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Oils

How to choose the right oil?

The oil hype

Oil level

When is it time to change the oil?

How to change the oil?

Air filters

How do they work?

How does it effect the motorbike?

Types available on the market

Paper filters

Foam filters

Performance filters

Fuel Filters

Spark Plugs

Components

How does it work?

When is it time to replace?

Warning!

Spark plug gap

Lubrication

 

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Oils

The engine oil plays a significant part in your motorbike's lifetime and reliability. The oil is not only lubricating the engine’s moving parts, but also plays a major part in cooling and protects the engine’s inside surface from rust. The oil collects all sorts of contamination (e.g. metal shreds, ash, particles from the clutch plates etc.)  from the engine and delivers it to the oil filter. These contaminations have chemical effects on your oil and overtime it loses its lubricating abilities leaving your engine unprotected.

How to choose the right oil?

Check your motorbike owner’s manual and always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for oil specification. They usually allow you to use multiple viscosity grades, the best oil to use depends on your needs and how you use the motorbike.
  • Mostly commute on short distance, may be used in cold wheather:
  • Choose a lower viscosity grade (ie. from 5W30 or 10W40, you will need 5W30) as it can reach the best lubrication abilities faster and provides you more protection even when the engine is colder.

  • Long distance, hot weather, touring, track days, off-road
  • The better option is to go for the thicker oil as these oils work better in hot engine.

In most motorbikes the engine and gearbox share the oil and are connected by a wet bath clutch. It is a huge difference compared to cars since there the engine and the gearbox are separated, filled with different oils and connected by a dry clutch. Therefore cars can run more miles between oil changes and oils for cars are not suitable for motorbikes.

Only oils with JASO MA or JASO MB grades are suitable for motorbikes.

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The oil hype

Like with religion,we all have a brand we believe and trust without any doubts. However all oils need to pass the same qualifications done by independent laboratories and are not allowed to be sold unless they've met these standards. In many cases smaller brands are buying oils from the same source. Those companies don't spend money on fancy packaging, sponsorship and marketing, which are built in the retail price. These could be one of the reason why they are cheaper. Bigger companies also spend more money on research and development so they can create better additivies which are good for specific use.

Of course you can always buy better oil than the manufacturer's recommendation, this will not harm your motorbike and very likely be benefitial, however the most important factor is that you change the oil on time and regularly check the oil level.

Sadly nowadays there are not only fake designer clothes available on the market, but also you can buy fake oil and other motorbike parts. Oil brands are trying to fight these by using holographs, oil colouring, raising awareness, but criminals are very quick to adapt. Maybe the packaging looks exactly the same, but no one knows what's inside the bottle and these've never passed the independent test and are extremely dangerous for your engine.

Expert advice: To avoid serious problems, always buy oil from a reliable seller. The price can also give you some clues. If it's too cheap to be real, it might be fake or overstocked.

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Oil level

Some motorbikes have significant oil consumption even in perfect mechanical condition. Check your oil level every time before you start your bike and refill with the same type of oil what is in the engine if it’s required. Nothing can kill an engine any faster than if it’s running with low oil level.  

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When is it time to change the oil?

The oil doesn't only have a physical, but also a chemical wear which makes it unsuitable to protect the moving parts in your engine, clutch and gear box.

The physical wear is directly linked to the driven miles, it doesn't matter when you complete it (within a year or a week), it has been under pressure long enough to lose it's benefitial abilities. Check your user manual for the recommendations and never overuse the oil.

The chemical wear is more related to time. Once you open the bottle, the oil starts a reaction with air and humidity and when in your motorbike, it also gets into contact with the metal parts, ash etc. These chemical reactions are constantly changing the abilities of the oil and after a year (regadless of the driven miles) it have to be replaced with new oil.

Expert advice: The colour of the oil might not always tell you the age of the oil. If you are unsure when was the last oil change (ie you just bought a used motorbike), you're best option is to change the oil.

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How to change the oil?

    What you need:
  • Oil - manufacturer recommended quality and quantity
  • New oil filter
  • New washer and/or new oil drain plug
  • Container for used oil
  • Suitable tools
  • Soft cotton cloth

Lift your bike with the centre stand or use a paddock stand. Start and run the bike for 10 minutes.

Remove the oil refill cup, place the container under the oil drain and remove the plug.

Remove the old oil filter.

Allow 5-10 minutes for all the oil to leave your bike. You can speed the process up with ocassionally shaking the motorbike.

Fit a new oil drain plug. There are multiple choices on the market, magnetics collect the engine shreds and small metalic particles from the oil, while re-useable with a smart valve will let you leave the plug in place and connect a pipe. This is a great option for motorbikes which doesn't have a good access to the drain plug and will also make the oil changing process easier and faster.

Fit the new oil filter.

Refill the oil up to full sign.

Start and run the engine, check your oil pressure light.

Once the engine is stopped, check the motorbike for leaking oil and refill the oil if neccessary.

Any leftover oil can be stored for up to a year, it's best option to use if and when the engine needs oil refill.

Expert advice: Protect your environment. Collect all the oil, the used parts and every cloth/paper towels used in the process in a separate bag. You can safely dispose them free of charge in your local waste recycling centre.

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Air filters

The air filter plays a major part to protect your engine from polluted air and ensure its perfect working by providing clean air.

How do they work?

The pipe going into the filter is placed where no water can get inside, however it does not stop the dust. Without it the dust could get inside the engine damaging the cylinder wall and causing low compression. It filters the damaging particles from the air to make sure that the air going to the engine is safe and clean.

