Choosing the Right Oil for Your Motorcycle

How to choose the right oil for your motorcycle
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Hey guys, this is David from the Helmet Center, and today I’m going to address a question we get a lot at the shop, which is: what’s the right oil for my motorcycle? What’s the best oil for my side by side? A lot of questions on oil, there will be 400 internet answers about this, there will be 400 different forums dedicated to just motor oil. I’m just going to give you the basics because if you really are into the chemistry of it, you know, go to the manufacturer’s website and read what they say. But first and foremost, I’m always going to tell you to reference the owner’s manual of your vehicle because it will give you the specs in there. But a couple of the real basic things that you’re going to want to understand is the weight of the oil and the type of the oil.

Understanding Oil Weight and Type:

So first and foremost, I’m going to describe a random bottle here out of my garage of some Valvoline 10W-40. So what you’re going to see right here is you’re going to see a number. This one here is a 10W-40. You’re going to see 20W-50, you’re going to see 0W-20, you’re going to see 5W-50, all kinds of crazy stuff. Essentially what that is, is the thickness or viscosity of the oil. The lower the number, the more like water it is. The higher the number, the more like syrup it is.

It is very common for air-cooled motorcycles, such as Harleys, to run a 20W-50 to get them more coverage, more protection from heat because they don’t really rev very high. So it’s very good for protecting an engine from heat and wear at low RPMs. Then you’re going to get in most modern sport bikes and metrics, and they’re going to run, most of them run a 10W-40. But nowadays some of them are even coming with a thinner oil. The reason they’re doing that is because the higher the RPMs these sport bikes turn, you pour syrup of an oil in there, it isn’t going to go through the system as fast as it needs to to run 10, 12,000 RPM, okay?

So cruiser bikes, they’re running 5, 6,000 RPMs. On a sport bike, they’re running up to 16,000 RPMs, which is insane. So you need a very liquidy type of oil to be able to flow through the passages, get into the oil pump, and protect the things that need to. Now a 10W-40 and a 20W-50, if you accidentally mix one up one time, not going to be the end of the world.

Okay, now if you’re on a super high-end sport bike, Ducati or something like that, you’re really going to want to make sure you read the owner’s manual. It’s probably going to be like a 5W-50 or something like that. But for most, you know, metric cruisers, most, you know, four-cylinder metric bikes, most are going to be a standard 10W-40. Most air-cooled are going to be a 20W-50. Side-by-sides, dirt bikes are all going to range a little bit but they’re going to be generally within, you know, that 10 to 50 range.

Wet Clutch Compatibility:

Ensure the oil is compatible with wet clutches, as motorcycle clutches are lubricated by the engine oil. Using automotive oils with friction modifiers can damage the clutch, leading to performance issues.

Check Ratings:

Look for important ratings on the oil container, such as API (American Petroleum Institute) and MA (Motorcycle-specific Application). Higher ratings offer better protection, with SM being a common rating for modern bikes.

Synthetic vs. Conventional Oil:

There are different types of motorcycle oils, including conventional, semi-synthetic, and full synthetic. Full synthetic oils offer the highest level of protection and longer intervals between oil changes. While they may cost more upfront, they can save you money in the long run by preventing engine damage.

Mixing Oils:

In emergency situations, you can mix different weights or types of motorcycle oils. However, it’s not ideal and should only be done temporarily until you can perform a proper oil change.

Brand Specificity:

While some riders prefer brand-specific oils like Yamaha or Honda, it’s essential to understand that these oils are often manufactured by reputable companies like Maxima or Motul. You’re paying for the brand name, but the base oil is similar across brands.

The Right Oil for Your Motorcycle–Conclusion:

Choosing the right oil for your motorcycle is crucial for engine performance and longevity. By considering factors like weight, type, compatibility, ratings, and synthetic options, you can ensure optimal lubrication and protection for your bike. Remember to consult your owner’s manual and follow manufacturer recommendations for the best results. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. Ride safe!

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