How much oil is the right amount?

Pay special attention to the fill line. You should be able to see the oil level in the window.

Pay special attention to the fill line. You should be able to see the oil level in the window.

Recently, I’ve come across a few bikes in my garage where the right amount of oil has made the difference between a cheap repair and a major one.

I just want to remind you if you do perform your own maintenance, to pay careful attention to the amount of oil you’re putting inside your engine.

For racers: Depending on the type of racing you’re doing, sometimes more oil is recommended to prolong the life of your engine. If you’re racing sidecars and are running oil baffles, it’s good to run a quart or more over the usual amount to make sure you don’t starve your bottom end (crankshaft and connecting rods) for oil. This may seem like you’re going against the grain, but the added oil ensures the extra lubrication reaches the connecting rod and crankshaft bearings under high rev scenarios like hard first gear take-off’s, high rev drives into corners and extended time in the higher r.p.m.’s in the straights. When you’re racing, it doesn’t take much to spin a bearing, so in your case remember “lube is your friend.”

For street riders: Your sight window on the clutch cover is your assurance that the right amount of oil is in your engine. If you’re can’t see the top of the oil level in the window, you have too much oil in the engine. Don’t fret though, because you can simply unscrew the drain bolt enough to drain the excess oil if you go over the recommended limit. Make sure to let the engine cool first, as the oil will be hot.

Also, if your motor utilizes a screw-in type oil dip stick, make sure to screw in the dip stick until it seats into the case, then unscrew it to check the oil. If you merely touch the top of the dip stick to the case without screwing it in, you may think the motor has enough oil if it reaches the full line, but you could in fact, be over.

Lastly, don’t forget to let the bike idle for two to three minutes after an oil change. Once the bike is warm, let it sit for another two to three minutes, then check the oil level again to add or take away as necessary.

Excerpt from the 2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R service manual.

Excerpt from the 2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R service manual.

These simple details can mean the difference between a happy engine and a complete top end rebuild. If you over fill the oil, the pressure from the excess oil could force it’s way past the piston rings into the cylinder, causing the spark plugs to foul and the engine to lose compression or power. In which case, you’d have to remove the top end and repair the damage, which could require several hours of expensive labor time. If you have over filled the oil, you will see blue smoke coming out of the tail pipe. This is a bad sign. The sooner you catch the mistake, the better.

I recommend purchasing the service manual for your motorcycle if you plan to do your own maintenance. It has a wealth of information and as long as you follow it, you can stave off the high costs of a mechanic.