When it comes to selecting the right kind of engine oil for your motorcycle, discussions can get very passionate. Some riders swear by fully synthetic oils, while others are a bit less picky and choose what’s available at the moment. Discussions around this topic can often become tiring, due to the abundance of options, specifications, and technicalities in the engine oil market.
At the end of the day, however, all of us just want the best for our motorcycle engines. We want to make sure we can maximize power delivery and reliability. When choosing the best engine oil for your motorcycle, there are generally a few things to consider. To shed some light on this debate, we will be delving into some of the key elements of motorcycle engine oil so that you can end up choosing what is best for your motorcycle. Here’s what you should know about choosing the best engine oil for your two-wheeled machine.
What to check first
Before going into a bit more detail on the key elements of engine oil, it’s important to know that your manufacturer has already given you a hint on what kind of engine oil you should be using. Whip out your motorcycle owner’s manual and check what kind of oil your manufacturer is recommending for your respective bike. This is because motorcycle manufacturers design engines with specific tolerances in mind, which means optimal oil characteristics for your motorcycle as well. The specification set by your manufacturer should be the best engine oil for your motorcycle, bar none.
However, there are also cases out there where manufacturers may only specify a few of the attributes of engine oil. Maybe the manual says you should use 10W-40 oil but doesn’t tell you if you should pick semi-synthetic or fully synthetic. When it comes to more ambiguous situations like these, you may want to read up on our next sections.
10W-40, 5W-30, 15W-60 – these are all specifications for oil viscosity, but what is oil viscosity to begin with? In simple terms, viscosity would determine how thick or thin your engine oil will be for certain temperature ranges. After all, science explains that the hotter your oil gets, the more thin it becomes. For the sake of practicality, the cold rating (10w, 15w, etc.) is something that we need to think less about in hotter climates, since “W” stands for winter and applies to temperatures below 10 degrees celsius, which isn’t often experienced in the Philippines. Instead, we should focus more on the latter number, which determines how thick or thin your oil will be at operating temperatures.
The higher the number, the thicker it will be, but saying that thinner or thicker oil is always better can be a bit misleading. If you choose a viscosity that is thicker than ideal, oil will have a harder time moving through the smaller parts of the engine. Conversely, thinner oil than recommended will move too easily and will not be able to cushion and lubricate your engines moving parts. For reference, the majority of motorcycle engines require between the 30 to 50 viscosity ratings, so if you absolutely don’t know what engine oil to put in your motorcycle, 40 would be a very safe bet if the situation is not ideal.
Fully synthetic, semi-synthetic, multigrade, conventional oil – these are all different specifications of how refined oil is. However, what do the different refinement ratings mean? In simple terms, fully synthetic oils are the most refined types of oils and contain fewer impurities, while conventional or multigrade oils are less refined. Semi-synthetic oils are a blend of the two. Fully synthetic oils generally handle very high temperatures a lot better than conventional oils – they don’t break down as quickly, and so oil change intervals are typically longer. The opposite is true for conventional oils as well.
However, saying that fully synthetic oil is the best for your engine can also be a little bit misleading. Some engines are designed to run very hot, while some do not. Because of this, not all engines require fully synthetic oils. In fact, some engines may perform even better with semi-synthetic or conventional oils because the engine is designed to make use of that specific oil. Clutch actuation and friction, engine temperature management, and engine wear can be greatly affected by choosing an oil refinement specification that is different from what is recommended.
So, which is best for my motorcycle?
After all is said and done, how does a motorist choose what kind of oil is best? Go back to what your manufacturer has recommended for your specific motorcycle. Manufacturers will typically recommend oil viscosities (10W-40, etc.) and oil refinement specifications (multigrade, etc.). Some manufacturers may even recommend a specific brand or product, while others may recommend only viscosity and nothing else. If the latter is the case, we recommend choosing a semi-synthetic oil just to be safe. Fully synthetic may prevent proper clutch engagement, while conventional oils may create unnecessary friction.
If you’re considering switching between oil brands, keep in mind that this should be generally safe in all aspects as long as you are able to match the specifications recommended by your manufacturer. Remember that one specific oil viscosity or refinement type may not always be the best for your motorcycle, despite the hearsay that goes around. What’s best for other motorcycles may not always be what’s best for your own motorcycle. Take some time to browse your owner’s manual and scour the internet for the best oil for your engine – a bit of critical thinking will go a long way for your motorcycle.