September 9 2010 by Jason Fogelson
I have to be honest -- most times, changing my oil is a two-step process. First, I call the dealer. Second, I drop my bike off and slap down my Amex. I'll bet most of you use the same simple technique.
But I actually believe that it's important to know how to change your own oil, even if you choose to pay a professional to do the job for you. Then, you will be able to make sure that your mechanic is actually performing the service properly; and if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to change your own oil, you'll be able to.
When might you need to change your own oil? If you decide to take a long tour, you may find that your service interval comes up during the trip. Planning ahead, you may discover that it makes sense to get your oil changed before leaving. Or, you may look ahead on your itinerary, and make an appointment at a dealer along your route. But who wants to waste money by changing their oil before it is due to be changed? And who wants to build a trip around an oil change appointment?
By packing a few tools (which you should do anyway), you can be ready for an oil change at any time -- all you'll need to buy is oil and a filter, which you can find at a bike dealer or repair shop in most towns.
The internet is a great source for information and instruction on motorcycle maintenance, but the best information for your specific bike will be spelled out in a service manual. The exact procedure for an oil change is a little different on each bike, even within brands. If you own a Harley-Davidson, you don't have to worry about too many extra steps, crush washers or screens. You don't have to worry about removing bodywork. Even on the highest-end Harley touring bike, an oil change is pretty simple and straightforward.
Oil is a motorcycle engine's lifeblood. If you want to extend your bike's useful service, the very best preventive maintenance is a regular oil and filter change. Get into the habit of changing your oil every 3,000 miles, or every six months (whichever comes soonest), and you'll have a bike that lasts and lasts.
Whichever bike you own, don't skip the oil changes, especially on a long trip. You don't need to be a mechanic to change your own oil -- but you'll certainly get a sense of accomplishment if you do it on your own.
Let's get those hands dirty, people!