Motorcycle oil and filter

How to change motorcycle oil and filter?

Engine oil of a motorcycle should be replaced around every 4000 miles and this article may help You save on this basic maintenance cost by describing how to do it yourself.

Replacing engine oil can take 30 minutes to 1 hour, requires minimal DIY mechanical knowledge and just a few simple tools.

Volume and type of engine oil

What type of oil to use?

The following article aims to describe the steps and tools to replace engine oil and filter of a motorbike. Most modern motorcycles with 4-stroke engines are likely to work with semi or fully synthetic motor oil and the type of oil required depends on the exact model, please refer to the owner's manual for details. Replacing the oil filter is recommended every time along with the engine oil and it adds little additional costs (around £10). Numbers in engine oils represent grade of viscosity at cold and hot (100 Celsius) temperatures, general information can be found on Wikipedia Motor Oil section.

How much motor oil do I need?

Although exact figures can be found in the owner's manual, an estimate is about 3.5 litres of engine oil for motorcycles over 500 cc. Engine oil is normally sold in 1 and 4 litre bottles and the latter should be enough for most motorcycles.

Used motorcycle oil filter
Used motorcycle oil filter

Prepare for a motorcycle oil change

General maintenance of a motorcycle is much easier than a car due to easier access. Even the fairing on some sportbikes can be left on if there is enough space to reach and drain the engine oil.

You will need

  • a socket set
  • a filter chain wrench
  • oil tray
  • rubber gloves
  • paper towels
  • (possibly) a funnel

A few tips before starting

  • Start the engine for a minute to slightly warm the engine oil to help it drain better, but do not overheat. Stop the engine and wait till the engine oil temperature drops below 40 Celsius to avoid burns
  • Invest in a filter chain wrench, filter pliers are much less effective (unless lockable) and don't always fit in space
  • Do not drain the oil outside on a windy day

10 Easy steps to change motor oil and filter

  1. Stand the motorcycle on a flat and solid surface. Expect the drain plug and oil filter to be stuck, so don't leave the bike unstable
  2. Find the drain plug below the engine and loosen it with a socket wrench, but don't unscrew yet
  3. Place a large enough tray (both in size and volume) in the middle below the plug
  4. Unscrew the drain plug slowly (with rubber gloves on) and let it drain completely into the tray below. Wipe the plug and washer clean while waiting and assemble the filter chain wrench
  5. Place the filter chain around the oil filter and loosen it by turning anticlockwise, then unscrew by hand ensuring the tray is placed below in the outflow direction
  6. Remove the rubber seal from the new oil filter and apply a thin layer of fresh oil to it all around, then fit back in place. This provides a better seal
  7. Wipe off any oil residue once draining complete, then screw the new filter back in place by hand - do not use any tools to tighten. Also screw the drain plug back in place, but do not overtighten to avoid snapping
  8. Refill with new engine oil carefully. Check the oil level periodically while the motorcycle is stood upright. There is only a few dl difference between minimum and maximum levels, do not overfill
  9. Close the oil cap and start the engine for 15-30 seconds, then stop. It will use up some oil to lubricate the engine and fill the oil filter, therefore the oil level may drop slightly that requires further topping up to reach near maximum level again as shown on the level display
  10. Check for leaks and ensure the oil system is sealed throughout. Check the oil level before each ride, especially after the oil change
Oil drain plug
Step 2: Loosen the drain plug
Removing drain plug
Step 4: Unscrew the drain plug slowly
Draining motor oil
Step 4: Let it drain completely
Oil filter wrench application
Step 5: Place the filter chain around the oil filter
Removed oil filter
Step 7: Wipe off any oil residue once draining complete

Potential issues

Chances are the oil filter will be the hardest thing to remove (due to lack of grip and road dust sealed it in place), that's why a filter chain and socket wrench is recommended. Without one a more drastic way to remove a stuck oil filter is by hammering a strong, flat screwdriver through the middle of it sideways then pushing the screwdriver's handle to make the oil filter turn. By doing so the screwdriver can also start cutting through the filter's thin metal body instead of actually turning it, so this approach is to be avoided unless necessary (e.g. oil drained already and previous attempts to unscrew the oil filter with other equipment failed and already damaged or punctured it). An oil filter wrench provides a much stronger grip as opposed to this method.

Final tips

Do not wait for the oil warning light to show up on the dashboard, because that would mean the bike had been running with oil well below the minimum level which could cause serious engine damage.

Fill the empty oil bottle with the used oil and take it the nearest tip site as it is not generic waste.

New motorcycle oil filter
New fitted motorcycle oil filter

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