How Often Should You Change Oil on a Motorcycle?

You probably already know the importance of oil to your motorcycle engine. It’s a crucial factor that keeps the bike running, but it needs maintenance and changing. This leads us to the ongoing question of how often you should change the oil.

Many argue that changing early is better than changing late, but did you know there’s a catch with that as well? The oil protects all the moving parts of an engine from all kinds of frictional damage. For this reason, it’s crucial that you change it regularly and adequately in order to avoid the possible complications.

Why Oil Needs Changing

Inadequate lubrication can cause many mechanical problems, but you’d really have to try hard to damage the bike as severely. Still, regular change prevents all of those issues. It has to be frequent regardless of the type you use, especially if you often ride in harsh environments and conditions.

Plus, it breaks down over time which is another reason why you should change it. It happens for many reasons though the heat generated by the engine is probably the main to blame. Oil vaporizes when it’s exposed to too much heat which then contributes to breakdown.

It also gets dirty regardless of whether you use synthetic or regular. All kinds of debris infiltrate the filter caused by metal to metal friction and different by-products of the combustion process. This can increase the acidity of the lubricant quite quickly.

All of the above can cause different issues such as internal corrosion, frictional damage and unwanted particles inside the engine.

Discover more about top oil filters.

What Engine Oil Does

Motor oil is among the most crucial parts of your bike that has to be handled with care. It’s essentially a lubricant for moving parts of the engine. It cleans the internal components and prevents accelerated tear and wear.

It cleans and lubricates the parts every time you start the bike and rev the engine. Its role is also to protect the engine from cold starts and high temperatures.

Interestingly, but motor oil keeps the engine cool by absorbing high temperatures inside the combustion chamber. This helps lower the internal temperature which is great because high temperatures are dangerous for the engine.

A cool engine is smoother, more fuel-efficient and quieter. For this, it requires the right type that would prolong its life and save you money on maintenance. The lubricant will only do its job when it’s the right kind and when it’s changed and inspected frequently.

See the top oils here.

a white motorbike in the desert

When You Should Change It

In most cases, the answer depends on several factors such as the kind you use and how often you ride. Some manufacturers claim their product can be used for 3,000, 5,000 and even 20,000 miles, but you shouldn’t focus on those numbers as much.

Though it might last for 20,000 miles, it would probably be highly contaminated and already horrible for your engine. For this reason, you should change it at least once a year to avoid any possible complications caused by inadequate lubrication or dirty lubricant.

When you ride, all kinds of small particles and combustion by-products end up in the lubricant. They are then distributed through the engine. This can cause corrosion of the small unseen parts inside the bike.

Bikers who don’t ride as often usually don’t feel the need to change the oil. However, if this is the case, your bike probably doesn’t have a chance to get hot and stay so for at least half an hour. This causes moisture to build up and dilute the oil. Such lubricant cannot lubricate, clean and cool the engine properly.

To avoid this, try to get the bike hot for at least half an hour twice a month. If you use it for short rides only where it cannot get fully warm, we recommend you change as often as three times a year.

How to Tell If It’s Dirty

Unless you’re sure that for whatever reason your motor needs an oil change, you’ll have to do some visual inspection. By checking its condition, you’ll also check the level of lubricant situated inside the crankcase.

You can check it in many different ways depending on the kind of motorcycle you have. If you have the option of checking the service manual, do so. If not, here’s how you can do it:

You can check the condition as well as the level by using the level dipstick. Pull it out to see if the oil looks watery or dirty. Blackish color is a good indicator that it’s time to change the lubricant.

Use the same method to tell the amount of lubricant in the crankcase. There’s a high and low marker in the stick, and the level should be between those two.

Some bikes also have a sight window. The window has the same high and low markings allowing you to inspect the level. It’s not the best method for checking if it’s dirty although you might be able to notice particles through it.

When To Change the Filter?

The filter keeps your oil clean by trapping dirt, metal particles, debris and sludge inside the crankcase. Just like clean lubricant is essential for the long life of your engine, so his a clean filter.

There’s a debate about how often you should change it. Many people believe it depends on how often you ride the bike and the lubricant you use.

The general rule of thumb applies to both regular and synthetic oils. If you don’t ride as often, you can replace the filter once or twice a year. If you do ride often and at high speed, you should do so at least every two changes.

It would be good if you can replace it each time you change the oil as well. If not, even at every two changes is alright as long as you don’t wait longer than that.

product image of the mobil 1 motor oil

Frequently Asked Questions

With what frequency should synthetic oil be changed?

The rule of thumb states you should change it every 3000 miles. However, some synthetic products can go as long as 5000 miles but make sure not to pass that number. Even those that state you could use them until the 20000 mark shouldn’t be used for that long. All the types get quite contaminated after about 3000 to 5000 miles.

How long can oil sit in a motorcycle?

You’ll have to change it more frequently if you’re not riding as often and the oil sits for a long time. Such liquid probably doesn’t have a chance to heat up properly which leads to contamination. For this reason, you have to replace it a few times a year.

What is the cost?

The cost of motorcycle lubricant depends on the brand and manufacturer you opt for as well as whether you use synthetic or conventional. The cost of getting it changed by a professional also varies. However, you can change it yourself since the process is quite simple and costs no money at all when you do it.

Should I change the filter every time?

Ideally, you should replace it each time you change the oil for the reasons we explained earlier. However, you can get away with replacing the filter with every two changes as well. By replacing it at least once a year, you’re sure it does its job correctly and efficiently.


If you love and care for your motorcycle, you should change the oil according to the service manual you got with it. If you don’t have access to such information, use the general guidelines above to determine when to do this part of regular maintenance.

Changing lubricant isn’t a complicated process and is something you can do yourself. Of course, you can always have professionals do it, but that would obviously cost more money.

Either way, make sure to do it regularly regardless of the type of you use. By maintaining your bike in such a way, you ensure the longevity of its motor and all the internal components.

Additional Resources:

The team at Road Racerz aims to be a source of knowledge for all riders, whether they are beginners, intermediate, or have been riding for 20+ years. We want everyone to enjoy safer rides and have access to rider-specific content to get the most out of every mile.

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