Changing your Motorcycle's Oil
Do it yourself
A well oiled engine is a happy engine. Just as with cars, a motorcycle engine will fail
miserably if its oil is not changed regularly. The typical standard for changing it is
usually after 5,000 miles but check your owner's manual in case your model varies.
If your bike doesn't have an Odometer, you can measure the maintenance intervals with an hour meter instead. Sure
you could take it into a mechanic and have them change it all out for you, but why not save the money, do it
yourself and add one more thing to be proud of on your list of motorcycle maintenance
successes. After all, a true motorcycle enthusiast knows how to tinker with every bit of
their bike and changing your oil is right on the top of that list.
When you change your oil, changing your oil filter at the same time will keep it fresh and
can keep you from having to change it at a different time which will require you to do the drain again. It is possible to
change your oil without replacing your oil filter but it'll probably only cause you more
maintenance later on. However if you're doing the maintenance on a dirtbike, it is recommended to change
the oil filter ever other time that you change your oil.
Tools you'll need
Changing your oil can get a bit messy. Even the most experienced mechanic will end up
with oil on their hands before the job is done. It's just a fact of life. So it's important to
make sure you have all the tools you'll need before you start to get to work. Nothing is
worse than realizing that there's a door between you and the tool you want when your
hands are covered in oil.
The basic necessities are fairly straightforward. Changing the oil in most bikes will be
very similar but of course there are those motorcycles that try to make your life more
complicated by having extra parts to remove. If you've found yourself trying to change
the oil on one of those bad boys, don't hesitate to consult your owner's or service manual
for the tricks we may have missed.
Once you've gotten your fresh motorcycle engine oil,
check out your engine and where the oil filter housing and drain plug are
in order to gather the right size tools to disassemble and reassemble them. You'll also
need a new oil filter
(if you're going to change that out as well), a drain pan, a funnel, a drain
bolt crush washer and clean cloths. We recommend the
BikeBandit.com Fast Funnel since
they're quick and easy to use and can be thrown away so they don't drip oil all over your
shop. Once you've gathered all of the tools you will need by your bike, you can either
mount your bike on a stand or just allow it to rest normally with the kick stand down. Just
remember that the angle at which your bike is sitting will affect how the oil will flow out
of your engine and you'll need to place your drain pan accordingly.
Some people recommend taking your bike for a quick ten minute jaunt before starting to
drain your oil. This heats up the oil and allows it to flow better. The better your oil flows
out of your engine, the cleaner and faster the drain you will get. However, if you're not
quite skilled at draining your oil yet, we recommend doing it cold for the first few times
as to not risk burning yourself.
You will also want to make sure that you are changing your oil in an area free of dust,
dirt and other contaminants. If even the smallest piece of sand ends up in your oil, it can
wreak havoc on your engine. For this same reason, use clean tools as well.
Doing the drain
Remove any parts that may be blocking your access to the drain plug and filter. Some
bikes will require you to remove the foot peg or drop the exhaust. Once you've got clear
access, remove the drain plug with the right size wrench and let the oil flow. You might
find it entertaining
to yell "there she blows!" when it does. As the oil drains, take a look at the oil drain plug
and clean it off. If you have any engine problems, some
plugs are magnetized to catch any metal shavings to keep them from ruining your engine.
If you happen to notice any metal shavings, you should probably take a look at the rest of
your engine as well because it may not be running properly.
While the oil continues to drain, remove the oil filter. Depending on the model of your bike,
the oil filter may have a cover that will need to be removed and then the filter will just slide
out while others will not have a cover but the filter will need to be unscrewed
(maybe with the use of an oil filter wrench) to be
removed. It's normal for a small amount of oil to drip out of it as you do so. If you had to
remove a cover to get to the filter, wrap the cover in a clean towel so that it does not get
dirty and set it aside. Once it is off, you can
reach inside and remove the oil filter. If your bike is resting on its kickstand, stand it fully
upright once the oil seems to have stopped draining in order to get out the last bit. Because oil is hazardous to the environment, be
sure to dispose of your oil and oil filter responsibly. Check with your local automotive shop or
the local dump to see if they accept used oil.
Putting it back together
Prep the new oil filter by swishing it slowly around a bit in some of the new oil. This
allows for the material within the filter to be wet and be prepared for when you run the
engine again. With a clean cloth, wipe out the inside of the oil filter housing cavity and
then insert the new oil filter. If your new filter came with an O ring, it is meant to be used
to change out the seal on the housing. Depending on your bike's model, these generic O
rings may or may not fit and but it is recommended that they be change out every time
you change your filter so be sure to get one that fits. Dab a small amount of oil with your
finger onto the seal you will be using in order to allow it to get a better connect with the
engine. Once you screw or slide the new oil filter into place and put the oil filter housing
cover back on (if there was one to begin with), then put back in the oil drain plug with a new crush washer.
Make sure you have the drain plug at the proper torque which you can find listed in your
Fill it up
If everything is back in place (trying to refill your oil might be difficult with the drain
plug still out), open the oil port on the motorcycle and fill it with the appropriate amount
and weight of oil that your specific motorcycle calls for by using an oil measuring cup like this
Kam-Tech Ratio Rite cup. Your owner's manual will tell
you what this should be. Do not overfill your oil because it will put extra stress on the
seals inside your engine, spit up into your air filter forcing you to replace it and will add
to the wear and tear of your bike. Once you've replaced the oil, screw the oil cap back on
and clean up. Wipe off any oil that may have spilled and check for leaks. The best way to
dispose of used oil is in an old but clean bleach or laundry container and to take it to the
local dump. Most dumps or auto parts stores will take used oil which should not be
thrown in the trash or dumped down the drain. Just like your motorcycle isn't fond of old
oil, neither is the environment. Lessen the guilt you have for taking unnecessarily long showers
by being responsible with your oil.
Want to see it all in action? Here's a video for you street bike riders on how to change your motorcycle's oil:
Like to play in the dirt instead? Take a gander at what Steve Matthes has to say about changing your dirt bike's oil.