Oil is the most essential part of your engine because it keeps the engine lubricated and protected at the same time! Motorcycle oil also functions as a coolant for your engine. Over time, oil begins to break down and ceases to be much effective.
In this article, we’ll go through the most essential details regarding your motorcycle’s oil change (along with the oil filter).
The Importance of Changing the Oil
The truth is that engine oil can last for 5 years on average when stored. When oil is used, its longevity primarily depends on what type of oil it is. If you skip oil changes the engine’s parts will begin to overheat. Due to the lack of lubrication, the parts will wear and tear over time.
Eventually, the engine will shut down if the old oil is not replaced. Oil changes are also a way to remove debris and impurities contained in the oil. These impurities are detrimental to your engine as well.
It is more than obvious that oil changes are a crucial part of engine maintenance. But how do we know when an oil change is needed? Below are some of the most common telltale signs that your motorcycle needs an oil change:
- Dirty oil: If you try the classic dipstick test and the oil appears darker, it is an indicator that it is time for an oil change. New oil will appear light brown and smooth to the touch. Once the oil has gone bad, it will appear black and feel rough. It is best to change the oil before it turns completely black.
- Low oil levels: Check the dipstick or oil window for the oil levels. If the oil is below the minimum mark, it may signify that the oil is too old. Since the oil is less effective at lubricating the engine, more oil than necessary will be used. This will result in low oil levels.
- Noisy engine: Another good indicator that an oil change is required is if your engine sounds noisier than usual. This is a sign of poor lubrication that is causing friction between the moving metal parts.
- High engine temperature: As mentioned before, motorcycle oil acts as an engine coolant. When the oil’s quality drastically decreases, it can’t cool down the engine. As a result, you may feel burning hot air coming out of the engine.
- Blinking warning lights: If you notice flashing lights on your motorcycle’s dashboard, it is a sign something is wrong. Even though warning lights are not always a sign your motorcycle needs an oil change, you should check the oil if these lights show up.
When to Change Motorcycle Oil
So, how often should you change your motorcycle’s oil? While your user’s manual usually provides the answer to this question, there are several factors that play a role.
The main factors are the model and year of your bike, the type of oil you use, and how frequently you ride. If two people own a motorcycle from the same brand, but the motorcycles were produced decades apart, it is likely each motorcycle uses a different type of oil.
The different types of oil include mineral, semi-synthetic, and synthetic.
- Mineral Oil (2,000-3,000 miles): Mineral oil has been around since cars were first produced. It is still commonly used and is the cheapest type of oil. Because mineral oil is thicker and doesn’t leak as often, it is best suited for older motorcycles/vehicles. However, mineral oil moves slowly through the engine and may contain some impurities. For this reason, you need to replace mineral oil more often than any other type of oil. It is recommended to change mineral oil every 2,000 to 3,000 miles, or at least twice a year.
- Semi-synthetic Oil (5,000-6,000 miles): Semi-synthetic is a combination of mineral and synthetic base oils. It offers the superior lubrication and protection that synthetic oil provides while being affordable like mineral oil. Since it is a hybrid, it tends to last longer than mineral oil. If you have semi-synthetic oil, it is wise to replace it every 5,000 to 6,000 miles. At the very least, replace semi-synthetic oil once a year.
- Synthetic Oil (7,000-10,000 miles): Synthetic oil provides the best protection, lubrication, and overall quality. Though, it is more expensive than the other types of oil. Another great feature of synthetic oil is its resistance to extreme temperatures. Its resistance allows it to not become as thick as mineral oil when exposed to heat. As a result, synthetic oil lasts longer and only needs to be replaced every 7,000 to 10,000 miles.
Whether your choice of oil is mineral or synthetic oil, it is best to change your oil every year. Even if your bike has very few miles, it is still recommendable to do so. Here’s why:
When you ride your motorcycle, contaminates are likely to get into the crankcase and mix with the oil. This will damage your engine if the oil is not replaced.
Additionally, if you use your motorcycle for short trips, moisture will build up and weaken the oil. If this is your case then you should replace the oil more frequently: at least three times a year.
You should also consider letting your motorcycle warm up for around an hour, so you avoid frequent oil changes.
How the Oil Filter Works
The oil filter is a cylindrical structure that helps purify your oil as it travels through the engine. It filters out unwanted particles like dust and dirt.
Though the oil filter is a relatively small piece, it consists of many parts. These parts include the external casing, top cover, gasket, anti-drainback valve, paper pleats, center tube, and bypass valve.
