A Guide to Changing the Motorcycle Oil: Part 2
Cold or warm?
This is one of the first things you'll have to decide for yourself, as there two “schools of thought” on this matter. Some of the guys will claim it's better to have the engine running and reaching a normal operating temperature before draining it, as this means all the small foreign particles which accumulate inside the engine are afloat in the oil and will be flushed away with it.
The others will claim that if the engine has not been started for around a day or so, all the oil has collected in the pan and the things have neatly collected at the bottom of the sump, just awaiting for you to open the engine and have it drained.
There is no really right and wrong here, and you should do as you see fit: if you believe that all the gunk will drain better from the bottom of the pan, don't start the beast. If you feel like it will flow better with the hot oil, have your machine running around the block for some 10 minutes or so.
Let it flow
Before you start draining the engine oil, there are three things you should do: get a collecting oil canister or pan, loosen up the oil filter and open the filling cap.
The reasons for these things are just common sense. You need the collecting canister or pan because you don't want to have oil spilling across the floor and neither having oozing down the driveway. Failing to keep the place you're working in clean can even result in a fine in some cases, so why not being a good guy?
If you can unscrew the filter by hand, give it a quarter of a twist; if it won't budge, it's time to use the wrench. Finally, having the filling cap removed makes oil flow faster and easier as the engine draws air through the top opening.
With the collecting canister or pan/pan under the drain hole, loosen the drain plug until oil starts flowing. If it's not too complex for you, you should be able to remove it completely for a faster drain, but make sure you don't let the plug fall in the canister or pan, as it almost always happens. If the canister or pan is a tray-type one, picking the plug will be easy, however.
You'll notice a crush washer on the plug, like an aluminum or copper ring. This part deforms slightly when tightening the plug back in and seals the hole. In some cases, the washer will not come off with the plug and will remain attached to the belly pan. Make sure you retrieve the old one and that you have a new one at hand, as it must be replaced after each oil change.
Once the oil stops draining from the engine, you're already halfway through the whole process. Unscrew the old filter and look for a rubber o-ring. Just like the crush washer, this ring seals the gap between the engine and the filter, and might come off with the filter or it can be stuck to the engine. Since the new filter is supposed to come with such an o-ring, you should remove the old one and make sure the place where it comes in contact with the engine is clean and free of any potential small pieces of rubber that might be torn from the grommet.
Cleanliness is good for your engine
Taking a look at the drain plug you might see small metal fragments attached to it. Since most of the drain plugs are magnetic, all the metallic parts resulting from engine wear are collected there. The older the engine, the more metallic residue the plug will collect; and riding with insufficient oil increases the quantity, too.
No need to get alarmed, a few strands of metal are natural and cleaning the plug with some rags or tissue will remove them just perfectly. However, if you happen to see bigger “shrapnels” you should get alarmed as this may indicate a major malfunction and potential severe damage on the way.
Using clean rags you should also wipe the oil and sludge around the holes. You can also insert a finger or screwdriver with a piece of cloth to better clean the holes. The old filter is still almost full with oil, so you can drain it into the collecting canister or pan, wipe it and place it in a bag for proper disposal.
Close the oil canister or pans and if needed, wipe it, too. Spent oil and filter are to be disposed of in specialized places. Most bike workshops have larger bins for collecting this oil and it will be recycled. Simply throwing the oil in the dumpster or emptying the canister or pan in the drain hole won't do: it's illegal, irresponsible and makes you a lousy biker we don't want around.
The way back
Now it's time to start putting things back the way they were, and the first operation is making sure your bike can hold the oil. Thus, place the new crush metal washer on the drain plug and screw it in its hole.
Just as with many things to be screwed back in onto the bike, doing this by hand makes sure you position it properly. Failing to place it correctly will end up in making it impossible to screw it in by hand. In fact, you need the wrench only to tighten it at the end and it's the same with pretty much anything.
Some bike manuals offer the torque values for fastening pretty much anything. If yours does not or you don't have a torque wrench, just use your common sense, but keep in mind that excessive force is not needed. We'll tell you how to verify that everything is alright.
Once the drain plug is installed, it's time to place the filter. Some guys recommend partially filling the filter with oil prior to screwing it in, to remove the air, but this is not a rule of thumb. Instead it's more important to use your finger for wiping a fresh oil film on the rubber o-ring, ensuring a tighter seal.
Use your hand to get the new filter in place. It should be easy to twist until it reaches the engine. Bear in mind that over-tightening the oil filter can damage the thread or the very rubber gasket and lead to leaks. A good hand tightening is enough in most cases, but if you have a torque wrench (and the manual specifications) don't hesitate to use it.
Fill the bike, check and then check again
Using a proper funnel in the filing hole, you're now about to refill your engine. Providing you've got the right viscosity and amount of oil, check with the manual to make sure you've got everything right. Slowly pour the necessary quantity of oil. More is not necessarily better here, so you should trust the manual.
Put the filler cap back and start the engine. Leave it running for a couple of minutes to have the oil warmed up and then shut the bike off. After some more minutes, the oil should have settled in the pan and you're ready to check its level.
Most bikes require that the oil checking be done with bike flat and upright: no rear stands, no side stand. Just pull it off the kickstand and check the level. Some bikes have a side-window with minimal and maximal marks, while others have a rod, usually attached to the filler cap.
If the level is just fraction of an inch below the minimal level, you could add just a little more. In case you've poured in more than you had to, you're going to either drain it in the canister or pan by loosening the plug once more or use a tube and a syringe to extract the needed amount.
If all is just OK, restart the engine and look for leaks. You can also check the plug and filter during the first run. Now you'll understand why these two holes had to be clean: if the parts are tight and seal the holes as they should, no oil marks will be visible.
In case oil tears appear, it means you either have to tighten the plug or filter a bit more, or a washer/ gasket may be faulty. Hopefully, you won't have to do everything once more. However, paying attention to what you're doing leaves little room for errors.
Thanks for reading and don't hesitate to make suggestions that might improve the life of young and less experienced riders.