Your bike's oil is its lifeblood. Over time and in highly stressed engines like high revving track bikes it can start to degrade or ‘shear’ as it goes through numerous heat cycles, so it is important to change it often when the bike is being used for track day duties.
We like to change our oil every other Trackday, and filter every other oil change. This feels like a good balance between cost and protection and we’ve had no excessive engine wear or seizures yet.
People get quite heated about oil brands, often making out that if you don’t use their particular favourite, or the oil brand the bike manufacturer affiliated with that your pride and joy will implode.
This is not true.
What IS important is that you use the right blend and viscosity for the bike/ environment you are riding in. Most modern 4 stroke bikes will run a fully synthetic oil but some older bikes need semi-synthetic as fully synthetic has different detergents and additives and these additives can cause some clutches to slip, as can the addition of third party friction modifiers.
All oils have to confirm to a certain set of standards (Different standards exist in different markets but they’re all fairly well aligned) - check out the oil bottles in any motorbike dealers parts department and you’ll see a JASO certification (Japanese Automotive Standards Organization) and an API ( (American Petroleum Institute) specification. These classifications are important and get updated over time so it’s worth knowing what standard your bike needs - it’ll be in your manual - and then selecting an oil that meets that requirement, as well as the correct grade and base stock.
As said earlier, don’t get too hung up on brands – if it makes the grade and you are changing it frequently it’ll be fine.
We’ll be doing a video on this in our upcoming ‘How-To’ series (Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and click the bell to turn notifications on to be alerted to new videos landing) but until then here’s the basic procedure.
Get the bike on some level ground, If you’ve got a centre stand, get it up on this, if not then use your paddock stand, or Abba sand or whatever type you have. Avoid doing this job with the bike on a side-stand.
Remove any fairings or body panels you need to get access to the oil filter and the sump plug
Get the engine fully warmed up (hot oil flows better)
Once warm, undo your oil filler cap (this helps the oil flow out when you open the sump plug by letting air flow in) crack the sump plug open a little (not so the oil starts to flow but just so you can easily start to wind the plug out) now slide an oil pan in under your sump plug and then remove the plug all the way, making sure it doesn’t flow out all over your hands.
Watch the lovely, warm, mucky old oil rush out.
While that’s draining out get to work on the filter. Depending on the access to the filter you may need either a strap type wrench or our preferred tool is an oil filter removal socket (See pictures)
Wind the filter off. if it’s been on for a long time or the bike has been ridden on salty roads and not cleaned properly the filter can sometime need a bit of persuasion to come loose. Keep at it – it’ll give up eventually. As you spin the filter off the thread the oil in the filter will start to drip all over your hands and your exhaust pipe so watch yourself and keep some paper towels to hand.
At this point we usually go and make a brew and leave gravity to do its work for a bit!
Once it’s all out then it’s time to give everything a good wipe over before fitting a new sump washer and reinserting and correctly torqueing the plug. Your bike manual will give you the required torque setting. Don’t be tempted to ‘give it a bit extra’ you might get away with it this time but eventually you’ll either strip the threads OR crack the sump, which is a whole other headache you don’t want.
Once the sump plug has been refitted, grab your new filter, set it down on a flat surface and pour some of your new oil into it –This makes sure the oil filter has a good supply of oil and maintains oil pressure when you first start the engine back up. The filter will suck a fair bit of oil up so keep topping it up until it won’t take any more. Then dab your finger in the oil and smear some around the rubber O-ring at the top of the filter -this helps the filter to seal correctly without the dry rubber snagging on the block as you tighten it. Lift the oil-filled filter up to the thread and quickly/carefully spin it on. Get it hand tight and then, if access is good you may be able to get a torque wrench on it and set it to the correct torque setting with your oil filter tool. If access is limited for a torque wrench then another 1/8th of a turn with a strap or some additional brute force is usually about right.
Once the filter is on it’s time to put the fresh oil in the engine. Use your manual as a guide to how much oil is needed for your bike, the manual will usually give you 2 different volumes. One based on doing an oil and filter change and a second, slightly larger volume for if you have done a full engine strip down and removed all the oil. What you don’t want to do is Overfill it, so add slightly less than the manual states initially and then after you’ve let it settle for a minute, check the level with your dipstick. Top up and repeat as necessary until you get the level bang on.
At this point you may like to flick your kill switch off and then press the starter to spin the engine up until your oil light goes out, that way you know you’ve got some oil pressure before then flicking the kill switch back and firing the bike up.
Once it’s running check around the sump plug and the oil filter and make sure nothing is leaking. Once satisfied turn the bike off and refit any fairings/panels.
Once the bike is cool again, recheck the level as it may drop a little once the oil has circulated around the system. Top up if necessary.
Now stand back and admire your work - or better still, hit the track.