One of the great things about motorcycles is that they’re easy to work on. Well … relatively speaking, when compared to modern cars they are. For example, I wouldn’t even hesitate if given the choice between changing the oil in my car vs. taking it down to the 10-minute place a couple of miles away: I’ll take the 2-minute drive, 10-minute wait and $45 charge, thank you very much. But when it’s my motorcycle … .

I also happen to believe that a motorcycle owner should be able to perform basic maintenance as a matter of course. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple to do and easy to learn, and an oil change is a great place to start!

What You’ll Need

Nitrile gloves
Oil pan (ideally one with a mesh covering over the opening)
Open-end (crescent) or socket wrench in the correct size*
Torque wrench (not necessary, but recommended)
New crush washer (ask the person at the parts counter when you buy your oil)
Maybe – oil filter* and oil filter wrench
*See Step 1

Step 1 – Read the manual!

We’re women, and therefore we aren’t afraid to read the instructions, right? Look for the section on maintenance, or at the specifications chart. Your manual will tell you:

  • How much and what type/rating of oil you need
  • What size wrench you’ll need for your drain plug
  • Whether you need to change the oil filter as well
  • The location of the drain plug, filler cap and oil filter
  • Torque settings for tightening everything back up

Step 2 – Drain the old oil

It’s easier to do this when the engine is warm, so take it for a short ride first, or just let it idle for a few minutes. Be careful, the oil will be warm!

Do not loosen the filler cap first! Trust us. Place the oil pan under the drain plug. Using a wrench, loosen the drain plug, but do not remove it yet. This may take a little effort, so don’t be afraid to lean into it. Once you’ve loosened it with the wrench, use your fingers (make sure you’ve put on the nitrile gloves) to carefully spin it the rest of the way off.

This is the worst part: it’s messy, and there’s no way around it. As the drain plug comes out, warm oil will begin gushing out. If you have an oil pan with a mesh covering, you can just drop the plug and yank your hand away—the plug will get caught by the mesh and won’t fall into the vat of oil.

Use the opportunity to take a look at your oil. A milky texture can mean that water has contaminated your engine, and you should take the bike to a service shop. Regular used oil is dark brown; oil that’s only been lightly used will be lighter in color.

Once the flow has slowed, unscrew the oil filler cap.

After a few minutes, the flow should be reduced to a slow drip. Retrieve the drain plug, wipe it clean and throw away the old crush washer. Replace the plug (with the new crush washer on it), and tighten it to the manual’s specifications.

If you’re also changing the oil filter, slide the oil pan under the filter. Using the filter wrench, loosen and remove the old filter. Some more oil will drain out, but not nearly as much as before. Before installing the new filter, wet the tip of your finger with some oil and rub it on the rubber gasket on the filter; this helps it seal against the case. Screw it on by hand—do not use the filter wrench. Once the gasket touches the metal of the case, give it about one and a half more turns. You want it to be snug, but not super tight.

Step 3 – Add the new oil

Using the funnel, pour in the new oil. Start with the manual’s recommended amount, and remember it varies based on whether you changed the filter or not. Reinstall the filler cap. Start the bike and let it run for a few minutes, then shut it off and let it sit for about a minute.

If your bike has a sight window to check the oil level (likely on the lower right-hand side of the engine case), use it to see if your oil level is good or if you should add more. The bike needs to be upright to get an accurate reading, so if you don’t have a center stand or paddock stand, or you’re not comfortable holding the bike upright while you bend down to look, have a friend help hold the bike. The level should be within the lower and upper lines.

Step 4 – Discard the used oil and filter

Most oil change places, service shops and auto parts stores will take used oil for disposal. Please don’t wash it down the drain or sewer! Be sure you give them your old filter for disposal as well.

I like to pour the used oil into empty milk jugs to make it easier to transport without spilling all over my car’s trunk. Empty washer fluid containers, or any plastic container with a lid will work as well.

That’s it, you’re done! With a little practice, you’ll be able to change your own bike’s oil in 20 minutes, and save money and time at the shop as well.

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