Our ‘My First...’ series offers easy-to-remember advice in a bullet point-style for a selection of first times on a bike; from the first time you get a puncture to the first time you change your oil, we’ve got some top tips to help you out.
Yes, dropping the bike off at a dealer is probably easier than changing the oil and filter yourself, but not by much – even if you work slowly it’ll only take 30 minutes or so. And doing it yourself will certainly save you some cash. Just follow these simple steps:
Is the bike in warranty? If it is, then think twice about changing the oil yourself. You won’t invalidate the warranty provided you use the specified oil and parts (and keep the receipts) but the money you save could easily be knocked off the resale price of the bike in a year’s time because it doesn’t have a full dealer service history. If it’s in warranty you might as well get the dealer to do it.
Check the service book or owner’s manual to see what oil type you need and how much. Go with exactly the viscosity (eg 5W40) and type (eg fully synthetic) that the manufacturer recommends. There is no point skimping on oil unless it’s a shagged old munter you don’t care about. Ditto the service intervals – don’t leave oil and filter changes longer than recommended. Many experienced riders change the oil more often than is recommended.
Buy the oil filter and sump plug washer, either from your local dealer or online (eg Wemoto). Again, follow the specs of the owner’s manual and if it’s in warranty go for genuine parts.
Gather the stuff you’ll need: socket and wrench for the sump plug, drain pan to collect the oil, funnel, rag for spills, torque wrench to tighten the sump plug, filter wrench (not essential, but they’re cheap and make life easier). Plus of course the oil, crush washer and filter.
Warm up the engine. Five minutes will be enough to get the oil nice and runny so it all drains out.
Stop the engine and remove the oil filler cap to speed up the oil flow.
Place the oil pan under the sump plug. Don’t forget it will flow out at the angle of the plug.
Put on some latex mechanics gloves (used engine oil is horrible stuff) and undo the sump plug with the socket and ratchet.
Let it drain for a minute or so then undo the spin-off filter. This is usually on the front of the engine and can be a pain in the arse to get to because of the exhaust downpipes. If it’s been put on correctly, you should be able to undo it by hand once you’ve cleaned it with white spirit. If it’s too tight, use the filter wrench (a strap contraption). If you don’t own one, wrap the filter in masking tape, flipping the tape sticky side out every other lap so you’ve got a sticky mess. You’ll then be able to grip it and, hopefully, undo it. If not, buy a filter wrench. Don’t be tempted to stick a screwdriver through it – modern filter walls are paper thin and you risk tearing the top off as you twist. Or worse, fragments of filter can flick into the engine.
While the last dregs of oil drain from the engine, put on the new filter. There are three important things to remember here: a) The filter seal needs a coating of oil so it can do up properly, b) The thread is very fine, so be gentle and don’t rush, and c) It doesn’t need to be done up tightly – once you feel the seal start to bed, do another half turn and that’s enough. Don’t give it another turn for luck or you’ll never get the thing off again.
Replace the washer on the sump plug then screw in the plug. Use the torque wrench to make sure you don’t overtighten it (the correct torque will be in the owner’s manual). Don’t forget, if it’s a fraction too loose, oil will seep out during the test (see 14), and you can nip it up. If you overtighten it you’ll strip the thread and be in a world of pain.
Double check you have actually fitted the filter and sump plug. Most mechanics have poured in new oil and watched it drain straight out the bottom of an engine at least once.
Prepare the specified amount of engine oil but remember there will be some old oil left in the engine, so you might not need all of it. Pour it in, and check the sight glass as you approach the full amount. You need to be exact with the oil level, and too much is almost as bad as too little. Don’t forget that most bikes need to be upright to check the oil.
Put the filler cap on, start the engine and check for oil leaks. When the bike has cooled, check the oil level again and top up if necessary.
Pour the used engine oil in nearby stream or on some flowers. Joke! Put it in an old oil container and take it to a recycling centre – there will be a tank for just such foul liquids.
Put the receipts with your service book and you’re done.