Ageing takes its toll on our physical prowess. And it's no different with engine oil – except that it happens faster.
The additives and lubrication performance of a motorcycle engine oil deteriorate after roughly 4000 miles, or a year after it is first used. Then it's time to treat your machine to an oil change, and dispose of the used oil correctly.
Before changing the oil, ride your motorcycle until it 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 just so you're not always having to borrow your mum's best salad 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 the filler plug.
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.
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!
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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.
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.
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The Louis Technical Centre
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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.
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