Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Synthetic Oil Experiment

I bought my bike in late July of 08'. The guy I bought it off of said the bike was serviced and ready to go. Given my excitement to buy, register and just get riding, I never checked the oil. Dumb move, because I know better. It was down about two and a half litres (when I finally checked it over the winter) or more.

Obviously.. I'd need to change the oil and filter before I rolled the Motorheadster out of the garage this spring. And that's when I had to make a choice. Use the good ol' reliable O.G. Harley-Davidson oil.

Or take the leap (and spend the buck$) and use the new, highly praised and much talked about synthetic alternative.

I'm no mechanic, so I did a little research to see what other people are doing and to find out what people think of synthetics. Well let me just say it's like searching the words 'the' & 'and' in google. The results are mind boggling.

I found this website, which was very helpful in making my decision. It looks at debunking some of the myths surrounding synthetic oil.

I decided to go synthetic.

I bought 4 jugs of Mobil1 motorcycle oil. The price $70. I also bought a filter and a filter wrench. The total for everything about $100.

I had some concerns because I have just over 30k on my bike. Initially that didn't bother me... but in the end it came back to bite me in the a$$.

Ahhh yes, the O.G. Sporty

After changing to synth I noticed a few differences in my ride. The first thing, was the bike started easier with half the cranking time.

The engine seemed louder/nosier. I can hear every click, tick and ping. Or maybe I'm just listening for it now.

Another thing I've noticed... the oil bag runs very, very warm (Harley techs tell me that's no big deal and it's probably normal). Before I made the change and because the oil was so low last fall, I never notice the temperature (hot or cold) of the oil tank.

And I've also found out, problems can occur if you switch to synthetic with an older bike with relatively high kilometers/miles. The gaskets and seals (if they haven't been changed already) are generally in poor shape. The cleaner, better flowing synthetic can leak past suspect seals and gaskets.

(click on pictures for s close up)

That's right folks, I sprung a leak (I noticed right after the 'Ride for Eternity').

I've got oil spewing from the front rocker casing... I believe I may have a compromised rocker gasket.

Nothing new right, it's a Harley. This is a gusher... given the price of crude I should cap it and export it. The oils drips down from the engine and onto my padlock which is just above my left foot peg.

I plan on changing the gasket (or at least opening up the top end real soon), but for the time being I park over a towel in the garage.

I have also put a small shop rag in my sunglasses pouch (attached to the rear swing arm) to take with me to work. I don't want to leave an oil stain where I park the bike.

I'm sure I'll be able to fix the problem because I think I'll continue using synthetic oil.

Here's a video featuring Master Harley Tech Jeff Janette, about synthetic oils in Harley's.

I've heard a lot of good things about AMSOIL. And no matter where I look, whom I talk to, or website I visit... everyone says it's about the best on the market.

Info from AMSOIL site about their 20W-50 Advanced Synthetic Motorcycle Oil

Advanced multi-functional formula for both domestic and foreign motorcycles. Excellent in air-cooled motorcycle engines due to high heat resistance. Can be used in engines, transmissions and the primary chain case.

Test after test has produced similar results. The less scaring the better.

Again AMSOIL beats HD Screamin' Eagle and Mobile 1.

Need more. This is a crazy detailed test of motorcycle oils done by

I'm sure you're fed up by now, but here's a couple more websites that have great articles about synthetic oils.

In the end, it's simple. Follow the manufactures recommended guidelines for your bike. The general rule (most people recommend and/or follow) when it comes to changing the oil in a motorcycle: two to one. After the second oil change, you change the filter. Just make sure you also use a quality filter (if you change to synthetic). Why spend the money on high quality oil and then use a low quality filter.

Oh, by the looks of the clock on the wall, this post is spent and it's time to change the oil.


I'd like to see her try that with one of Madonna's pointy bras!

I think she uses 'extra virgin' oil in her tank.

Now the question is... which oil will you use.


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