Motorcycles are a lot like cars in that they remain at peak condition for longer if you take the time to perform basic maintenance on them. One of the most basic maintenance tasks is to check the oil, making sure that there is enough, and if there isn’t enough, making sure it is replaced.
Engine oil essentially does the same job in a motorcycle as it does in a car – it keeps the moving parts of the engine running smoothly, and protects against wear and tear. While car oil has two main ingredients – oil and base additives – with extra ingredients added depending on climate and weather conditions, motorcycle oil is often more complicated due to the different demands placed on it. The oil breaks down more quickly in a motorcycle engine due to the difference in heat between it and a car engine, and in general in include around five times as many additives which focus on preventing wear, scuffing, and the problems which come from extreme pressure.
It is recommended that you check the oil level before every journey, and if it is under 1000ml, top it up. If you are planning on off-roading, top your oil up more often, since this puts more strain on the engine.
To check the oil level in your motorcycle, follow these steps:
While some people recommend checking the oil levels of your bike cold, people who test for motorcycle licences generally consider it best to do it when the engine is hot and the oil has begun to circulate a little.
Take your bike for a quick spin, then return home (or to the place where you are going to check your engine). Leave your bike for around fifteen minutes to let it cool down and let the oil return to its normal position.
Once the bike has been sitting idle for a while, hold it in a horizontal position (without using the kickstand) and unscrew the dipstick. Wipe it clean, and replace it without screwing it back in to measure the amount of oil left.
There are a few different designs of dipstick, but most of them will come with two separate defining lines on them – one is for the minimum safe amount of oil, one is for the maximum safe amount of oil. Check the oil compared to these two lines – if the oil is between them, you are good to go. If the oil is beneath the recommended minimum safe amount of oil, then you should top it up before riding anywhere.
There are a number of different types of motorcycle oil, but remember to use the same type of oil to top up your bike as is already in the engine! The best way to do this is, when you have done an oil change, purchase an extra bottle or two of the same oil to make sure you don’t run out.
Find out more about the motorcycle licensing test here.