In short, oil is the lifeblood of your bike’s engine. Oil is not only responsible for lubricating its moving parts, but also for cooling, cleaning, and flushing away the byproducts of combustion.
Motorcycle engines are capable of achieving incredible speeds, but to continue running smoothly—without parts coming into contact with one another and creating friction that can slow the engine down (or, worse, stop it altogether)—the engine relies on the lubrication provided by oil. As it lubricates parts of the engine, oil also carries heat away from and cleans everything it comes into contact with in order to keep the engine in tip-top shape. Because of its importance in improving the function and longevity of a bike’s engine, motorcycle oil should be changed at regular intervals.
The Base Stock of the oil makes up about 75-80% of an oil bottle’s contents. Generally speaking, if it comes from the ground, the oil is a “Mineral Oil.” If it is made in a lab or reactor, it’s a synthetic oil.
The remaining 20-25% of a bottle of motorcycle oil is comprised of what’s called an “Additive Pack.” These ingredients make the oil more effective and are tailored to its application. These powerful additives include:
You should change your motorcycle oil and engine oil filter at the first 1,000-mile service interval and at every 5,000-mile service interval thereafter. If you ride your motorcycle hard, under dusty conditions, or in cold weather, the engine oil and filter should be changed more often. Also, you should always change your engine oil and filter prior to winter storage (or any other extended period of storage) so that the oil is clean and free of contaminants during this period.
In addition to the mileage guidelines covered above, it’s usually wise to change your oil at the start of riding season (if you didn’t change the oil before storing the unit), especially if your motorcycle has been sitting idle for a long period. Oil degrades over time, even if the motorcycle isn't being used. Also, consider an oil change if you’ve been riding in particularly challenging conditions, such as extreme temperatures or dirty, dusty environments in order to keep your bike lubricated and running smoothly.
Checking your Harley-Davidson’s oil is a quick and easy process. First, ensure the motorcycle is on level ground resting on the jiffy stand. On most Harley® models, you'll find a dipstick on the oil tank. Remove it, wipe it clean, then reinsert it without screwing it back in. Pull it out again to check the oil level, which should be between the minimum and maximum marks.
Absolutely. Changing your motorcycle oil is a relatively straightforward process that most owners can handle with the right tools and a bit of time. It can also be a rewarding experience that deepens your connection to your machine. To simplify your oil change, check out Harley-Davidson® oil change kits.
For the most part, yes. It involves draining the old oil, replacing the oil filter, and adding new oil. While it does require some mechanical know-how, many find the process relatively simple, especially after doing it a few times. Plus, it's a fantastic opportunity to become more familiar with your motorcycle.
How to Change your Motorcycle’s Oil:
The cost of an oil change can vary based on location, type of oil, and the specific model of your motorcycle. You can generally expect a dealer oil change to cost, on average, anywhere from $75 to $225.
Group I, II, and III petroleum-based lubricants are derived from oil pumped from the ground, whereas Group IV and V synthetic lubricants are chemically produced in a lab. Petroleum-based lubricants inherit physical components of the source crude oil in the refining process. Meanwhile, synthetic lubricants are custom-formulated to have desired properties for specific purposes, meaning that engineers have complete control of the lubricant from start to finish—down to the molecular level.
Petroleum lubricants have been around for a long time and are effective at lubricating in most conditions, but mineral oil often can’t compete with the purity of synthetic lubricants—especially in extreme conditions. Synthetic oil does a better job reducing wear and resisting breakdown under a wider range of operating temperatures.
The recommended viscosity grade for all temperature conditions is SAE 20W50. Harley-Davidson® offers SAE 20w50 Harley-Davidson® Motor Oil. The SAE 50 H-D® Motorcycle Oil is satisfactory in ambient temperatures of 60 to 80°F, and the SAE 60 H-D® Motorcycle Oil in ambient temperatures above 80°F. SAE 20W50 covers the broadest range of operating temperatures. You can also check your owner’s manual to determine the proper oil grade for your bike’s engine.
There are a number of reasons why you should opt for using H-D® motorcycle oil in your Harley bike:
In the early days of the combustion engine, car and motorcycle oils were essentially the same. However, this is no longer the case. One key difference is the much smaller sump size on a motorcycle. Motorcycles require much less oil at a given time than a car and typically run hotter than car engines. This means motorcycle oil must be able to work harder without breaking down.
The severity of the problem typically depends on just how different the incorrect oil you added to a bike is. For instance, if the viscosity of the oil is only minorly different from the correct oil type, it’s unlikely that you will face a severe issue. However, if the oil added is significantly more or less viscous, then it can potentially cause serious damage to your motorcycle. When oil is too viscous for an engine, it will be more difficult to pump—sending oil pressure up and oil flow down. When oil is too thin, it might not be able to lubricate effectively enough, leading to dangerous and potentially damaging metal-on-metal contact. See your Owner's Manual for a list of oil types that are right for your motorcycle.