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How does it effect the motorbike?

Overtime the dust in the air sticks to the filter reducing the air flow. The bike will not be able to breathe freely and have enough oxygen for the best burning process. An overused filter can cause higher fuel consumption, lower performance and worse emission.

Clean or replace the filter accoding to the manufacturer's recommendation or more often if you use your bike in dusty circumstances (ie. off-road).

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Types

The most common types:

  • Paper
  • Foam
  • Performance
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Paper filters

In today’s world, the most used type of air filters is the paper filament one. In texture it is very different from the office paper, as it is a pleated paper which is a bit denser and a little thicker and heavier but has enough pores to breathe as well. This way the paper can filter the air as well as tolerate the extra pressure of the air without tearing. There are generally multiple layers of this filter or a single layer folded together to form a maze so the air can be filtered multiple times to make sure it is as pure as possible before being delivered for combustion. From the very basic to the best of superbikes use this type of filter for its high effectiveness and low cost.

It's very easy to replace with a new one and you can avoid the cleaning products used for other types of filters. It's not re-usable and can't be cleaned.

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Foam filters

Foam filters are also widely used especially for scooters and trial bikes. It's an oil-bathed polyurethane foam. The denseness of the oil makes sure that the particulate matter sticks and the rest of the lighter matter gets caught in the foam crevices.

Since the foam has a bit of elasticity feature, it is also used in some of the performance machines for high density and high velocity air pumps to give that extra power to the motorbike.

It's reusable and cleanable with special foam filter washer (don't use any other material as it might destroy the foam) and foam filter oil. The maintenance is quite important to make sure that it works as it should, however you only need to replace it when there is a hole, a tear or if the foam gets crumbly.

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Performance filters

These are the filters you only need to buy once and with little maintenance it will last you a lifetime (providing that you use the maintenance kit)

  • It provides higher airflow with excellent filtration
  • Designed to increase the horsepower and the accelaration
  • Environment friendly

 

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Fuel Filters

In certain motorbikes there is a fuel filter to make sure that the fuel gets into the engine is clean. Overtime the tank's inside surface can get corroded and this can block the carburettor(s) badly.

If your motorbike is fitted with a fuel filter, make sure that you replace it with a new one according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Expert advice: Bikes without one can be fitted with a universal inline fuel filter which will help prevent carburettor blockage and reduce the regularity of carb cleaning.

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Spark Plugs

The air and fuel mixture in the cylinder is ignited by the spark plug. Commonly there is 1 spark plug in each cylinder (rarely there might be 2 in each). It is under a lot of pressure, heat and high voltage therefore regular replacement is required.

Components

A spark plug is composed of a steel shell, ceramic insulator and the central conductor. It passes through the wall of the combustion chamber and therefore must also seal the combustion chamber against high pressures and temperatures without deteriorating over long periods of time and extended use.

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How does it work?

The plug is connected to the high voltage generated by an ignition coil or magneto. As current flows from the coil, a voltage develops between the central and side electrodes. Initially no current can flow because the fuel and air in the gap is an insulator, but as the voltage rises further it begins to change the structure of the gases between the electrodes.

Once the voltage exceeds the dielectric strength of the gases, the gases become ionized. The ionized gas becomes a conductor and allows current to flow across the gap.

Spark plugs usually require voltage of 12,000–25,000 volts or more to "fire" properly, although it can go up to 45,000 volts. They supply higher current during the discharge process, resulting in a hotter and longer-duration spark.

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When is it time to replace?

The used spark plug colour should be light brown.

If your motorbike is running on weak fuel air mixture the burning temperature in the cylinder will be higher than it should be. This can damage the cylinder head, the valves and also leads to poor performance. You can recognise weak fuel air mixture if your spark plug colour is whitish. Mostly it is caused by a blocked or a badly adjusted carburettor. You can prevent it if use an in line fuel filter. As specially if you have an older bike which may have some rust inside the petrol tank.

If your spark plug colour is black it means that your motorbike is working on over rich fuel air mixture. The burning process in the cylinder is not ideal. The bike can’t burn all fuel. This unburned fuel can wash off the oil film from the cylinder wall and dissolve the engine oil which can’t function anymore.

If you can see some oil on your spark plug it can mean that your engine is worn and the piston rings don’t seal well anymore or the valve seals are worn. Some oil on the spark plug is normal in a 2 stroke engines.

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Warning!

Unfortunately spark plugs are one of the most common counterfeit motorbike parts. You can find very poor quality as well as authentic looking products. But just because the fake product looks nearly identical to the original, that doesn't mean that it will also work the same way. There are many information available online for what are the most giving signs, as well as some stories about the harms done.

Expert advice: Always buy from authentic seller and if it's too cheap it might mean it's too fake.

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Spark plug gap

Spark plugs are typically designed to have a spark gap which can be adjusted by the technician installing the spark plug, by bending the ground electrode slightly. The same plug may be specified for several different engines, requiring a different gap for each. Spark plugs in motorbikes generally have a gap between 0.6 and 1.8 mm (0.024 and 0.071 in). The gap may require adjustment from the out-of-the-box gap.

 

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Lubrication

Regular lubrication is really important for smooth working. Use a white grease spray liberally on parts like:

  • Cables
  • Foot pegs
  • Gear, clutch and brake levers
  • Linkages
  • Suspension joints
  • etc
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