Motorcycle Oil Change
A "how to do" guide

To do a motorcycle oil change regularly is a good idea. The oil in a modern four stroke dirt bike has a tough time. Unless you ride a Honda (which separates motor and gearbox oil) it has to lubricate

  • the motor
  • gearbox
  • and clutch

often in dusty conditions and at high revs and temperatures. Without good quality fresh oil your motor will wear out in no time - and won’t perform at its peak. So, it makes good sense to change your oil and filters at the recommended intervals.

Remember: in dusty conditions cut the motorcycle oil change interval by a half!

A warning when doing
a motorcycle oil change

The oil in a four-stroke motor catches, holds and concentrates combustion by-products from petrol. These include highly carcinogenic nasties. Keep old oil off your skin. Use rubber gloves and wash hands and arms after dealing with oil.

Step 1: Remove the bash plate

Yes, most bash plates have a hole through which you can thread a spanner or a socket to undo the sump plug, but often the hole is badly aligned, or not big enough. The result is either

  • a rounded off bold
  • a bleeding knuckle
  • the oil pools in the bash plate so you have to take it off anyway to clean up the mess
  • all of the above

So take off your bash plate when doing a motorcycle oil change.

Step 2: Warm up the bike

This is important! What you want to do is to ensure that all the heavy debris in the oil is swept up from the bottom of the motor, and held in suspension, so that it emerges with the old oil. You also want to get any water in the motor to emulsify with the oil so you get all the water out. Lastly, hot oil flows more easily than cold oil, so less old oil will remain on the internal surfaces of the motor.

Step 3: Remove the drain plug

Prop the bike up vertically with enough room underneath to place a container to catch the oil. Some bikes can have three drain plugs, one each for

  • motor
  • gearbox
  • and oil reservoir. 

Use your user manual to identify each plug. Put a container under each plug. Put on rubber gloves and remove the drain plugs. Be careful: If the drain plugs are bolted vertically into the bottom of the motor, it is easy to confuse the direction of rotation to unscrew the plug. Make sure you’re loosening the drain plug, not tightening it. Let the oil drain for as long as possible.

Step 4: Replace the oil filter (s)

With your rubber gloves still on, undo the fasteners that secure oil filter caps. Remove the caps and extract the filters.

Wrap them in a plastic bag and dispose of them with your oil. With a cloth or paper towel, clean the filter cavities. Inspect any O rings in the cover and replace any that look dodgy. Refer to your manual and establish if there are any sieves or sludge traps to be cleaned when replacing oil. Fit new filters and replace the caps. Use a torque wrench to get the final tension. Before you throw away the gloves, clean up any oil dribbles from the caps.

Step 5: Replace drain plugs and oil

Clean around the drain plug holes, and clean the sump plugs. Wipe iron filings off any magnetic drain plugs. Check the drain plug washer for damage, and replace if necessary. Put the drain plug in, and tighten it.

IMPORTANT: Use a torque wrench to do this.

If you over tighten the screw you will have to re-cut the thread of a drain plug. And it is not an uncommon mistake.  Most people are aware that if they lose engine oil, the bike will seize, so they give the drain plug an extra tweak to make sure it stays put. Bad move! Just use a torque wrench.

Fill up, using a good quality oil. Never ever use supermarket oil when doing a motorcycle oil change. Use the oil that your manufacturer recommends. Use the correct amount of oil. Don't put in an extra gloop, just for luck. The whirling crankshaft can whip the oil into a froth. The oil pump picks up that froth and delivers a mixture of a little oil and a lot of air to the bearings. Not good!

Step 6: Finally...

Run the motor for a minute or two, let it stand for a minute and check the oil level. Adjust the level if necessary. Fit the bash plate and you’re done with your motorcycle oil change.

If you would like to get more solid how-to-do-it-yourself advice then check out the Dirt Bike Garage Manual.

Ride safe!

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