Replacing your engine oil is something that should be done at regular intervals following the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most owners manuals will indicate with a nice table when or in how many miles it should be done.
If you bought a new bike, should you do it? Will it void your warranty if you do it yourself? The answer is NO, if you do it right. However, I recommend you pay your selling dealer for the first oil change, as it usually is part of the first and very important service. Some dealers will often include it free with the purchase of your bike. Some will have sold you a package that includes it. Some will charge you for it (I suggest you inquire about the cost of this first service). But beyond the first one, unless you bought a package including your services, you can do it your self.
First, be sure to use an oil recommended by the manufacturer (car oils are usually not what you should use). Use an OEM oil filter (or else, this could void your warranty). And finally, do it right.
There are different types of lubrication systems on motorcycles or ATV’s. To be exact, 3 types. They are determined by the type of “sump”.
Let me start with the first, oldest type, and most common. If your dip stick or window are located on your engine cases, this is the one I will describe today.
Be sure to have on hand, the following items:
- A drain pan that you can fit under the bike.
- Rags, or paper towels.
- An old piece of cardboard to fit under the bike to pick-up oil drips.
- A 6 point wrench or socket to loosen your drain bolt.
- A torque wrench to tighten your drain plug (you must have the torque value of course)
- Enough oil to replace oil & oil filter. Most service manual will give you capacities with or without oil filter replacement. And sometimes, will give you the total capacity of the crankcases (this one is to be ignored for an oil change, as it is given for engine tear down only.)
- An OEM oil filter. There are different types of oil filters. I will here only speak about the spin-on type. The other types will be addressed at a latter date.
- A NEW drain plug gasket.
- A cup or something to allow you to measure how much oil you are pouring in.
- A funnel.
- An oil filter wrench.
- If you have a can of brake cleaner, you will need it.
- Manufacturer recommendations, specifications, and torque values.
First and foremost, oil changes should be done with the engine at near operating temperature. Run the bike for ten minutes at idle if necessary. If you are coming back from a ride, I suggest you wait 15 minutes, so you don’t burn your hands.
If the drain plug is located on the left lower side of the engine case, then your bike on the side stand will be fine. If it is located on the bottom and center of the engine case, then you will have to steady the bike straight up and down.
Place the cardboard under the bike, set the side or center stand. Slip your drain pan under the drain plug. Then loosen the drain plug counter clockwise (Lefty loosy? ever heard of that?). The same goes for the oil filter using a special wrench (note a strap type wrench will work, that is if the human that torqued it did not over do it. But it will not allow you to re torque).
Let it drain for at least 10 minutes, if you have time, 20.
Remove the old drain plug gasket & clean the drain plug (Brake cleaner). Reinstall a NEW gasket back on it. Clean the contact area of the oil filter (brake cleaner & then wipe it of with a rag). You cannot leave dirt on that contact area.
Lube the oil filter o-ring with your finger soaked in fresh engine oil. Reinstall the oil filter by spinning it on until the O-ring touches the metal of the case. Next, by hand torque it, without a wrench (Often this is pretty close to how tight it should go on). But I don’t know how strong your arm is. I have seen some people way over torque, just by hand. Then using the special wrench, at the “appropriate torque value”. I personally never torque them, I have a built in torque device in my arm. Then, spray some brake cleaner to get rid of oil residue, & dry it (with a rag if you can reach).
Then the drain plug must be reinstalled after you have cleaned the contact area. That’s when most get in trouble. The engine cases on a motorcycle are made of an aluminum alloy. Cars drain pans are often made out of steel, big difference! This is why, the torque on a motorcycle is much lower then that of a car. But if you re torque using a torque wrench and with the manufacturer’s value, you will be OK. Note that not replacing the drain plug gasket will increase your chances of over torquing and ripping the threads out of the engine case. Then, your good intentions turn into an expensive repair.
Pour in the engine oil (remember how much must go in). It is better to pour in a little less than too much, as you can always add a little more later. Check the level with your dip stick (after wiping it off). Run the engine for 5 minutes, then let it stand for 5 minutes. Recheck the oil level (it should be a little lower than before, as the oil went into the filter and the various cavities of the engine). Top off the engine oil to the upper level of the dip stick. Now, how should you have used your dip stick? Should it have been screwed in or set on top of the threads? It depends mostly on what the manufacturer says. Some say screwed in (and that can vary with the models, so you do need this info), some say set on top. Most Honda’s, Yamaha’s, and Suzuki’s it is set on top. But that is a very vague assumption.
How should the bike be when checking the oil level? Answer: Straight up on level ground.
Assuming you have used your dip stick or window, correctly, you are almost done.
I recommend checking that there is no oil dripping from anywhere. If you have cleaned any oil residue prior to refilling, there should not be any. And of course, you should have wiped of any oil that got away from the funnel.
On this note, if you were careful for your first time, than you should have done a good job. Note that if you take your bike in a shop and you see oil drips, assume that they created a leak. And bring your bike back for inspection and clean-up. If it was oil residue, then they should have cleaned it. You can quote me on that.