Before we got down to writing this we understood one fact about engine oil, it’s like religion where everyone has an opinion about it and most will swear by what they’re using. You’re more likely to get into a debate on why the oil they use is better. You’ll also meet the ones who will say “I change it regularly or before time” and then ones “who use the costliest oils”. So we thought, let’s embrace all of these opinions and tell you what we thinking engine oil does in the first place and second how do you choose the right oil that is the best for your motorcycle and the way you ride.
Let’s take a step back and understand why we need engine oil in the first place? When we have moving parts they create friction and this friction causes heat and this leads to energy loss without oil. Surfaces inside an engine rub against each other and as much as your manufacturer can smoothen them out they still have rough surfaces that can be seen by a microscope. To have something in between that smoothens these two rough surfaces is where oil comes in.
Simply put Its purpose is to absorb and carry away the extreme heat generated by engine components and clean the engine of contaminants by moving them to the oil filter. Engine oil also lubricates the metal-to-metal sliding parts. In the clutch, oil works to reduce heat and allows for the right amount of friction between the plates. Understanding engine oil helps you decide which oil to use and teaches you how to take care of it.
What should I be looking out for before buying engine oil?
There are a few things you need to consider before making your purchase decision
1 The recommended specs from your manufacturer
All motorcycle manufacturers would have their recommended engine oils based on engine capacity and model type. We always say adhere to the recommended grade of oil your manufacturer suggests as they would have made all necessary considerations of the vehicle and its capabilities for the conditions it’s going to be operated in
The viscosity of a fluid is the measurement of its resistance to flow at a certain temperature. The higher the viscosity, the thicker the fluid. Also, higher temperatures result in lower viscosity and vice versa. Lower-viscosity oils are beneficial for creating less drag and increased horsepower, but they can also break down easier
Additives have become the norm to improve performance of engine oils. They’re there to help neutralize acidity, remove debris, and play well to help cool, clean and remove carbon formations on engine parts. This helps in keeping an engine clean without the need of it being opened.
4 Base oils
Base oil is the fundamental contributor to the finished product’s performance. In today’s passenger car motor oils, the base oil makes up 75% to 80% of the finished product. Base oil is produced through the refining of crude oil. Base oils are classified by the American Petroleum Institute(API) into five groups labeled I-V based on how the oils are processed. The key takeaway to remember about base oils is that they provide a large part of the performance characteristics of the finished oil formulation. Selecting the correct base oil type is critical in developing oils that will keep metal parts lubricated and equipment performing at its best
The Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) came up with the viscosity test used by engine oil manufacturers. The American Petroleum Institute (API) and Japanese Automobile Standards Organization (JASO) each have standards for lubricants used in a broad range of applications. When an oil says that it meets or exceeds API and JASO standards, that means it passed the testing for their specifications.
6 Synthetic, semi synthetic or mineral oils
Mineral oils are composed of crude oil and are very useful if you are using a new bike. They offer great protection for new engines for the first few miles. Also, in case you have a small-capacity engine, it is advisable to use this type of oil.
Synthetic oil is a modified oil that contains pure crude as an essential additive. Over the years, synthetic oils have improved with the advancement of technology. Synthetic oils are popular due to lower viscosity, which makes movement smoother for motorcycle engine parts and reduces internal friction.
Semi-synthetic oil, like the name suggests, is a mixture of mineral and synthetic oils. High-performance motorbikes require synthetic oil, while mineral or conventional oils keep the engine clean and running smoother for longer. Semi-synthetic oil is ideal for medium-sized engines
Type of riding
It’s very important that you know your riding style because motorcycle oil varies according to this. If you are a performance enthusiast, you should consider getting synthetic motorcycle oil since hard riding causes high temperatures compared to normal riding. Synthetic oil is specially designed to resist breakdown at extreme temperatures. However, if you are a calm driver, buying mineral oil would be an ideal choice
Engine Oil grades
The “W” in 10W-40 is thought by many to stand for weight, but it actually stands for winter. The second number in the viscosity grade is the high-temperature rating.It means the oil is multi-grade and designed to work in cold and hot temperatures. Multi-grade oils have specific chemistry formulated to allow for a consistent viscosity in cold and hot conditions. Therefore, if you live in an extremely cold area, buy motorcycle oil with a low “W” level.
Is technology making my engine oil perform better?
As engine technology continues to advance, so does lubrication technology. Oil manufacturers strive to formulate high-performing lighter weight oils that are vehicle specific. Complex test procedures are designed to validate new formulas. The chemical compound makeup in oil formulas is altered to allow for better stability, resistance to viscosity breakdown, and less oxidation in the oil.
Other advances include formulations to further help in reducing engine deposits, reduce greenhouse gasses, and improve fuel economy. Some automakers are even designing engines which can operate on oils with viscosities as low as 0W16.
Today, engine oils must perform across a range of demanding applications, effectively protecting engineered components under increasingly longer warranties and complying with stringent regulations. In addition, new vehicle recommended oil change intervals are fast approaching a 10,000 kms average and as high as 16,000 kms.
So what’s getting changed in base oils and additives? We spoke to Maxima oils and they say the focus is on improving oxidative stability with an advancement in antioxidant chemistry that prevents oxidation of the oil. Well how does this help we asked them? There is a significant increase in torque, power & clutch feel as these proprietary friction modifier systems have a high affinity for metal surfaces and low affinity for clutch plate material. The minimal interaction of these components with metal surfaces helps to prevent drag and frictional losses in the crankcase, while still increasing clutch friction. This balancing act allows for maximum efficiency in transferring engine power to the rear wheel, making sure none of that hard-earned power is lost to clutch slippage. This oxidative stability also helps with improved cleaning on the internals. PEAC is Maxima oil’s proprietary improved oxidatively stable base oil that they claim to get longer drain intervals, Increased protection, Improved resistance to heat & Improved resistance to breakdown.
The future of engine oils or for that matter lubrication oils is a continuous innovation with base oils and additives that focus on improving fuel efficiency, low-viscosity and a product with excellent oxidative stability, a search on other top manufacturers and their formulations will testify this.
So how do I know what is the “best” oil for my motorcycle then?
What an interesting question, engine oil is an objective topic and unless you get into the data sheets and compare all the scientific evaluation such as viscosity at 40 and 100 degree, viscosity Index etc its very difficult to say what is the best oil for your motorcycle. What we can surely say is you can’t go wrong with engine oils today as they have come to a point where they’re made with base oils that are in compliance with JASO and API standards. What you should be looking at more than anything to keep your engine running healthy is to follow a regular/routine maintenance, change enigne oil at the recommended intervals (a little earlier doesn’t hurt) and give a read to all the marketing for that particular brand and product to see what its about that should keep your engine running for kilometers without any issues.