Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 31st August 2017

Our latest How To guide:

change the oil on your bike


You’ll need to have oil, an oil filter and some spanners. You’ll need an oil drain tray and ideally some rags. It’s potentially a messy job, so not one for the living room! Make sure you wear protective clothing, use a barrier cream on your hands and wear rubber gloves. Getting used engine oil on the skin can cause dermatitis and is considered carcinogenic. Prolonged exposure to used oil has been known to cause skin cancer.

Preparation is key. You certainly don’t want to be running around looking for tools mid oil change.

Changing the oil and filter is a relatively simple job, particularly on naked bikes, but it can be a bit of a faff on some machines, especially if the filter is tucked away in a difficult to access area.

Put the bike on a level surface. If it has a centre stand, use it or a paddock stand. If the bike is faired, remove the lower fairing – you shouldn’t need to take off the whole thing – and get your bearings. While the engine is still cold, check the location of the drain plug and oil filter – determining the correct size of tools you’ll need.

Start the bike and bring the engine up to temperature. Cold oil doesn’t flow/drain as well, so it’s important to warm the engine. Stop the engine and undo the drain bolt underneath the engine. The old oil will likely surge out initially, so make sure that the oil pan is located underneath.

Let the oil drain, as the flow slows down you might need to reposition the oil drain pan. When that’s done, remove the filter. These generally screw on but ideally you’ll have an oil filter removal tool. They’re cheap to buy and put a strap around the filter to help get purchase on it. There will be some oil in the filter so make sure the drain pan is underneath. There will be some splashback!


Filling up

Once the oil is drained, but the drain bolt back in. It’s important not to overtighten as you may strip the thread – making for an expensive repair.

Take the new oil filter. Put a little oil inside it and swirl it around to work the lubricant around the filter. Smear a little of the new oil around the rubber seal too, this will help create a good seal.

Clean everything up, particularly where the filter meets the engine, and screw the filter on.

Open the filler cap and pour in the new oil.

When it comes to the oil itself, go with the manufacturer’s recommended specification for the lubricant. There are a very few times when you may go for a different viscosity oil – for example you are a racer or do a lot of riding in extreme cold conditions. It can be tempting to go for a fancy fully-synthetic oil on the basis that it’s ‘better’ however if it hasn’t been specified then it’s often best avoided – in particular because the additives can make the oil too slippery for the clutch.


Pour in the new oil. You don’t want to over fill so check the oil capacity in the manual. We’d say to underfill it first, initially. Keep the bike on level ground, tidy up, put the bodywork back on again, stick the kettle on… You want to give the oil a little time to work through the engine and into the sump, where you can properly check you’ve put enough in.


Check the oil level through the sight glass or dipstick (depending on your bike) and top up if necessary. Overfilling can cause more harm than good, so best to add in gradual steps. It’s good practice to check the oil level before every ride anyway, so make sure you keep any left over oil for topups.


Finally, you’ll have to dispose of the old oil. This stuff isn’t good for the environment and needs to be gotten rid of responsibly. Your local tip should have a recycling area for oil engine oil, so take it there – doing your best to make sure that it doesn’t go all over the place!