Synthetic or mineral oil? 2T or 4T? SAE, ACEA, API, JASO standards?

Which engine lubricant yo choose for your motorcycle?

The choice of a motorcycle engine oil depends on the use made of it and the type of engine in which it will officiate. This complicates things even more because in addition to mechanics, it is also a question of chemistry, driving style and weather. To stop making oil when draining, choose the right one. Here are our tips for choosing the right oil for your motorcycle.

How to choose the right oil for your motorcycle
How to choose the right oil for your motorcycle

Oil, lube

We often get lost when the offer is big and diversified.

Elf, Ipone, Motorex, Motul, Shell are all major players and specialists in the field. However, all follow rules and offer oils adapted to the needs and specificity of motorcycles. We start with a little reminder on the essentials of the oil.

Car oil or motorcycle oil, same thing or not?

No. While the name is similar, the characteristics are not. The base oil is similar, but its functions are not. It is more or less loaded with additives, some of which directly affect the clutch. It must slide in one case (car) and not necessarily in the other (motorcycle). While motorcycle oil is more expensive, it is also designed to withstand much higher operating temperatures and engine speeds. Its composition takes this into account. On the other hand, the engine architecture influences the type of oil to choose. Finally, motorcycle overhauls occur between 6 and 12,000 km on average. The engine oil is then replaced. Those most concerned about the health of their mechanics drain every 3,000 km (MV Agusta, Benelli… and intensive use). And you?

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Two types of oil: 2T and 4T

Depending on your motorcycle, there are two types of engine oil: for 2-stroke engines (2T) and for 4-stroke engines (4T). Why ?

2T engine oil is mixed with gasoline and is burned in combustion. It is regularly refilled and its chemical properties are adapted to its role.

4T oil – Photo credit: Ipone
4T oil – Photo credit: Ipone

4T engine oil remains in a closed circuit. It is captive to the engine, isolated and must not mix with gasoline (hence the cylinder head gasket when it is no longer sealed…). Even a 4T engine “eats” oil. It is therefore necessary to monitor the level and top up.

The sportier and more efficient an engine, or the older it is, the more monitoring it requires. Thus, some CBR 1000 RR and sports cars in general require an oil check and top-up every 1,000 km. Even at low mileage. So the question ? One consumption related to the segmentation and another to the internal joints of the engine.

2T Motorcycle oil – Photo credit: Ipone
2T Motorcycle oil – Photo credit: Ipone

But by the way, what is the function of the engine oil of a motorcycle?

What engine oil is used for?

To lubricate

It has to slide! The oil prevents overheating and deformation of parts, as well as their premature wear. It also ensures good sealing of the piston in its cylinder, of which it lubricates the walls. No oil? We tighten the engine: it heats up, its elements become deformed, scratched, deteriorate, and they break. Oil has refractive properties and functions, at least heat transfer.

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To clean

We sometimes find on motorcycles an oil radiator intended to cool it independently, when the main cooling radiator is small. It absorbs some of the heat, but also retains the fine particles detaching from the surfaces. These largely end up in the oil filter, others remain captive. That’s whu it’s important to choose a good quality filter and oil that does not lose (too much) its properties over time. Now we understand why engine oil must be changed regularly.

To protect

The oil prevents corrosion, oxidation, humidity. Engine oil largely neutralizes chemicals resulting from internal combustion.

To compensate game’s engine

By depositing a thin film between the piston and its chamber, the oil therefore lubricates the movement, but at the same time ensures a sealing role compensating for mechanical play. Therefore, its quality and its properties are all the more important that one has a high-performance or worn engine.

To maintain the engine

Motor oil can also be a vector. It deposits a protective layer or contains additives to clean the engine (before oil change), reduce consumption or increase (or maintain) engine performance. An additive can also plump engine seals to reduce or stop possible leaks. In particular those of the valve stem, responsible for part of the oil consumption of 4T engines when they are not in good shape (you can also replace them). So you don’t look at the oil tank the same way again, do you? And it’s not over.

What are the different motorcycle engine oils?

Mineral, semi-synthetic or synthetic, hydrocarbon: the different qualities

Depending on the type of engine, its performance, we choose a more or less natural oil, whose properties vary. Motor oil is not a natural product obtained by pressing sunflower seeds or olives. Too bad, it would cost less (whatever). Our oil for motorcycles and scooters is a chemical product obtained:

  • Either by oil refinement and therefore derived from fossil (mineral) material.
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Mineral oils are subject to the physical and chemical limits of the product from which they come: hydrocarbons. Their characteristics make them incompatible with modern engines, except for rare applications. They consist of 80/85% mineral oil, the rest being additives

  • Either by manufacture and chemical composition and therefore synthesized (synthetic).

Made from poly-alpha-olefin, synthetic oil is an oil whose components and formulas, as well as properties, are controlled. Their characteristics are high resistance to aging and heat. There are three types of synthetic oil. In increasing order of quality (and price): hydrocracked oils, PAO oils and ester oils.

  • Either from paraffin.

They are said to be hydrocarbons and are designed for high performance engines.

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