How Often To Change Motorcycle Oil And Other FAQs

There is no one rule when to change motorcycle oil. That’s why most beginners are unsure when to change their oil. The fact that you are here looking for answers means that you are taking oil maintenance seriously. And that makes me happy. Here’s a guide on how often to change motorcycle oil.

When to change the oil in a motorcycle depends on the type of oil, the type of motor, and the distance traveled. If the bike is not being used, oil should be changed every 4 months. Usually, the oil is changed every 2000 – 7000 miles. 

As you can see, this answer was really general. We need to get into specifics if you want to get a specific answer. A thorough guide follows.

Why Is Oil Important In Bikes

I would like to start off by explaining why oil matters. This will give you a better understanding of when oil is changed in bikes. More so, it will show you why you should always take oil maintenance seriously. But if you don’t really care about this you can skip this part. That is if you just want to find out when to change the oil.

The oil in motorcycles has several functions. It acts as a coolant, lubricates and protects moving parts, and it also protects against moisture. Basically, it protects the engine from rust, wear & tear, and overheating.

First of all, there are a lot of metal parts that collide with each other while moving. Metal to metal collision creates friction without a lubricant. Here, the oil acts as a lubricant. The fuel consumption and the friction raise the engine temperature quite a lot, so the oil cools the motor. Some bikes are liquid-cooled, with these, the oil is not an engine coolant.

So, you can see why oil is that important. But as important as it is, after some time, the oil will start to break down. Then, the oil no longer can protect the engine. So, moisture will build up, and temperatures will rise, this is extremely dangerous for the engine. That’s why it’s important to practice planned oil change intervals.

How Often Should You Change The Oil

How Often Should You Change The Oil

I already said that the rule of thumb for changing oil varies from model to model. The type of oil plays a factor and the distance you traveled. So, you need to check out the user manual, for the kind of motorcycle engine oil you are using and calculate how many miles you traveled.

What most people do is just check the type of oil and calculate the distance. While these play a significant part, your bike model is also important. That’s why I highly recommend checking out the service manual for your bike before doing anything else. The user manual will tell you everything.

Every bike comes with instructions. These instructions will tell you what kind of oil you should use and how often to change it. The oil change intervals are different with each model, so stick to the instructions. Check the user manual for the type of oil, check for the viscosity grade too.

Types of Motorcycle Engine Oil

Let’s take a look at the three types of oil. Just so you know, I don’t recommend using an oil that’s not recommended in the instructions. Whether you don’t like that type or it’s too expensive does not matter, buying the wrong engine oil is a bad idea.

Mineral Oil

The oil that old-school riders are used to. A refined crude oil that’s not synthetically processed. That means that the oil comes from the ground, not in a lab. Hence, it’s a fossil fuel. Removed from the ground and processed in a refinery. Mineral-based motor oil is the cheapest but it comes with some disadvantages. It’s replaced more often than the other oil types.

Mineral oil should be changed every 2000 – 3000 miles. If that distance is not traveled in a year, the oil should be replaced nonetheless. So, either change it every 3000 miles or once a year. Check the bike’s handbook, if it says twice a year, change it twice.

Synthetic Oil

The problem with mineral oil is that it uses crude oil which breaks apart faster. That’s why we have synthetic engine oil. This oil is made from chemically processed petroleum. During this process, the oil is engineered to increase the engine’s life. The protective functions of oil are optimized for motorcycle engines. Hence, oil degradation takes more time. This is the most expensive type of oil though.

Synthetic motorcycle oil should be changed every 7000 – 10000 miles. If that distance is not past in a year, change the oil.

Semi-Synthetic Oil

Semi-Synthetic motor oil is a mid-point between synthetic and mineral-based oil. It’s made both from refined crude oil and from synthetic oil. The percentage of the oils mixed varies with products. The mixture consists of more synthetic and less crude oil. This type of oil is an option for a bike owner that doesn’t want to spend that much money on synthetic oil.

Semi-synthetic oil should be replaced every 5000 – 6000 miles. Again, change the oil once a year if that distance is not exceeded.

Changing Bike Oil During Winter

Now, we’ve covered the basics rule you should follow. But in some situations, no matter the type of oil, the oil should be changed more regularly. I’m talking about bikes that have not been used for quite some time.

We all know that not riding a bike for extended periods of time can be harmful in several ways. One of the things that go bad on a stored bike is the oil. When the engine does not reach a high enough temperature to get rid of the moisture. So, the oil starts breaking up.

During the winter, most bikes are stored in their rightful place. Because you can’t ride that bike, and heating it up for 15 minutes every day is a bad idea, the stale oil may lead to engine corrosion.

For bikes that have not been winterized and not used during the winter, the oil should be changed every 4 months. That means, when winter ends, you need to change your oil. Even if you have changed it 5 months before.

The same goes for riders that ride less than 15 minutes a day. If you don’t take long trips, the engine can’t heat up. So, to practice engine oil health, replace the oil every 4 months.

Proper Oil Change Intervals

Let’s sum up. I know this sounds complicated, believe me, it’s not. Maybe a nice conclusion will clear things up.

  • Mineral oil should be changed every 2,000-3,200 miles, or once a year.
  • Synthetic oils should be changed every 7,000-10,000 miles, or once a year.
  • Semi-synthetic oils should be changed every 5,000-8,000 miles, or once a year.
  • Winterized bikes with stale oil are due for a replacement.
  • Bikes that are used less than 15 minutes a day should have an oil change every 4 months.

How To Check Motorcycle For Dirty Oil

I guess some of you didn’t keep track of the miles traveled since the last oil change. Maybe you have a used bike, maybe you don’t remember when was your last regular maintenance. Well, there’s a way to tell if you need an oil change.

This may not be always effective. It works only in bad cases when the oil is broken up really badly. I’m talking about checking the oil level dipstick. It is meant only for checking the oil level. But if the oil is in a bad state, you can tell just by taking a look at the oil level plug.

Changing Bike Oil Filters

Changing Bike Oil Filters


We can’t finish this guide without a word or two about oil filters. The filter removes all the leftovers from the burned oil. These leftovers can accumulate in the engine and after some time cause wear on some engine components.

That’s why changing the oil filter in your motorcycle is as important as completing your oil change interval. Just like the oil, the filter also goes bad. It collects all the dirt, metallic particles, etc.

When To Change Motorcycle Oil Filter

The oil filter in motorcycles should be changed every 2,000-3,000 miles. That is for mineral-based motor oil. If you are using the synthetic type, change the filter every changing interval.

Related Questions And Other FAQs

What Are The Disadvantages Of Synthetic Oil

Strictly speaking, synthetic oils only have one disadvantage and that is the price. It’s the most effective lubricant, and it offers the best protection for maximum oil life. It’s expensive but it’s changed less often, and best for long-distance trips.

Can I Mix Regular And Synthetic Oil

You can mix regular and synthetic oil, the chances of damage are low. However, synthetic oil won’t be as effective.