If you’re the proud owner of a popular Harley-Davidson, there are many ways to keep the performance of your bike at the high end.
One of the most obvious ways is changing the oil at regular intervals. In fact, it’s not an option but something that you must do.
But how often should you change the oil in your Harley?
If I may say so, you don’t need to consult bearded wizards or look into crystal balls to find the answer.
To find the time interval for changing the oil, it’s best to consult the owner’s manual.
Harley recommends that the first oil change should be done after 1000 miles. After that, the oil can be changed between 3000 to 8000 miles.
Time to take a closer look to find out more.
How Often Should I Change the Oil in My Harley-Davidson?
If you don’t know this already, the purpose of the engine oil is to keep the internal components of the engine oil lubricated.
And considering the modern motorcycle engines are more complex than the matter-antimatter equation (well, perhaps a bit less), the role of the oil in engine heat control is crucial.
Without the oil to prevent overheating, the engine components will simply wear out as if hit by heat vision.
The change interval of the oil also depends on the type of oil being used. Generally, engine oil is classified into 3 types.
- Conventional motor oil is 100% mineral oil prepared from the distillation of crude oil. They may have impurities and are prone to chemical degradation. They also function poorly in extreme temperatures.
- Semi-synthetic oils are a blend of mineral oil with synthetic oils. They provide better performance than mineral oils. The period of time they will last depends on the composition.
- Synthetic oils are specially formulated to provide superior performance in extreme temperatures and are less volatile. These oils contain no mineral oils and can last longer even in the most challenging conditions. The downside is, they are highly expensive.
Most modern street bikes, including Harleys, use fully-synthetic engine oils. But no matter the oil type, it will degrade with time.
If you use fully synthetic oil, the oil change interval can be anywhere between 7000 to 10000 miles. For semi-synthetic oils, the interval is generally between 5000 to 6000 miles.
But these numbers depend on various other factors including riding frequency. If you are taking long-distance rides frequently, you’ll need to change the oil sooner.
Some technicians suggest that if you are riding more than 30 miles daily, you need to change to oil each month.
Driving in high-traffic areas also increases the frequency of oil change. In such conditions, the bike remains stationary, but the engine keeps running and uses the oil as a lubricant.
Also, the manufacturer’s recommendations based on the make and model of the engine always take precedence.
Can you extend the time period if you are riding less frequently?
Even if you are a weekend rider, keeping the oil unchanged for months is not the right thing to do. The risk of corrosion doesn’t lessen when you ride less. Rather, with the engine not reaching operating temperature frequently, the risks can be higher.
Not even premium-grade synthetic oils should be used for more than six months when the engine is left unused. Oils of lesser grade may need replacement once every three to five months.
So even if you aren’t riding the X number of specified miles, it’s best to keep the oil fresh by changing it at least once a year. With older oil, the engine performance may appear normal, but changing the oil will prevent engine damage in the long run.
Note, for motorcycles, the oil lubricates both the engine and the gearbox. So, it plays a crucial role in transferring the engine power to the drivetrain. Any degradation in the frictional properties of the oil can impact the performance.
In short, following the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation is the best option when choosing and replacing the oil. Also, mixing engine oil of two different specifications is a strict no-no.
As I mentioned, the first oil change for a new engine is done sooner; usually anywhere between 500 to 1000 miles.
The reason is related to the engine break-in procedure. Most engines come with a layer of assembly lube on their internal surfaces to prevent corrosion. This oil is removed during the break-in process along with other contaminants.
Depending on the finishing of the cylinder walls, the piston rings take a certain amount of time to achieve a perfect seal. This ensures proper combustion and optimum consumption of the engine oil. Depending on various factors, this can take a few hours of running or a few months.
As the rings slide up and down the engine cylinder, the rough spots are smoothened out to create better sealing. As a result, minuscule iron particles get mixed with the oil. These can travel to the other parts of the engine and cause damage.
Changing the engine oil after this initial break-in process will remove these metal particles that can ruin the engine. In some cases, special break-in oils are also used at this stage.
Have you felt that irresistible urge to jump on your new Harley-Davidson motorcycle for a long ride?
(No worries, we are all humans.)
But before doing that, it’s necessary to follow the guidance provided by the brand for breaking in the engine. And that includes changing the oil at the right intervals.
When to Change Motorbike Engine Oil?
Generally, the Harley-Davidson maintenance schedule specifies five service visits to the dealership within the first 20,000 miles. When it comes to keeping a precision machine like a Harley in prime condition, these visits aren’t to be missed.
Beyond that period, you might get confused between the number of miles or length of time when it comes to oil change.
So here are a few other pointers to help you determine if the oil in the Harley engine needs change.
- Check the oil color to find out if it has turned dark. Fresh engine oil is brown or blue in color. But as it degrades, the color changes to black. In addition, the oil also loses its thick consistency and turns thin. It can also turn gritty due to contamination.
- If the oil level keeps going down, the oil may be too old. As the oil loses its chemical and mechanical properties with time, the engine tends to consume more oil. So, the levels go down faster than you expect. At times, the check engine light will not go away unless the oil gets replaced.
- If the engine is producing more noise than usual, the lubrication oil isn’t doing its job. As a result, the metal parts are generating more friction and harsh noise. This will also produce more engine heat and uneven heat transmission between the engine parts. The chances of engine damage are very high in such scenarios.
- If you don’t remember when the engine oil was last changed in your Harley, it’s best to get it changed.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often do you change Harley Davidson engine oil?
Follow the time intervals specified in the owner’s manual to find out how often to change Harley Davidson engine oil. The changing frequency can be anywhere between 3000 to 8000 miles.
Should I run synthetic oil in my Harley?
Most modern Harley engines use synthetic oil. For 99-later Twin Cam and Sportster Evolution Harley models, the H-D360 synthetic motorcycle oil is used. Check the specifications of the oil mentioned for various weather conditions in the owner’s manual before use.
How often should I service my Harley?
Harley Davidson recommends the first service at 1000 miles. After that, servicing should be done every 5000 miles.