101 Guide: All You Need To Know About Motorcycle Engine Oil

When you ride, you focus on the road ahead of you and not the inner workings of your motorbike. But there’s a lot happening inside your machine. Your engine is a complex system of connected parts, andoil is what keeps them running.

Motorcycle oil serves so many roles within your engine: it cleans, cools, lubricates, protects from corrosion, and increases the motorbike’s lifespan. It cools the transmission, assists the piston rings to seal in combustion pressure and even helps keep your engine quiet. Motorcycle oil is more than the most important ingredient in your bike– it’s its lifeblood. It also has to be balanced. Too much oil in your motorcycle, or too little, can spell disaster for your engine.

How to Know When Your Motorcycle Needs an Oil Change

How many kilometres do you need to clock up before it’s time to change the engine oil on your motorcycle? A good rule of thumb is every 3,000-5,000 kilometres, but there’s no hard and fast answer. The more you ride, the more you should change your oil, and if you’re travelling more than 50 km daily, it’s better to aim for once a month. If you follow this guideline, you’ll be changing your oil before you notice any issues with how your motorcycle runs and before any serious problems pop up. Your motorcycle’s manual can also help you with how many kilometres you need to have done before it’s time to change the motorcycle engine oil.

It’s likely your motorcycle is long overdue for an oil change if you notice any of the following issues with your motorcycle oil:

Your oil is either thin or dark black

Motorcycle oil is thicker and more viscous than car engine oil. And when it’s new, it’s usually a blue or brown colour. However, repeated use causes your engine oil to grow thin and to blacken from dirt and soot. If your oil has gone dark, it’s time for a change.

You’ve noticed less oil

Heavy engine use decreases the amount of motorcycle oil. If you’ve checked your oil and there’s clearly less in there, check for leaks. If your motorcycle isn’t leaking, it’s probably time for new oil.

The engine is loud

The sound of an engine that’s not getting enough lubrication is different to the satisfying rumble you’ve come to know and love. If it’s unbearably loud or you hear the harsh screech of metal on metal, it’s probably the sound of your bike crying out for new oil.  

There’s heat on your feet

Ageing oil causes the engine to distribute heat unevenly. If you’re like most riders, you’ll first notice this happening when you feel hot air on your feet while you ride.  

The oil is past its use-by date

Like most products, oil has a shelf life. While motorcycle oil usually lasts for five years, you’ll need to dispose of any oil that’s been on your shelf or in your motorcycle for longer than that.

How to Change Oil on Mutt Motorcycles

Have you exceeded how many kilometres you need to do before you need to change your motorcycle oil?

If you’re not a DIY sort of person, changing your motorcycle oil is a great way to get a feel for your motorbike and how things work.

Although there are some common pitfalls you need to avoid when changing your oil, like putting too much in your motorcycle, it’s also easy to do.

“But why can’t I just put car oil in my motorcycle?” you might ask. For starters, motorcycle engines are very different beasts from car engines. They run hotter, rev higher and are more exposed to the elements. Demand for fuel efficiency in cars has led to friction modifiers in most car oil. These modifiers are fine for cars but can cause the wet clutch to slip in motorcycles. So while automotive oil should get you moving if you’re stranded with nothing else available, it shouldn’t be your default.

So what sort of oil should you use? Well, that’s one question that’s guaranteed to start a heated debate! What we can tell you for sure is that the oil you choose should be high-quality, should meet the requirements found in your owner’s manual (including the right viscosity range), and shouldn’t be “energy-conserving”, as that will mess up your clutch.

Before you change your oil, make sure you have the right kind of filter (also in the manual). Put down some cardboard or an old towel if you don’t want to get stray oil on the ground.

Once you’ve racked up the number of kilometres needed to change the engine oil on a motorcycle, you should find it’s easy enough to do. Just follow these steps:

  1. Warm your engine up: It’s actually easier to change your motorcycle oil when your engine has warmed up a bit. Check your service manual for more specific information about how long to run it.
  2. Set up your bike on a stand: When you have your motorbike securely in place, wipe up the area around the oil filter and drain plug with an old rag.
  3. Drain the old oil: Place the drain pan beneath the plug. Holding your arm so that you don’t spill oil on yourself, unscrew the plug. Wait until all of the oil has drained in the drain pan.  
  4. Remove the oil filter: Pour any oil still in it into the drain pan.
  5. Install the new filter: Put a little oil in the filter itself to lubricate the engine and create a seal.
  6. Replace the sealing washer: If the sealing washer is damaged, this is the time to replace it. Otherwise, you’re probably safe to re-use it.
  7. Install the new drain plug: Put the new drain plug in by hand first to avoid cross-threading. Once it’s securely in, you can use a wrench to tighten it. Make sure you don’t over-tighten.
  8. Add the new oil: Check your manual to see how much oil is required. There should be a dipstick to gauge the level. Putting too little or too much oil in your motorcycle is a common mistake.
  9. Check for leaks: When you’re done, start the engine and let it run for a few minutes. Check the oil levels and make sure there are no leaks coming from either the filter or the drain plug.

Make sure you dispose of the old oil and filter in accordance with local government rules.

Common Issues with Oil Changes

So what should you be wary of when it comes to changing your motorcycle oil? Here are some common issues to watch out for:

Too much oil in the motorcycle

Your engine is designed to run on a specific amount of oil. Too much oil in your motorcycle leads to too much pressure in your crankcase, forcing oil into your intake system and leading to damage.

Not draining the old oil

Old oil contains a lot of nasties which are bad for your engine. You need to remove it before adding fresh oil so you can keep your engine running smoothly.

Adding too little oil

Not adding enough motorcycle oil to your bike can be as harmful as adding too much. Both cause damage to your engine.

Using poor-quality engine oil

Your oil needs to be right for your engine, and that includes the proper level of viscosity. Using cheap or second-rate motorcycle oil will only lead to second-rate engine performance or worse.

While changing your oil too often isn’t dangerous to the engine, changing the engine oil on your motorcycle before you’ve reached how many kilometres you need is a waste of time and money. When in doubt, consult your manual or your mechanic.

Find Your New Motorbike at Mutt Motorcycles

Mutt Motorcycles takes the look and feel of classic custom bikes and makes them more accessible for the average rider. Our small cc bikes are safe and comfortable for beginner riders while still being as stylish, powerful and fun to ride as the vintage versions that grace magazines and cinema screens.

The Mutt Motorcycles collection has something for every rider, and our bikes are inspired by the timeless tradition of café racer motorcycles.

With more than 15 years behind the tools, we know a thing or two about building quality bikes by now. Get in touch with Mutt for a bike that will never go out of style.
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