How to Change Motorcycle Oil – Step-by-Step Guide

Fill oil to the engine

There’s nothing like riding a bike and hearing the roar of a powerful engine. But if you’re one of those riders that don’t stay on top of important routine maintenance, such as oil changes, then you may have noticed that your bike’s engine has lost some power or a general dip in performance.

Many new riders simply don’t know when an oil change is needed and how to go about getting the job done. If you ride a bike, then you need to learn how to change motorcycle oil, which is an important part of routine maintenance. The oil must be changed regularly, even if the bike you ride uses full synthetic oil.

Making regular oil changes is one of the best things you can do for your bike. If you ride a sports bike that runs on synthetic oil, then drain intervals will be further apart, as opposed to a classic style motorcycle that’s filled with regular oil. However, regardless of the type of oil your bikes uses, an engine loves an oil change.

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What Your Bike Needs

Most styles of motorcycles have a unit construction, which means that a single oil system will take care of the transmission and the engine, however, there are some bikes that require a separate oil change for the transmission. If you’re not worried about the cost and have no interest in learning how to care for your bike yourself, then you can pay a mechanic to change the oil. On the other hand, if you want to learn this important skill, you can save a lot of cash each year, plus this is one maintenance task that only requires a few tools and a little practice to get it right.

Before you think of even touching your bike, make sure that you purchase the right type of oil. If you’re not sure what type of oil your bike uses, you can speak with a local mechanic or contact the bike’s manufacturer.

While you’re out purchasing new oil, make sure you pick up a new oil filter, in addition to a tray that you’ll use to drain the oil into, gloves, and a long-necked funnel. The gloves are optional and are used to avoid skin irritation that can occur from contact with oil.

Once you’ve gathered all the right supplies, you’ll need to use a center stand and park your bike on level ground. If your motorcycle comes with a kickstand, you might want to consider buying a paddock stand, which allows riders to perform routine maintenance, such as oil changes, easily. Paddock stands allow oil to drain properly, which it won’t if you use the kickstand to prop the bike up because it will be at an angle.

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Getting Started


First, run the engine for a couple of minutes to warm up the oil. Warm oil tends to drain more easily. After a few minutes have passed, unscrew the oil filler cap and take it off, setting it aside. The next step is removing the old oil.

To do this, you’ll remove the drain bolt with the help of a socket wrench. Place the drain bolt near the filler cap so you can keep all the pieces organized and accessible.

As the oil drains out of the sump, unscrew the oil filter counter-clockwise and remove it. This can be done by hand, however, some bikes have filters that are bolted in place. If your bike’s filter is bolted in place then you can drain the old oil inside into the tray, then bag or wrap up the filter to prevent spilling any oil on the ground.

After the flow of oil into the drain tray has stopped, you can now refill the filter. Before you do, make sure you smear some clear oil on the rubber gasket, then screw the filter into place carefully. Avoid overtightening it. Next, you’ll refill the filter bolt if needed. The drain bolt should be refit. You’ll need to smear a little clean oil onto the seal before you replace it.

Next is the most important part. You’re now ready to refill the engine with clean oil. Before you do so, reference your bike’s manual to learn exactly how much oil the bike needs. Next, place the funnel into the fill hole and slowly pour the new oil carefully until you have added approximately ninety percent of the amount of oil the manufacturer recommends.

Give the oil five minutes to drain into the sump, check the level by using a dipstick or looking at the inspection window. Add the remaining amount of oil slowly, periodically checking the level each time you add more. This is done to ensure you don’t overfill the engine.

After you’ve added the oil, you’ll replace the filler cap and wipe any spilled oil off your bike using paper towels or rags. And that’s it, your bike is now riding ready.

Mistakes to Avoid

As you can see changing your own oil is a pretty simple process, but it’s also an important part of any spring motorcycle maintenance checklist.

Performing your own oil changes can be a great way to save some cash, especially considering all it takes is the use of a few tools and just a little time. However, even if you’re familiar with the basics of this job, such as draining the oil, changing the filter, and refilling the oil, just one small mistake can make a huge difference. Below, I’ve included some of the common oil change mistakes that many beginners make, and how to avoid them.

Cleaning around the Fill Plug or Dipstick

When you take out the dipstick or remove the fill plug to insert the funnel, dirt and debris can seep into the engine from around the fill opening. The filter’s job is to catch this type of stuff, however, even a very small amount of dirt in the engine can do some serious damage. Make sure you spend time cleaning around the opening, prior to removing the oil fill plug or dipstick.

Using the Wrong Type of Oil

As I mentioned earlier, ensuring you’re using the proper type of oil for your specific bike’s engine will be crucial. There are many different types of oils to choose from. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. You should also learn the difference between different types of motor oils, such as conventional and synthetic, as well as what the numbers on an oil container mean.

Misplacing the Crush Washer or O-Ring

With most tanks, once the oil drain bolt has been loosened, you’ll find a crush washer or O-ring, which is designed to create a tight seal between the crankcase and the plus. Make sure you don’t lose one of these pieces.

Unfortunately, they’re very easy to forget to replace or lose. Keep in mind, the crush washer and O-ring are designed to seal the drain open, so you should avoid overtightening the bolt once you’re ready to replace it.


Avoid overtightening the oil filter. The O-ring creates an excellent seal for the oil filter, however, you don’t want to overtighten it. Take some oil and rub it around the filter’s seal, then you can hand-tighten it and use the oil wrench to give it a small turn. This will be enough to get a strong seal but will keep it loose enough that even if the filter’s in a tight spot it will really easy to take it out the next time.

Learning How to Take Care of Your Ride

Learning how to change oil, how to change and balance your motorcycle tire, or do some general repairs will not only save you a lot of cash every year but you will also have a new skillset and hobby. Many riders know how to work on their bikes and can go over the steps with you so you’ll know how to take care of your bike’s basic needs.

If you’d like to learn more, stop on by and read my article on how to change a motorcycle chain. This is another important maintenance task that every rider should learn how to do.

Final Thoughts

This guide is perfect for the new rider who wants to learn about routine motorcycle maintenance, how to take care of their bike, learn about the type of oil a bike uses, what tools are needed, and what the process is like. Learning how to change motorcycle oil can save you money, can make you feel like a true rider, and ensures that your bike’s engine is well-taken care of and ready to go. The steps in this guide will walk you through the correct way to change the oil, the common mistakes you should avoid, and what you can do to keep your bike running smoothly, all year long.