The external casing is the metal outside part of the filter that acts as a shield against potential damage. The top cover is the top part of the filter which is not protected by the external casing. This opening allows the oil to enter the filter. The gasket is an elastic material used to keep the oil filter in place and inside the external casing.
As the oil enters the filter, the anti-drainback valve ensures the oil continues flowing forward and does not exit the filter. The oil then flows through these paper pleats, which are the vertical lines seen all around the filter. The paper pleats are made of spongy material, which absorbs all the unwanted and harmful particles contained in the oil.
Thus, cleaning and purifying the oil. The center tube is the structure that contains and supports the paper pleats. It also allows the oil to flow out of the filter and into the engine.
The bypass valve is located below the center tube and ensures the oil continues flowing freely. This is important because the filter can become obstructed. In this way, all the parts of the filter work together to guarantee that purified oil gets to the engine.
When to Change the Oil Filter
The question of when to change the oil filter is a tricky one. Experts and common everyday motorcyclists both debate about this topic.
Though most motorcycle manuals say to change the oil filter every time you change the oil, many people do not follow this rule and fair well. On average, motorcycle oil filters last no more than 10,000 miles. By the time 6,000 miles is reached, the filter begins to perform badly. Therefore, it is critical to change the filter at least every 5,000 to 6,000 miles.
Most people follow a specific pattern when it comes to changing the oil filter. There are people who prefer changing the filter every other oil change and others who rather change it every second or third oil change.
Ultimately, what you decide will be up to your preferences and your user’s manual. It is important to note that some manufacturers recommend oil filters to be changed every 2,000 to 3,000 miles. This is at shorter intervals than the more common 5,000 to 6,000 miles limit, but it may still be applicable to certain motorcycles.
Even though it isn’t necessary to change the oil filter every time you change the oil, you must change the oil every time the filter is replaced. This is a crucial point to remember.
Personally, I would recommend changing the oil and the filter every time because it is harmless and worth the little extra money. It is better to be safe than sorry.
However, it is alright to not follow this pattern. If you don’t change the filter once or twice when the oil is changed, it should be fine. What is important to remember is to definitely change the filter at least 5,000 to 6,000 miles, or before depending on what your manufacturer/manual says.
Changing Motorcycle Oil for the First Time
A motorcycle’s break-in period lasts for the first 500 to 1,000 miles it is used. Manufacturers believe there is a proper way to operate a motorcycle during its first period of usage, otherwise called the “break-in procedure.”
The break-in procedure is believed to ensure engine longevity and performance. The procedure includes specific instructions such as: Not making hard stops or harsh starts, not riding with high engine speed, and not using full throttle.
Among these instructions, it is also mentioned that one should change the oil. The first oil change is recommended early on because there are often tiny bits of metal when the engine is new. Most manuals recommend the first oil change should be done at 500 miles.
You should also replace the oil filter as well. Some people prefer to do the first oil change at 20 miles, and then again at 50 miles and 200 miles. There is no harm in doing this if you wish. Other people prefer to wait until 1,000 miles to do the first oil change, however, it is more recommendable to do it at 500 miles.
You can also do an additional oil and filter change at 1,500 miles and opt for synthetic oil.
Fortunately, changing motorcycle oil is a simple task that you can handle yourself. If it is your first time replacing your bike’s oil, below is a general breakdown of the steps:
- Step one: Allow your engine to warm up and wipe down the drain plug area.
- Step two: Unscrew the plug with your hands and allow the oil to drain out into the drain pan.
- Step three: Use a strap wrench or oil filter wrench to help unscrew the filter.
- Step four: Apply a bit of oil from the drain pan around the gasket of the filter and add some into the filter as well. Then, screw the filter back into its place.
- Step five: Replace the sealing washer (or O-ring if that’s what you have) if it looks damaged or your user’s manual recommends you do so.
- Step six: Pour in the new oil. Turn on your engine and check your oil levels.
To recap, remember to use the type of oil that is best suited for your bike. Depending on the type of oil it is, it will determine how often you will have to change the oil.
When it comes to the oil filter, always read what your manual recommends and follow your best judgment. Also, check your manual for the recommended number of miles to conduct the first oil change.
In order to ensure your motorcycle runs as best as possible, all maintenance requirements should be met. Consider the condition of your tires, brakes, controls, filters, battery, and drive chain as well.
And of course, the most important of these maintenance requirements is the oil change. It will guarantee your engine remains healthy, so you can continue delighting yourself on your trips.