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Motorcycle oil change

Engine oil ages. Over time, the additives and the lubrication performance of motorcycle engine oil deteriorates, and dirt accumulates in the oil circuit. It's then time for an oil change.

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[IMAGE: filler plug.]
Place a sheet on the floor, remove filler plug

How to change your oil

Preparing the oil change

Before changing the oil, ride your motorcycle until the engine is warm (not hot). Protect your garage floor with a large sheet to catch any splashes. Depending on the motorcycle, you may first need to remove the plastic fairing to get at the drain plug. And rather than borrowing your mum's best kitchen bowl, now might be a good time to invest in a proper oil drip pan. To enable the oil to drain from the engine, you need to let enough air in at the top – so now undo and remove the filler plug.

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Drain oil

Draining the oil and replacing the oil filter

Using a box end wrench, loosen the oil drain plug and slowly unscrew and remove it. The oil is probably still quite hot, so you might want to make the last few turns using a cloth to protect your hands. Always fit a new oil filter each time you do an oil change. There are two types of filter: one looks like a can because it has its own casing, while the other looks like a rolled up mini accordion and is made of filter paper This type needs to be installed in a casing on the motorcycle.

[IMAGE: oil filter.]
Remove oil filter with casing
[IMAGE: seal.]
Lightly oil the seal
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Tighten to vehicle manufacturer's specifications

An oil filter wrench attachment for the ratchet makes light work of undoing the can-type filter. The new can filter is fitted with a seal, which you need to lightly oil prior to installation. Before installing the new filter, check that it is the same as the one you're replacing (height, diameter, sealing surface, thread, etc.). Tighten the new cartridge oil filter according to the specifications in your owner's manual/motorcycle handbook. Always follow the vehicle manufacturer's specifications!

[IMAGE: oil filter.]
Oil filter without casing

The filters that look like a mini accordion are housed in a casing held either by a central screw or several screws around the edge. In almost all cases, you will find this type of filter at the front of the engine. Unscrew the cap (watch out for residual oil escaping), remove the old filter, clean the casing and insert the new filter, making sure it is correctly aligned. Depending on manufacturer, there may be seals or gaskets on the casing, cap or central screw, all of which you need to replace with new ones. Once you have closed the casing and tightened the screws with a torque wrench, thoroughly remove any oil stains from the engine with a cleaning agent. Don't skimp on the cleaning, otherwise you will notice some rather nasty smelling gases once the engine gets hot – not to mention the extremely stubborn stains.

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Tighten drain plug
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Pour in oil

Closing the drain plug and pouring in fresh oil

Fit a new seal to the drain plug, tighten it according to manufacturer specifications and then pour in the fresh oil. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for the correct quantity, viscosity and specifications. And while you're at it, fit a new seal on the filler plug– that'll save you a whole load of work later on. Run the engine briefly and then check the oil level and that there are no leakages anywhere. So now everybody's happy. Mum's still got her salad bowl, the garage floor's clean, the interior of your engine is perfectly protected again. Not only that but there's been no big hit to your wallet!

And once you've cleared up the garage and disposed of the oil in the prescribed manner – unsightly oil stains on the floor are best shifted with a special oil stain remover – you can get straight back on the road. But before mounting your trusty steed, double check the oil level – particularly if your oil filter is fitted in a separate casing.

Long live your engine!
Nothing works without oil. The friction generated by the pistons, bearing surfaces and gears would ruin your engine in no time without oil. So it goes without saying that regularly checking the oil level is as crucial for the well-being of your bike as a regular oil change. As oil ages, it becomes contaminated with metal abrasion particles and combustion residues, and gradually loses its ability to lubricate. Always use specially formulated motorcycle or scooter oils that comply with the viscosity specified by the vehicle manufacturer. This is important because motorcycle engines are high-revving, the transmission generally needs to be lubricated by the engine oil, and the (wet) clutch also runs in oil. Special additives ensure high shear and compressive strength and thermal stability as well as helping to minimise wear. Choosing the right oil is essential. Modern synthetic oils are superior to mineral oils in terms of thermal stability, cold start protection, reduced friction and prevention of deposits. This makes them ideal for racing bikes and tuned engines. However, not all engines, and particularly the clutch, can cope with such high-performance oils. So always check with your authorised dealer first. If the engine has done a high mileage, changing to a different oil should only be considered once the engine has been cleaned and inspected.

An alternative is to use a semi-synthetic oil, which most clutches can handle without any problem. Many modern engine oils are based on HC synthesis technology. What this means is that base oils are chemically manufactured in the refinery by a process called hydrocracking. These base oils have considerably enhanced quality characteristics and are superior to mineral oils as regards low temperature flow (i.e. cold weather performance) and their chemical and thermal stability. Further advantages are faster lubrication of the engine when you fire her up, considerably enhanced engine cleanliness and greater protection of engine components.

Synthetic oil is not recommended for motorcycles built before 1970. And last but not least... Whichever oil you choose, you should always ride gently until the engine has warmed up. It will thank you with many more miles of biking enjoyment.

The engine oil classifications API – American engine oil classification (American Petrol Institute)
In use since approx. 1941. The “S” classes refer to petrol engines, and “C” classes to diesel engines. The second letter states the performance standard in each case. From 1980, standard S“F” applied, from ‘88 S“G”, from ‘93 S“H”, from ‘96 S“J”, from ‘01 S“L”, from ‘07 S“M”, etc. API CF is the standard for car diesel oils. The API classes for two-stroke oils (letter “T”) are no longer used. Gear and driveshaft oils are described in classes G4–G5.

JASO – Japanese engine oil classification (Japanese Automotive Standards Organisation)
JASO T903 is currently the world’s most important classification for motorcycle engine oils. Based on the requirements of the API, JASO defines additional properties designed to ensure perfect functioning of the oil for wet sump lubricated clutches and gears. Depending on the friction behaviour in the clutch, the oil is classified according to JASO MA or JASO MB. JASO MA, and currently the JASO MA-2, specify a higher friction coefficient. Oils with this classification are particularly wet clutch friendly.

ACEA – engine oil classification of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobiles) Valid since 1996. Grades A1–A3 specify oils for petrol engines, and B1–B4 specify oils for diesel cars.

Viscosity (SAE – Society of Automotive Engineers) Specifies the viscosity of the oil and the temperature range in which it can be used. The following applies to modern multigrade oils: the lower the number before the W (“Winter”), the more fluid the oil is at low temperatures; the higher the number after the W, the stronger the lubricating film will be at high operating temperatures.

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The Louis Technical Centre

Problems getting spare parts? Or maybe you've got a technical question about your motorcycle or an accessory The Louis Technical Centre can help! Remember to quote all the necessary details of your vehicle – better still, send us a copy of your registration document.

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Please note!

These tips for DIY mechanics contain general recommendations that may not apply to all vehicles or all individual components. As local conditions may vary considerably, we are unable to guarantee the correctness of information in these tips for DIY mechanics.

Thank you for your understanding.

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