These 5 Reasons Cause A Motorcycle To Burn Oil

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If you own a motorcycle, you may have noticed that you are always having to add more oil to the engine even though you aren’t seeing any oil leak out. This is likely a result of your motorcycle burning oil. You aren’t alone; a lot of motorcycle owners experience this.

So, what causes a motorcycle to burn oil? A motorcycle burns oil due to worn piston rings, worn valve seals, engine wear, overfilled oil levels, and poor oil quality. Using the correct type of oil, performing routine oil changes, and inspecting for oil leaks can help prevent a motorcycle from burning oil.

Burning oil is not something that is exclusive to motorcycles. Cars can do the exact same thing as well. This is most common in older motorcycles since this is usually just a result of wear. As the engine wears, internal components can become loose. Additionally, seals begin to wear out and crack which can allow oil into your combustion chamber.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help prevent this from happening. So, if you find yourself having to add extra oil to your engine every week and can’t quite figure out why your motorcycle is smoking quite a bit more suddenly, then this article is for you. Let’s dive in further into what causes a motorcycle to burn oil.

Main Causes Of Why A Motorcycle Is Burning Oil

If you’re a motorcycle owner, you may be familiar with the issue of burning oil. This occurs when oil is consumed by the engine at a faster rate than it can be replaced, resulting in a low oil level and potential engine damage. Here are the main causes of motorcycle burning oil:

  1. Worn piston rings: Piston rings are responsible for sealing the combustion chamber and preventing oil from entering. Over time, they can become worn and lose their ability to effectively seal, leading to oil consumption and burning.
  2. Worn valve seals: Valve seals are responsible for preventing oil from entering the combustion chamber through the valves. Like piston rings, they can become worn and lose their ability to effectively seal, leading to oil consumption and burning.
  3. Engine wear: As an engine ages, wear and tear can cause internal components to become loose and allow oil to enter the combustion chamber. This can result in oil consumption and burning.
  4. Overfilled oil level: While it may seem counterintuitive, overfilling the oil level in your motorcycle can also lead to burning oil. This is because the excess oil can be pushed past the piston rings and into the combustion chamber.
  5. Poor oil quality: Using poor quality oil or oil that is not suitable for your motorcycle can also lead to burning oil. This can be caused by oil that is too thin or not formulated for high mileage engines.

If you notice that your motorcycle is burning oil, it’s important to address the issue as soon as possible. Low oil levels can lead to engine damage and decreased performance. To address the issue, start by checking the oil level and ensuring that it is at the correct level. You may also want to change the oil and use a high-quality oil that is formulated for your motorcycle.

If the issue persists, it may be necessary to have a mechanic inspect your motorcycle for worn piston rings or valve seals. While it’s possible to do this yourself, it’s a bit difficult and may be worth just having a mechanic do it instead. Addressing these issues early can prevent further damage to your motorcycle and help ensure that it runs reliably for years to come.

How To Fix A Motorcycle That Burns Oil

If you’re experiencing issues with your motorcycle burning oil, it’s important to address the issue promptly to prevent any damage to your engine. While there can be various reasons for your motorcycle to burn oil, including the use of poor-quality oil or engine wear and tear, here are a few steps to help fix your motorcycle.

The first step is to ensure that your motorcycle has the correct oil level. If your oil level is low, this can cause the engine to burn oil. Make sure to use the recommended oil for your motorcycle and add oil if necessary.

Next, check for oil leaks, which can cause low oil levels and lead to burning oil. Inspect the oil filter, drain plug, and oil lines for leaks and tighten any loose connections. If there are oil leaks, have them repaired promptly.

Another cause of burning oil can be the result of worn-out piston rings or valve seals. A mechanic can inspect your motorcycle to determine whether these parts need to be replaced. If either of these components are worn, they may not be effectively preventing oil from entering the combustion chamber which ultimately leads to burning oil.

The PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve is another component to check. It’s responsible for preventing oil from entering the combustion chamber. If it’s clogged or not working correctly, this can cause oil to burn. Have a mechanic inspect the PCV valve and replace it if necessary.

Using an oil additive can also help to reduce oil consumption and improve performance of the engine. Look for an oil additive designed specifically for motorcycles and follow the instructions carefully.

Regular maintenance is also essential to preventing burning oil and other issues. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and keep your motorcycle in good condition.

Is It Dangerous When A Motorcycle Is Burning Oil?

While your motorcycle burning oil may sound scary, is this dangerous at all to you as a rider? This answer is that this doesn’t directly put you into danger. More than anything, this can cause damage to your motorcycle. Your motorcycle not working correctly could leave you in a dangerous situation, but the fact that the motorcycle burns oil doesn’t directly put you in danger.

Burning oil in a motorcycle can be a concerning issue, as it can lead to decreased engine performance and potentially dangerous situations. When a motorcycle burns oil, it means that the engine is consuming more oil than it should, resulting in low oil levels and potential engine damage.

One of the primary dangers of a motorcycle burning oil is the risk of decreased performance. Low oil levels can cause the engine to run less efficiently, leading to decreased acceleration and power. This can be especially dangerous in situations where quick acceleration is necessary, such as merging onto a highway or passing another vehicle.

Burning oil can also cause excessive smoke from the exhaust. This can obscure the rider’s vision and make it difficult for other drivers to see the motorcycle. If you’ve ever been in a situation like this on your motorcycle, you’ll know you never want to be there again. Excessive smoke can also indicate that the motorcycle is not running efficiently, potentially leading to further engine damage if not addressed.

Additionally, a low oil level caused by burning oil can lead to increased engine temperature, which can cause engine components to overheat and potentially fail. This can result in a breakdown or loss of control of the motorcycle, which can be extremely dangerous in traffic.

Finally, if the burning oil is caused by worn piston rings or valve seals, it can result in oil entering the combustion chamber and mixing with fuel. This can cause spark plugs to foul, leading to misfires and decreased engine performance. In severe cases, it can also cause the engine to seize, resulting in a complete loss of power and control.

How To Prevent A Motorcycle From Burning Oil

I’ve restored a ton of motorcycles over the last decade.  There were two main problems I’d always encounter with the project bikes I purchased: carb issues and dirty engines/oil. It was the lack of proper oil maintenance that caused the motorcycles I worked on to become “project bikes.”

Motorcycles are a great way to travel and experience the open road. However, like all vehicles, they require regular maintenance to keep them in good condition. One of the most common problems with motorcycles is burning oil. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this problem.

The first thing you should do is to use the correct type of oil. This is critical because using the wrong type of oil can cause engine problems and burning oil. Make sure to check your owner’s manual or consult with a mechanic to find the right type of oil for your motorcycle. Automotive stores such as O’reilly or Autozone will also be able to tell you what the appropriate oil is specific to your motorcycle.

Regular oil changes are also important. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended oil change schedule to ensure that your oil is always clean and fresh. Dirty oil can cause a variety of engine problems, including burning oil. Click here to learn about the signs your motorcycle needs an oil change.

Checking your oil level regularly is also essential. Low oil levels can cause burning oil, which can damage your engine. Check your oil levels before every ride and add oil if necessary.

Overfilling the oil can also cause burning oil, so be sure to add the recommended amount of oil as indicated in the owner’s manual. Additionally, inspecting for leaks is critical. Leaks can cause low oil levels and lead to burning oil. Inspect your motorcycle for leaks regularly and have any leaks repaired as soon as possible. 

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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