How often should I change the oil in my bike?

Maggie from South Bend Indiana wants to know about oil for her bike

Motorcycle maintenance is essential for ensuring that your bike lasts as long as possible, and one of the most important parts of maintenance is changing your oil. However, the simple question of how frequently you should change your oil is a bit more complex than many people think. Here are a few facts about how oil affects your bike’s engine and how frequently you should change it.

What Does Oil Do?

First, it’s important to understand the role of engine oil in your motorcycle. Motorcycle engines contain many moving parts, and these parts frequently have metal in contact with other metal. Over time, this contact and movement can cause the metal to wear down, which reduces performance and causes small bits of metal to contaminate the engine. Oil provides a lubricant that prevents much of this damage. In addition, it captures small bits of metal and makes it easier to remove.

Why Does Oil Need to be Changed?

Oil is durable, and it’s remarkably resistant to damage. However, it does break down over time as the hydrocarbons it’s made of decompose into other chemicals. One of the largest contributors to oil breakdown is heat, and extended riding sessions can cause oil to vaporize and degrade. Another factor to consider is oil contamination, which can be caused by a number of factors. External factors, such as particles entering the engine through the filter, can lead to contamination, but metal filing from the engine and chemical causes can lead to contaminated oil as well. Degraded oil doesn’t perform as well as clean oil, and contaminants can cause deposits in the engine and damage to engine components. An oil change can relieve these problems.

Change Frequency

For most vehicles, motorcycles included, it’s generally safe to keep oil in the engine for 3,000 miles. This number is typically the low end, however, and most modern oils last longer while maintaining their protective properties. In addition, modern engines are better able to handle oil for lengthy periods of time. Still, people who worry about leaving oil in too long shouldn’t feel any pressure to change the oil more frequently unless riding a particularly old bike. Service manuals typically dictate an oil change frequency as well, and sticking to that guideline should lead to excellent engine longevity. If you ride a custom chopper or highly customized bike, ask the builder for advice.

Synthetic Oils

Another factor to consider is the type of oil being used. The 3,000 mile change frequency deals with traditional engine oil, but synthetic oils have a number of advantages. While they cost more to use, they’re also better able to handle engine heat and other factors that lead to oil degradation, which leads to improved longevity. Furthermore, they typically handle contaminants better than traditional oil. Many manufacturers recommend leaving in synthetic oil for 5,000 miles or even longer. If you have any questions, feel free to ask experienced professionals, such as the experts who work at Orange County Choppers.

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