Big Ed's Workshop - Oil and filter Change

MCE Insurance

Keeping a motorcycle maintained is important not only for the health of the machine but also for your own safety. Through this Bikers Guide I'm going to give you some top tips for doing work yourself, not only to give you a better understanding of your bike, but also to save you some pennies!

Why it's important:

The oil in your engine is the life blood of your machine; yes the petrol makes it go but the oil keeps everything lubricated. This is important because inside that engine there are many moving metal parts. Gears, cogs, chains, shafts etc, spinning and sliding up against each other, without some sort of lubrication these components will begin to wear. Think of your engine like a woman, I mean you wouldn't pop your shaft in a lady without lubing her up first would you? As these parts wear, not only do they lose their original shape but they also send little chips of metal running around your engine damaging other components further. This can lead to all sorts of problems, the most likely being a full engine strip down and reassembly and no-one wants that! So how can you stop this from happening? Simple, keep your oil fresh and topped up.

Check your level:

You can check your oil depending on model either via a dipstick or a viewing window. Older machines tend to have a dipstick which is simply a case of unscrewing, wiping off, placing back in then pulling out again and checking the level. It should be inbetween the two markers. Most new machines have a window somewhere on the engine lump, usually near the bottom. Again with markers the oil should be clearly visible between them. If the level is down, top it up immediately.

What you're going to need:

In your owners manual you should find a service schedule. This will show you the mileage/time intervals you should change your oil at. If you don't know when your last change was then I recommend doing it anyway then follow the pattern in the manual. This will vary depending on the power, make and model of your bike. Also in the manual you should find the amount of oil your bike should take, failing that Haynes Manuals can be helpful or a simple Google search! On the whole though this will vary from around a litre up to about three. Again the power, make and model will affect this. You should also check what type of oil your bike requires. 10w40 usually will do for most four-strokes but it is worth checking for old bikes and high end sports bikes as these may require something special.

At oil change, the filter should really be changed as well though it can be tricky without the right tools. Generally filters will be fitted either to the front or underneath the engine lump, or inside the engine in a special compartment. These are usually assessable but might take some finding, especially if you have a faired machine which will probably require you to remove panels. Filters vary in size and shape but usually manufacturers will use a similar one on most of their models. For example many Hondas through the ages use a H303 Filter. Your manual may tell you what filter you require but if not Google it or even ask at your local bike shop.

Let's get to work:

Step 1: Firstly get your bike upright either on the centre stand if you have one or on a paddock stand. Search underneath the engine lump and you will find the sump plug (large bolt). The best thing for undoing this will be a socket but if you don't have a set, a spanner should do the job. You may find it's quite tight and getting extra leverage on your tool will help you undo it. Before taking it all the way out make sure you've got a container large enough to catch the oil and place it underneath. Unscrew the sump plug and take it right out and the old oil will run down into your container. Your local garage should be happy to dispose of this for you.

Step 2: While the oil drips out, move onto your oil filter. If on the front of the lump, it should be visible probably behind the exhaust front pipes. It can be tricky to get in there with a tool, but a large adjustable spanner should do the job. Remember always undo anti-clockwise! A bit of oil will drip out as you loosen it but not much. Remove the filter and replace it with the new one (which you should give a soaking in new oil), taking care when tightening, because if you're forcing it, you're probably doing it too hard. If the filter is underneath the lump, it will be in a compartment with a bolt much like the sump plug. Undo that and the filter will slip out, again replace it with the oil soaked new one and put back in. For bikes with a side engine compartment, undo the bolts, remove the cover and inside you will find the filter. Again soak and replace with the new one.

Step 3: Now remove your container from under the bike and replace the sump plug. Obviously this is important or your new oil will run straight through and all over the garage floor! A funnel can be very helpful here as filling spots can be in awkward positions. Measure out the amount of oil you need and begin to fill, as you reach the end of the amount, keep checking the level as sometimes even the manufacturers get it wrong! Let your bike tell you what it needs. Now this filling process is for conventional wet sump systems. If your bike has a dry sump which uses pumps and a secondary oil tank you will need to half fill it then run your engine for about three minutes to give the oil a chance to run through the pumps. Your manual should tell you this or instructions may even be printed on the bike.

Once all these things have been done your bike will be ready to roll once again! Good luck and happy maintaining!

13.11.12 - Big Ed

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