So, it’s time to change the lubricant on our motorcycle. The first thing that is customary in these cases is to look at the vehicle manual and see what the manufacturer’s recommendation is. In something as important as this, experimenting or using the wrong oil can mean a serious malfunction and even destroy the engine, so be very careful!
The creation of a lubricant, as they tell us from the Repsol Technology Lab, is a long and complex process. It is necessary to develop a range of products that adapt to all current commercial models and some older ones. In this process different ingredients are used, of which the main one is a base formulated with petroleum derivatives. Polymeric compounds are added to this base that vary their densities and additives that allow performance improvement and can offer anti-friction, antioxidant, anti-caking, or detergent properties.
There can also be three different types of bases: minerals, synthetic, or semi-synthetic. The first ones are obtained directly from the distillation of crude oil, being the most economical, but with the most basic performance. 100% synthetics are achieved based on chemical formulation, achieving very specific bases that allow the best performance for its function, but with a higher cost. The semi-synthetics are the result of mixing the two previous processes, to achieve a balance between cost and performance.
Motorcycle oils have much more specific circumstances of use and mechanics than four-wheel vehicles and that is an added difficulty. Most models have wet clutches that require a specific formulation. This is to prevent the clutch from slipping and the same oil can offer the gearbox the protection it needs. Some high performance models exceed 12,000 Rpm, subjecting the lubricant to extreme conditions, and on the other hand there are scooters that never leave the city and are exposed to constant starting, stopping, and acceleration.
There is a series of indicators that can be found in the oils on sale, and if we look in the user manual, it gives us a lot of information about the lubricant that we should use in our vehicle.
This is the viscosity grade indicator, in the case of engine oils, which is composed of two values. The first value, followed by a W, refers to the viscosity at low temperatures, while the second value, is the viscosity at high temperatures. The lower the first, the better the oil will maintain fluidity at low temperatures, allowing for easier ignition. The higher the second, the better it will keep its viscosity at high temperatures, giving greater protection. The usual SAE values today are type 5W30 or 10W30, as manufacturing processes allow for the use of these low viscosity lubricants. In models with many kilometres that consume more oil, ranges with a higher degree of viscosity at low temperatures are usually recommended.
This is an international indicator of oil quality according to manufacturers’ requirements. In gasoline engines it is indicated by two letters, such as SG or SL. The more advanced and more modern the product, the further through the alphabet the second letter is. You can always use an oil of superior quality, but never one below those indicated in the manual. Most manufacturers recommend a minimum quality of SG, although we can find that almost all lubricants are at SJ to SN levels–much more modern.
This is a quality indicator created in Japan to indicate the suitability of a lubricant in motorcycles with wet clutches that use the same lubricant as the engine, usually following the sequence: JASO T-903: 2016 MA2. The oils marked with the letters MA or the more recent MA2 can be used in this type of engine, while the letters MB must not be used in the motorcycles mentioned, being reserved for use in automatic scooters with dry clutches. The letter at the beginning of the indicator, can be a T, which means that it is suitable for four-stroke engines or an M for two-stroke engines.
In summary. The oil we use must always comply with the minimum quality required by the manufacturer, since the use of an inferior oil will cause malfunctions that can be very serious. As for the SAE grade, it depends on the climate of our area and the kilometres of our vehicle, although it is advisable to use the one indicated in the manual. If in doubt, always consult a workshop before using an oil that is outside the specifications indicated in the manual.
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