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✔ Article reviewed by Ethan Orenstein. Bringing motorcycles back from the dead since 2013. Learn More.

How Often to Change Motorcycle Oil

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To keep your bike running in good condition for as long as possible, you’ll need to check and change your motorcycle’s oil at regular intervals.

The exact interval for changing your motorcycle’s oil depends on:

  • The type of motorcycle.
  • The type of oil.
  • How often you ride.
  • The type of riding you do.

In general, most motorcycles should have an oil change every 2,000 to 7,000 miles or at least once per year.

Be sure to refer to your motorcycle shop manual for specific oil change intervals.

If your motorcycle has too little oil, the engine might seize or blow up.

If you add too much oil to your engine, the internal engine pressure will be too high and your bike will likely start smoking or leaking oil.

Changing your motorcycle oil is not hard, but it can be messy without the right equipment.

A properly sized, quality drain pan is key to a successful oil change.

If you’re new to rebuilding motorcycles, you’re probably going to become real familiar with draining and changing your project bike’s oil. You may notice:

  • There’s a lot more oil in your project bike than you would have guessed (maybe a PO overfilled it or there’s some other stuff mixed in).
  • You may find yourself opening the engine cases or splitting them a few times if you didn’t make sure to do things right the first time.
  • You’re going to need some earlier oil changes after breaking in a freshly rebuilt engine.

What Happens if you Don’t Change Your Motorcycle Oil?

Neglecting to change your motorcycle oil can do some serious damage on the engine and reduce the life of the bike.

When you don’t change your oil often enough, it will begin to turn to sludge.

When this happens, the oil will be less effective at lubricating the parts of the engine and circulating through it.

It can lead to premature wear or oil starvation to key parts of the engine.

Additionally, oil that hasn’t been changed or that has been sitting too long can lead to corrosion inside the engine.

How Often Should You Change Your Motorcycle Oil

The frequency of a recommended oil change will be included in your motorcycle shop manual.

In general, most bikes should have their oil changed once every 2,000 to 7,000 miles or at least twice a year.

If you ride your bike often, you may want to change your oil more frequently.

If you’re unsure, you can also inspect the oil and oil levels to determine if it’s time for a change. To inspect your motorcycle’s oil:

  • Open the oil cap and check the color and consistency of the oil. If it’s very dark or dirty or has any particles in it, it’s probably time for a change.
  • Check the oil sight or the dip stick to verify the oil level, if it’s too low, it’s probably time for a change.

Be sure to swap out your oil filter as you perform an oil change.

How Often To Change Different Types of Motorcycle Oil

The type of oil your motorcycle uses also plays a factor in how often you should change it.

Some more general rules to follow include:

  • Mineral Oils: Every 2,000 to 3,000 miles or once to twice per year.
  • Synthetic Oils: 7,000 to 10,000 miles or at least once per year.
  • Semi-Synthetics: 5,000 to 6,000 miles or at least once per year.

Another thing to consider when determining how often to change your motorcycle oil is how frequently you ride your bike and what type of riding you do.

If you don’t ride very often, or only take short rides, you should change your motorcycle oil much more often.

How to Check Motorcycle Oil Level

To check your motorcycle oil, the bike should be placed upright on the center stand.

On certain bikes, you’ll need to run the engine for a bit to get the oil warmed up for a proper reading.

On other motorcycles, you may need to keep the engine running as you check the oil.

Motorcycle Oil Sight Gauge

Your motorcycle will typically be equipped with one of the follow to check and change the engine oil:

  • Dip Stick: Motorcycles with a dip stick allow you to check the oil by unscrewing the oil cap and reading the markings on the stick. To check your oil level, unscrew the cap, wipe the dip stick clean, re-insert the cap and dipstick into the engine, remove it and check the oil mark.
  • Oil Level Plug: Motorcycles with an oil level plug will have a threaded cap that screws into the engine and indicates where the oil level should be.
  • Sight Window: Oil sight windows are typically located near the bottom of the engine cases. You may need the bike running to check the level. The sight window will have a high and low mark on it.

If your oil is too low, then top it off. If the oil level is too high, be sure to remove some before running the engine for too long.

How to Change your Motorcycle Oil

It’s important to change your motorcycle oil at regular intervals to insure top performance and longevity.

Your motorcycle shop manual will tell you exactly how much oil you need to add to a bike.

The manual will usually provide different amounts of oil for when you change it with or without also changing the oil filter.

It usually helps to run the engine for a bit before changing the oil.

Here’s what you’ll need to perform an oil change on your bike:

  • Socket wrench to remove the oil drain bolt.
  • Torque wrench to reinstall the oil drain bolt.
  • Oil catch pan.
  • New oil.
  • New oil filter.
  • Funnel.
  • Gloves and rags.

On motorcycles with a wet sump, you’ll need to change the oil by:

  • Placing an oil catch pan under the engine.
  • Unscrew the oil drain plug.
  • Clean any metal or particles off of the drain plug and its threads.
  • Check the shop manual for the correct torque value for the oil drain plug and reinstall it.

On motorcycles with a dry sump, you can change the oil by:

  • Placing an oil catch pan under the oil tank drain plug.
  • Unscrew the drain plug.
  • Clean any metal or particles off of the drain plug and its threads.
  • Check the shop manual for the correct torque value for the oil drain plug and reinstall it.

As you drain the oil from the drain plug, it’s a good idea to drain and change the oil filter too. Locate your bike’s oil filter bolt and unscrew it. Be sure to have your catch pan handy as oil filters can hold up to quart of engine oil at times.

Drain the oil, inspect for any particles, and replace the filter with a new one. Be sure to check the shop manual for the correct torque for the oil filter bolt.  Be sure to install your new oil filter in the proper direction.

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Content Editor: Ethan Orenstein

Ethan is not just any motorcycle enthusiast. With a decade of experience riding, maintaining, and restoring a range of motorcycles, Ethan brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. Many of the tips and tricks shared on this site are born from hours spent wrenching on personal bikes. Paired with his experience as a journalist covering DMV & insurance topics, is a must-visit site for any home-mechanic. Every article has been carefully reviewed and edited to ensure accuracy, authenticity, and simplicity - all to help bring your bike back from the dead and onto the road.

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