Want to save some money and learn about your beloved machine at the same time? Try changing your own oil. It is cheap, fun, and does not require many tools!
- Set up your spot. This is one
of the most important steps. You do not want to be running around looking
for tools, containers and rags while oil is flowing out of your bike and
your hands are too slick to turn a doorknob! Check the "Things Youll
Need" section to get everything ready.
- Put your bike on the side
stand, center-stand or rear-stand if you have one. Put your drain pan
approximately under the bolt. Try to think ahead of where the oils going
to shoot out, and watch it as it drains. Youll most likely have to adjust
the placement of the drain pan as the old oil slows down. Use the proper
tool to remove the bolt. You do not want to strip it! If it drops in the
pan, just pick it up quickly and do not burn yourself if its hot!
- Allow the used/dirty oil to
finish draining while you take off the filter. Carefully unscrew the
filter with a filter wrench or, in a pinch, wrap a leather (or rubber)
belt around it like a dog choker to get it off. Be careful not to dent or
damage the filter, as that could inadvertently allow some of the
contaminants in the filter to go back into the engine. There may be some
oil left in there that may splash out, so make sure youve got something
under there to catch it. If it is on there really tight, you can punch a
screwdriver through its side with a hammer and use that to get it loose.
- Install a fresh drain plug
crush washer. It may cost as much as a dollar, but is cheap insurance. Be
sure to remove the old crush washer. The New Washer will help save the
threads in your oil pan as it will take less torque to wrench down on the
oil drain plug.
- Put the drain bolt back in.
Make sure its clean of dirt and grime before putting it back. Remember
that its usually going into cast aluminum, so do not over-tighten it!
Consult your manual or your local shop for torque specs for your bike.
Remember when using a torque wrench that Nm is not equal to Ft-Lbs. If you
do not torque in the bolt to spec, just install it snug but do not
- Prep the filter by filling it
about a quarter full of fresh oil. "Swish" it around slowly to
try and get all the filter material down in there wet with oil. Then, and
this is very important, prep the rubber seal with a dab of oil on your
finger. Just get the whole seal "wet". This will ensure that it
makes good contact with the engine, and make it much easier to get it off
during the next oil change.
- Clear the filter area on the
engine of grime and wipe a finger of fresh oil around the area just to get
good clean contact. Carefully screw on the new filter. Do not force it! It
should go quite easily. Once it takes more than about zero effort to turn
it, it only needs about 3/4 of a turn left. You really do not want to
over-tighten an oil filter. And you shouldnt need more than a clean hand
to tighten it. Do not use a tool, unless it is attached to a torque wrench
and you are tightening it to factory specs!
- If you havent already, move
the dirty oil away from the area so you do not spill it! Look in your
manual for oil capacity and use the funnel to add about half a quart under
full capacity into the fill hole. Stop and check the level. Add or drain
oil as necessary to be at about the bottom third between Add and Full. You
do not want to overfill the oil! It adds undue pressure on the seals in
your engine and can lessen its life. Remember that on motorcycles you have
to have it straight up and down, not on the side stand, to check the
- Clean it up, double check youve
returned all the caps and bolts, and youre good to go! Most auto places
that sell you the oil will take it back if you pour it back into the
orginal containers. Its a messy job, but do not pour it on the ground. It
doesnt go away, its really bad for the environment, and quite likely it is
- Lastly, make double sure to
check the level again as well as the filter, drain bolt, and fill cap
tightness after your first ride!
- Congratulations! Job well
- Remember, hot oil flows much
better, so go for a ten minute ride before you pull the drain plug. The
oil will come out hot and fast when it goes so be careful! This will help
"wash" the inside of your engine with oil and let it flow out
- You do not want dirt and
grime from your tools and your shop getting in there, so clean your tools
before (and after), and keep a clean work area! Small particles of sand in
your oil can destroy your engine!
- Oil disposal is always a
pain. Put it in an old (but clean) bleach or laundry detergent bottle,
cause theyre sturdy and have a good screw on top. Most town dumps will
take oil if youre a resident, and sometimes only on a certain day. Do not
dump it on the ground!
- If you ride a sport bike,
odds are that your oil filter will be surrounded by your exhaust headers.
Since burning oil stinks, try this to keep the oil off of the hot exhaust
pipes: get some aluminum foil and wrap it over the top of the headers just
below the filter connection!
- Clean the oil drain plug area
and the drain plug itself thoroughly. That will make it easy to spot a
leak after you refill with fresh oil. It will also keep you from
introducing dirt from the oil-pan to the inside of the engine. If you do
see a leak after re-filling, you may have not tightened the drain plug
enough, or you may have over-tightened it. Whats more, leaving oil on that
area will attract loads of dirt and make a real mess of the area.
- Be sure not to over-tighten
your oil drain plug. The oil pan is usually aluminum and no match for the
steel threads of the drain plug. A stripped oil pan can be a big pain. The
drain plug should be tightened to the tightness specified in your owners
manual and no more.
- Overfilling your engine
increases oil pressure, putting strain on seals. Think about this. Racers
usually run their cars/bikes with even less oil than the manufacturer
recommends as the bare minimum in oil to keep weight down. And think about
how hard they run their engines. Stay on the not chock-full side and
filling 1/3 of the way above "add" (or the lower marker). Just
check it often, as you should anyway!
- Hot oil is hot! Be careful as
you can burn yourself.
- Never smoke or use a lighter
while changing oil, charging batteries, or working with any part of the
fuel system (tank, lines, carbs, injectors, etc).
- Oil is not all that
flammable, but fuel that may have contaminated your oil IS. Oil will burn,
mind you, but it takes a source of heat far greater than that of a simple
cigarette or a lighter. However, you may have had a carburetors float get
stuck and not even realize it, and now you might have a great deal of fuel
mixed in with the oil in your crankcase. If a float sticks, the excess
fuel should pour out of the overflow. Sometimes, if the line is pinched,
plugged, or stopped up, over one night the contents of the entire fuel
tank can find their way into both the airbox and the crank case. It may
stick for only a short time resulting in only a small amount of fuel loss,
but any fuel in the crankcase is really, really bad. If that has happened,
changing your oil in-doors could pose an explosion/fire hazard. An easy
way to know what youre dealing with up-front is to pull your oil fill cap,
stick your nose up to the hole, and take a whiff. If you smell gas, move
the show outdoors to a well ventilated area. Also, you will want to find
the source of the errant fuel ASAP. If you have a float sticking, it will
cause all sorts of problems. Fuel will also re-contaminate your fresh oil
and that can cause permanent damage to your engine. Diluted oil is bad
- Oil Filter
- Drain Plug Washer
- Open end wrench (or socket
- Drain pan
- Tool to remove the filter (an
old leather belt will do)
- Rags for cleanup
- Aluminum foil
- Torque wrench (recommended)
- Owners or service manual
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