How to change your engine oil and filter

Published: 28 November 2006

Why bother?

Oil breaks down, it loses its viscosity from excessive heat. It also gets contaminated from unburned fuel and debris such as clutch plate material and swarf from meshing gears. The oil filter is there to remove as much of this rubbish as possible and therefore needs changing, too.

What you’ll be dealing with

An oil filter which in most cases is a metal canister on the engine and is loaded with paper and mesh filters to trap particles. Oil always needs to be of the correct viscosity and temperature rating. Always check with your dealer or owner’s manual for the correct weight.

Don’t think about it if…

You can’t be arsed to collect the oil and dispose of it in a proper manner (always get shot of it at a local waste disposal tip).

Stuff you’ll need

New oil to replace the stuff that’s coming out. A new sealing/crush washer for the sump plug and a cheap plastic funnel to help pour the oil in. Tools-wise, various screwdrivers and Allen keys to remove the lower bodywork, a selection of sockets and spanners (10–19mm) to suit the sump plug and a torque wrench when refitting the sump plug. Ideally an oil filter socket would be handy (they have a ratchet attachment welded on to aid removal/fit). Also have a low but wide catch tank (sink bowl or old oil container) to hold the drained oil.

What can go wrong?

Worst-case scenario is you’ll strip the threads from the crankcase by over-tightening the sump plug if you don’t use a torque wrench.

What skills do I need?

You don’t need a City and Guilds in mechanics. But patience, and the ability to pick up a spanner the right way round on bended knees, will help.

1. If the bike’s under warranty, then the filter needs to be a genuine factory part. Give exact details about your bike and you’ll get the right filter (we used a Honda filter for a 2002 Blade, £8.27). Also buy a new sump plug washer. Pattern filters are good enough and available for a few quid less, but for peace of mind…

2. If the bike has a full fairing, remove the lower bodywork. Now warm the engine. This will thin the oil to help it drain quicker – the downside is there will be hot engine parts and hot oil. Locate the sump plug (oil drain bolt). It’ll look like a bolt with a silver or copper washer between it and the crankcase…

3. …It’s usually found on the lowest part of the bottom crankcase with a huge lump of casting in front of it to protect it from speed bumps, flying rocks etc. Loosen the sump plug (anti-clockwise) and place a catch tank directly underneath. Be sure to keep hot oil off your hands (wear gloves if unsure), remove the plug to drain the oil out.

4. Remove the oil filler cap to allow air into the oil system and speed up the draining process. After five minutes remove the oil filter. Use a filter wrench or filter socket to get a good grip on the bugger. Alternatively, pierce it with a long screwdriver to gain leverage to undo it. Place a rag on the floor to catch any oil drips.

5. Don’t worry about losing the sump plug’s sealing washer – it usually falls in the catch tank anyway. Make sure the washer isn’t left stuck to the crankcase. If it is, flick it off with a screwdriver. Clean the mating surfaces around the filter housing and drain hole. Dispose of the old oil at a local waste disposal site.

6. Take the new oil filter and fit the supplied large O-ring to its mating side. Now smear the face of the O-ring that sits against the crankcase with fresh oil – use a finger dipped in the oil to be used. This stops the filter from sticking before it has tightened up properly, and prevents breaking the O-ring.

7. Carefully screw the filter into place until resistance is felt. Tighten fully with a torque wrench – your local dealer can supply the torque figure. Some filters need only to be turned another 270° (on average) from hand-tight, but you’re better off getting the correct torque figure to be on the safe side.

8. Clean/wipe the sump plug thoroughly and then place the new sealing washer on to it. Carefully screw the plug with washer into place until finger-tight then torque it up (dealer will supply a torque figure) – if a torque wrench isn’t used you could over-tighten and rip the threads out, or crack the lower crankcase. Repair is expensive.

9. Make a note of how much oil the engine holds. Total capacity is sometimes stamped on the engine near the filler cap on the clutch casing (or ask your dealer). Pour oil into a measuring jug nicked from the kitchen (or buy a cheap plastic one). Slowly pour oil into the filler cap via a funnel if it’s awkward to get at.

10. When you’ve poured three quarters of the total amount check the sight glass or dipstick. If there’s not enough (not up to the full mark) add more in tiny amounts. When it’s up to the right level turn the ignition on and thumb the starter – but don’t let the bike start, flick the kill switch off and repeat procedure.

11. By turning the engine over slowly you’re pumping the oil around the engine. After about five of these ‘dead turns’ the oil level will have dropped. Top it up again and then start the engine. Just let it tick over for 10 seconds then stop the engine. Wait five minutes for the oil to drop down from the top of the engine. Check the level again.

12. Repeat the starting procedure until the correct level is showing. Don’t worry if the oil isn’t as clean as when it went in. Not all the old oil drains out of the system and it has now mixed. Check the oil filter and sump plug for signs of leaking (wipe clean and nip them up a bit if there is any sign of seepage).