A motorcycle is a faithful companion for all your adventures. And if you have been a biker for a long time, you probably know the importance of changing the engine oil. It is an essential part of motorcycle maintenance and adds to the life span of your bike.
This leads us to an age-old question of how often should you change the motorcycle oil. Not changing the oil, or changing it too late, can have an impact on the bike’s performance and even cause frictional damage.
Read the article to learn why motorcycle oil is necessary, what type of oil to use, and how often to replace it.
What Does Motorcycle Engine Oil Do?
Lubricates the engine
Motorcycle engine oil is a lubricant for the engine’s moving parts. Without the oil, the motorcycle parts will not be able to move as freely, causing friction and generating heat that will affect the bike’s performance. Lubricating the engine with oil keeps the heat at bay and ensures the smooth functioning of parts.
Cleans the engine
The motorcycle engine cleans the internal components of the motorcycle. It reduces sludge buildup to keep the engine clean. It also prevents accelerated wear and tears every time you start and rev the engine. The oil protects the engine against cold start and high temperatures.
Cools down the engine
In motorcycles, the oil is used as an “engine coolant.” It absorbs high temperatures inside the combustion chamber to lower the temperature of the engine. A cooler engine runs smoothly and is quieter and fuel-efficient.
Protects the engine
Motorcycle oil protects the engine from the corrosive nature of moisture, combustion by-products, and contaminants from additives. This prevents engine damage and ensures decent performance.
When the engine is clean, the bike runs more smoothly and performs much better. These engines last longer and have low maintenance costs. Also, it helps maintain the resale value of the motorcycle. But this happens only if you use the right kind of oil.
How often do I change motorcycle oil?
The type of oil you choose decides how often you need to change it. As you ride, small particles and combustion by-products end up in the lubricant and are distributed throughout the engine. Then, it causes the corrosion of unseen parts of the motorcycle.
If you used the mineral-based oil for the engine, it should be changed after 2000 miles, given that you use the bike regularly. In case you don’t, changing it twice a year is the right thing to do.
For bikes with semi-synthetic motor oil, change the oil after 5000-6000 miles.
A bike with fully synthetic motor oil requires a change after 7000-10000 miles.
Synthetic oils are usually expensive and last longer than mineral-based oils. Therefore, there is no need to change them too often. Most people prefer to go with semi-synthetic oil, a mix of mineral and synthetic oil.
It also depends on how often you ride. Regular riders need to change their bike oil more frequently than those who don’t ride as much. If your bike sits in the garage most of the time, it doesn’t get hot or stays so for about half an hour. This leads to the building up of moisture, which dilutes the oil. Diluted oil cannot lubricate, clean, or cool the engine that efficiently.
To avoid this, the best thing to do is start the bike to get it hot for at least 30 minutes twice a month. Shorter rides don’t warm up the motorcycle enough, so you can consider an oil change thrice a year.
If you feel the oil is getting dirty as the engine’s performance is not up to the mark, we recommend you take it to the shop for an oil change, regardless of the mileage at the time.
How to know if motorcycle oil is dirty?
A visual inspection goes a long way in finding out if it’s time to change your motor oil. Motorcycles have a dipstick to check the oil level. Take out the dipstick to check the condition and level of the oil. Fresh oil is light brown in color. If it is black and thicker, it means it is time to change the oil.
The high and low-level markers on the dipstick can also be used to check the amount of lubricant in the crankcase. The level should be between the two markers.
For the motorcycles with windows, the markings are the same to find out the level. It can help you notice if there are any particles in the oil which indicates the need to change the oil.
Also, if the sound of the motorcycle engine is louder than usual, it means that the oil has lost its ability. In most cases, as the metal starts rubbing on metal, it creates a louder engine sound.
How to choose the best motorcycle oil?
Before you choose the right oil for your motorcycle, let’s understand the three types of oil out there.
Mineral oil is a petroleum product that is derived from refined crude oil. It’s an effective lubricant that is also quite cheap. However, as it contains impurities leftover from crude oil, it degrades faster and must be replaced more frequently.
Synthetic oils are derived from petrochemicals that have been chemically modified. The manufacturing process is complex in order to create an exact composition for engine lubrication and to filter out impurities. They protect the engine better and do not break down as easily. However, they are on the expensive side.
Semi-synthetic oil is a mix of mineral and synthetic oils. It offers better protection and performance than conventional mineral oil alone. Also, it is affordable and is recommended by many bike enthusiasts.
The user manual will tell you the type of oil that is usually preferred on the motorcycle. Here’s how you can choose the best oil for your bike:
- Viscosity grade: Viscosity is the rate at which oil flows into the engine. Lower the viscosity, the faster the oil flow. And higher viscosity means slower oil flow. For instance, in oil ratings 10W:30, 10W means viscosity when the engine is cold, and 30 when it is hot. It is necessary to maintain the correct viscosity; otherwise, metal on metal grinding can occur, causing engine damage.
- Riding style: When it comes to choosing an oil, the purpose of the bike and your riding style are the factors to consider. Mineral oil is ideal for those who ride at optimal speeds. But if you are driven by the need for speed, it’s better to use synthetic oil. High-speed riding raises the temperature of the engine, and synthetic oil can resist breakdown at high temperatures.
- Additives: Oil manufacturers add additives to the oils as a way to remove debris and neutralize acidity. They aid in the lubrication and cooling of the engine. They also remove carbon deposits from engine parts. Wrong oil can cause increased friction and affect the engine’s lifespan.
- Oil Grade: The oil grade is the indicator of the temperature of the oil and the right amount of viscosity for better lubrication of the engine parts. For instance, in 10W-40, W stands for winter, the number 10W represents a lower temperature winter rating, while 40 is the high-temperature rating. If you will be riding to lower temperatures, buy a motorcycle oil with a lower W rating.
- Compliances: Manufacturers give a mark to high-quality motorbike oils. Look for SAE, JASO (Japanese Engine Oil Standards Implementation Panel), or API (The American Petroleum Institute) certifications, which indicate high-quality oil options. These standards are put in place to ensure the manufacturers maintain the oil quality.
When to change the oil filter?
The filter prevents the unwanted particles from the air from entering the engine. It traps the dirt particles and debris inside the crankcase, thus ensuring the smooth performance of the motorcycle.
There are different types of oil filters: mechanical, mechanic, sedimentation, and spin-on oil filter.
It is important to note that plastic filters outperform paper filters in terms of durability. In addition, they hold more oil and are more efficient in comparison.
The need to change the oil filter depends on how often you ride the bike. It is always a good idea to get it changed along with the oil change. For those who ride regularly, two-three changes are important in a year. If you don’t ride as often, one or two changes should suffice.
For most of us, our motorcycle is like our baby we love too much. Proper maintenance can help the bike run smoothly and last longer. Needless to mention, it also maintains its resale value. Refer to the service manual with directions and guidelines on how and when to change the motor oil.
Besides checking the mileage every now and then, try to listen to your bike. Try to follow a schedule when it comes to oil change and saves yourself hundreds of bucks by avoiding unnecessary repairs.