Lubricating Motorcycles – Engine Builder Magazine
Sales of new-model motorcycles rose more than 37.2% in the first quarter of 2021 and appear to be on a growth path that is expected to last throughout the year, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. Grandview Research predicts that the total dollar value of sales in the motorcycle market will reach $ 10.88 billion in the United States by 2025.
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As more and more people decide to own motorcycles, interest in protecting this investment continues to grow as well. That’s why it’s essential for shop owners and motorcycle enthusiasts to better understand which lubricants offer the best performance and protection. It is also important to understand that, as motorcycle equipment evolves, so do the performance requirements of lubricants.
In this article, we’ll take a look at why motorcycles need specific performance attributes and lubricant chemistry as well as the essential information needed to make the right lubricant choice for your bike.
Despite common misconceptions, not all oils are created equal when it comes to lubricating motorcycle engines. As with other mainstream vehicles, owners want high performance and protection for their investment, which is why using the right lubricants is so essential to ensure they perform properly.
Unlike passenger cars, motorcycle oil lubricates not only the engine, but also the wet clutch and gears. Motorcycle engines also generally operate at higher speeds and often rely on air to cool the engine. These harsh operating conditions mean that dedicated motorcycle oils must focus on meeting the specific performance needs of engines with lubricants formulated not only to lubricate, but to work with and protect motorcycle hardware. Not all owners are aware that using conventional passenger car motor oil in their motorcycles is not just bad – in fact, it can lead to performance and durability issues in the long run.
Using conventional passenger car lubricants in motorcycles can lead to issues such as clutch slippage, leading to loss of power and potential safety issues. Clutch slip allows the motorcycle to tip forward due to higher levels of friction modifiers designed to improve fuel economy performance in passenger cars. Likewise, the use of low viscosity, fuel-saving oils and the absence of extreme pressure anti-wear booster chemicals can lead to gear pitting problems in the transmission of the motorcycle, resulting in a excessive noise, durability issues and, in extreme cases, catastrophic engine failure.
Second, there is a need for specially formulated detergent systems to cope with the higher operating temperature ranges and a greater propensity for deposits in the engine. Formulating the optimum balance of detergents, dispersants, anti-wear additives and antioxidants is necessary to ensure that the engine is kept clean for optimum performance and durability. An optimized lubricant formulation will not only increase performance and protect equipment, but also provide a more enjoyable, consistent and reliable driving experience.
In the past, motorcycle owners relied on higher viscosity oils to protect their engines due to the perception that lower viscosity oils would not provide sufficient film strength to adequately protect their equipment. However, as engine and lubricant technologies continue to evolve, the long-held belief that low viscosity lubricants are inferior is no longer true.
With advanced additive technology formulated specifically for motorcycles, low viscosity oils can now (when specified by the manufacturer) provide reliable protection comparable to the higher viscosity grades of yesteryear. Because they’re formulated specifically for motorcycle engines, they often improve horsepower, acceleration, and fuel efficiency, all without compromising durability.
To determine the right oil for your motorcycle, first consult your owner’s manual for advice on performance specifications (API grade) and viscosity grades to use. Once you have found oils that meet specifications, you can then check if the oil you plan to use in your machine has been specifically formulated and tested for motorcycle use. In most cases, this means checking the bottle label to determine if the lubricant has a JASO motorcycle certification.
- For motorcycles with a wet clutch, this will usually be JASO MA or MA2 specification oil
- For scooters equipped with external continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), JASO MB specification oils are often recommended for better efficiency while providing high temperature performance.
If it carries a JASO specification, it means that the oil has been tested specifically for use in motorcycle engines. Whether you are a motorcycle shop owner working on a customer’s motorcycle or an enthusiast working alone, it is important to make sure you have the right lubricant for the sake of the motorcycle. Putting passenger car lubricant into a motorcycle engine is potentially risky, so be sure to choose your lubricant wisely.
Motorcycles are a big investment, whether for reliable daily transport or for sport / leisure riding, so making sure you are using the right lubricant is essential to protect your investment. It is essential to look for lubricants that are specially designed to protect your motorcycle and meet the specifications recommended by the manufacturer to ensure that your motorcycle is protected and performs optimally now and for many years to come. THIS