Step by step guide on how to change a motorcycle’s engine oil

Knowing how to change the oil in your motorcycle means you are able to carry out the cheapest and most important act of maintainance a bike owner can carry out. However, paying a garage or dealer to do this for you increases the cost. Why not do this yourself, you will save money, and gain the satisfaction that you have worked on the bike yourself.

Changing the oil is not a difficult job to do, but some preparation is needed before you start.

First, you need to establish what oil you need, and how much of it will do the job. This is quite easy to do, simply look in the bike handbook, types of oil and required quantities will be listed there. If the handbook is lost, then your local bike shop or dealer will be able to tell you what is required. Either that, or revert to google or similar, searching for your make of bike.

Next, you need to discover what oil filter is needed. I would suggest you get this from the dealer for your make of bike. There are many after market oil filter suppliers, but the saving in money is small here, and you risk having a sub standard filter. After market filters often offer less filtration and are sometimes missing vital parts such as non return valves. Remember they are made for a price but still required to make a profit, so it suggests that something has been ‘skimped’ so that the price looks very competitive. Buyer beware here I think! Don’t forget to get a new crush washer here at the same time. Some filters come with one, but in some cases you have to get one separately.

Next, we need to establish the points on the vehicle that you are going to work on. You will need to find the location of the engine sump drain plug, and the location of your oil filter. Normally both are easy to find, but if you have any difficulty, again refer to the handbook.

It is at this point you may discover that other parts need to be removed for access. It may be that you have a fairing that needs a section removed or an underside protector if you have a trials bike or similar. It is always best to know this sort of thing before you start the job.

If your bike has a centre stand then all is well, but if you only have a side stand then you may look to obtaining or borrowing a paddock stand so that you can get the job done.

Now we will look at tools for the job. I suggest you will need the following.

1. Paddock stand if no centre stand is fitted. Trolley jack or blocks to put under front wheel.

2. Socket set and/or spanners.

3. A strap spanner or similar for loosening off the old oil filter.

4. A suitable receptacle for the old oil. I have a re-useable one that resembles a jerry can, that has a recess on one side with a drain hole in it. Purchased for less than 10 but used in every oil change since purchase.

5. Some rags, as you always spill some oil somewhere.

6. Rubber gloves. These are important as the old oil contains irritants that you would rather not get on your skin.

7. Funnel.

Now for the process of actually changing the oil.

1. Warm the engine, as the old oil will flow far better when warm, and you will expel more of it.

2. Park the bike on level ground, using the centre stand, with plenty of access to the areas on which you are going to work. Use the paddock stand here if needed.

3. Put the trolley jack under the front wheel and lift enough so that the bike rests level on it’s back wheel. You can use blocks for this if no trolley jack is available.

4. Remove any vehicle parts you need to for access to drain plug and filter.

5. Remove the engine oil filler cap, this will help with the outflow of oil from the drain plug.

6. Undo the drain plug. Make sure your socket spanner is set to ‘undo’ before trying it on the plug. This is important as most drain plugs are set into threads that are in a braised barrel fitted into a thin ali or steel pan, if you try to turn too far in the wrong direction you may cause damage here, meaning a new pan may have to be fitted. Also, put into place your receptacle for catching the old oil. Remember here that fluid tends to flow in an arc and may well not drain directly downwards, this will help with the clearing up process afterwards.

7. Have a cup of tea or coffee, giving the oil enough time to drain.

8. Now it is time to remove the oil filter. If the filter is on the underside of your bike then move the drain can so that it can collect any excess oil that drips from the filter as you remove it. Perhaps drop a rag on the ground under the drain hole, to catch any final drips of oil.

9. Remove the oil filter. Normal thread directions apply here, anti-clockwise to undo. Try turning by hand at first, but if this doesn’t work, use the strap spanner. As you undo the filter, more old oil will drain. Keep the old filter upright as it too is full of old oil, pour this off into the drain recepticle and then dispose of sensibly.

10. Fit your new oil filter. Before you put this on, you will see a round rubber seal around the circumference of the face of the filter that goes against the engine. Run a coating of new oil around this as it will help seal the filter. The filter screws on in the normal manner (clockwise). Do not over tighten, it should be hand tight. Do not use the strap spanner to tighten past hand tight.

11. Replace the sump plug, replacing the crush washer first. Do not overtighten this plug. Wipe all areas that may have been contaminated by the old oil.

12. Replace all bike fittings you may have removed and clear up any rubbish or rags that are under the bike, and pull from under the bike the recepticle holding the old oil.

13. Start to fill the bike with new oil, using the funnel as this will help to avoid overspill onto the engine. Put in about three quarters of the total amount required. Turn the engine over, but do not run it. then fill to the mark on the dipstick. Start the bike and run it for a few moments, allow to cool for a short while and dip the oil level again. You may have to top up as the new oil has found its way into all parts of the engine.

14. Look under the bike to make sure there are no obvious leaks from either the drain plug or the filter. All that is now required is that you clear up, making sure that you dispose of the old oil responsibly.

There you have it, one oil change completed. Wasn’t so hard was it? And of course it will become easier the more often you do it. Make sure you dip the oil several times over the next few days just to make sure the level is correct. And have a look around the drain plug and filter again, just in case a leak has started.

Changing the oil on your bike more regularly than the service manual requires may lengthen the life of your engine.

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