How to: Change Your Motorcycle Oil & Oil Filter

Changing your motorcycle’s oil is an essential bit of servicing the needs to be done at least once a year. As your bike’s lubricant for the engine, transmission and clutch, it is essential to keeping these things running smoothly and preventing internal friction of moving metal parts. It also helps flush your motor of any debris, so everything can move freely and not clog up.

Naturally, over time, the debris and contaminants your oil system catches will build up – changing the oil flushes this system and removes any build-up. You should notice that you bike runs ‘smoother’ after an oil change, and doing these regularly will prolong the life of your motorcycle’s major systems.

Luckily, it’s so easy to do, and you can do it at home with a few basic tools:

  1. Oil catch pan
  2. Socket set
  3. Torque wrench
  4. Oil filter wrench
  5. Fresh oil (check your bike’s manual for the correct spec oil to use)
  6. Fresh oil filter (check your bike’s manual for the correct spec oil filter to use)
  7. New sump plug washer
  8. Funnel
  9. Allen keys (possibly)
  10. Brake cleaner
  11. Disposable rubber gloves (to stop your fingers getting cover in oil)

Steps – draining the oil:

  1. Start your bike and run the engine for a couple of minutes – this thins the oil, so it will flow quicker when you drain it.
  2. Select the appropriate socket over your oil sump plug (usually on the bottom of your bike). You may need to remove protective bodywork to access the sump plug, as on my Versys. Attach the socket wrench to the socket.
  3. Place the oil catch pan under the sump plug.
  4. Turn the sump plug bolt counter-clockwise slowly until oil starts to flow out and into the catch pan. You should now be able to remove the plug using your fingers to twist it out.
  5. Wait until the oil has finished flowing out of the sump.
  6. If your bike is on its side stand, stand it up to let more oil out.
  7. Repeat this process until the oil drips stop.
  8. Unscrew your oil filter, counter-clockwise. You should be able to do this with your hands if you’re strong – if not, get an oil filter wrench. You will need your oil catch pan below to catch any oil that comes out, and it’s also a good idea to put some cardboard on the exhaust downpipes by the oil filter, to direct the oil into the catch pan, rather on to your pipes.
  9. As before, stand the bike up again to release more oil and wait until the drips stop.

Steps – adding the new oil:

  1. Spray the brake cleaner around the holes we’ve just drained oil from, and wipe them down with a cloth or some kitchen roll, to remove any excess oil.
  2. Fill your new oil filter about half full with new oil and use your finger to line the seals on the oil filter and your motorbike. This just ensures that the system isn’t running dry of oil when you start up again, as you’ve pre-lubricated it.
  3. Wait until the filter has absorbed all of the oil and then screw it back on, clockwise, tightening it to the correct torque. For example, on my Versys it’s 17Nm.
  4. Now, screw back in your oil sump plug – clockwise. Ensure the thread is lined up perpendicular to the hole, to avoid cross-threading and that you have your new washer on the bolt – this will ensure you get a  proper seal and no oil leaks. Use your fingers until it is tight, and then tighten with the torque wrench to your bike’s spec (30Nm on my Versys). Be very careful not to over-tighten, as you can easily strip the thread and then the bolt won’t tighten and you’ll have to tap a new thread into your sump to get it to seal.
  5. Unscrew the oil cap and insert the funnel – add oil in slowly until the oil level is between the minimum and maximum on the sight glass. You’ll need to pour oil in and then stand the bike up to check the level. Wait for a minute or so for the level to settle, and top up as needed.
  6. Now, screw the oil cap back on and start the bike, running it for a couple of minutes (make sure your oil light goes off quickly).
  7. Check there are no leaks at the sump plug and oil filter. If there are, you probably need to tighten them a bit more.
  8. Recheck the oil sight glass and top up again, if necessary.

Job done!

Now, I always leave a bit of paper below the filter and sump plug for the next 24 hours to just double check there are no slow leaks.

Tip: if you have a centre stand, you can put the bike up on this and ignore the instructions to ‘stand up’ the bike. If your bike doesn’t have a centre stand, I’d advise investing in a rear paddock stand. It will make this job (and working on the bike in general) much easier and safer. You can pick them up cheaply secondhand if you’re on a tight budget.