The real difference between motorcycle oil and car oil

For some people, changing the oil in your car is like changing the oil in your motorcycle. Simply drain the old oil, install a new oil filter, pour in the desired amount of new oil and you’re done. So when it’s time to change your motorcycle oil, why not use the same oil you use in your car? Motorcycle oil and car oil look and feel the same, so how could there be any difference between the two?

Car oil looks pretty tempting at $3 a liter, but any experienced motorcyclist knows that using car oil in motorcycles causes serious damage. In motor vehicles, the engine is always separate from the clutch and gearbox, so they each have separate oils. In automotive engine oil, there are more so-called “friction modifiers” that help reduce friction on engine components and improve fuel economy. Of course, improving fuel economy has always been the primary goal of the automotive industry, making friction modifiers a necessity for all automotive oils.

These friction modifiers, added to automotive oils, cause severe damage when used in motorcycles. The friction modifiers clog the clutch discs in a motorcycle’s transmission, causing serious clutch slippage and rendering the motorcycle inoperable. Because in order to be so compact, motorcycles have to combine the engine and transmission in one housing. This means that everything is lubricated with just one type of oil, including valves, pistons, gearbox and clutch.

Motorcycles require very little and/or no friction modifiers to improve clutch friction and prevent clutch slippage. But to make up for this lack of friction modifiers, motorcycle oils use higher levels of anti-wear additives like ZDDP, also known as phosphorus, to limit engine friction and wear. Because motorcycle oil contains extra anti-wear additives and lubricates so much more than car oil, you can expect to pay anywhere from $9 to $15 per gallon.

Both oils look and feel the same to some people, but now you know the facts about each. So the next time you want to change your motorcycle oil, go straight to your local motorcycle dealer and only buy high quality motorcycle oil that has been specially developed for your type of motorcycle. Be sure to change your oil regularly to keep it fresh and clean to ensure long engine, transmission and clutch life.