A stuck oil filter and what to do besides cursing
A lot of enthusiasts grew up tinkering with bikes. They not only have a deep mechanical understanding, but are quite handy with a tool kit. Rahul Bam, another contributing author here is a prime example of that. Not me, though. In my defence (ok fine, it’s an excuse), my first motorcycle was a Yamaha FZ-16. I never needed to fiddle with it because nothing ever went wrong. I’ve spent the vast majority of the decade I’ve been on motorcycles just riding them. But ever since I got the Triumph Street Twin in 2016, I decided to change that. I started learning the basics, like chain maintenance and brake pads replacement. I even replace brake fluid on my own, now. But a month before the ‘rona confined us to our homes, I decided to take on another challenge- an engine oil replacement. It turned out to be quite an experience.
On the face of it, it’s quite a simple job. Unbolt the drain plug on the bottom of the bike, replace the oil filter, and just top up with fresh oil. So I got out my wrench, placed a pan beneath the bike, unfastened the drain plug and watched the therapeutic stream of dark engine oil collect. I was feeling pretty positive- until I tried unfastening the oil filter. It wouldn’t budge at all. To understand better, here is a picture of what a Triumph OEM filter looks like (just like the filters by Hi Flo). As you can see, it doesn’t have a bolt head that you can wrench away at, but instead sports flatheads around its circumference. These flatheads slot into a dedicated oil filter removal tool (which I had), but as you can see, the sides of the filter aren’t very well defined, which means they never grip well. And they kept slipping. This was a problem, because the filter wasn’t supposed to be screwed on that tight in the first place. An oil filter- as per the manual- is to be screwed on by hand, but clearly the Triumph service technician didn’t get the memo and used the removal tool, instead, and cranked it with all the Lord gave him. And now it was jammed too tight. After trying all evening, I gave up, swore a lot, and went home, defeated.
Fortunately, help arrived the next evening in the form of Abeer (the one writing about taking his Tiger apart) who was in Bombay for work. Broken things make Abeer happy, so he immediately swung by and took over, as I stepped back and watched the creativity blossom. A few old tyres were used to create a bed, and the Triumph was dropped onto its side. The first idea was to stuff a rag between the removal tool and the filter, to create a tighter seal, and give it a shot. Abeer says it’s a successful method that almost always works. Not here, though. That Triumph technician really put his heart into this. But Abeer was undeterred, and proceeded to deploy his favourite tool- the hammer. He warned me that the filter was going to get destroyed, but it would come off, then took a screw driver and hammered it into the filter. When you try this yourself, just be careful. The surface of the filter is slick, and the screwdriver tends to slip off. Hammering your own fingers is embarrassing and it hurts. Anyway, after some consistency, patience and curious onlookers, the filter was punctured, and the impaled filter suddenly had a handle. With the additional leverage, it unscrewed instantly.
I don’t really know how to feel about this whole experience. A huge part of me is very irritated with Triumph and their shoddy approach to a lot of the basics. This isn’t the first time they’ve messed up something simple (they told me they don’t use a torque wrench) and it won’t be the last. But if I’m being honest, it was this shoddy service that drove me to start doing it myself, and no one is going to take the same interest and care for your bike the way you will. Besides, working on your own bike is incredibly therapeutic and makes the relation between you and your machine that much more intimate. So I guess I should thank Triumph? I now own enough tools to take the entire bike apart. I’ve purchased the Haynes service manual for the Street Twin. And I don’t trust anything the service centre tells me, now. In closing, keep friends around you that are mechanically inclined, get your hands dirty and learn from them. And buy a big ass hammer.
About the Author – Aadil Naik
Aadil holds a Masters in Business, and spent a few months in the corporate world before a chance encounter resulted in him replacing formal pants with leathers. He spent the better part of the last four years as a features writer for Motoring World, and even though he’s driven a couple of Lamborghinis, maintains that two wheels are the right number of wheels for an automobile. He spends all his free time (and money) trying to convince himself that his 2016 Triumph Street Twin is an ADV bike, and is constantly on the hunt for a good burger joint.