How to change your oil and filter

How to change your oil and filter


Your bike’s oil has a right old time of it, coursing through the engine at well over 100°C and protecting vital metal parts from rubbing each other up the wrong way.

Frequent changes of the oil and filter will give it the best chance of looking after your crucial components. Here’s how to do it properly…

1. Information

Before you even pick up a tool, there are some essential questions to answer… 1) What size of socket is required to undo your sump plug. 2) Can you access it without removing or displacing the exhaust? 3) What sort of tool will allow you to remove your filter? 4) What grade of oil is recommended in your owner’s manual and how much of it does your engine take? 5) What torque setting does your sump plug need to be refastened to? Check the owner’s manual for your bike as some have more than one drain plug, run an internal gauze filter that slides in like a cartridge and/or have a dry sump so you’ll need to be aware of that when replacing the filter and refilling.

2. Tooling up

Armed with that info, you now have a shopping (or borrowing) list. You need a pan to collect the drained oil and a container in which to take it to the tip (some drain pans perform both of these functions). You’ll need the tools for removing and refitting the filter and sump plug, plus a torque wrench to refasten it to the correct tension, as well as new oil, filter and a new sealing washer for the sump plug.

3. Let it flow

Oil thins as it warms, making it easier to drain, so start your bike and bring it up to temperature. Around 50°C on the water temperature readout will be fine. Secure the bike on a centrestand or paddock stand and slide the drain pan underneath the sump plug. Remove the oil filler plug as it’ll help oil flow from the engine. Undo the plug, making absolutely certain you have a secure and clean connection between socket and bolt. Allow the plug to fall into the oil pan so you can keep your hands clear of the hot, flowing oil. You’ll be able to fish it out of the oil pan with a magnet.

4. Plug it back in

Clean up the retrieved plug and discard the washer that ensures a tight seal to the sump. Slide on the new washer and, once all oil has flowed out of the engine, carefully refit the plug and fasten it to the torque specified by the manufacturer.

5. Filter off

Move the drain pan forward so it’s under the oil filter. Removing the filter should be the easiest job as the idea is it’s only ever tightened by hand. The reality is often very different and it can be a pig of a job. The best tool, if you can get it to fit your filter, is a filter removal socket. Other options include a removal strap or a chain that wraps around the filter and attaches to a ratchet handle so you can twist the filter off. Avoid the temptation to drive a screwdriver through the filter body and attempt to lever it off – unless you like the taste of heart in your mouth and have a surefire method for removing the twisted and ripped filter carcass.

6. Replace the filter

Remove the plastic wrapping around the new filter’s rubber gasket and smear a little engine oil over the gasket. Put the gasket back in place and thread the new filter onto its housing. Make sure it’s correctly threaded and tighten by hand. Alternatively, if you bought a filter with a nut on the end you could use a torque wrench to apply the torque setting recommended by the manufacturer. The presence of that nut will also be a big gift to your future self as removing the filter next time will be a lot easier.

7. Time for a refill

Armed with your bike’s oil capacity, pour the new oil in through the filler cap. Use the gauge on the side of the oil bottle to add it half a litre at a time. Hold the last 200ml or so back, which will give you room to manoeuvre when you check the level (it’s easier to add a little more than to try and get some out). Let the oil settle and check the sightglass or dipstick for the correct level. Check the filter, sump plug and filler cap are all tightly fastened and then follow the procedure in your owner’s manual for setting the level, which may require starting the engine and checking once the oil is warmed up. Add more oil through the filler cap if required to get it to the manufacturer-specified level. All that’s left now is to dispose of the oil at your local household recycling centre. Job done!