Changing your own oil is simple, cheap, and puts you more in tune with your machine
The oil inside your engine lubricates and protects it; you want that oil to be in the best condition it can be, so it can do its job effectively. Over time, impurities get into your oil and can affect performance, so it’s important you change it regularly. Better quality oil means a longer lifespan for your motor.
If you’re doing lots of short journeys, or you just like to ride the hell out of your bike every time you get on it, the condition of your oil may deteriorate quicker than someone who just cruises at the speed limit on a highway, so how often you change your oil can depend on usage. That said, it pays to be diligent. Check your motorcycle manual, but as a rule of thumb change it once a year or every 3,000 to 5,000 miles; sooner if your bike has a harder life. (Note: Many modern manufacturers, e.g., Triumph, promise up to 10,000 miles between oil changes, but we'd argue that it can't hurt to do it more often – Ed.)
The type of engine oil you need will depend on the bike you ride - again, check your manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation; some suggest to use a weight of oil according to the weather conditions you ride in regularly.
What you need
- Engine oil: Check your manual for the quantity you require and the type of oil you need. It pays to buy an extra quart of oil, just in case. You can always use it to top up your oil over time, anyway.
- Oil filter: Naturally, you want one that fits your engine, but if in doubt get the part number from the manufacturer and buy from a dealer. Sometimes it can be just as cheap (even cheaper) as a third-party filter.
- Sump washer: These cost pennies - even if your old one looks OK, replace it just in case.
- Oil filter removal tool: If you have a standard oil filter, this makes it easy to remove your filter with a wrench attached.
- Oil tray: You can use anything you like to collect the oil, but a wide, shallow tray (preferably with a spout in one corner) makes draining your oil easy and spill-free.
- Funnel: To make it easy to fill your engine with oil.
- Socket and wrench: For removing the drain plug/filter.
- Torque wrench: Not absolutely necessary, but having it enables you to torque your filter and sump plug without fear of stripping the threads.
- Gloves: Hot engine oil is bad for your hands, so get some cheap, disposable gloves. Plus, then you get to look like those dudes on CSI.
- Wood blocks: Put these under your side stand and you can make your bike level - perfect for checking your oil correctly.
Step by Step Guide - How to Change Oil and Oil Filter
Make sure that oil is nice and warm, but remember to keep your hands off hot engine parts and out of the oil.
1. Warm it Up
To make it easy to drain the oil from your engine, it needs to be warm (or viscous, in technical terms). You can let your engine ideal for 5-10 minutes, but personally I think it’s a great excuse to go for a burn, and it’s a better way to warm your engine anyway.
You will drop the drain plug into the drain pan the first time you do this. Be prepared.
CHECK OUT: How To: Break In a New Motorcycle Engine
2. Drain the Oil
When you’ve got back and stopped grinning, rest the bike on its side stand and put the oil tray underneath the bike. Making sure you don’t touch any hot engine parts, use the socket and wrench to remove the engine drain plug - turn anti-clockwise to undo it. Make sure you remove the washer while you’re there and put the plug in a dish for safe keeping.
3. Let it Flow
On level ground, allow the oil to drain completely. You can simply sit back and let it drain out by itself, or - my preference - coerce any of those remaining bits of oil hidden in nooks and crannies into coming out by carefully tilting the bike on each side (don’t do this is your bike is particularly heavy or you feel unsure about it).
Once again, watch out for hot oil. Also, have a rag handy to wipe off your ratchet.
4 Remove the Old Oil Filter
Using a wrench attached to the filter removal tool, unscrew the old oil filter by turning the wrench (again, anti-clockwise). Another batch of oil will come out of the filter, so make sure you let this drain com.pletely. Now’s a good opportunity to make a cup of coffee (or crack open a beer) and come back a little later.
Make sure to lube that O-ring.
CHECK OUT: How To Fix 5 Common Bike Issues
5. Install the New Oil Filter
Once there are no more drops of oil coming from the filter or plug housing, grab your new oil filter and some of your new engine oil and, using your finger, smear some onto the sealing ring of the filter. You can put it straight on, or fill the filter with oil first (some manufacturers recommend to do this, some don’t). Screw it on by hand, then attach the adaptor with wrench installed and tighten it up.
Make sure the drain plug is nice and clean before reinstalling.
6. Refit the Sump Plug (Drain Plug)
With all the old oil drained out of the engine, refit a new washer to the engine drain plug. Then, screw the plug into the sump by hand and tighten it up fully. Use the torque wrench and the manufacturer’s recommended torque setting if you’re not sure how much to tighten it.
Careful with that oil, and make sure to clean up any spills.
7. Fill With Fresh Oil
First, check your manual for the exact capacity of your engine oil. Now, undo the plug on the engine fill hole, insert the funnel and start adding oil. Be careful as you don’t want to overfill; aim to add about two-thirds of total quantity and then add the remainder gradually, checking the oil level on a level surface (using your blocks) as you go, using the sight gauge (or the dipstick method).
If you're lucky enough to have a dipstick, use it.
8. Final Oil Level Check
When you’re happy that the level is around the max mark, start the engine and let it idle for about five minutes, checking that the oil pressure light goes out after starting. Turn off the engine, get the bike on a level surface once more and check the oil level, adding more if need be. On your first proper ride after changing the oil, it’s worth double-checking the level once more, or several times thereafter if you want to.