Motorcycle Oil – Everything you Need to Know

Oil may be the most important component in a motorcycle’s engine.

If there’s something off with the oil – be it the wrong type, wrong level, or old oil – your engine will get damaged and your bike will not perform at its best.

This page will provide you with an overview of everything you need to know about oil for your motorcycle from oil types to oil change frequency.

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Types Of Motorcycle Oils

There are three main types of motorcycle oils:

  • Conventional/Mineral.
  • Semi-synthetic.
  • Synthetic.

Conventional/Mineral Oil

Conventional oil is made by refining crude oil and this is the oil normally used in older motorcycles.

Mineral oils break down faster and are normally not suitable for modern motorcycles since the engine reach a very high temperature.

Semi-synthetic Oil

Semisynthetic oil is a combination of conventional oil and synthetic chemicals, and thus partially retains the benefits of both.

This oil is superior in performance when compared to conventional oil for many bikes.

Synthetic Oil

Full synthetic oils are produced by mixing different chemical compounds to meet the required quality parameters.

They can be produced for specific requirements or a range of requirements depending on the design of the engine.

Synthetic oils are typically more expensive than conventional oil and semisynthetic oil.

Synthetic oil keeps your engine cool and running smoothly.

Synthetic oils are mixed with additives to withstand containments (like sludge formation) which happens during the running of any motorcycle engine.

Modern motorcycles generally run on synthetic oil.

What is the SAE? (Society of Automotive Engineers) grade oil

What is SAE?

SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers.

SAE has made several standards for oil.

For example, SAE 10w40 oil has a viscosity of 10 at the starting (ambient) temperature and a viscosity of 40 at the operating temperature and this is suitable for cold weather conditions.

You may find many grades for a motorcycle like SAE 5w40, SAE 10w50, etc.

Normally engine oil is specified in SAE grades and grades may differ for different motorcycle models.

Motorcycle Oil Tips

Some motorcycles require different oil at three places:

  • Primary chain case.
  • Engine.
  • Transmission (gearbox).

Check your owner’s manual for specific. The manual recommends what type of oils should be added to which parts of your engine.

However, some oil manufacturers may recommend the same oil for the engine, primary, and transmission.

Before choosing a good motorcycle oil for your motorcycle, read the warranty clause if your bike is still under warranty. If you find a clause that mandates you to use oil from authorized dealers only (during warranty), then it is wise to follow it.

Refer to your owner’s manual and make a list of the recommended oil for primary, engine, and transmission of your bike along with the volume required for each (only engine oil may have a specified SAE grade).

Verify the manufacturer’s recommendation about synthetic oil for your motorcycle.

Depending on the bike, primary and transmission oil are normally not specific to any model and hence can be used for all models.

When you are doing research on oil for your motorcycle, ensure that:

  • The oil conforms to the SAE grade recommended by the manufacturer.
  • The brand is reputable and proven.
  • The oil company stands by its quality.
  • The synthetic or conventional oil you choose can be used for your model.
  • The label on the oil bottle mentions ‘V-Twin’ or whichever type of engine your motorcycle has.

Can I use automotive (car) oil in my motorcycle?

No, do not use it.

Automotive oils have additives and friction modifiers required to keep the engines running smoothly during idling and running and also to check the emission level within regulations.

Many additives inside car oil are not good for motorcycle engines and may cause damage.

If you have used it by mistake or in an emergency, replace it with the correct grade motorcycle oil at the earliest opportunity.

Can I use old filtered or reconditioned oil in my motorcycle?

A strict NO is the answer.

Old oil may come very cheap but due to bad quality, it may spoil your engine within no time.

How long can I store the motorcycle oil in my garage?

When the oil container is stored in a cool and dry place, and the seal of the oil can have not tampered with, the shelf life of the synthetic motorcycle oil can be up to 2-4 years.

However, please refer to the oil manufacturer’s advice before using it.

Can I use synthetic oil in my motorcycle?

Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation.

If you have an older motorcycle, the recommendation may be conventional oil.

If you have a modern motorcycle, check your owner’s manual for the recommended grade, and select a fully synthetic oil of a reputed and proven brand.

Synthetic oils are typically more expensive when compared to mineral or semisynthetic oil, however, they do not breakdown at high temperature, keep the engine cool, minimize wear and friction, and protect your engine from corrosion.

Be sure about the right oil for your motorcycle.

Is synthetic oil is better than conventional oil?

Conventional oils are refined from naturally available crude oil and do not contain additives to protect your engine at high temperatures.

On the other hand, synthetic oil is made by humans and contain additives required to keep your engine cool even under continuous running, and it does not break down at high temperature and protects your engine from wear, friction, and corrosion.

Synthetic oil works well at both low and high engine temperature, hence it retains its flowability even at ambient conditions when you start your engine.

When you are doing long-distance rides, the engine heats up faster (specifically if your motorcycle is air-cooled), however, the synthetic oil does not break down at high temperatures and offers the same protection against wear, friction, and corrosion, and helps keep the engine cool.

How much oil do you need?

Refer to your owner’s manual, which specifies the oil quantity for each part of your bike.

Adding too much or too little oil when you do an oil change can cause damage.

How often should you change your oil?

Oil change frequency depends on how often you ride and the type of riding you do.

Refer to your owner’s manual for specific oil change intervals. Depending on your bike and the type of oil you use, the oil change interval may range anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000 miles.

Drain the old oil completely before filling the new oil of proper grade.

Avoid topping-up old oil with new oil and never mix two different grades of oil (or same grade oil of two different manufacturers).