If this is the first motorcycle you’ve ever purchased and you haven’t had your first talk with your mechanic, this is the right place to be. In this post, we’ll look at the types of motorcycle motor oil that are out there, the different motorcycle motor oil ratings you need to consider when getting one, and even some situations where your motor oil could smell like gas.
There are roughly three motorcycle motor oil types these days, and they are: mineral oils, semi-synthetic oils, and fully synthetic oils. In this section, we’ll do our best when it comes to explaining what each does, its advantages, and its disadvantages (if there are any).
These are highly recommended for engines with a smaller capacity that don’t impose too much mechanical pressure while they are running. Many manufacturers will recommend new bike owners mineral oils because they seem to offer good engine protection, especially on the first few miles of running your engine.
Mineral oils have an advantage and it’s that they are quite affordable. If you like to change your oil frequently, these are the ones to consider. However, they also have a downside and it’s that they don’t last long, so they call for regular replacement. Nevertheless, they do seem to be a budget-friendly option even with all of the changes you have to make.
As their name suggests, semi-synthetic oils are basically a mix of synthetic oils and mineral oils. What that means is that such an oil can offer you both the protection that a mineral oil can provide you with and the high-performance aspects that are characteristic to synthetic oils.
Semi-synthetic oils are great for smaller capacity engines that aren’t put under a lot of stress, but that are capable of producing a healthy horsepower. Most small capacity bikes work well with this type of oil. The downside is that it’s a tad more expensive than its mineral counterpart, so we would recommend using mineral oil for really small bikes or small mopeds.
If you’re looking for the best motor oil for your motorcycle, a synthetic oil is what you should consider purchasing. It’s made out of pure polymers and it’s fully artificial – it’s not manufactured with any natural product, unlike a mineral oil, for example.
The main pro to choosing a synthetic oil over the other two we’ve described already is that it has a really long life cycle, so you will not need to replace it too soon. They don’t break down as fast as semi-synthetic or mineral oils. They give excellent lubricating performance, they don’t break even under pressure, and some manufacturing companies like to claim that they make a difference in terms of the motorbike’s performance – although that hasn’t been proven.
Naturally, these oils are also the most expensive ones you’ll ever find. They are not destined for the first-time motorcyclist that’s looking to get everything under a budget.
Not all oils make a good fit for all vehicles. If you haven’t purchased motor oil in your life, the numbers on the packaging might leave you feeling baffled. Most engines have a grade written on the bottle – something in the lines of 5W40, for example.
W stands for Winter, and the first number is the lowest performing temperature for that oil (mind you, outside temperature, not that of the engine). The second number is in an indicative of the suitability of the oil performance in high temperatures. See, it’s easy. The first is the minimum and the second is the maximum temperature at which the oil can do a good job. The second number is important because once that temperature is exceeded, the oil can lose some of its properties – it can lose its viscosity and it can start to thin.
Why change your oil?
There are two main reasons why you need to change your oil regularly and in accordance with your service manual. The first is that the oil breaks down in time and the second is that oil contamination is something that’s bound to happen at some point.
Oils break down because they are affected by multiple factors, but the most important one is the heat that comes from the combustion process. Eventually, the oil starts to vaporize to the point where it gets thicker and thicker.
Oils can become contaminated with the debris that somehow manages to get through the air filter, with metal particles that are created by metal parts that come in contact with other metal parts (inside the engine), and with by-products that result from the combustion process. By the way, the combustion process acidifies your oil, so that’s another reason it becomes contaminated – because it ‘eats’ through parts of your engine and creates deposits thanks to the internal corrosion it causes.
How often should you change your motorcycle oil?
The simplest answer to this question is that you should check your service manual. The filtration systems and oil made these days are specifically manufactured and designed to keep your engine as protected and well lubricated as possible.
The truth is that, like with any other products ever to have been invented, even with oil you get what you pay for. Not just the oil matters, though — the filters can make quite a bit of difference, as well. Stick to decent brands of motor oil for motorcycles and you won’t have to deal with any problems in the long run.