Step By Step: How to Change Your Motorcycle's Engine Oil

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Get your supplies ready, and expose your engine

Be careful not to scratch the fairing while unfastening and removing it. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

Changing the oil in your motorcycle is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prolong the life of your bike, and should be performed every six months or 3,000 miles -- whichever comes first. Carbureted bikes are more susceptible to the ravages of storage since fuel can easily contaminate the engine oil, so be extra vigilant with non-fuel injected bikes.

Before you start, make sure you have the following supplies ready:

  • An allen wrench or screwdriver (for fairing removal, if necessary.)
  • An oil filter wrench (for removing the oil filter.)
  • The appropriate crush washer for your oil drain plug-- this can be purchased from a hardware store or motorcycle service shop.
  • A pair of needle-nose pliers, in case the oil filler cap is hard to reach or tightly screwed on.
  • An adjustable socket wrench.
  • Clean rags.
  • The proper amount of manufacturer-recommended engine oil.
  • A new, manufacturer-approved oil filter.
  • A funnel.

Remove Fairing or Bodywork Blocking Access to the Engine

If bodywork surrounds the engine that needs an oil change, you'll have to remove it. Don't worry- this is easier than it sounds.

Bikes often come equipped with small toolkits under their seats; if you can't find yours, use the appropriate Phillips screwdriver and/or Allen wrench in order to unscrew the bolts holding your fairing to the frame.

Be sure to keep all fasteners, brackets, and bolts together in a safe place until it's time to put everything back together again.

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Unscrew the Oil Filler Cap

If your fingers can't reach, needle-nose pliers should do the trick. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

Before draining the engine oil, you'll want to unscrew the oil filler cap (it's usually made of black plastic, with a raised twist tab.) Doing so will allow the oil to drain more quickly.

If the cap is hard to reach or tightly screwed on, you might want to use needle-nose pliers.

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Remove the Oil Drain Plug

Be prepared for the potentially hot flow of oil as you unscrew the drain plug. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

Place a pan or bucket under the engine and use a socket wrench to remove the drain plug, which is located on the underside of the oil pan.

Be careful during the last few turns, as the oil-- which might be hot-- will start to spill out.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to properly dispose of used oil at a qualified hazardous waste disposal facility. Dumping used oil is both illegal and harmful to the environment.

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Remove and Replace the Crush Washer

Crush washers should never be re-used; always install a fresh one with each oil change. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

The crush washer is an aluminum or copper disc designed to deform under pressure, which helps seal the oil drain plug. This part must be replaced after each oil change and is seen here being separated from the drain plug.

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Clean the Oil Drain Plug

Look closely at the oil drain plug (on the right), and you can see small bits of metal adhered to its magnetic tip. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

The tip of the drain plug is usually magnetic, in order to attract slivers of metal shed by the engine. While larger pieces are typically found during an engine's break-in period, don't be alarmed when smaller pieces routinely end up stuck onto the edge of the drain plug; just wipe them off with a clean rag.

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Remove the Oil Filter

Unless you've got incredibly strong hand grip, you'll probably need a wrench to remove the filter. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

While the oil continues to drain, unscrew the oil filter using a filter removal tool, which reaches around what might be a tightly screwed-in filter.

Once the filter is off, make sure the filter's O-ring (a band of rubber that fits on the tip to ensure a secure seal) came off with the filter.

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Remove and Clean Plastic Mesh Filter

If you don't have a can of compressed air, use a rag to carefully remove fine particles from the mesh filter. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

In order to remove larger particulates, unscrew and remove the plastic mesh filter from the side of the engine case.

First, wipe the mesh off with a clean rag so no particles remain. Then, if possible, blow smaller particles off with compressed air.

While the drain plug, mesh filter, and oil filter holes on the engine are exposed, wipe them all down with a clean rag to remove any accumulated sludge, in order to ensure a tight seal.

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Lubricate the O-ring of the New Filter and Attach it to the Engine

O-rings on oil filters usually fit snugly because of their squared edges. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

Every new oil filter comes with an O-ring; ensure it is seated snugly in the filter and spread a dab of motor oil around its top surface in order to ensure a tight seal.

Then, using your hand, screw the new filter into the engine case. Be sure NOT to use a tool for this part; it's easy to over-tighten the filter and damage the O-ring when using a tool.

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Replace Oil Drain Plug & Plastic Mesh Filter, Pour Oil

Long funnels can make oil filling easier. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

Once the old oil is completely drained, which should take at least several minutes, use a clean rag to wipe down the drain hole and the mesh filter hole. Screw the oil drain plug (with a new aluminum crush washer) and the plastic mesh filter back into the case.

Use the owner's manual (or markings on the engine) to find out the engine's oil capacity, fill it up with that amount-- minus about one-half quart-- by placing a funnel into the oil filler hole.

Screw in the oil filler cap and start up the engine. Let the engine idle for about a minute, then shut it off.

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Check the Oil Level

Most bikes have clear windows with which to visually check engine oil level. © Basem Wasef, Licensed to

After the engine has idled for about a minute, shut it off and wait another minute or so for the new oil to settle from the cylinder heads into the crankcase.

Make sure the bike is perfectly level; if there is a rear stand attached to the bike, remove it so it rests flat on the ground. If the bike doesn't have a center stand, lift it off its kickstand so it sits up perfectly straight. Check the oil window on the side of the crankcase: if the oil is below the center line, top it off until it's perfectly centered. If it's already at the center, you've just successfully changed your oil!​

(Thanks to Pro Italia Motors' service department for demonstrating these techniques.)