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The heart of a motorcycle’s motorbike is its engine. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere unless you’re willing to push it. That’s why performing proper maintenance on the engine is so important to the life of the motorcycle.
The concept of engine oil is a basic understanding for most, yet there are still a handful of people who don’t fully know what it’s function is and why it’s so important. There are many instances when a motorcycle runs low on oil.
What happens if a motorcycle runs out oil? When a motorcycle runs out of oil, the engine begins to lose it’s lubricating and cooling properties. Overheating friction between the piston’s and cylinder walls can cause them to fuse. If they fuse, the connecting rods and crankshaft can become damaged, and possibly even break. Essentially, you risk engine seizure.
Though it is an easy task, there’s a lot more to maintaining a motorcycle engine than simply adding oil and calling it good. I can explain oil in detail and show you what happens to your motorcycle if it goes without oil.
Oil runs out on a motorcycle
I have restored over a dozen motorcycles and a handful of them weren’t properly taken care of, meaning the previous owners were a bit too thrifty when it came to oil changes. This is one thing that I don’t recommend you try to save money on because it’ll cost you a lot more down the road.
Maintaining a motorcycle can be easier than maintaining a car. However, there are some common concepts that should be used with caution. Oil maintenance is one exception.
The oil pan at the bottom of an engine is where the motorcycle’s oil goes. Once you turn the motorcycle on, the oil pump will start circulating oil through an oil filter. The oil from the pan is then recirculated through the filter.
All over the engine are passages. Some oil sprays up on the bottom of the piston as it’s going up and down which both cools it and lubricates it. Some oil reaches the top of an engine to lubricate the moving valves. Some oil is also used to lubricate the timing chain and clutch.
The engine can overheat if it runs out of oil. This could lead to engine failure. Oil acts as both an oil lubricant, and as a cooling agent so the pistons may be able to get stuck within the cylinder walls.
The piston will heat up if it loses its lubrication or cooling. It will rub on the walls of the cylinder walls thousands upon thousands of times per hour. Because of friction between them, eventually the pistons will become welded to the cylinder walls. The engine will eventually seize from this friction.
Due to piston seizing to cylinder walls, the crankshaft, piston connecting rods and valves may break. Some motorcycles use the same oil to cool the engine and transmission. This could lead to damage to the engine and its vital components.
Low oil: Signs and symptoms
These signs can be used to tell you if your motorcycle is running low. It’s important you become familiar with these signs because it could mean the life of your motorcycle if you are able to instantly recognize them.
Regular maintenance should include checking the dip stick. Many dip sticks have an indicator at their ends that tells you if you need oil. If that shows you have low oil, you’ll need to immediately add some more.
If you have a newer motorcycle, you’ll likely have a gauge that will tell you when your oil is low. That is a light you should never ignore and if it comes on, you should stop everything you’re doing and immediately add some oil to your bike.
Overheating can sometimes indicate low oil levels. Low oil could be indicated by a gauge telling you that your engine temperature has reached too high or if your engine is showing obvious signs of heat such as smoke.
This is especially important if your engine has been air cooled. Hot days and traffic can cause a motorcycle’s engine to overheat. However, you should check your oil level before you go.
You should stop your motorcycle immediately if you hear a clunking sound. An obvious symptom of low motorcycle oil is the sound of metal rubbing or hitting which means the components inside the engine aren’t getting enough lubrication.
You could also smell burning metal if you have low oil. It is very similar to the smell of metal being welded or cut with a grinder. If you notice anything similar, make sure to pull over and check your oil. You could have burning metal in your engine’s pistons.
How to Fix Low Oil Consumption Problems
The impact of low oil levels on a motorcycle’s engine can be detrimental, as we have already discussed. You should be aware of the following things if your motorcycle is running low on oil.
You may have not done as much damage if you stopped your bike because of the sound of metal clunking together or rubbing together. When the pistons get really hot, they’ll expand first before they weld themselves to the piston walls. It’s possible that that they expanded but cooled off and haven’t fused themselves quite yet.
Before trying to turn on your motorcycle, put your motorcycle into fifth gear while it’s off and try to roll it back and forth. A unseized engine can easily move backwards and forwards with no resistance. If it makes clunking noises or stops moving, it should be stopped. That is a sign that something isn’t working right in the engine.
Check the oil level and change it if your motorcycle is unable to move smoothly. It is possible to try to start your motorcycle by holding the throttle. You should immediately turn off any rubbings or clanking sounds, or smell of metal burning.
In any case, if you suspect your motorcycle ran out of oil it’s always a good idea to take it in to a mechanic to have it checked out. Fixing and rebuilding an engine due to lack of lubrication should be left to the professionals and shouldn’t be performed by an amateur in their garage. You can read my article about how to seize a motorcycle engine.
Regular engine maintenance and prevention
It is impossible to deal with a seized motor. Oil is a vital part of the motorcycle’s engine function but it’s very easy to maintain and will save you a lot of frustrations down the road.
Regular, routine oil changes should be done on your motorcycle. An oil change should be done on a motorcycle every 4,000 miles, or every six months, depending on which comes first. Put it in your planner or set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget.
Keep in mind that oil levels should be checked several times per oil change. I love to check the oil level on my motorcycle each time I fill it up with gasoline. Checking the oil level on your motorcycle every week is a good idea if there are oil leaks. It increases the risk of you running out of oil. For more information about servicing your motorcycle, see my article.
What type of oil is best for a motorcycle? Motorcycles need to use a specific oil. The manufacturer’s manual will tell you how much oil is needed. You should only buy oil specifically designed for motorcycles.
Is it possible for a motorcycle to use engine oil from a car? Although it is acceptable to temporarily use engine oil on a motorcycle, it should not be used often. Your motorcycle’s oil should be changed immediately to motorcycle oil if it has been lubricated with car engine oil. You can click here for more information.