuff will stay in the pan and increase in quantity over time, if you continue to use the extractor. That could be very bad for the engine.
    Because I saw the pump in action on youtube and it extracted the oil very slowly, therefore, I don’t think it will suck everything out.

    You guys’ option will be greatly appreciated.

  27. Robert
    Robert says:

    I have used the extracting pump before on a 2005 C230 Kompressor I had and also to do partial drain and refills on transmission fluid and power steering fluid on several cars. It is very convenient and a real time saver. Now, I have a 2017 sonata which had the draining plug stripped on the aluminum pan so I’m thinking on using an oversize plug on the pan and leave it there forever. I always use synthetic oil in this car and change it every 7.5K miles. The way I see it, I know that the pump may not take all the oil on the pan but the oil filter should pickup most of the debri floating around in the engine when is running anyways, so even when I’m leaving some old oil in the engine, most of it is out and is all synthetic. I’m just expending a little more on a top notch oil filter.

  28. paul mckinlay
    paul mckinlay says:

    hi my 2008 vw passat has finally passed away with 140k on the clock. not a lot of miles for a diesel that was well serviced every year with good oil and filter. It was the oil pump that failed in the end and to replace it was to expensive. I I am sure it failed because of the way garages have started to extract oil from cars. I do think if you remove the drain plug you must remove more sludge than suction. Because of this method i think the inlet for the pump has become blocked over a period of time… ANY THOUGHTS ON THIS .

  29. paul mckinlay
    paul mckinlay says:


    • Roy
      Roy says:

      Paul, your opinion is valid and reflects your experience. I would however offer that it is the filter’s job to remove and collect “sludge”. I have never seen an engine build up so much sludge that it impedes the oil pickup and I have worked on some neglected vehicles. Boats have been using extraction for years, the turbines on some of those engines spool up almost immediately and run upwards of 40,000 rpm for the duration. Like everything to do with internal combustion engines, you milage may vary.

  30. GraceNora
    GraceNora says:

    It was a pleasure to read the article! Thank you for sharing such valuable information, which is necessary for me to learn more about automotive and engines. Here at Autoparts-miles.com we provide, The best Used Mercedes Engines for sale in USA. We are offering the used car engines all over the USA.

  31. Ralph tcat
    Ralph tcat says:

    Well you cost me a beer, never heard of it being done that way but then again it’s been 10 years since I paid to have a servicing done-was doing it myself .
    Lost a bet but gained some knowledge so “Thank you”. Still learning at age 57

  32. Vickie
    Vickie says:

    Question regarding a Subaru…why do some oil chargers ie Jiffy Lube extract the oil? They no longer drain oil in a Subaru. Thanks

  33. Actual Gear Head
    Actual Gear Head says:

    This whole article is a waste of time. Not even sure how I stumbled upon it. Raising a vehicle isnt hard. Getting oil into a drain pan isnt hard. Draining oil is in general easy to do and any competent person can perform the task of an oil change on an automobile. The whole point of draining oil from the plug on the BOTTOM of the car is to get ALL the old spent oil out which is imperative when changing oil and the only good way to do it. Extracting the oil is a half ass corner cutting incomplete method and is largely a waste of time. Seriously people for the sake of your automobiles health and longevity: buy ramps, put your car on those ramps, drain the oil the correct way by removing the drain plug (ideally when the engine is warm) and refill completely with clean fresh oil. Or dont. Thats up to you but i can assure you its the only way oil should be changed. The writer of this article clearly is not someone who should be giving advice to people online who may not no any better about changing oil on automobiles. Kinda ridiculous really and possibly even dangerous for some readers. Not trying to be mean however it may seem that way but this article really is ridiculous.

    • Thomson
      Thomson says:

      Isn’t the use of extraction the same concept as using a straw to drink from a cup? If the loose bits from the engine are larger than the inner diameter of the extraction tube, I think the problem in the engine is more severe than the debate on how to drain the oil.
      Some cars are designed with use of extraction in mind, jaguar is one I have in mind. Those cars have a straw built into the engine for connecting to the extractor.

  34. Erick
    Erick says:

    I just learned this extraction method today when I had my oil change done at a Valvoline quick lube… I think the old fashion drain plug is the best method to drain 100% of the old oil and debris. Extraction method is just them for liability reasons, especially from these big chain companies, lube, and tune.

  35. Fred
    Fred says:

    I know this is overkill, but…. I jack up the front, extract the oil using a 12v pump. into (2) 5 gallon container.
    Then I remove drain plug and drain the rest. Modern oils keep the dirt particles in suspension, and get
    trapped in the oil filter. This was not the case with non detergent oils. I have a 2004 Mercedes 350SL. It takes
    almost 9 quarts of oil. I put the new oil in using the oil filter housing. A lot easier, as it in the front of the engine,
    and I don’t need to use a funnel. Enjoyed your article!


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