A well oiled engine is a happy engine. Changing your oil is the most basic moto-maintenance you can do, and it's an easy way to save money too...learn how to do it here in our easy guide!
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.
Most people order their favorite oil and filter separately, but for maximum convenience, you can also go with an OEM oil change kit that has everything you need to do the job on your specific bike, like this one from Yamaha.
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.
Draining the oil pan is a simple task, but a lot of people mess it up either by spilling oil or burning themselves. Use a large drain pan to catch the stream, which will shoot out at first, but the slow to a drip as it runs out. Also, you CAN change oil while it's warm, which lets it flow better, but this is very dangerous because it oil is extremely hot an it is easy to burn yourself. We generally don't recommend doing this.
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 changed 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 owner's manual.
When installing your new oil filter, prime the gasket with a thin film of oil to help create a seal and avoid leaks. K&N filters have a 17mm nut integrated into them to facilitate easy removal, but do NOT use this nut to tighten them on during installation, as doing this can create stress cracks in the filter body and cause a leak.
Fill 'Er 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.
When filling your oil, choose a high quality motorcycle oil like this one from Bel-Ray; automotive oils are NOT made for the demands of motorcycle engines. Be careful to prevent overfilling, as this can cause overpressurization of your oil system and cause leaks or "burping" of oil from the system.
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.